Good artists copy. Great artists steal.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of spending a few days wandering the streets of New Orleans with my wife. Those of you who’ve been know that, for those who love music, New Orleans is a little slice of heaven. The music there is raucous and alive with energy.
The streets are filled with musicians at every turn. And, to my surprise, a lot of those musicians had banjos.
And a lot of those banjos were being played in unconventional styles – New Orleans is a place where many of the folks aren’t too concerned about playing by the rules, and much of the music is free of stylistic constraints.
Walking the streets there, I was filled with all sorts of ideas, which made the fact that I was traveling without an instrument all the more torturous. I did take lots of videos, and I couldn’t wait to return home and try to adapt some of the sounds I was hearing to my own playing.
Several of the banjo players I heard on that trip relied heavily on a basic strumming style, either while singing or backing up other musicians. And it sounded fantastic.
In fact, it sounded so good I was kicking myself for never doing more of it. That changed once I finally returned home and reunited with my five string.
One of the tunes that fell out after that trip was this version of “Alabama Jubilee.” The banjo solo is still rendered in clawhammer style; however, you’ll note that the backup behind my voice is a departure from the bum ditty pattern that typifies clawhammer vocal backup. I think it fits the tune quite well, and it’s one of several techniques that made their way into my bag of tricks after that trip.
So here’s to musical inspiration. Wherever it may find you.