Virtual Folk Club 3 – Paul Walker

… with MC Paul Walker. Tonight’s guest is Brian Peters, purveyor of traditional folk songs & well-respected player of both the anglo concertina and melodeon. Many of our readers will remember him as a tutor at the Swaledale Squeeze.

PW: Well Brian, as the barman is laying out saucers of pretzels & lining up bottles of Anchor Steam beer, I’d say we’ve got an influx of Americans tonight.

Tonight’s floor spot is by Rhiannon Giddens

(private video)

PW: Have you come across her on your several visits to the States Brian?

BP: I first met Rhiannon several years ago, at the house of a mutual friend in Washington DC. I was really made up that she was interested in finding out about Child Ballads – and I think her knowledge of traditional songs informs the way she’s set the Bob Dylan lyric in that clip. I’ve run into her a couple to times since then both in the US and England. She’s fantastically talented of course, a true star. Hard to believe she also sings opera!

PW: And now a song by the band with which she came to prominence:

Carolina Chocolate Drops Milwaukee Blues

BP: A lot of fun, that band – and of course they made it very big! Good to see. For my first choice:

Bertram Levy: Mamalillaculla Waltz (in C#):

Bertram is someone else I met in the US, when I was playing a concert on Bainbridge Island, a ferry ride from Seattle. He made a lovely album about 20 years ago with Peter Ostroushko on mandolin and fiddle; a great combination with the anglo. I used to listen to it on cassette in my car a lot.

PW: Next, a friend of yours Brian:

Jeff Davis performing Shortnin’ Bread

BP: Ah yes, that’s one of Jeff’s party pieces. He uses some weird tuning – quite a low pitch – to get that slack, funky sound. When we do gigs together I always let him do that one solo. There’s nothing I could add!

PW: Some of our readers may have seen you tour with Jeff in the UK Brian. To play the devil’s advocate- when he’s performing Cecil Sharp songs over here, is this not a case of “Carrying coals to Newcastle”?

BP: Cecil Sharp made three trips to the Appalachian Mountains in 1916, 17 and 18 to collect songs. He went looking for old British ballads that had been taken over there by the emigrants in the 18th century, and taken root in the mountain communities, but in fact he noted down a lot of American songs as well – even ‘Old Joe Clark’! It seemed like the perfect theme for and American and a Brit to collaborate on, since obviously we both love traditional music. And it also seemed like a good idea to tour it in both countries – the British ballads had changed quite a lot in the mountains, so they sound very fresh to UK audiences.

PW: Yes I wasn’t aware of Cecil Sharp’s American collecting till your recent tour/CD.

BP: We made a CD called ‘Sharp’s Appalachian Harvest’ three years ago, and have taken the show to all kind of places including the Library of Congress in Washington. I’m doing another US tour this Spring which will have some dates with Jeff and some solo ones.

PW: And now a clip of Jeff Davis and Brian Peters performing The Bold Privateer, collected by Cecil Sharp in the Appalachian Mountains, from Mrs Mary Gross of Peaks of Otter,, VA, 1918

BP: I enjoy doing the Sharp show, but because of the nature of the material I play hardly any squeezebox – just one song on concertina, and the rest of the time I’m playing guitar, fiddle or mandolin. So when I decided it was time to hit the recording studio again, I was ready to make up for that and record a CD focussing on melodeon and concertina – hence ‘Squeezebox, Voicebox’. It’s 50% instrumentals, and the other half is songs accompanied on one or other box – I don’t know whether you twigged, but the title owes something to Richard Thompson’s ‘Guitar, Vocals’! [PW: Oops!]…

My next choice is: Anahata: Springtime in Battersea

Anahata is a fine player, and his videos on Youtube are a really useful resource. He accompanies Mary Humphries, of course – an old friend of mine from the days when we were both resident performers at Harry Boardman’s folk club in Manchester in the 1980s. I remember him playing ‘Springtime in Battersea’ at the National Folk Festival one year. Very impressive, especially considering it was originally a duet concertina showcase and he plays it on anglo.

PW: Our next guest is an adopted American- performing “Watermelon Wednesdays”, harpist Maeve Gilchrist with step dancing by Cleek Schrey,

Brian your next choice?

Banditaliana: Maggio

BP: A bit of melodeon there – I hope the concertina nuts won’t mind! I had the first Banditaliana CD for review in Folk Roots many years ago, and this song was the first track. I love the singing and the sax playing as much as the squeezebox. I met Riccardo Tesi once at a diatonic accordion weekend in Holland – a staggering musician. I had a go on his box, but the tuning was pretty heavily customized so I didn’t get very far with it.

PW: Here’s a folk rock version of “Shady Grove” by Colin Ward,

BP: I was going to get Flaco Jimenez along to the Virtual Folk Club at this point, Paul, but I thought that a lot of people would already know him from his work with Ry Cooder and so on. SO here’s another Tex-Mex accordion player – some say the best ever. Known as the ‘Jimi Hendrix of the accordion’, he used all kinds of electronic effects, and was a wild virtuoso. The setting here is pretty cheesy, but the playing is amazing!

Steve Jordan: No Se Te Hizo

We definitely need some of those glittery curtains for the VFF!


The music continued well into the small hours, with virtual A.T. courtesy of our cyber landlord. See the next issue of CW for Brian Peter’s track-list (cont.) in VFF4. PW