3 Dec 2022

Underground Folk

A great selection of acid folk

'If you already have and enjoy 'Gather In The Mushrooms', 'Early Morning Hush' and 'Feel The Spirit', then this CD is the next logical step in your acid folk excavations. The selection is quite similar in terms of style, although there is no overlap of tracks with those compilations. Only one of these tracks I had in my collection, the one by 'Synanthesia' which is available on their self-titled album. There are some familiar names like Meic Stevens, Wizz Jones, Oriental Sunshine and Moonkyte, who all have songs on various psych compilations I have, but there were a lot of new names to me which I will no doubt be checking out in the near future.' -Michael

'New 20 Track compilation highlighting the underground folk movement of the late 60’s early 70’s. Under the influence of LSD, by the late 1960s the sands were fast shifting for acoustic music. This new compilation showcases twenty of the best tracks to have emerged from the underground folk revolution, taking in artists from Britain and America, as well as further-flung locations such as Norway, Eire and Canada, and touching on genres including jazz, country and psychedelia. The set comes complete with a full booklet featuring rare pictures and information about each artist, making it truly essential for all strange folk enthusiasts.'

'This is not your average everyday folk collection; the fact that the most well-known artist represented here is the Incredible String Band offshoot C.O.B. -- who never went beyond minor cult status in Europe and are almost completely unknown elsewhere -- should clue you in to the fact that we're talking serious crate-digger territory here. If you tried to acquire the original LPs from which these late-‘60s/early-‘70s tracks were taken, you'd probably need to take out a bank loan. The title claims the tag "underground folk," but the artists on Shifting Sands are also commonly classified as "psychedelic folk," "acid folk," or the more colorful "wyrd folk." If such singer/songwriters as Nick Drake, Roy Harper, Sandy Denny, et al. can be said to occupy this subgenre's upper end in terms of renown, the likes of G.F. Fitz-Gerald, Gordon Jackson, and Rick Hayward are several rungs down, but just as worthy of attention. For the most part, these are the artists who were headed down the coffeehouse path when the psychedelic era exploded and left their Martin guitars festooned with paisley shrapnel. While a few of the singing strummers featured here follow a more traditional folk approach, like British guitar giant Wizz Jones' Lazy Farmer and Scottish songbird Mary-Anne, the bulk of Shifting Sands is occupied by the likes of England's Mark Fry and Canadian troubadour Roger Rodier, who sound like they soaked up Bob Dylan and Sunshine Superman-era Donovan in equal amounts. Despite the international roster of artists, there's a striking coherence to this collection, as most of the bands and singers shared a vision of moving the folk template past campfire tunes and strident protest songs into a more expressionistic musical universe that resonated with the tenor of the times.' -James Allen

Various – Shifting Sands (20 Treasures From The Heyday Of Underground Folk)

Label: Sunbeam Records – SBRCD5075
Format: CD, Compilation
Country: UK
Released: 2009
Genres: Psychedelic Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Style: Progressive Folk, Contemporary Folk

1. Fresh Maggots - Dole Song 3:28
2. Rick Hayward - Can't See Any Sign 2:22
3. Lazy Farmer - Turtle Dove 3:18
4. Moonkyte - Way Out Hermit 4:20
5. Mary-Anne - The Water Is Wide 3:09
6. C.O.B. - Summer's Night 4:09
7. Jaki Whitren - A Little Bit Extra, Please 2:35
8. Roger Rodier - My Spirit's Calling 5:05
9. Loudest Whisper - Cold Winds Blow 4:44
10. Gordon Jackson - My Ship, My Star 6:13
11. Mark Fry - Song for Wilde 2:33
12. Meic Stevens - Dim Ond Heddiw ddoe ad Fory 5:09
13. G.F. Fitz-Gerald - Country Mouse 2:42
14. Oriental Sunshine - Visions 2:46
15. Justine - See Saw 2:31
16. Wizz Jones - When I Cease to Care 4:17
17. Dawnwind - Canticle 2:42
18. Gary Farr - I See You 3:50
19. Lily and Maria - Morning Glory Morning 3:16
20. Synanthesia - Shifting Sands 3:10

Coordinator [Project Co-ordinated By] – Richard Morton Jack
Design – Yes Creative
Executive-Producer – Jude Holmes, Steven Carr


Wow. I don't know where to start. Skippy White is one of the most influential people in Boston music history. He was/is a radio DJ, produced many records, and has several record stores. -OP

'The name Fred LeBlanc may not sound familiar to most around the greater Boston area but his adopted radio born namesake Skippy White would most likely ring a bell. Skippy may be remembered as a disc jockey on WILD am1090 but more likely for his record stores and encyclopedic knowledge of R&B and the Blues — not to mention the vast collection of music he has been retailing for over 50 years.

Skippy White was born in 1936 and grew up in Waltham, MA, with the music of the 1950’s. He was not particularly enamored with the music of his youth, and sought out a different sound and feel from what he was hearing on the radio at the time. In Skippy’s own words: “In 1953 I was tuning the dial on my radio, and suddenly found WBMS, Symphony Sid was the DJ. He was playing the Orioles’ ‘Crying in the Chapel.’ I was floored!” Skippy started collecting records from the genres and fell in love with R&B, Gospel, and the Blues along with the artists that produced the music. Most white kids were not collecting records from R&B artists but the beauty of music is that it’s blind and doesn’t discriminate or filter its listeners. Skippy knew what he loved and wanted to hear and collect whatever he could get his hands on — at times even keeping his collection in the trunk of his car! In the early sixties, Skippy was attending Boston University when he lost his day job, forcing him to drop out of school, an event that would change the direction of his life for good. Consequently, White landed a job at Smilin Jacks’ College Music Shop on Mass Ave, which was the beginning of his roots as a music retailer.

The desire to play music — not just sell it — is what lured Skippy White into radio and inspired him to apply for a disc jockey job at WILD in 1961. Skippy talked the management of WILD into giving him a two-hour Rhythm & Blues show on Saturday that eventually aired Sunday as well; it was around this time Skippy changed his name from Fred LeBlanc to Skippy White (“Leblanc” meaning “White” or “The White” in French.) The popularity of the music White played helped turn WILD into an all-Black formatted station. The real benefit was that he could play the music he loved — in turn giving him the idea of opening his own record store — and that’s just what he did. Skippy named his first store Mass Records – The Home of the Blues, located at 1820 Washington Street. Being able to play and expose listeners to the music he sold in his record store was instrumental to the store’s success, so much so that White opened a second store in 1962, naming it after his nom de radio, as customers came into the store wanting to meet the man they heard on WILD. The stores featured music available nowhere else and a host of rare finds, including being the first record store in town to sell the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” Skippy’s customers knew if they asked for something, he would find a way to get a copy of it for them.

Skippy White’s record stores moved many times into different locations over the years; the latest stop, since 1992, is in Egleston Square at 1971 Columbus Avenue. What hasn’t changed is the uniqueness of the product and the unparalleled knowledge of the music historian and owner, no matter where his stores have turned up. The stores were there amidst the race riots in Boston in 1967-68, as well as the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968, all the while Skippy remaining a respected presence as a white proprietor in the city’s predominately black neighborhoods. In 2014 he was honored as a community hero by the African American Ball of Boston.

Skippy’s ultimate focus, passion, and mission, simply put, and in his own words, has always been “to hip you to what’s old, sweet, swingin’ and blue and gospel too.”

Over five decades in, I think it is safe to say: Mission accomplished.

(by Mark Turner)

Published on May 8, 2018

Final Vinyl: Goodbye, Skippy White’s

Skippy White in the basement of his old store in Cambridge MA

''It was dusty, yeah. Some people wore masks, but it didn't bother me. Even when this photo was taken we were still finding gold there. 100+ copies of the Stark Reality 45 and more...'' OP

“15-Track Compilation Features Rare and Unreleased Recordings From Boston’s Soul Scene”

'As serious New England music fans may recall, in 2019 we published an oral history by Brian Coleman, Noah Schaffer, and Mike Garth about Boston music giant Skippy White. News had just come out that White, a longtime Boston vinyl seller extraordinaire, was closing his last in a long line of Hub record shops, and it turned out the aforementioned local historians had recorded a lengthy radio feature with him the previous year.

White is the kind of guy whose archives and experience could power any number of documentaries and compilations. Along those lines, Greater Boston-bred soul man Eli Paperboy Reed has put together The Skippy White Story: Boston Soul 1961-1967, a “15-track compilation that pays tribute to the soul music of Boston and the legendary record store owner, turned label owner, and curator who captured the music on tape.” It’s set for an Oct. 28 release on Yep Roc Records and is available for pre-order now.

In addition to Hub throwback tracks that White put on the map (or in some cases didn’t, since they’re unreleased), the project will also include liner notes from music critic Peter Guralnick, legendary frontman and audiophile Peter Wolf, and occasional Dig contributor Noah Schaffer. And in the runup to the big October release, Yep Roc is dropping tracks to preview the effort. This week, they released “Do The Thing” by Earl Lett Quartet.

“Earl Lett was a journeyman saxophonist and singer originally from Alabama,” Reed said. “He posted up in Boston in the mid-’60s with a residency at The Mad Russian featuring different vocalists, including Billy Thompson and the legendary Lotsa Poppa. Boston clearly made an impression on Earl since he later named his own label Beantown, but prior to that he recorded this tough slice of proto funk for Skippy White as only his second record. According to Skippy, the nebulous quality of the ‘thing’ in this song got it banned from radio!”

More from the label  … 

Specializing in R&B, soul, and gospel music, in 1961, Skippy White opened his first record store in Boston. Along with his radio show on WILD-AM, they served as a resource and beacon for R&B and soul until 2019, when his last store closed.

For decades, fans and musicians from the Boston area and beyond would come to his store for the best and latest in R&B, soul, and gospel music. In addition to the stores, Skippy’s radio show began recording music by local Boston artists to capture the music by these great musicians.

An avid record collector, the set was curated and produced by Eli Paperboy Reed. Culled from obscure R&B, soul, and gospel 45s from the early 1960s, many of these recordings are from Eli’s private collection of 45s and acetates and features extensive liner notes by Peter Guralnick, Peter Wolf, Eli Paperboy Reed, and co-producer Noah Schaffer. 

Each provides context for the music, the time, and the impact that Skippy White, his stores, and the music he discovered and released had on those who frequented his stores, loved the music he released, and were influenced by it all.' -Dig Staff

'A local legend in Boston, Skippy White was at the center of the city's R&B and soul scene, spinning his successful record stores into a radio show and, for a time, a series of labels that captured hometown talent. Curated and produced by Eli Paperboy Reed -- he provides liner notes co-written with co-producer Noah Schaffer, and Peter Wolf and Peter Guralnick both contribute essays as well -- The Skippy White Story: Boston Soul 1961-1969 chronicles the period when White was at the apex of his role as scene-maker, the time when he was the guy who helped create a thriving R&B, gospel, and blues scene in Boston. The liners tell the story of how White brought soul to the city through his radio show and stores, an interconnected enterprise that led him to harbor ambitions to be like his idol Bobby Robinson, the record man behind the Fire and Fury imprints. The Skippy White Story pulls from the 45s issued on the Stop, Ditto, Bluestown, and Silver Cross imprints, labels that allowed him to target soul, blues, and gospel artists. Here, the soul accounts for the first half of the compilation, with the blues and gospel the second. The uptown grooves and harmony of the Precisions and the Earl Lett Quartet are the highlights, capturing the sophisticated strut and shuffles that fueled soul in the first two thirds of the 1960s. They're so cheerful that the acoustic blues of Guitar Nubbit provides a bit of a shock initially, but he, along with the gospel singers, do help illustrate the broad reach of Skippy White. What connects the 15 singles on The Skippy White Story is how the exuberant energy of the artist is captured with thin, compressed sound. These were records done on the cheap, so it's not a surprise they sound a little flimsy, but that's part of the appeal of the set: it's not so much a collection of lost gems as a snapshot of a scene that was in danger of fading away.' -Stephen Thomas Erlewine

'It was in 1961 that Fred LeBlanc, better known to his friends, customers, and especially his radio audience as “Skippy White”, opened a record shop. A disc jockey at the time hosting a radio show at WILD-AM in Boston, LeBlanc as a teen in the 1950s fell in love with R&B, gospel and the blues and became a serious collector of music from those genres. He’d take that love to the airwaves in 1961 after talking management at WILD into giving him a twohour R&B show on Saturday. It was also around that time that he changed his name from Fred LeBlanc to Skippy White (“Leblanc” meaning “White” or “The White” in French). His show would become a valuable resource for fans of soul, blues and R&B and opening a record shop that also favored music from those genres only seemed a natural fit. He soon after opened his first store, Mass Records – The Home of the Blues, in Boston’s South End. It was a store where you could find everything from hits of the day to R&B rarities. In the ensuing 58 years before closing the final location in 2019, Skippy White’s Records would morph into multiple stores, including one here in Rhode Island in Pawtucket, and in the process become an institution for record buyers. It brings us to the new various artists collection The Skippy White Story: Boston Soul 1961-1967. Consider it the ultimate salute to the legacy of the tastemaker White and the R&B and soul music he loved so much and especially that arising out of Boston. Also consider it one heckuva great compilation of off-thebeaten-track soul, blues, R&B and gospel from artists far from household names such as the Earl Lett Quartet, Guitar Nubbit, Lynn Harmonizers, and The Precisions. The set was curated and produced by soul/R&B artist Eli Paperboy Reed, himself an avid record collector, and culled largely from his private collection of rare early 1960s R&B, soul and gospel 45s, the kind of records for which Skippy White’s was to the place to find them. The collection also features extensive liner notes by writer Peter Guralnick, Peter Wolf of J. Geils Band fame, collection co-producer Noah Schaf­fer, and Reed himself. Let alone the historical importance of this compilation, The Skippy White Story: Boston Soul 1961-1967 is just one great listen from start to finish and here’s hoping there’s more in the pipeline for a subsequent volume. Visit www.yeproc.com'

Boston 1970 - "Skippy White's Records" - "Just Hum It"

Lost-then-found vintage 45s tell story of record store legend Skippy White's role in Boston soul music

By Andrea Shea, November 11, 2022

Long before streaming service algorithms fed our appetites for new sounds, music lovers relied on radio DJs and record shopkeepers like Skippy White.

There was a saying that if you came into the store, and you wanted a record but you didn't know the name of it, all you had to do was just hum it,” the now 86-year-old said with a laugh. 

White's encyclopedic knowledge of rhythm and blues is legendary. Like a professor, he shared it with customers for years at four beloved Boston-area record shops.

White opened his first on Washington Street in 1961 and Mass Records: The Home of the Blues became a mecca. It was the place where people could find the latest R&B, gospel, doo-wop and soul.

Skippy White pulls out James Brown’s “Don’t Be A Dropout” from a stack of 45 records from his collection. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

But White lifted the needle on his six-decade brick-and-mortar career in 2020 and moved his massive inventory to a warehouse. “Even that wasn't big enough to hold everything,” he recalled. “So when I finally closed the last store and ended that chapter in my history, I had to bring a lot of records home.”

Boxes of musty LPs and 45s fill White's house in Natick. But there's a part of his storied career in vinyl few people know about. Musician Eli “Paperboy” Reed uncovered it in the mid-2000s while clearing out the basement at White's shuttered Central Square location.

“It was full of water-damaged records,” Reed said, “And that was sort of my clue that there was more to the story about soul music in Boston than I was aware of.”

The 39-year-old knew White brought rarely-heard music by Black musicians to the airwaves as a DJ on WILD 1090-AM, and that he convinced major soul artists like Otis Redding to play Boston shows in the 1960s. What the younger vinyl collector didn't know was that White also recorded local musicians.

“A lot of these groups would come to me — especially when I put out Sammy and the Del-Lards,” White said of the harmonic doo-wop act. “They figured Skippy White's the one to go to."

Some artists even auditioned for White at his Mass. Ave. shop. He remembers when Alvin Hankerson heard twangy blues coming through an outdoor speaker and went inside. The musician told White he sang like that too, and had written some original material. Then Hankerson ran home to grab his guitar and came back to perform a few songs. Impressed, White even came up with a novel artist name for Hankerson. One of the musician's thumbs was missing, and he strummed his guitar with the boney stub that remained. So White suggested he go by Guitar Nubbit, and it stuck. 

Skippy White's first record store is featured on the cover of the compilation The Skippy White Story: Boston Soul 1961-1967

Now, songs by Guitar Nubbit and Sammy and the Del-Lards join more than a dozen rediscovered tunes on a new compilation that celebrates this unsung era called “The Skippy White Story: Boston Soul 1961-1967.”

“I never thought that this would happen, never dreamed about it, because I thought that if we're ever going to have a compilation of some of the releases I had on 45s, that I would have to put it out myself,” White said.

With help from other Skippy White fans, Reed set out to collect and learn more about this lost history. The Brookline native hunted for forgotten 45s, and even found one-off acetate tapes that were cut at sessions but never became records. “Treason” by The Precisions is one of them. Reed couldn't believe it existed.

“You just don't expect to find really high-quality material that has sat in the can — or, in this case, in a box in a basement — for so many years,” Reed said. “You have this group, The Precisions, who we only know one of the members' names. These records are great. They deserve a second life.”

A revival of re-releases from other vintage soul scenes in cities like Seattle, Washington and Madison, Wisconsin really lit Reed's fire. “I was like, 'man, if they can put out records in these kinds of far-flung places there should be a compilation of soul records and gospel records from Boston.'”

Reed's label Yep Roc Records got on board to share the story of Boston soul, R&B and gospel with a wider audience. The musician said not being able to tour during the pandemic gave him and co-producer Noah Schaffer (a WBUR contributor) time to clear song rights, do their research and thoughtfully package the compilation. Its in-depth liner notes, archival images and rare recordings document how White put Boston soul on the map.

Skippy White in 1980. (Photo by Ellen Nations)

“You got this guy who grew up with French Canadian parents listening to country music in Waltham, and then falls in love with Black American music and makes it his life's passion," he said.

Reed was especially psyched to include an unconventional gospel tune by the Crayton Family Singers. “Master on High” features an explosive female voice praying for the Lord's love, and it burst out of some surprisingly young pipes.

“I mean, Joyce is 11-years-old when she sang that song,” Reed said.

Joyce Crayton Weston also wrote the lyrics. Now 68, the Stoughton resident remembers going into the studio as a kid to record “Master on High” with White and her father, Rev. Huston Crayton. The two men were close friends and both had radio shows. They co-promoted big gospel shows in Boston but always made sure to highlight local bands on the bill — including the Crayton Family Singers.

Crayton Weston is grateful White captured her parents, sister and brother's music through his gospel label, Silver Cross. “It's been many years. You know, both of my parents are gone. I miss them,” she said. “But their legacy is still here. The Crayton Singers, that's what they formed.”

Still, Crayton Weston was surprised to learn about the resurrection of “Master on High.” Even though it was one of her favorites, she said, "I didn't know it would get that sort of attention.”

The Crayton Singers

Some of the songs White released on his four record labels got radio play beyond Boston, but none of them made it big. “There isn't a hit on the whole compilation, but it's great music,” he said.

A standout is the celebratory, two-part "Skippy White Theme” sung by Junior Washington and arranged by another big player in Boston's R&B scene — acclaimed Berklee graduate, drummer and producer Herschel Dwellingham.

In all, White thinks he pressed maybe 3,000 records back in the day, but he knows for sure that he never made much money from the musicians’ 45s. “That's not what I was there for,” White said. “I was there to help them expose their talent — and that was it.”

Skippy White's real name is Fred LeBlanc, but that's another story. He continues to sell vinyl from his historic trove online, and you can still hear "the professor" sharing his favorite genres on two weekend radio shows. The Gospel Train and The Time Tunnel are broadcast out of Dedham on the independent station Urban Heat 98.1-FM.

Various – The Skippy White Story: Boston Soul 1961-1967

Label: Yep Roc Records – YEP-3029
Format: CD, Digital, Vinyl
Country: USA & Europe
Released: 2022
Style: East Coast Blues, Gospel, Rhythm & Blues, Soul

1. Junior Washington - Skippy White Theme (Part 1) 2:06
2. Sammy and the Del-Lards - Sleepwalk 2:39
3. The Precisions - What Would You Do 2:19
4. Earl Lett Quartet - Do the Thing 2:32
5. The Precisions - I Love What I Found In You 2:28
6. The Precisions - Treason 2:17
7. Earl Lett Quartet - Now is the Time 2:58
8. The Precisions - Me and My Gal 2:28
9. Junior Washington - Skippy White Theme (Part 2) 2:10
10. Guitar Nubbit - Georgia Chain Gang 4:06
11. Guitar Nubbit - Evil Woman Blues 3:03
12. Crayton Singers - Master on High 2:15
13. The Lord's Messengers - Holy Ghost and Fire 2:35
14. Sons of David - I’ve Been Lifted Out of Sin 3:06
15. Lynn Harmonizers - I Was Standing 2:23

2 Dec 2022

Durham, North Carolina

"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

A record which displays a deep affection for traditional music while placing it at the heart of a living process.

By Richard Parkinson

‘While You Were Slumbering’ takes its title from the penultimate line of Joseph Decosimo’s version of ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ and in a way describes the twin themes of the record in the old-time language and music and the dream-like reimagination of the past in the characters and stories that inhabit the songs.

One of the so-called New Young Fogies – a generation of younger traditional Appalachian musicians – Decosimo has spent a long time researching the musical traditions of that part of the world; he was awarded his PhD in American Studies by the University of North Carolina with his thesis Catching the “Wild Note”: Listening, Learning, and Connoisseurship in Old-Time Music.

The traditions of the past feature throughout the album with its focus on traditional tunes albeit in lesser-known versions and the collaboration with giants such as Alice Gerrard. However, this is also a modern record with Decosimo bringing in his own style and arrangements as well as involving younger players like Stephanie Coleman, Cleek Shrey and Joe O’Connell.

Opening track ‘The Fox Chase’ features fiddle and banjo underpinned by a pump organ drone leading into a lyric referencing the hunt in England and Kentucky and the singer’s old hound. The organ chord bleeds straight into banjo instrumental ‘The Lost Gander’. After this we get Decosimo’s take on ‘Will Davenport’s Tune’. Clyde Davenport was a fiddle and banjo player in Kentucky and Decosimo’s mentor. Will was his father. It’s also the lead-off single.

Next up is ‘Trouble’ performed as a soothing duet, despite the subject matter, followed by the more up-tempo dual fiddles on ‘Possum Up A Gum Stump’. Pretty much anyone reading this will be familiar with ‘Shady Grove’ and ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’. The former comes in with a fiddle and pump organ blend conjuring up images of misty mountainsides. The latter is banjo-led underpinned by an infectious percussion beat.

The short ‘Wild Goose Chase’ banjo instrumental is another tune learned from Clyde Davenport which sounds like it might have been recorded in a living room and the hunting theme continues with fiddle tune ‘Coon Dog’. ‘Apple Brandy’ features a lead vocal from Alice Gerrard over Decosimo’s banjo while he joins her on harmonies for a wistful tale of separation.

Alex Spiegelman’s clarinet opens ‘Young Rapoleon’ – a variant on ‘Bonny Bunch of Roses’ – joined by pump organ guitar and banjo. Decosimo is clearly a fan of ballads and his delivery here is soft and intimate. ‘Clear Fork’, is led out with the banjo before the fiddle joins in and the two instruments dance around the tune and with each other before slowing to a close.

A second Alice Gerrard vocal, accompanied by Decosimo’s fiddle, is featured on ‘Come Thou Fount’, a variation on the 18th century English hymn, before the record closes with a medley of ‘Wild Goose Chase’ (reprised this time on fiddle) and ‘Bob Wills Stomp’.

‘While You Were Slumbering’ is a record which displays a deep affection for traditional music while placing it at the heart of a living process. For those familiar with Decosimo only as part of MC Taylor’s supporting cast on Hiss Golden Messenger records this is well worth checking out.

''Joe Decosimo plays rare fiddle/banjo tunes and sings old songs, especially fiddle/banjo music from the Appalachian South. Joseph has made a deep study of the the music of the Cumberland Plateau/East TN/Western NC regions and has performed and taught it around the world with the Bucking Mules. Beyond trad music, his fiddle/banjo can be heard on projects by Hiss Golden Messenger and others.''

Joseph Decosimo Transforms Old-Time Repertoire into Cosmic Appalachia

Sourced from Decosimo’s work befriending older artists and plumbing the multigenerational depths of music sprung forth from his native Cumberland Plateau in the Appalachian Mountains, these 14 tracks update old-time tradition for today’s fractured world.

By Nick McGregor

"The past is never dead. It's not even past." So goes one of the most famous lines from William Faulkner, the eminent Mississippi novelist commended for his unflinching view of the American South.

The phrase is also relevant to Joseph Decosimo’s new album, While You Were Slumbering, out November 11 on Sleepy Cat Records. Sourced from Decosimo’s work befriending older artists and plumbing the multigenerational depths of music sprung forth from his native Cumberland Plateau in the Appalachian Mountains, these 14 tracks update old-time tradition for today’s fractured world.

These aren’t just “distant interpretations of exotic repertoire,” as Decosimo writes in the album’s extensive liner notes. Instead, old English ballads like “The Fox Chase” and “Young Rapoleon” enter the modern lexicon, with Decosimo adding his dearly departed corgi, Charlie, to the first song’s venerated pack of hounds.

Other tracks retain their primordial narrative power while riding a wave of sonic dexterity. Decosimo’s delicate vocals transform “Trouble” and “Man of Constant Sorrow” from haunting laments into supple jaunts. Thoughtful instrumental contributions from young collaborators like Stephanie Coleman, Joe and Matt O’Connell, and Cleek Schrey add ethereal texture to “The Lost Gander” and “Clear Fork,” elevating hidebound Appalachian fare into the experimental cosmos.

Most stunning among the mix is “Possum up a Gum Stump.” Adapted from a 1940s western North Carolina field recording, the song—its title provincial to the point of pantomime—is made eerily transcendent thanks to resonant Hardanger d’amore (a 10-string bowed instrument) and pulsing bass clarinet from Alec Spiegelman.

Still, the strongest moments on While You Were Slumbering might be the most traditional. The keening voice of bluegrass legend and fellow Durham resident Alice Gerrard animates “Shady Grove,” “Apple Brandy,” and “Come Thou Fount,” all traced to old field recordings and recorded en plein air in Gerrard’s backyard. Meanwhile, the songs sourced from Decosimo’s mentor, Clyde Davenport, who died in 2020 at the age of 98, start with simple fingerpicked banjo before building outward into expansive contours of dissonance and consonance.

The Davenport repertoire exists in few other corners of the recorded American canon. That makes Joseph Decosimo a savior of sorts—who else could expose us to the microtonal pleasures of “Will Davenport’s Tune” and “Wild Goose Chase”? But far more is afoot on While You Were Slumbering.

You can feel the exultation and veneration informing Decosimo’s trained folklorist methods. You can hear joy, anguish, satisfaction, and sorrow—all the same emotions braided into these songs’ old-time roots.

“Never dead,” indeed.

1. The Fox Chase 2:49
2. The Lost Gander 1:26
3. Will Davenport's Tune 2:52
4. Trouble 3:03
5. Possum Up a Gum Stump 2:49
6. Shady Grove (feat. Alice Gerrard) 3:09
7. Man of Constant Sorrow 4:29
8. Wild Goose Chase 1:32
9. Coon Dog 2:59
10. Apple Brandy (feat. Alice Gerrard) 2:57
11. Young Rapoleon 3:06
12. Clear Fork 3:05
13. Come Thou Fount (feat. Alice Gerrard) 3:28
14. Bob Wills Stomp/Wild Goose Chase 4:11

Incl. Pdf

Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar, Pump Organ, Vocals - Joseph Decosimo
Pump Organ, Hardanger d’Amore - Cleek Schrey
Vocals, fiddle - Stephanie Coleman
Percussion - Matthew O’Connell
Vocals, Pump Organ - Joe O’Connell
Vocals, Banjo - Alice Gerrard
Bass Clarinet - Alec Spiegelman

1 Dec 2022


First solo record in a decade from Pelt / Black Twig Pickers / Eight Point Star stringman highlights gorgeous octave and hardanger-style fiddle explorations.

'Available on vinyl and presenting a remarkable program of solo Hardanger and octave fiddle music, 2022's 'Evening Measures' is the first solo-album in a decade from long-time Pelt, Black Twigs and Eight Point Star leader Mike Gangloff. On this set of all-original compositions (save the traditional 'Wild Geese Chase'), Mike's playing is languorous and expressive, with the sympathetic strings of the Hardanger-style instrument ringing out on some cuts like multiple players. The album touches on a variety of styles, keeping things fresh for the entire playing time.'

'Mike Gangloff has had a busy last couple of years, with new works coming out from The Black Twig Pickers, Pelt, and Eight Point Star. He serves up yet another addition to that bunch this month with a solo record on VHF that finds the balance between the traditions of the latter two and the more outre aspirations of the former. Evening Measures is steeped in bluegrass trappings, putting Gangloff’s fiddle front and center, though the record swaps in much of the exuberance and communal spirit for solo pondering that plunges the melodies into an entrancing candlelight lilt.

Underscored with drone, or simply left bone dry, the fiddle often works towards something ceremonial — folk traditions that pick at pieces of Eastern European tapestries as often as those of the Appalachians. “I’m Asking” saws through sadness and solace with a sour stomach, a feeling of loss permeating the piece. The opener captures that firelight flicker, but like the rest, there seems to be something heavier rippling beneath the surface. Even at its most free-spirited on “Wild Goose Chase,” Gangloff lends a caustic edge, threading the needle between anxiety and glee. If you’re already watching Gangloff’s previously mentioned outlets, then this will act as an amiable companion to the works from the last few years, but on its own, Evening Measures stands as a work of startling depth'. -Andy

'Mike Gangloff is a Virginia-based fiddler and multi-instrumentalist who journeys back and forth between traditional and avant-garde music, seeking unity -- and beauty -- in archaic tunes and long drones, in melodies wrapped in freeform scree. He is a founder of bands that include veteran improvisers Pelt, old-time rowdies Black Twig Pickers, and most recently, the cosmic Appalachian quartet Eight Point Star. His new album, "Evening Measures" (VHF Records), focuses on solo fiddle compositions played on hardanger-style and octave-string instruments.'

Boomkat Product Review:

Pelt/Black Twig Pickers fiddler Mike Gangloff appears with his first solo LP in ages and tracks through American folk styles with a sensitive ear, smartly absorbing drone elements into the shimmering atmosphere.

'Mike Gangloff's been a constant on the US avant-folk scene for years, and his compositions have helped define a certain strain of American folk music that's often shrouded in nationalistic politics and misinformation. With Black Twig Pickers he re-contextualised Appalachian traditional sounds, and in Pelt - accompanied by the sorely missed Jack Rose - Gangloff made important connections between psychedelic music, folk, and global drone music.

Considering the amount of music he's put out, his solo material has been relatively thin on the ground - in the last few years he's spent more time putting together charming records with his wife Cara. "Evening Measures" then is a rare, single-minded statement from the Virginia-based musician, made using the Hardanger fiddle (a traditional Norwegian folk instrument with resonant sympathetic strings), and an octave fiddle, a violin strung with octave strings to give it a lower tone. 

Mostly original music (only 'Wild Geese Chase' is a trad fiddle standard), the album does a fantastic job of evoking the complex desolation of the Virginia landscape. By using instruments that have long sat at the center of the American primitive sound, Gangloff's compositions are immediately placeable - even if we don't know the instruments by name, we know them by ear. That windswept sound - microtonal by nature - manages to bridge the gap between folk music and experimental drone, suggesting an inherent psychedelia in the original music that might not always be obvious. If it feels cinematic, it's because we're projecting our interactions with this music, no doubt from absorption of US documentaries and plains movies, onto what it is Gangloff is representing. Truly though, he's doing something way less musically manipulative, and slips into a delightfully post-Fahey musical nook that manages to sound at all times doggedly avant-garde while also being lashed to a history that's so tangible you can taste it.

Very good indeed.'

Mike Gangloff - Evening Measures

Cat No: VHF157 
Release date: 25 November 2022 
Label: VHF 

1. The Other Side of Catawba 6:53
2. The Colors of Her Hair 5:35
3. I'm Asking 6:01
4. Wild Geese Chase 4:09
5. New River Suite 10:05
6. Halfway from Shawsville 4:09

Mike Gangloff: composer, Hardanger-style fiddle, octave fiddle, producer
Cara Gangloff: cover art, sruti box
Kaily Schenker: cello
Joe DeJarnette: mastering engineer, co-producer


more Vini gold.

'These tracks are absolutely exquisite but rarely heard, My favourite DC album was made around the same time, "Vini Reilly" in 1989, and this collection really does carry on in the same vein, I was actually thinking about Vini, today, after the recent, sad passing of Keith Levene (one of Reilly's few peers as a guitarist). I wonder how he is, the old boy?' -Richard Simpson

Vini Reilly & Bruce Mitchell

Burned Beans
'Vini could have very easily sold his exceptional talents for fame and fortune...instead he stayed true to his art. I have so much respect for Vini Reilly. Master musician...master composer.' 

'One of the very few modern musicians to only ever play/compose/record exactly what he wanted to, when he wanted to. Without giving consideration to the financial or critical reception he would receive from doing so.

I think Tony Wilson/Factory deserve a mention for supporting DC/VR as well though, they pretty much released DC LP's through the 80's 'no questions asked'. He'd write some songs, they'd give him a recording budget, he'd deliver the master tapes, it would be released. Not many, if any, other record labels would give someone such artistic freedom. Especially when DC were hardly known for releasing big selling, accessible LP's. I know TW and VR did occasionally have their disagreements, but they'd always 'make up' and it was a friendship that lasted until Wilson's early demise.

I once had the pleasure of spending a few hours in Vini's company in Dry Bar during a 'private party' one weekday afternoon in the early 90's (I have friends who work/ed for the biggest selling Factory band). He never tired of me asking about his playing/equipment and how he went about writing. It was just after 'Obey the Time' had been released and I was listening to it a lot at the time. He's such an unassuming and relaxed chap as well, I don't think anyone else on Factory in that period would have spent that amount of time with someone they'd never met before just answering questions. So, I have a lot of time for Vini's music and Vini as a person. I did feel that he was a man that wasn't really suited to the cut throat nature of the modern music business though. He was probably the most talented musician in that room, but also the quietest. He certainly wasn't there for the free bar and food, I remember he was drinking Appletise and he drunk about 3 of them over the afternoon, he did like smoking cigs though, we went through a pack of B&H between the two of us.'

Burned Beans
'@grizcuz  Thanks for sharing that. Meeting Vini would be great but I couldn't take him putting down his own music. Vini has called his music "rubbish" and "just tunes" which boggles my mind. "The Room" from this Domo live set is just incredible.'

@Burned Beans  I think him putting his own music down is just a part of a Northern/Mancunian self deprecating personality. We tend not to like people who think and say that they're the bee's knees. I've found that the few famous musicians that I've met are like that, more willing to talk up other people's music than their own. Hopefully, deep down he knows that he's got a back catalogue that will be enjoyed for decades to come.

Vini Reilly – The Sporadic Recordings

Format: CD, Album, Compilation, Limited Edition, Numbered
Country: UK
Released: Dec 1989
Style: Avant garde, Jazz, Classical

The Sporadic Recordings, A TTTTTTTTT'S RELEASE. Limited Edition of 4000, not sure how many were signed like this one. Features tracks such as Shirt No. 7 (for Pat Nevin the Scottish footballer), For Steven Patrick (for Morrissey) and Rob Gray's Elegy. Total running time 72.25, 28 tracks. Credited to Vini Reilly and not The Durutti Column.

Most of the tracks on this album were later re-released on Kooky Records' 'The Return of the Sporadic Recordings' which was a double cd combining one disc with all of The Sporadic Recordings (except for those tracks which had already been released as extra tracks on the Factory Once re-releases) and a second disc with new tracks, rarities, and outtakes, etc.

At the end of the last track there is an audio clip of Vini Reilly at an international border checkpoint. The immigration official can be heard asking Vini what he does for a living. Vini replies that he is a musician. The official asks what type of music. After barely a beat Vini replies 'Avant garde jazz classical'.

Tracklisting and notes
1. Buddhist Prayer -- Played on Charlie's L14 guitar after reading 'Page after Page' and not being disappointed. Starring Japanese monks.
2. Pathway -- This is how far you can 'pull' strings before they (or your fingers) snap.
3. Nile Opera -- Starring Egyptian drummers discovered in Andy's obscure C.D. collection.
4. Shirt No. 7 -- Starring a vintage semi-acoustic Gibson 'Stereo-Switchmaster' -- not plugged in.
5. Kind Of Love -- Jazzers would call it syncopation but the time signature was irretrievably lost two bars in and never found again.
6. Rob Gray's Elegy -- Starring Rob's harmonica and Jeremy Kerr's bass.
7. Misere -- Starring the most beautiful voice EVER.
8. For Steven Patrick -- ...for Steven Patrick with love and affection.
9. We Stumble -- Recorded in Belgium for Michel Duval.
10. Sketch For A Manchester Summer 1989 -- The essential Mancunian summer, captured on DAT before the greenhouse effect changes the climate irrevocably.
11. Arpeggiator II -- Starring a now obsolete gimmick.
12. Diazepam 5 mgs -- (Enough to relax you.) Starring a very expensive Bosendorfer piano played on a very cheap synth.
13. But Was I...? -- An attempt to disguise voices through the S.P.X. 90 mk.1.
14. Pol In A-flat -- Played through an ancient Space Echo, therefore the hiss is compulsory.
15. Real Drums -- Real Drummer -- Starring Bruce Mitchell demonstrating the inadequacies of computer generated drums.
16. Another Mirror -- Another Wall -- Another Michel Duval project. Another song with these lyrics, starring Pol's voice and Alain Lefebvre's congas.
17. 30 Oldham Street -- In praise of DRY's decaffeinated coffee and in spite of Leroy's jokes.
18. 4.10 am -- Recorded then.
19. For Lydia-- Voices and flute played on a keyboard.
20. Detail For Heidi And Jodie -- Played on a Yamaha owned by the recipients of the tune.
21. Zinni's Dance -- Bruce's daughter's birthday tune. Played the way she dances, -- out of time.
22. PPP Version -- Based on a description by Anthony H. of a park in Hong Kong.
23. For Lucy H. -- Dedicated to a very nice old lady who lived and died alone. Starring the trumpet of Kaire Gedal.
24. 4.30 am -- Slightly later the same morning.
25. It's A Bright Guilty World -- Part I -- Inspired by an Orson Welles interview.
26. It's A Bright Guilty World -- Part II 
27. Nile Reprise -- See Track 3 
28. Diazepam 10 mgs -- Enough to send you to sleep?


All songs [...] published by: The Movement of the 24th January / Zomba Music.

As always the music produced itself.

Recorded mostly at Sporadic Studios, Manchester (plugged in by Paul Miller) except: [track 6 and 23] Out of the Blue, Manchester (plugged in by Nick Gartside).

Special thanks to Factory Communications Ltd., and particularly Anthony H. Wilson, Tina Simmons and Bruce Mitchell, without whose help and guidance this project would not have materialised.

Thanks to Tony Michaelides and Picadilly Radio for the use of 'Lucy H.'. This track was recorded in March 1987, during a session for Tony the Greek's 'The Last Radio Programme'.

Thanks also to Karl Lynch for NE 5532 and Stuart James and the Canadian Customs & Excise for the closing statement.

Finally thanks to Michel Duval and David Handley.

Respect and thanks to those we have sampled.

℗ + © 1989 Sporadic Productions

This C.D. is a limited edition of 4000.

Warning: this C.D. contains music of a non-ambient nature.

Packaging: standard jewel case with 12-page booklet with stamp numbering

30 Nov 2022


Lo-fi recordings of music blessed by the closest thing to genius. -unholymatter

'Reissue of her first LP, originally released in Germany in a very small pressing - a most unusual & stunning album. Tsege Mariam Gebru is an Ethiopian nun who has dedicated her life to helping others. She has been composing & playing music on the piano since the 1960's. Her music is a unique mix of Western classical music in the vein of Erik Satie, Ethiopian music & Religious Christian meditation music. On this album, we find Tsege Mariam Gebru playing her own compositions solo on piano. She plays with restrained grace & purity. The record invites repeated listening well and is filled with spiritual warmth.'

First volume of solo piano compositions by Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, finally back in print.

'Born to an aristocratic family in Addis Ababa in December of 1923, Emahoy spent much of her youth and young adulthood studying classical music in Europe. She returned to Ethiopia in the 40s, where the war interrupted her musical studies. In 1948 during a church service in Ethiopia, she found her faith and began years of religious training.

Throughout her physical and spiritual journeys, Emahoy continued to compose for the piano. She first released this album in Germany 1963 as small private press record. The tracks reflect her own travels, seamlessly moving between Western classical and traditional Ethiopian modes, evoking Erik Satie, the orthodox liturgy, and meditative Christian music all at once. Her work is like no one else in the world, lyrical, hypnotic, full of spiritual warmth and a direct connection to the divine.

Emahoy is now 98 years old and still lives in Jerusalem. She continues to play, and the funds from her work go to the righteous causes to which she has dedicated her life.

We are incredibly proud to present this music on vinyl again, mastered by Timothy Stollenwerk and presented in collaboration with the EMAHOY TSEGE MARIAM MUSIC PUBLISHER and Foundation. This black vinyl LP version includes a new reproduction of the original artwork, with the composer’s own notes, translated from the original German.' -Mississippi Records

Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru – Spielt Eigene Kompositionen

Label: Mississippi Records – MRP-025
Format: Digital, Vinyl, LP, Reissue
Country: US
Released: Apr 30, 2022
Style: African, Folk, Contemporary

1. The Homeless Wanderer 7:05
2. The Last Tears of the Deceased 8:26
3. A Young Girl's Complaint 6:10
4. The Mad Man's Laughter 3:57
5. Presentiment 3:43

29 Nov 2022


This is an amazing piece of Indonesian history. The compilation journeys to the origins of the country’s contemporary recording industry.

Soundway compilation celebrates birth of modern Indonesian music

A press release for the compilation explains:

“Modern Indonesian music of the 1950s & ’60s incorporated sounds from around Southeast Asia but in reality, Indonesia at the time was still a fairly insular place, until in 1965 a huge political upheaval occurred and President Soekarno was overthrown.  Based mostly in the capital city Jakarta, musicians from around the archipelago were adept at assimilating elements of Javanese, Sumatran, Malay, Chinese, Arabic, Hawaiian, American, British, and Indian music, to create cultural hybrids across a variety of local, national, and international genres”.

'Soundway Records’ newest compilation journeys back to the origins of Indonesia’s contemporary recording industry, featuring 27 archive tracks that paint a vivid picture of the state-sponsored sounds crafted to help galvanise a sense of identity in the nation’s formative years.

‘Padang Moonrise: The Birth of the Modern Indonesian Recording Industry 1955-1969’ presents a section of handpicked tunes based on traditional songs from all corners of the archipelago’s 17,000-plus islands and 1300 distinct ethnic groups. After gaining independence in 1945, the Indonesian government were tasked with finding ways to consolidate the geographically disparate nation, incorporating a new language and new ideas of national identity.

Drawing on influences from regional pop music, Islamic Gambus, Javanese & Balinese Gamelan and Kroncong, state-sponsored musicians and arrangers re-imagined the far-flung forms with elements of jazz, Afro-Latin music and instrumentation, alongside vocal harmonies influenced by American doo-wop and rock & roll. Traditional songs from Java, Sumatra, Bali and beyond were reformed by the groups, and the unique blend of styles and sounds that resulted were barely known outside of Indonesia until the resurgence of interest in vintage international sounds helped to shed light on some of these esoteric recordings..' -Soundway

Another phenomenal history lesson from Soundway, "Padang Moonrise" tells the story of modern Indonesian music, bringing together recordings that fuse gamelan, regional pop and folk, and kroncong, with jazz, doo-wop, rock 'n roll, and Afro-Latin sounds.

'Back in the 1950s and '60s, the Indonesian music industry began to grow, sponsored by the state to bring together a diverse group of 1,300 distinct ethnic groups under a new language and fresh culture that aimed to unify 17,000 islands, including Java, Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and parts of Borneo and New Guinea. Western rock 'n roll music was considered decadent by the Old Order regime, and bands trying to import the style were subject to prison sentences (one such punishment was handed out to the Beatles-inspired Koes Plus in 1965), but the sounds still made it into the Indonesian musical lexicon, often via the Netherlands, where repatriated Indonesians would hear American and British music on local military radio stations. Most of the new pop however was combining elements of music closer to home: Javanese and Balinese gamelan, regional folk sounds, and music made with the gambus or kroncong. Rooted in Muslim identity in Indonesia and the surrounding area, the gambus is a lute-style instrument that's carved from a single piece of jackfruit wood, while the kroncong is a ukelele-like instrument and genre that developed from Portuguese music imported by sailors in the 16th Century.

These sounds might feel disparate even now, but the compilation is surprisingly coherent; the recording techniques no doubt helped create a sense of unification between the vastly different artists and troupes, but there's also a few elements that connect each track. Early Indonesian pop music isn't widely known outside of the archipelago, so hearing these recordings is a revelation. They sounds stunning - this isn't a set of crackly radio recordings of the kind you might find on a Sublime Frequencies disc, Soundway have done a bang up job of making sure these ones sound as punchy as they must have decades ago. And while the material can be hard to place, some of the tracks slide into an ethereal zone that harmonizes with library music and experimental sounds that wouldn't emerge in Europe for decades later. Fab.' -Boomkat

Various – Padang Moonrise (The Birth Of The Modern Indonesian Recording Industry ⋆ 1955-69)

Label: Soundway – SNDWLP151
Format: Digital, 2 x Vinyl, LP, Compilation Vinyl, 7", 45 RPM
Country: UK
Released: Nov 25, 2022
Style: Pop, Keroncong, Rhumba, Indonesian Music 

1. Orkes Teruna Ria - Bulan Dagoan 3:17
2. Yanti Bersaudara - Gumbira 2:23
3. Orkes Suita Rama - Tepui Tepui 3:08
4. Band Nada Kentjana - Djaleuleudja 2:55
5. Orkes Lokananta - Nganggo Teklek Nang Krikilan 3:06
6. Orkes Teruna Ria - Budjang Talalai 3:36
7. Orkes Kelana Ria - Ya Mahmud 3:12
8. Orkes Teruna Ria - Geleang Sapi 3:19
9. Zaenal Combo - Ampat Lima Dalam Djambangan 3:17
10. Zaenal Combo - Seruling 2:49
11. Orkes Kelana Ria - Sojang 2:22
12. Mus D.S. - Neleng Neng Kung 2:57
13. Orkes Gumarang - Malin Kundang 3:06
14. Orkes Tropicana - Pantjaran Kasih 2:19
15. Orkes Teruna Ria - Tak Ton Tong 2:45
16. Orkes Lokananta - Tari Bali 2:51
17. Orkes Kelana Ria - Emplek Emplek Ketepu 3:05
18. Mus D.S. - Ahai Dara 2:26
19. Orkes Kelana Ria - Semoga 2:21
20. Zaenal Combo - Kaden Sadje 3:03
21. Orkes Irama - Gendjer Gendjer 2:39
22. Orkes Teruna Ria - Modjang Parahyangan 3:40
23. Orkes Sendja Meraju - Bubuj Bulan 2:42
24. Mus D.S. - Tautjo Tjiandjur 3:22
25. Nada Kantjana - Nelengnengkung 3:24
26. Ivo Nilakreshna - Ka Huma 2:33
27. Zaenal Combo - Tandung Tjina 2:22

28 Nov 2022


"A rarely opened musical universe that becomes deeper and more soulful with every listen." Joe Boyd

Wonderful, wonderful old music!

'In depth selection of rare music that is wonderful to hear. Mostly great recording quality: sound is lively not deadened to remove crackle.' -Darcy

Great collection of authentic archaic Albanian folkmusic

'This is a wonderful collection of authentic Albanian folk music from the period 1924-1948, beautifully remastered. Be aware -- this is not for everybody. This music is the real deal, powerful, expressive, moving, and traditional -- it is not stuff prettied up for modern tastes. If you are fond of traditional Balkan music, you will like this. I keep listening to it over and over, and my appreciation of it grows and grows. It's a superb collection. -AKL

'Albania holds several groups of people within it's borders. The primary division lies between Ghegs, who inhabit the territory north of the Shkumbin river, and Tosks, who live south of it. There are only a small number of songs on this collection that might be labelled as 'Gheg' - characterized by monophony, well-defined rhythm and musical accompaniment (today often a two-stringed chifteli). The most distinctly so feature a single, strident voice and a triumphal tone that recalls the northern tradition of epic poetry. The Tosk musical dialect is defined by polyphony, imitative melodic lines and, prior to urbanization, a total absence of musical accompaniment. The Tosk sub-dialect is heavily represented in this collection, particularly by the Asllani family of Leskovik, who not only recorded prolifically but were also responsible for three of the labels represented on this collection. The eldest brother, Ajdin, owned and operated both MI-RE and ME-RE and, finally, BALKAN, making recordings in New York, Detroit, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Athens, and Istanbul. Most of the music is drawn from a very distinct 'acoustic niche' in a very particular place, southern Albania-a topography, a way of life-in a dialect laid down, layer upon layer, from parent to child, over many hundreds of years. This music is rendered in a musical dialect both very rich and very close to home. Imagine the former inhabitants of Leskovik coming home at the end of a long day pulling their grocery cart through the streets of Boston to drop the needle on one of these 78s, or tuning in to Nuçi Cujo's radio hour, and hearing their song. We may not have heard this song before, but with a little training conflict gives way to a singular harmony, and emotions ring crystal clear.'


"Songbirds", trésor albanais d’avant-guerre

La passion d’un collectionneur de 78 tours fait resurgir le formidable passé musical d’Albanie. La saga de Christopher C. King débute dans une ruelle d’Istanbul, passe par Tirana et Athènes pour s’achever en Virginie avec 84 perles musicales inespérées.

"J’avais pris des vacances avec ma famille du côté d’Istanbul. On m’a parlé d’une rue pleine de gramophones". L’accent fleure bon les montagnes de Virginie. Christopher C. King est l’un des collectionneurs majeurs de la musique américaine en 78 tours. Blues, country, musique cajun, polka, ragtime… tout ce qui a pu faire guincher les Américains avant-guerre. Avec un collectionneur, le hasard n’existe pas. Ces personnages ont l’odorat du loup affamé. Cachez une pile de disques au fond d’un arrière-magasin balkanique, ils vont la dénicher. Inévitablement.

Et c’est ainsi, dix ans plus tôt, que Christopher C. King découvre un univers: les musiques grecques d’Epire du Nord et d’Albanie du Sud. Soit des chanteuses qui font dresser les poils, des clarinettistes funambules et des violoneux qui semblent avoir pactisé avec le démon. Comme un certain bluesman de légende nommé Robert Johnson.

Une histoire de migrations

La suite est une histoire d’amour inconditionnel, une quête minutieuse à la recherche du moindre indice laissé par ces saltimbanques à chapeau feutre dans les années 20, 30 et 40. Christopher C. King ne cesse de quitter sa pastorale Virginie pour arpenter les rues de Tirana, de Ioannina, d’Istanbul ou d’Athènes.

Parfois ce sont les villes portuaires d’Amérique qui lui révèlent des trésors cachés. L’histoire des Grecs et des Albanais est aussi une histoire de migrations, de transatlantiques et de musique que l’on conserve aussi précieusement qu’un passeport, un tapis ou une icône. "Cette traque m’a envoûté et m’a même coûté mon mariage" résume le limier américain.

Cette traque a aussi rapporté ceci: de fabuleuses rééditions de musique grecque auprès du label Third Man Records, la maison de disques du rocker Jack White; l’estime du dessinateur culte Robert Crumb qui lui livre des pochettes de disques aux petits oignons; la publication d’un livre passionnant ("Lament from Epirus", chez Norton); l’édition ces jours-ci de 84 musiques albanaises, instrumentaux et chansons, rassemblées et commentées sur 4 CD sous le titre "Songbirds – Albanian music from 78s 1924-1948".

Des voix perdues

On découvre enfin les frères Asllani, la chanteuse Hafize ou encore la mystérieuse Riza Bylbyli, autant de voix perdues qu’avaient naguère capturées les producteurs itinérants des firmes Columbia ou La Voix de son maître.

Comment ont réagi les Albanais face à cet Américain à grosse voix qui leur exhume leur passé musical? "J’ai été très touché. Certaines vieilles personnes ont fondu en larmes à l’écoute de ces enregistrements qu’elles n’avaient plus entendus depuis 60 ans. C’était toute leur jeunesse qui réapparaissait subitement", raconte le producteur. "Faleminderit, Mister King". -Thierry Sartoretti/mcm

"Don’t trust your Neighbors, Early Albanian Traditional Songs & Improvisations, 1920s-1930s”, LP, Hinter Records 2011

“Lament from Epirus”, livre chez Norton, 2018

"Songbirds", 4 CD, JSP records, 2020

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

"Songbirds", Albanian pre-war treasure

A 78-rpm collector's passion brings Albania's formidable musical past to life. Christopher C. King's saga begins in an Istanbul alley, moves through Tirana and Athens, and ends in Virginia with 84 unexpected musical gems.

"I had taken a holiday with my family in Istanbul. They told me about a street full of gramophones. The accent smells of the mountains of Virginia. Christopher C. King is one of the major collectors of American music on 78 rpm. Blues, country, Cajun music, polka, ragtime... everything that made Americans dance before the war. With a collector, there is no such thing as chance. These characters have the sense of smell of a hungry wolf. Hide a pile of records in the back of a Balkan shop and they will find it. Inevitably.

And that's how, ten years earlier, Christopher C. King discovered a world: the Greek music of Northern Epirus and Southern Albania. That is, hair-raising female singers, tightrope walkers and fiddlers who seem to have made a pact with the devil. Like a certain legendary bluesman named Robert Johnson.

A story of migration

What follows is a story of unconditional love, a painstaking quest to find the slightest clue left by these felt-hatted acrobats in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Christopher C. King keeps leaving his pastoral Virginia to walk the streets of Tirana, Ioannina, Istanbul or Athens.

Sometimes it is the port cities of America that reveal hidden treasures. The history of Greeks and Albanians is also a history of migrations, of transatlantics and of music, which is kept as carefully as a passport, a carpet or an icon. "This hunt has enchanted me and even cost me my marriage," says the American sleuth.

This hunt has also brought about the following: fabulous re-releases of Greek music by Third Man Records, the label of rocker Jack White; the esteem of cult cartoonist Robert Crumb, who has provided him with exquisite record covers; the publication of a fascinating book ("Lament from Epirus", published by Norton); and the recent publication of 84 Albanian instrumentals and songs, collected and commented on on 4 CDs under the title "Songbirds - Albanian music from 78s 1924-1948".

Lost voices

Finally, we discover the Asllani brothers, the singer Hafize and the mysterious Riza Bylbyli, all lost voices that were once captured by the itinerant producers of Columbia or La Voix de son maître.

How did the Albanians react to this big-voiced American exhuming their musical past? "I was very touched. Some old people burst into tears when they heard these recordings that they hadn't heard for 60 years. It was their youth suddenly reappearing," says the producer. "Faleminderit, Mister King. -Thierry Sartoretti/mcm

Various – Songbirds (Albanian Music From 78s - 1924-1948)

Label: JSP Records – JSP77216
Format:  4 x CD, Compilation
Country: UK
Released: 2020
Style: Albanian Folk Music

Disc 1
1.1 Islam Jonuzi & Friends - E Qarë E Leskovikut (Cry of Leskovik)
1.2 Çoban Arifi and Sabri Fehimi - Me Doçkën E Bardhë (With Your Little White Hand)
1.3 Riza Bylbyli - Korba O Çeço (Poor Me, Oh Çeço)
1.4 Vangjel Leskovikut - Kaba Me Gërnetë (Lament with Clarinet)
1.5 Selim Asllani and Group - Valle Krushkave (Dance of the In-Laws)
1.6 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Laca Kapetani (Captain Las)
1.7 Zonja Qerimé and Friends - Ballét Me Sedef (Forehead with Mother of Pearl)
1.8 Riza Bylbyli - Pogonishte (Dance from Pogoni)
1.9 Jonuzi and Friends - Valle Devolliçe (Dance from Devolli)
1.10 Andrea Pappas and Athanas Mone - E Mjera Unë E Mjera (Poor Me, Poor Me)
1.11 Jonus Lamçe and Sabri Fehimi - Valle Devolliçe (Dance from Devolli)
1.12 C. Cercis Nesim - Dorën O Djal Dorën (Your Hand, Oh Your Hand)
1.13 Riza Bybyli (Vlonë) - Kapitani I Vlonës (The Captain of Vlora)
1.14 Riza Bylbyli - Bahje Dru Me Pershullim (Get the Wood Ready to Burn)
1.15 Konitsa - Vallja E Manushaqeve (Dance of the Violets)
1.16 Z. Kjuj - Ngrehun Mahmudi (Get Up Mahmudi)
1.17 Grupi Sazet - Valle Kolonjare (Dance from Kolonja)
1.18 Zoj Hatixhja - Ç'u Ngrys Herët në Mjes (It Got Dark Early in the Morning)
1.19 Riza Bylbyli - Kishin Uj Ata Burime (Those Springs Had Water)
1.20 Paulin Pali (of Shkodër) - Re Moj Vajz e Mas Qit Ojna (Girl, You Fell, Don't Whine)
1.21 Girls Choir of the Franciscan Convent of Shkodër - Valle Shqipnijet (Albanian Dance)

Disc 2
2.1 Khemal Asllani and Sabri Fehimi - Hunde Bukur Qelibar (Beautiful Nose like Amber)
2.2 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Viktori T'u Bëftë Nëna (Victoria, I (Your Mother) Will Sacrifice Myself for You)
2.3 Konitsa - Valle Me Dy (Pogonian Dance in Two Parts)
2.4 Selim Asllani and Faize Asllani - Goca E Berberit (The Barber's Daughter)
2.5 Musikantet Zotto - Taksim-Sazesh
2.6 Rafail Bulgareci and Risto Pandavani - Nja Shtatë Kokona Duall Në Vodenë (About Seven Beauties went Out in Vodena)
2.7 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Untitase Me Sake
2.8 Z. Hamid Latifi - Prendoj Dilli Dha Aksham (The Sun Went Down and Brought the Night)
2.9 Z. Islami Riza - Lace Gjinokastra
2.10 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Valle Sta Triya (Dance in Three Parts)
2.11 Zoti Khemal Asllani - Ne Rrapi në Mashkullor (Gjinokastrite) (At the Plane Tree in Mashkullora)
2.12 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - E Qarë E Asllan Leskovikut (The Cry of Asllan of Leskovik)
2.13 Riza Bybyli - Sikur Merrje Xhemalin (If You Took Xhemal)
2.14 Z. Kjuj - Kanga E Dhanfrrit (The Groom's Song)
2.15 Jonus Lamçe and Sabri Fehimi - E Qarë Me Gërnetë (Cry with Clarinet)
2.16 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Tjalem T'Ambël Se
2.17 Jonuzi and Friends - Valle Beraçe (Dance from Berati)
2.18 Ajdin Asllani - Këngë Si Hëna Katërmbëdhketë (Song of the Full Moon)
2.19 Shoqnija Toshkrisht - Napuljoni Izet Bej Taksim
2.20 Riza Bylbyli - Osman Taka
2.21 Mati Kola - Ç'e Ninjova Ramazanin (I Heard Ramazani)

Disc 3
3.1 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Qarë E Selimit (The Cry of Selim)
3.2 Chiorchi Gazeli - Delvino Zaza Delvina (Two Towns in Southern Albania)
3.3 Pando Opingari and Spiridon T. Ilo - Valle Kasapçe (Hasapiko Dance)
3.4 Konitsa - Samari I Bariut (The Shepherd's Saddle)
3.5 Z. Islami Riza - Bahje Dru Me Pershullim (Get the Wood Ready to Burn)
3.6 Rafail Bulgareci and Risto Pandavani - Mos E Mer Rrëmbyer (Don't Rush into it)
3.7 [unknown artist] - Valle Çamçe (Dance of the Çams)
3.8 Z. Sylejmani - Alija Fetah Rikut
3.9 Riza Berati - Ç'a Miku (Çam Dance)
3.10 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Hysnije Moj Dylbere
3.11 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Kush Të Ka Moj Ruskë (Who are You Russian Girl?)
3.12 Rukia Me Gocat E Eumes Tiranë - E Bukur Je Fatime (Fatime, You're Beautiful)
3.13 Pando Opingari and Louis Rassias - Vaslle Devolliçe (Dance from Devolli)
3.14 Selim Asllani - Valle Hasanajt, E Shtruar (Dance of Hasanajt)
3.15 Spiridon T. Ilo, Pando Opingari and Louis Rassias - Kënga E Bektashinjve (The Song of the Bektashi)
3.16 Z. Sadik Asbiu - Vajze e Valavet (Girl of the Waves)
3.17 Z. Cercis Nesim - Ballet Me Sadefe Korçarçe (Forehead with Mother of Pearl from Korçë)
3.18 Jonuzi and Friends - Këngë E Gjethes (The Song of the Leaf)
3.19 Ajdin Asllani - E Qarë Kaba Me Gërnetë (Lament with Clarinet)
3.20 Ajdin Asllani - Këng E Gjethës (The Song of the Leaf)
3.21 Rizai with Friends - E Qjare e Merenkes (Lament of Merenka)

Disc 4
4.1 Riza Bylbyli - Taksim Myzeqarçe
4.2 K. Afes Shok and Selim Asllani - Vura Shkallët Mbi Avlli (I Put the Ladder in the Yard)
4.3 Zoj. Havaka - Moj e Vogla Saj Mexhide (Oh, Little Mexhide)
4.4 Vellakt Tija and Sabri Fehimi - E Qarë E Bajram Fehimit (Lament for Bajram Fehimi)
4.5 Z. Cercis Nesim - E Tredelines (Of Fenugreek)
4.6 Chiorchi Gazeli - Kapetan Kirjako
4.7 Çerçis Nesim and Sabri Fehimi - Kur Më Shkon Sokakut (When You Walk Down the Street)
4.8 Mehdi Permeti - E Qarë Me Gërnetë, Kaba (The Cry of the Clarinet)
4.9 Jonuzi and Friends - Viktori T'u Bëftë Nëna (Victoria, I (Your Mother) Will Sacrifice Myself for You)
4.10 [unknown artist] - Valle Salushe
4.11 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Kur Jeçë Vetum (When You'll Be Alone)
4.12 Riza Bylbyli - Kapitani Las
4.13 Jonuzi and Friends - Vome Kabá
4.14 Selim Asllani - Valle Janë Dy Kunata (They're Two Sisters-In-Law)
4.15 K. Afes Shok and Selim Asllani - Keta Lesh Si Filli Arit (This Hair Like Threads of Gold)
4.16 Llaqi and Friends - Çobankat Që Shkojnë Zalllit (The Vlach Women that Goes to the Rocky Place)
4.17 Z. Sylejmani - Medet, Medet Kam Nji Mik (Oh, Oh, I Have a Friend)
4.18 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Dembe Katarose
4.19 Riza Bylbyli (Berati) - Ja Thoshte Bylbyli (Thus the Nightingale Sang)
4.20 Adjin Asllani and Nichola Donnef - E Tredelinës (Valle Dhe Këngë) (Of Fenugreek - Dance and Song)
4.21 Girls Choir of the Franciscan Convent of Shkodër - Ora E Shqypnis (The Time of Albania)

Design – Andrew Roberts
Producer, Remastered By – Christopher King
Producer, Sleeve Notes – Ramona Stout
Restoration, Remastered By – Anders Peterson
Translated By – Auron Tare, Enea Rrapokushi, Steve John
4 CDs in regular plastic cases with black trays, in a card slipcase.
Each CD includes a 4-page booklet.

Sources and recording details:
1-01 HMV 70-1333 (BW3699-1): 19 June 1930, Shkodër
1-02 Balkan 514-A: January 1947, Athens
1-03 Columbia 23159 (WTA 25-1): 1931, Tirana
1-04 ARK-101 B
1-05 Balkan 535-A: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
1-06 Columbia 18808 (WT 22855): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
1-07 HMV 70-1347 (BW3715-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
1-08 Columbia 23109 (W 37818): November 1929, Shkodër
1-09 HMV 70-1394 (BW3762-1): 22 June 1930, Shkodër
1-10 Victor 78001 (B29667-2): 15 March 1924, Camden N. J.
1-11 Balkan 518-B: January 1947, Athens
1-12 Balkan 522-A: January 1947, Athens - Doren O Djal Doren / Kenge Kur Z-Bret-Jorgaqi
1-13 Columbia 23049 (W37697): November 1929, Shkodër
1-14 Columbia DT-23052 (W 37703-1): November 1929, Shkodër
1-15: Balkan 814-A: February 1947, Athens
1-16: Columbia MT-23156 (WTA-48): 1931, Tirana
1-17: Balkan 523-B: January 1947, Athens - Ne Rapi Ne Mashkullor / Valle Kolonjare
1-18: Columbia DT-23014 (W 37628): November 1929, Shkodër
1-19: Columbia MT-23160 (WTA 23): 1931, Tirana
1-20: Columbia 72024-F (WTA 107): 1931, Tirana
1-21: HMV 7-1395 (BW3770-1): 24 June 1930, Shkodër

2-01: Balkan 517-B: January 1947, Athens - E Qare Bajram Fehim / Hunde Bukur Qelibar
2-02: Homokord T. 4-28165-1 (T.C. 114): 24th December 1928, Istanbul
2-03: Balkan 812-A: February 1947, Athens - Valle Medy / Valle Me Ma Mleth Manushaqe
2-04: Columbia 18804 (W 22863): 23 July 1929, Istanbul
2-05: Victor 77386 (B29458-2): 9 February 2914, Camden N.J.
2-06: HMV 70-1377 (BW3744-1): 21 June 1930, Shkodër
2-07: Decca 31018 (CO 711): 1928, Istanbul
2-08: Columbia 72041-F (WTA 149): 1931, Tirana
2-09: Columbia MT-18802 (W 22827): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
2-10: Odeon A 202128 (CO 713): 1928, Istanbul
2-11: Balkan 523-A: January 1947, Athens - Ne Rapi Ne Mashkullor / Valle Kolonjare
2-12: Homokord T.4-28117 (T.C. 110): 24 December 1928, Istanbul
2-13: Columbia DT-23051 (W-37702-1): November 1929, Shkodër
2-14: Columbia MT-23156 (WTA 45): 1931, Tirana
2-15: Balkan 515-B: January 1947, Athens - Këngë Neplepi Bilistit / E Qare Me Gërnet Jonus Lamçe
2-16: Columbia DT-18803 (W 22858): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
2-17: HMV 70-1356 (BW3724-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
2-18: Columbia 72039-F (W206573-1): January 1932, New York
2-19: Columbia DT-23009 (W 37617): November 1929, Shkodër
2-20: Columbia D-23050 (W37700-1): November 1929, Shkodër
2-21: HMV 70-1328 (BW3764-1): 23 June 1930, Albania

3-01: Odeon A-20217-B (CO 718): 1928, Istanbul
3-02: Victor 78000 (CG 7901-): 24 May 1930, Athens (Recorded by HMV)
3-03: Albanian 150 (A): early 1920s, N.Y.
3-04: Balkan 813-B: February 1947, Athens
3-05: Columbia 18802 (W 22826): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
3-06: HMV 1378 (BW3745-1): 21 June 1930, Shkodër
3-07: Albanian 158 (A): early 1920s, N.Y.
3-08: Columbia D-23026 (W 27671): November 1929, Shkodër
3-09: Columbia D-23050 (W 37699): November 1929, Shkodër
3-10: Columbia 18803 (W 22864): July 23 1929, Istanbul
3-11: ?Odeon A 202128 (CO 717): 1928, Istanbul
3-12: Columbia 72024-F (WTA 89): 1931, Tirana
3-13: Albanian 132 (A): early 1920s, N.Y.
3-14: Balkan 501-A: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
3-15: Albanian 130-A: early 1920s, N.Y.
3-16: Balkan 525-A: January 1947, Athens
3-17: Balkan 521-B: January 1947, Athens
3-18: HMV 70-1351 (BW3719-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
3-19: MI-RE 501 (A): around 1930, N.Y.
3-20: MI-RE 505 (B): around 1930, N.Y.
3-21: HMV 70-1930 (BW3757-1): 21 June 1930, Shkodër

4-01: Columbia D-23109 (W37817): November 1929, Shkodër
4-02: Balkan 533-A: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
4-03: Columbia MT-23167 (WTA-14): 1931, Tirana
4-04: Balkan 517-A: January 1947, Athens - E Qare Bajram Fehim / Hunde Bukur Qelibar
4-05: Balkan 514-A: January 1947, Athens
4-06: Victor 78000 (CG 789-1): 24 May 1930, Athens (recorded by HMV)
4-07: Balkan 518-A: January 1947, Athens
4-08: ARK-101 A
4-09: HMV AM-2996 (BW3750-1): 21 June 1930, Shkodër
4-10: Me-RE 510-B: October 1946, Ioannina
4-11: Columbia 18804 (W 22856): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
4-12: Columbia D-23049 (W 37698): November 1929, Shkodër
4-13: HMV 7-1352 (BW3720-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
4-14: Balkan 502-A: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
4-15: Balkan 533-B: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
4-16: HMV 7-1765 (BW3733-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
4-17: Columbia D-23036 (W 37672): November 1929, Shkodër
4-18: Homokord T. 4-28165-1 (T.C. 113): 24 December 1928, Istanbul
4-19: Columbia D-23053 (W 37705-1): November 1929, Shkodër
4-20: MI-RE 503 (B): around 1930, N.Y.
4-21 HMV 70-1396 (BW3772-1): 24 June 1930, Shkodër