Monday, November 14, 2011

North Carolina Breakdown

    Here's a great jam song, often heard at the Brew Pub Jam, and recently exported to England courtesy of Rachel Eddy, at a short course at Kingham Hill called, appropriately enough, Sore Fingers. This song is called North Carolina Breakdown, and it differs from most of our songs in that (as far as I can tell) it is completely an instrumental with no lyrics.  It was composed in the US rather than inherited from Scotland or Ireland.   It is attributed to Fiddling' Arthur Smith and the Dixieliners.  According to an article in Wikipedia, Arthur was actually born in Tennessee rather than North Carolina, and became a performer with the Grand Ole Opry in 1927.  The Dixieliners were formed a few years later.   He hung around famous old dudes like Uncle Dave Macon (who readers of this blog will recognize as the Patron Saint of clawhammer banjo players), the McKee Brothers and the Delmore Brothers, an early blues group.    Other songs made famous by the Dixieliners include Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County, There's More Pretty Girls Than One, and Beautiful Brown Eyes.  The Dixieliners played well into the 1960's and made an appearance at the famous Newport Festival in 1965.

Rachel Eddy plays a nice version on as well:

    The chords go kind of like this:

Part A
G   G  C/G   D

G   G  C/G  D-G

Part B
C  C    G     G  

C  C  C/G D-G

.....and I found a mandolin tab from .

Friday, November 11, 2011

Stewed Mulligan Rocks the Met for the Kposowa Foundation

   Last night, Wednesday November 9, Stewed Mulligan (Keith McManus, Bob Shank, Vinnie Farsetta, Pat McIntyre,Theodor "Stumper" Stump and Shane McManus) teamed with the West Virginia University African Drum Ensemble and the WVU Dance Company
for a benefit concert for the Kposowa Foundation, a non-profit institute dedicated to rebuiling a village in Sierra Leone which was almost destroyed in a Civil War.
    The Stews were at their very best.  They began with Tam Lin, an Irish song with an intricate melody.  Tam Lin is a great hammer dulcimer song, and nobody does it better than Bob Shank.  Below is the same tune played last summer with a slightly different cast:  

     As the night went on, the Stews played fiddle sticks (little hammers used on a fiddle by one person while the fiddler bows), accompanied by African drums.  That was totally awesome, dudes!  

     If you've never heard anyone play fiddle sticks, here are Bob and Keith and the Stews demonstrating in a separate venue:

     West Virginia University graduate and Morgantown native Sarah Culberson hosted the event.  Sarah was adopted as an infant, and in 2004 she discovered her biological father was the leader of the Mende tribe in Bumpe, Sierra Leone – making her the princess of the tribe.   Sarah's birth mother passed away some years ago.   Culberson's adoptive father, Jim Culberson, is a neurobiology professor at WVU.  

       Bumpe High School was destroyed in a civil war .  Sarah and her two fathers working together founded the Kposowa Foundation in hopes of rebuilding the school.
      Sometimes, it is hard to know whether charity dollars are going to really go to the right place.  But in this case, I personally had a very positive feeling that Sarah, her two dads and a lot of caring people are really going to make this work.  There is a lot of blood and sweat equity going into this project. 

     The school currently runs without electricity, miles from any electrical grid, so they are hoping to install solar power at the school.  I gave a few bucks and I hope others will also. 

     For more information on the Kposowa Foundation, visit  To read Kelsey Montgomery's excellent article in the Daily Athenaem, check out