Tag Archives: Roots music

Homage to the dark roots of Americana: The .357 String Band

The .357 String Band takes you from traditional Roots to Americana and Folk, here and there to Gospel and of course like the name suggests to Bluegrass. But above all, they bring razor sharp, adrenaline-fueled live shows to your hometown with a sound the band calls Streetgrass.  

Wisconsin Bases .357 String Band

The Wisconsin state motto is simple – “Forward.” Milwaukee’s own .357 String Band epitomizes this spirit, they will tell you on their website. The .357 String Band was established in 2004. Over the years these guys have traveled more miles than most other bands; from the West Coast of the U.S. to as far east as Serbia, playing hundreds of shows in 10 different.

.357 String Band – Stillest Hour

Homage to both the dark roots of Americana

The band tells us they pay homage to both the dark roots of Americana – the fatalistic murder ballads, sneering Outlaw Country and unforgiving Gospel. Using only stringed instruments, The .357 String Band plays with all the fire and fury of Rock & Roll; with a surprising musical and lyrical refinement. To understand that statement you should really listen to songs like “Stillest Hour”, “Evil On My Mind” and “Down on a Bender”.

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The Budrows presenting cigar box Blues and foot stomping beats

The Budrows from California introduce their music best themself. On their website you can read: “Mix  part cigar box guitar with foot stomping beat, add a heaping scoop of blues harp, sprinkle liberally with washboard percussion and top with searing female vocals. Turn up loud, and serve with Whiskey for a good time”.

Folk and Blues with powerful Harmonica solos

This trio really brings fine music. Like no other band they produce catchy Roots, Folk and Blues tunes through guitar riffs and clear vocals. Their harmonica solos do add a whole lot power to their songs and above all, they have good lyrics.

Live on stage performances

Live on stage their songs complemented with their performance are kicking ass. But also their recorded albums create an atmosphere that feels like your just in front of them while they play songs on your porch.

Songs you should really listen are “Roll ‘n Tumblr”, “Devil’s On My Side” and “Mountainbike Song”. These different songs but all have The Budrows flavor.

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Songs of American Roots band Carolina Chocolate Drops

Songs of American Roots band  Carolina Chocolate Drops

Like their band name suggests the Carolina Chocolate Drops hail from North Carolina where they bring us roots music. Their songs are like a a cocktail in a mix of Blues, Jug band, String band, bluegrass and country. This Grammy award winning band is worth listening for many reason.

Discography and Hall Of Fame

Since 2005 the Carolina Chocolate Drops released several albums including: Heritage (2005), Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind (2006),  Genuine Negro Jig (2010), Luminescent Orchestrii (2011) and Leaving Eden (2012). This march (2016) the Carolina Chocolate Drops announced they will be inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall Of Fame! 

Well what can you expect from such a high rising band. On the band website you’ll read that the Chocolate Dropas are “Armed with banjos, fiddles, guitars, jugs, kazoos, spoons and various other percussive “instruments,”. They also  like to cover some classic roots songs, and my favorite is Hank Williams‘ “Please Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”.

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Blues and Roots from Chicago: Bubbles Brown

Blues and Roots from Chicago: Bubbles Brown

Hailing from Chicago two piece band Bubbles Brown brings some fine blues and roots music into the world. This music is Soulful and in some songs like “Paper Plane Blues” you might think they hired Stevie Wonder to sing some blues, but no it is Bubbles Brown original.

This 2 piece band consists of Bubbles Brown (Guitar, Vocals) and Washboard Ben (Percussion, Vocals). According to these guys bio they “Cut their teeth ont the blues deep in the subways of Chicago, busking for change an the occasional dollar”. We all know there is no better way to learn the blues like that.

Debut Album MT. Gilead

Don’t expect a big backline Bubbles and Ben use only a guitar, a washboard, sock Cymbal and a suitcase bass drum. There music is a mix of pre-war blues and country mixed in a blend of modern electricity.

Recently these guys release their full lenght debut album MT. Gilead.  The album which contains 15 songs is really an incredible mix of blues, roots and country  from the 20s to the 50s.

SOUNDS LIKE: Two piece Pokey Lafarge band | Stevie Wonder playing Blues and Roots | Tampa Red,  meets Big Bill Broonzy | Sonny Boy Williamson

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Roots music from 7-piece string band White City Shakers

Roots music from 7-piece string band White City Shakers

Watching this band play music gets you filled with enthusiasm. It’s really fun to play music and The White City Shakers show how it’s done. The White City Shakers are a 7 piece string band harkening back to the golden era of southern Americana. Spanning blues, gospel and early rock’n’roll.

SOUNDS Like: Tampa RedHokum Highrollers

Follow the White City Shakers for more music!

Photo Credit: Screenshot from video ‘Down By the Riverside, Recorded live @ Batcomber Lodge, Somerset

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Folk classic Railroad Bill by Hobart Smith

Maynardville- folk musicians-tn1
Street musicians in Maynardville, Tennessee, USA

Folk classic Railroad Bill by Hobart Smith

In the winter of 1895 a story that later became a folklore was born just along the Louisville and Nashville railroad track. The story of Railroad Bill filled with action, about a career on the wrong side of the law. It was a recipe for many folk and blues singers and along them Hobart Smith and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. This song and especially the guitar tunes will keep ramblin’ in your mind.

Railroad Bill Story

The story about Railroad Bill was featured in Encyclopia of Alabama  by Ben Berntson of Auburn University and many more researchers. The stories about Railroad Bill began to surface in early 1895, “when an armed vagrant began riding the L&N boxcars between Flomaton and Mobile. He earned the nickname “Railroad Bill,” or sometimes just “Railroad,”. Rairoad Bill was a great shooter and time after time Bill escaped the law.

The Death of Railroad Bill

In an attempt to stop Railroad Bill the railroad detectives started a manhunt after the hitchhiker but he kept continuing. On April 6   in 1895 when they confronted an armed man probably Railroad Bill, He shot Baldwin County Deputy  Sheriff James H. Stewart. First they put a $ 500 bounty on his head, later the authorities had pooled a reward of $ 1.250 together in order to find Bill.

“The hunt for Railroad Bill persisted until March 7, 1896, when a man was gunned down by a host of law enforcement officials at Tidmore and Ward’s General Store in Atmore, a depot town along the L&N. Accounts of the final episode in Railroad Bill’s bloody career widely differ”.

See more at: Encyclopedia of Alabama

Folk Classic by Hobart Smith

Hobart Smith version Railroad Bill

Hobart Smith made a fantastic recording of Railroad Bill, the vocals are smooth like a Leadbelly or Big Bill Broonzy song. The guitar is stylistic like you also heard on Snooks Eaglin’ and Jesse Fullers’s records. This Old Time roots musician recorded a lot of songs during the forties for Alan Lomax who worked for the American Library of Congress.

You might also know Hobart Smith for recordings with Texas Gladden,  his sister. Born in Virginia Smith started perfroming at a young age with medicine shows. In those days he and his sister perfomed for several festivals. The made a whole lot of fans, at a certain point former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited them for a show at the white house. Richard Harrington, “Stephen Wade: Trusting in an Unsung Hero.” The Washington Post, 13 October 2006.

This folk classic carries a fantastic history and the performer who brings that history into art makes it even more special, therefore Hobart Smith will be a legend, just like Railroad Bill.

Railroad Bill Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

Railroad Bill, Railroad Bill
He never worked, and he never will,
And it’s ride, ride, ride.

Railroad Bill’s a mighty mean man
Shot the light out of the poor brakeman’s hand

Railroad Bill, up on a hill
Lightin’ a seegar with a ten-dollar bill.

Railroad Bill took my wife,
If I didn’t like it, gonna take my life.

Goin’ on a mountain, goin’ out west
Thirty-eight special stickin’ out of my vest.

Buy me a pistol just as long as my arm
Shoot everybody ever done me harm.

Got a thirty-special in a forty-five frame,
I can’t miss ’cause I got dead aim.

Railroad Bill, he ain’t so bad
Whupped his mama, shot his old dad.

Early one morning, standing in the rain
Round the bend come a long freight train.

Railroad Bill a-comin’ home soon
Killed Mcmillan by the light of the moon

Mcmillan had a special train
When they got there they was prayin’

Kill me a chicken, send me the wing
They think I’m workin’, Lord, I ain’t doin’ a thing.

Kill me a chicken, send me the head,
Think I’m workin’, Lord, I’m layin’ in bed.

Gonna drink my whiskey, drink it in the wind
The doctor said it’d kill me but he didn’t say when

Photo Credit and Description
– English: Street musicians in Maynardville, Tennessee, USA, photographed in 1935.
– Date October 1935
– Source U.S. Library of Congress – Prints and Photographs Division
– Author Ben Shahn
This image is a work of an employee of the United States Farm Security Administration or Office of War Information domestic photographic units, taken as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States. See Copyright.

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