The coming of the New Year is always a time to look back and look ahead. I’ve done both the past couple of days as I’ve enjoyed seeing some new video of the “progressive” old-time banjo work of my buddy John Balch.
John and I played together in high school and college under a couple of band names – the best one being The Fiery Gizzard String Band (which we used about 20 years before another band from the area took it up). The name comes from a beautiful and wild area in the South Cumberland region of Tennessee that I’m pleased to say has recently been saved by my friends at the Land Trust for Tennessee (winners of a 2010 National Trust for Historic Preservation Honor Award).
But I digress. I’m talking about new style old-time music.
John is a terrific clawhammer banjo player, with two stellar CDs out under his own name. Clawhammer is known as an old-time style, but John’s music sounds as fresh and current as anything coming out in the acoustic music world today. Don’t take my word for it. Bluegrass Unlimited said of John’s second CD HOT Biscuit Jam:
“This is 45 minutes plus of delightful string band music. John Balch is a clawhammer player, but hold on, this music is as close to newgrass as it is old-time. Jack Pearson’s mandolin and Shad Cobb’s fiddle don’t go anywhere Balch’s banjo can’t go. This makes for one fine musical journey.“
A couple of nights ago, John joined the aforementioned Jack Pearson (Allman Brothers, Jack Person Band) and Shad Cobb (I last heard him with the John Cowan Band), along with guitarist extraordinaire David Grier for a “Jack Pearson and Friends” showcase. They played some of John’s music, including “Wesley” which is captured in the video below.
John is one of those folks I’m honored to have known in my life. You can listen to his music and marvel at his talent. If you know that he’s battled multiple sclerosis in recent years, yet continues to play, his music becomes all the more remarkable.
Nothing’s speaks to the past like old-time music. But the past can be a great foundation for the future.
And with that thought in mind, I’m heading off into 2011.
More to come…