Archives for category: Uncle Dave Macon

Jeron Blind Boy  Paxton may be one of the greatest multi-instrumentalists of this generation that you have not heard of yet. Jeron just made the cover of the current print edition of Living Blues Magazine without even releasing a single official recording in the United States.

“The idea for this issue has been coming together for quite a while now. It started last year when Corey Harris turned me on to Jeff Scott, the Virginia acoustic bluesman and nephew of the great John Jackson. But what really made the idea take off was when photographer/writer Bill Steber turned me on to the young bluesman JeronBlind BoyPaxton. Paxton is an amazing young musician who can play most anything with strings and play it exceedingly well. He is easily the most talented young acoustic bluesman to come along in many, many years.  He is the closest thing to a living “prewar” bluesman I’ve heard since Alvin “Youngblood” Hart’s first record came out in 1996.” – Brett J. Bonner, Editor, Living Blues Magazine

The issue features photographs of Jeron produced in the a way that fits the time period of his chosen music expression. Blind Boy appears like somebody being discovered from the past for a new generation. “The tintype images produced by Bill Steber for this issue are printed in their original form—as reversed images. The optics of all ground-glass lenses render a scene upside-down and backwards. Modern cameras correct for this by the use of mirrors or digital electronics, but cameras in the 19th century, when the wet-plate collodion process was in use, could only render a scene as the lens projected it. Hence all non-negative images from the 19th century are backwards. In keeping with the integrity of the wet-plate collodion process, LB has chosen to publish Steber’s tintypes in their original form.” – Brett J. Bonner, Editor, Living Blues Magazine

Jeron Blind Boy Paxton, Memphis 2010, photo – Brad Hardisty

I first met Jeron at the Folk Alliance in Memphis, Tennessee in late 2010. Jeron had come to the conference with friends, The Carolina Chocolate Drops that included newest member, Hubby Jenkins.

Jeron Blind Boy Paxton, Memphis, 2010, photo – Brad Hardisty

I actually talked shop with Jeron sitting in some chairs on the second level of the Hotel. Jeron’s interest in early 1900’s music and knowledge of particular styles was way beyond my own comprehension and I enjoyed getting his perspective on that time period speaking as if he was visiting 2010 from that time via “Back To The Future”.

When I finally heard Jeron play, it was actually playing some banjo after finding that a grand piano in an enclave was locked up. After hearing Jeron explain and play some rare songs from an era almost 100 years ago, I asked if he had recordings I could get, but, found out that he had not recorded yet.

I asked Jeron if he would be interested in doing some recordings while in Memphis. Jeron had some kind of flu or cold and was not feeling that well, but, said he would see how he felt later.

Dom Flemons playing bones, Jeron, banjo, Hubby Jenkins, Memphis Folk Alliance, 2010, photo – Brad Hardisty

I contacted one of my best friends, Brad Dunn (nephew of Donald “Duck” Dunn, Booker T. & The MG’s as well as son of Bobby Dunn who ran the King Records, home of James Brown, office in Memphis back in the 60’s). Brad was Vice- President of recording studio, Leeway Music and had several recent recordings done at Leeway in recent history. Brad was definitely interested in working some kind of deal if Jeron wanted to record while in Memphis.

Unfortunately, Jeron was not feeling well for the duration of the Folk Alliance Conference and that did not happen.

Dom Flemons, Jeron listening in, Memphis Folk Alliance 2010, photo – Brad Hardisty

What did happen was Jeron Blind Boy Paxton got some serious respect as he was involved with a forum talking about the earliest forms of folk music both American as well as Irish, Welsh and other forms by some of the most respected musicians and professors in each genre.

Jeron at Memphis Folk Alliance 2010, photo – Brad Hardisty

Dom Flemons and Hubby Jenkins of The Carolina Chocolate Drops participated playing “bones” during the forum.

Jeron Blind Boy Paxton, Uncle Dave Macon Days, Murfreesboro, TN 2012, photo – Brad Hardisty

Recently, this last summer, while attending Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, I found Jeron entertaining and jamming with local musicians as he continued to spread some old time music played with unusual depth.

Jeron Blind Boy Paxton, Uncle Dave Macon Days, Murfreesboro, TN – photo – Brad Hardisty

Jeron said he had recorded a 78 record in England, but, that was the extent so far.  Living Blues Magazine’s great spotlight piece will continue to build some momentum till Jeron decides what to do beyond attending folk and blues festivals.

In a way, he is like Jimi Hendrix in the early days jamming and meeting everybody he can along the way before getting out to the world in general.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Uncle Dave Macon

Uncle Dave Macon Days , established in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, celebrated 35 years as one of the premier old time music competitions in the country over July 13-15th at Cannonsburgh Pioneer Village just a few blocks from the original town square where the festival started.

Dancing on the porch – photos – Brad Hardisty

Three Nationals Championships are held during the event including Old Time Banjo, Old Time Clogging and Old Time Buck Dancing. Competitions including old time style from Fiddle to Guitar to Banjo are held over the first two days.

Tearing down the 2nd stage on Sunday

This year, Mike Snider who grew up in Gleason, Tennessee, was the Heritage Award Winner.

 “I am thankful to be chosen for an award that has to do with good ole string band music. I feel like I’m in the business for the same reason as Uncle Dave; for the joy of playing the tunes and sharing a laugh or two with the common everyday folks. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in July.” –  Mike Snider

Mike was a regular on Hee-Haw after winning a National Competition for Bluegrass Banjo, followed by work at the original Opryland Theme Park before being inducted into The Grand Ole Opry in 1990.

Mike and his band are regulars on the Grand Ole Opry, where host, Eddie Stubbs of WSM 650, has said that his group is “best string band in the nation.”

Famed Banjo player, J. D. Crowe took the Trailblazer Award. J.D.  has been a part of Bluegrass and traditional music when as a young teen in 1956, he joined Jimmie Martin and The Sunny Mountain Boys followed by the formation of The Kentucky Mountain Boys.  J.D.’s most groundbreaking group came in the early 70’s with his band J. D. Crowe and The New South, who were at the time considered a bridge to the future with past traditionalists. The players that came out of that group such as Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas and Ricky Skaggs went on as icons. The 70’s were a time when some of the best players, such as Sam Bush set the tone that would become a permanent growing worldwide movement that is bluegrass today.

Chapel Windows at Cannonsburgh Village

The Macon- Doubler Fellowship that was established by the late Alvin Doubler and his wife Mary Macon Doubler, Granddaughter of Uncle Dave Macon were awarded to Sandra Gilliam of Manchester, Tennessee and Colton Wrisner, who is a ninth grader at Warren County High School.

The Well Gospel Band on Main Stage

Cannonsburgh  Pioneer Village has over 20 structures representing life n the 1800’s in middle Tennessee. There was plenty to do besides listening to music by the main stage, wandering through local artisan booths to finding some food across the creek, which was pretty much State Fair Cuisine.

So slow smoked, it taste like ham!

There were hand dipped corn dogs and smoked Turkey legs amongst the Gyro and Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches.

Paul Marcil

People were encouraged to bring stringed instruments and join a  jam in the area where grub and historic structures were situated. It gave the feel of attending a county fair in the 1800’s.

The Bluegrass Bus

The Bluegrass Bus, with the historic logos of WSM Radio, The Grand Ole Opry, Lester Flatt and Earl Skruggs as well as Martha White Flour, looked the part of Flatt & Skruggs tour bus, while inside there were press photos, autographs and collectibles from the last 70 years of Bluegrass and Country Music History.

Gerron “Blind Boy” Paxton – photo / Brad Hardisty

One of the people hanging out in the park playing some old time Banjo and Fiddle was none other than Gerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, whom I had met at the Folk Alliance in Memphis back in 2010. He was hanging out with Hubby Jenkins and Dom Flemons of The Carolina Chocolate Drops back in Memphis and holding his own.  Gerron is a multi-instrumentalist, who is equally adept at Old Time Banjo, Fiddle as well as Piano when he can find one. Gerron specializes in late 1800’s-earlly 1900’s music.

I asked Gerron if he had put out an album yet. Gerron said that he had released a 78 over in England, although for now he calls Brooklyn, New York home after being raised in Los Angeles, California. A lot of people had been inquiring about recordings and “Blind Boy” spoke about maybe opening up and E-Bay Store when he gets back home.

  The Well Gospel Band took the stage Sunday Afternoon, for some old time gospel playing a bluegrass version of “Count Your Blessings. “ While the weather was a little difficult with some rain on Saturday, Sunday the sun was out and there was no charge to enter the grounds for one last round to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Daniel Frazier and Frank Fairfield at Grimey’s


A quick check of my email yesterday on my EVO phone found a note from Grimey’s that Frank Fairfield was doing an in-store appearance a couple of days after his Music City Roots set at The Loveless Barn at 6 pm. There is a lot of “roots” music lately but only a chance now and then to catch a true purist player.

Doyle and Mike and the rest of the Grimey’s crew were on hand offering Fat Tire brew to those over twenty one and a weird flavored water that tasted like Hot Buttered Popcorn, a free sample remnant from Record Store Day for those with a brave palate.

Frank was in no hurry prepping his violin, conjuring squeaks with a stroke of the cleaning cloth. Frank said he finds himself “talking to birds”. It was loud enough to conjure a dry track version of Paul’s “seagulls” from “Tomorrow Never Knows” in my brain.

Frank Fairfield’s one and only recording was released in 2009 on Tompkins Square Records out of New York City, a collection of songs older than my Grandparents with enough references to “John Hardy” and “John Henry” to find him bookended by Uncle Dave Macon and The Carter Family.

My new friendship with Blind Boy Paxton at the Folk Alliance prepared me for Frank’s mindset. You can’t really just call him an archivist, Frank dresses the part, talks the part and walks the walk as he resurrects long buried treasures performed on Banjo, Violin (Fiddle, whatever), and Guitar, a little gut box similar to Willie Nelson’s trigger. The instruments themselves were artifacts. In fact, Frank and the aforementioned Blind Boy Paxton are both a player’s player where everything needs to come from that era and bring it out live, unplugged.

The guys from Peelander-Z  were busy rummaging through Used CD’s just prior to sound check for their show at Exit/In as Frank started a duet with music partner Daniel Frazier of Memphis, Tennessee’s Daniel Frazier & The Outlaws. Frank started out on Fiddle but moved to solo Banjo, Guitar and back to Fiddle. At one point, he put on a thumb pick and hit a couple of notes and said “no” to himself and put it back in his pocket. This was all done with hands showing deft tenacity, dynamics and finesse.

His voice would fit what you would expect on an old Carter Family record and more or less is an accompaniment to his playing much in the same way as Jimi Hendrix was, it does not detract but adds to the mood.   

Frank often explained where the piece came from referring more than once to East Texas “where his people are from” especially an odd triplet rarity called a “Mazurka” that had come from the Spaniards that settled there probably in the 1800’s or before.

Frank called them popular pieces or dance pieces as he launched into “Poor Benny” and “Sally Goodin” punctuated by jokes from a pre-film era like “Why is kissing a girl like a dog sitting on a cake of ice?…Because kissing a girl is so dog-gone nice.”

Although many of the sets at Grimey’s are usually abbreviated to five songs or so, Frank came ready to do an hour or so.  I picked up his CD and through it in the car stereo and heard what I expected to hear. A  modern day field recording, not much different than what Robert Johnson sounded like recording in a Houston, Texas Hotel Room almost a hundred years ago.  Although Frank is from Texas, he fits well with East Nashville’s Americana Scene or the Brooklyn, New York roots scene that has developed over the last few years.

Like Blind Boy Paxton, Frank knows his stuff both visually and sonically as he stomped his feet and moved to the beat in his chair, but the question still arises with me. Can you branch the tree out from a pre-rock period of time and deliver something new?  A fresh take on a tribute to the past, before the term bluegrass or Chicago Blues, offers a lot for me, but, I would like to see a new song come out of this. Bob Dylan took an early Thirties and Forties feel on Modern Times and spun in it an up to date verbal onslaught. It can be done.

Frank Fairfield as well as Blind Boy Paxton, who runs with Hubby Jenkins and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, are a must see if you are a guitar or string player whether you are a Dimebag Darrell or Leo Kottke Disciple.  Frank and Blind Boy both prefer guitars that you practically have to pull the strings into tune. There must be something about having a guitar that is hard to play like Jack White says.

Pick up the CD and take a listen to “Call Me a Dog When I’m Gone” and “Cumberland Gap”. In fact crank it up while you are driving down Lower Broad and really mess with people.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Okay, after reading about the 180 degree turn taken by Robert Plant from the anticipated follow up of “Raising Sand”, I was a little anxious to listen and look at what was wrought in East Nashville these last few months by Mr. Plant at the venerable Woodland Studios.  The studio where Bob Dylan recorded “Nashville Skyline” is now privately owned by musical artists David Rawlings (The Dave Rawlings Machine) and Gillian Welch.

As I opened up the CD, it reminded me of Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Written in Chalk” that turned a CD booklet into a little hard back book with a good 30 minutes worth of reading and photos to help guide you into the world created in Miller’s living room.

The design in this case was by Robert Plant with a look of crinkled muted blue pages and an illustrated clown that looked like something out of Ringling Brother’s Circus circa 1900.  The booklet features easy to read lyrics of songs by Los Lobos, Richard Thompson, and Townes Van Zandt with a little Uncle Dave Macon to go.

Robert Plant & Buddy Miller

Buddy Miller brought the house band together from some of the finest in Nashville featuring vocalist Patty Griffin and multi instrumentalist Darrell Scott who played the role of David Lindley on this sublime outing. If anyone were looking for a mirror reflection to the past, it would be found in guest vocalist, Bekka Bramlett who is featured on tracks one and two. If pinged back almost 30 years, you would find her mother

Backstage with Bonnie, Alabama Theater, 2007

 Bonnie Bramlett recording as Delaney and Bonnie in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with guitarist Eric Clapton in the early Seventies. Eric Clapton, as you probably know, shared the same slot Jimmy Page eventually did in The Yardbirds.

So if you look at it this way, “Band of Joy” which was named in honor of the band Robert and future Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham played in before the storm is in a way a Hebraic chiasm. The CD encompasses in the end what was in the beginning.  A Hebraic Chiasm reinforces the truth of a doctrine by repeating the doctrine at the end of the verse in reverse much like a mirror reflection. It can be found all over the Old Testament and it can be found in the song choices of this CD.

Darrell Scott

Robert starts the CD with the song “Angel Dance” written by Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and Louis Perez which lovingly refers to children as angels among the daily chaos, “Tomorrow will bring us a brand new day, We can run and play”, while at the end of the CD comes “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” a traditional black hymn where Robert sings with banjo to the front and Patty Griffin on Backing vocals “I’m gonna shout ‘til they tear your kingdom down, Shout ‘til they tear your kingdom down, I heard the voice of Jesus Christ say, Satan your kingdom must come down”, finally ending the album with a plaintive start of Robert’s voice and a John Bonham type groove snare drum on Theodore Tilton’s “Even This Shall Pass Away” with the final lines comes a hint of the eternal truth, “Life is done so what is death?, Then in answer to the king, Fell a sunbeam on his ring, Blinding light through fading grey: Even this shall pass away.”

Patty Griffin

As a setup to Act 3, Robert obviously brings out a little Tom Petty with a beautiful duet featuring Patty Griffin on Townes Van Zandt’s “Harm’s Swift Way” in the reflecting lines “Time will go it never stays, Memory locked in her passing, Try, oh try to cling to her, Until she becomes everlasting.”

In the middle of all this Robert spoke about wanting to not only bring about the jam sound of the original Band of Joy but also the mood of Led Zeppelin III that featured “Tangerine”.  You don’t have to go any further than tracks two and three. The Zeppelin groove is there on “House of Cards” and the Robert Plant and Buddy Miller penned obvious ode to Led Zep III, “Central Two-O-Nine”.

Don’t get too comfortable, the next song may be a compass that leads Bono and U2 to Nashville for the next release after the disconnect of their previous outing. “Silver Rider” while reminding me of Englishman Terry Reid starts out sonically something akin to The Edge playing through one of T Bone Burnett’s old amps with worn out tubes and capacitors and rust smoothing out the long delay follow. Robert’s hushed duet style with Patty Griffin is the closest track vocally to “Raising Sand” on the disc but sung over a “U2-American scenic highway” stretch. Robert has found more sweet spots in his vocal range and style the last couple of years.

Okay, next up is definitely a tribute to The Beatles with a fairly unknown song by Billy and Bobby Babineaux titled “You Can’t Buy My Love” written as a response to “Can’t Buy Me Love”. That type of response song was common in Blues and Country up till about the mid 60’s.

Rather than move forward time wise, Robert stays in the mid 60’s and brings it back to Tennessee with the absolutely crossed Memphis Soul and Nashville Pedal Steel with a Gospel Quartet on “Falling in Love Again” that would make Elvis and The Stamps proud. I don’t really know if there ever was a song quite done this way with such a perfect half way point on I-40 between Nashville and Memphis. I know that if Elvis could hear it, he would be proud. I would say this is the most unique blend since Otis Redding and Duane Allman’s all-nighter at Muscle Shoals Sound that ended up with a complete retake on “Hey Jude” that beget Southern Rock.

If Randy Travis sang “The Only Sound That Matters” it would be on Country radio coast to coast but Plant makes it his own realizing that “Americana Music” means be yourself and it doesn’t hurt to be different in a genre that is what San Francisco was in the Sixties with its mix of Folk, Blues and just throw in some Graham Parsons for Cosmic Cowboy sake.

Robert pulls back towards the trance rock he was doing before Allison Krauss with the”  Tomorrow Never Knows” bloom of “Monkey”. It can be said that Robert was doing an album in Nashville without trying to be controlled by Americana’s boundaries or worrying if every track would fit in a corporately controlled radio structure. This is a low decibel duet with Patty Griffin over the non machine groove of real musicians sharing a communal vibe.

Uncle Dave Macon

Before ending the song cycle, Robert digs way back to the origins of Americana and dusts off Uncle Dave Macon’s “Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday”. There is an added twist with the line “Come all the way from England, to steal your pretty hand”, somehow Robert is now in the traditional Appalachian tune with its roots in Scottish pub music, an Englishman would definitely be an outsider. This is a sparser offering instead of the drive and clogging codas from those early 78’s.

There is enough Led Zeppelin, Trance, Cosmic Cowboy and Americana for anybody to dig in and find something tasty. Just like the restaurants in Nashville that range from good Southern Fried Chicken and corn bread, to regional “Hot Chicken” and the Indian and Egyptian Buffets that form the melting pot of not only Nashville in 2010 but also this fine album that will be a shot heard around the world. You can do anything in Nashville. If you have lost your Mojo, try the capital of not only Country Music but songwriting and publishing, Music City.  Nashville is a vast mine of gems and Robert Plant has brought forth a well worn diamond with his co-pilot Buddy Miller and the rest of the crew in East Nashville.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN