Sunday, November 28, 2010

Banjo Feast #4

Happy Sunday morning!  For those who are looking for the Photo of the Week & coming attractions: not to worry—they’ll post about 2:00 p.m. US Mountain Time today.  In the meantime, I wanted to bring the Banjo Feast series to a close with two terrific banjo performances.

Interestingly, both the performers in these videos are probably better known for playing the guitar.  That’s certainly true of Taj Mahal—so much so in fact that the person who compiled this video uses shots of Taj Mahal playing guitar even tho he’s playing the banjo on this song.  Marcy Marxer isn’t as well known as Taj Mahal—tho she & her long-time music partner Cathy Fink deserve to be more widely recognized—but in her duo with Fink she does play more guitar, while Fink plays more banjo—of course they both play ukes & all sorts of other fun things as well.

& you may ask why—with all the great banjo foodie songs to choose from
I chose another video featuring Marxer, since she & Cathy Fink were featured performing “The Kitchen Girl” in one of Thanksgiving Day’s selections.  A couple of reasons—first, I just find the cello banjo a remarkable instrument, & this was a chance to hear Marcy Marxer playing it solo.  Second, there was something about pairing “Candy Man” & “Angeline the Baker” that I couldn’t resist.
Taj Mahal’s version of “Candy Man” draws elements from both the Reverend Gary Davis tune & Mississippi John Hurt’s different song of the same name.  Overall, however, Mahal’s “Candy Man” is closer to the Davis’ song.  The recording comes from his great 1969 double album, Giant Step/De Ole Folks at Home.  Taj Mahal is a giant in the blues & roots music scene, & that’s an essential album by just about any standard.

There’s some fun puzzlement reagarding the history of the song “Angeline the Baker.”  It’s clearly connected in some way to Stephen Foster’s tune “Angelina Baker,” tho the melodies differ somewhat & the harmonic structures (that is, the underlying patterns of chord changes) are also different.  But the question remains: was Foster using an existing song as a template for his sentimental tune, or is the fiddle tune “Angeline the Baker” a folk derivation from Foster’s original.  I’ve yet to see anyone make a definitive statement on this.  In any case, Marcy Marxer does a rip-roaring job of picking it on her Gold Tone cello banjo!

Hope you enjoy the songs & check back in later for a wintery Photo of the Week!

Photo of Taj Mahal is by Wiki Commons user Tsui who makes it available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
Photo of Marcy Marxer is from the Flickr photostream of user jconn0403


  1. Great selections - especially liked Marxer on the cello banjo (I don't think I've seen a performance on cello banjo before; the quality of the sound is like nothing I've heard before, and she plays it so well).

  2. Hi HKatz: Glad you liked them. Yes, Ms Marxer is really good on that cello banjo, & yes, it is a remarkable instrument in itself! Thanks.


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