Friday, September 23, 2011

“Greasy Coat”

A happy Banjo Friday, friends!  We’ve got another wonderful old-time tune for your listening pleasure today, so be prepared for some musical fun!

We’re back with another cello banjo take today—it really is an intirguing instrument, especially in the hands of someone as skilled as Cathy Moore (last week’s post) or Mary Z Cox, who’s the performer in today’s video clip.  

I’ve been a fan of Mary Z Cox for some time; she’s a talented clawhammer-style banjoist & also an excellent mountain dulcimer player.  Ms Cox has issued seven cds, six of which feature her as a solo banjo player (tho she also multi-tracks some duets with herself), while the other, Drumming On the Edge Of Banjo, also features her playing dulcimer & guitar in addition to banjo & places her in a group setting with drummer Yazid, guitarist Bob Cox & bassist Jim Crozier.  This album has been featured on NPR’s Thistle & Shamrock show.

Now don’t let the fact that Ms Cox’s cds are self-produced fool you—the production quality is high, & her playing is absolutely top-notch.  Mary Z Cox combines a wonderful & inventive melodic sense with the great rhythmic drive always associated with the best clawhammer playing.  After all, in the old days clawhammer playing was first & foremost used as a style for accompanying dances, so it has to have a strong pulse & rhythm.  Mary Z Cox will most certainly get you tapping your feet—at least!

I should mention that Mary Z Cox has a new cd entitled The Girl With the Banjo Tattoo; this is available directly from her website (see link above) or also at CDBaby, where you can get an mp3 download version.  I highly recommend her music.  The Girl With the Banjo Tattoo has an interesting playlist that includes both old-time fiddle tunes & traditional folk tunes, & Mary Z Cox plays a number of banjos—she says the album features “Cello banjo, cigarbox banjo, banjolin, John Bowlin 1865 fretless, Deering Gabriella  and more fun banjos on solos and duets.”

The song “Greasy Coat” is a standard in the old-time fiddle repertoire, & there seems to be an interesting story behind it.  Here’s what Andrew Kuntz has to say about the tune in his excellent Fiddler’s Companion.

There are several meanings for the term ‘greasy coat.’ It is an old-time euphemism for a condom, but it has also been suggested the term refers to an unwashed fleece (i.e. still retaining the lanolin), and a Confederate soldiers coat, worn, greasy and dirty from overuse.

Hope you enjoy it!


  1. Cool! This sounded much more banjo-like than lasts week's offering. Still, the lower octave adds an interesting sound.

  2. Hi Roy: Yes, Cathy Moore had the 7/8 meter going, which definitely gave the music an Eastern European feel. With Mary Z Cox playing in regular old fiddle tune cut time, it does sound more like a banjo. But, yes, those Gold Tone Cello banjos sure do have some depth to their sound! Thanks.


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