Saturday, March 23, 2013

Listening to Now: The New Lost City Ramblers - "Battleship of Maine"

By Richard K. Barry

In February I attended the annual Folk Alliance International conference in Toronto. Mike Seeger, who passed away in 2009, was the recipient of a life-time achievement award. Seeger was a noted musician and folklorist, as well as the half-brother of American icon Pete Seeger.

In 1958, Mike Seeger, along with Tom Paley (replaced by Terry Schwarz in 1962), and John Cohen, formed the New Lost City Ramblers. The short presentation shown at the conference made known that the name meant nothing other than an attempt to signal the combined urban and country influences many associated with the folk revival in the late '50s.

According to the Wiki:

The New Lost City Ramblers directly influenced countless musicians in subsequent years. The Ramblers distinguished themselves by focusing on the traditional playing styles they heard on old 78rpm records of musicians recorded during the 1920s and 1930s. 

In all, Mike Seeger received six Grammy nominations and was the recipient of four grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Seeger was a singer and multi-instrumentalist playing banjo, fiddle, and autoharp among other things.

As I was looking for something to listen to this afternoon, I noticed that I have the first album recorded by the New Lost City Ramblers (1958), which is a self-titled effort. It contains gems like: "Battleship of Maine," "Likes Liquor Better Than Me," "Brown's Ferry Blues," and "Old Age Pension Check."

Although it's difficult to get accurate info from YouTube clips, this may be the last time the group got together, shortly before Mr. Seeger died. The song is "The Battleship Maine."

On a personal note, I am a fan of what is called "old-timey" music, which is how one would categorize this style. I even play the banjo without any great skill. I am also a fan of music that doesn't shy away from politics because it might, say, impact on record sales. This song is about events that happened in 1898, though the point is still the same. 

(Cross-posted at Hogtown Hipster.)

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  • Thanks for that. I also have their records and dabbled in that kind of music on the guitar during my college years. Still love it.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 11:06 AM  

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