FolkWorld #70 11/2019
© Smithsonian Folkways

Across the Western Ocean
Smithsonian Folkways

Just Around The Bend

Just Around the Bend - Survival and Revival in Southern Banjo Sounds
Riley Baugus | Brien Fain | Debbie Grim Yates | Tina Steffey | Marsha Bowman Todd | Jerry Adams | Peter Gott | Frank George | David Reed | Joe Ayers | Rhiannon Giddens | George Gibson | John Haywood | Matt Kinman | Clifton Hicks | Brett Ratliff | Jesse Wells | Robert Montgomery | Leroy Troy

Various Artists "Just Around the Bend - Survival and Revival in Southern Banjo Sounds: Mike Seeger's Last Documentary", Smithsonian Folkways , 2019

Mike Seeger

Artist Video Mike Seeger

Mike Seeger's Survival and Revival in Southern Banjo Styles.

Smithsonian Folkways has announced the release of Just Around The Bend: Survival and Revival in Southern Banjo Styles – Mike Seeger’s Last Documentary, a 2-CD and DVD set that collects the fruits of Seeger’s final trip through Appalachia in 2009, documenting regional banjo styles, techniques, and tunes.

Recorded months before Seeger’s death, the collection features musicians from many different backgrounds from throughout North Carolina, Virginia (Seeger’s home state), West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee. These virtuosic players, including Riley Bagus, Rhiannon Giddens, Leroy Troy, and many more, display an incredible range of stylistic diversity that points to the continued resilience of the banjo as a means by which local and regional culture is preserved, even as new generations project their own voice onto well-worn styles.

Rhiannon Giddens

Artist Video Rhiannon Giddens

Mike Seeger, along with his wife Alexia Smith and filmmaker Yasha Aginsky, trekked through the Appalachian Mountains in 2009 to produce this extraordinary glimpse of the vigor and diversity of the region’s old-time banjo artistry. When Seeger passed away later that same year, the project took on the added importance of paying tribute to this renowned musician, folklorist, and documentarian of the people.

Just Around The Bend is not only a fascinating look at the ever-evolving state of Southern musical heritage, but a loving tribute to Seeger and his life’s work as a musician, folklorist, and documentarian of the people. The impeccable audio recordings are accompanied by a documentary film, shot by filmmaker Yasha Aginsky, which provides snapshots of the individuals behind the music, and offers glimpses into how Seeger and his wife Alexia Smith approached their work documenting and preserving these traditions.

The musicians were primarily recorded in their homes and on their front porches, with Seeger and Smith looking on with rapt attention, inquiring about not only the histories of the songs but personal histories as well.

Mike Seeger’s career was defined by his tireless dedication to traditional music and musicians. He was one of the most important and influential documentarians and performers of folk and old-time music of the 20th century, and his recordings of Elizabeth Cotten, Doc Boggs, and Roscoe Holcomb, as well as his numerous compilations for Folkways in the 1950s and 60s, remain iconic and highly sought after.

As a member of the New Lost City Ramblers, he was an active participant in keeping these songs alive and popularizing them for a new generation. Along with his half-brother Pete Seeger and sister Peggy Seeger, he was a member of what is perhaps the most influential family in the history of folk music. Just Around The Bend is the final chapter in that legendary lineage, which, as any great folk tradition does, continues on long past Seeger’s death.

Just Around the Bend: Survival and Revival in Southern Banjo Sounds captures many banjo lineages, styles, and techniques—performed by 19 virtuosic banjo players—in a package of two CDs compiled by Bob Carlin and a DVD by Aginsky. 110 minutes of music in 2 CDs; 80-page book with extensive notes, 110 minute DVD.

Photo Credits: (1) Smithsonian Folkways, (2) Mike Seeger, (3) Rhiannon Giddens, (4) Leroy Troy, (5) Brett Ratliff, (6) Riley Baugus (unknown/website).

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