Mike Seeger: Old Time Banjo Styles [VHS]
Mike Seeger teaches dominant old-time picking techniques clawhammer, two- finger, three-finger, up-picking and othersin several tunings and styles. Workshop appearances from the Merle Watson Memorial Festival feature the banjo styles of Doc Watson (North Carolina); Kirk Sutphin and Greg Hooven (Mt. Airy and Galax); and Etta Baker and Joe and Odell Thompson (African-American). Mike's own interpretations of classic old-time tunes make this a comprehensive lesson for all players. Eighteen songs including: "Molly Dear," "Snowdrop," "French Waltz," "Reuben's Train," "Tom Dooley," "Willie Moore," "Frosty Morn," "Old Joe Clark," "John Brown's Dream," "Backstep Cindy," "Old Corn Likker," "Marching Jaybird, "Soldier's Joy," "Needle Case," "Baptist Shout," "White House Blues."
What is also interesting is that Mike not only feaures other players, but interviews those players about playing banjo, music and their banjos, all pretty interesting and revealing. As a 40 year plus Doc Watson fan, I was impressed to hear the Doctor talk about his own banjo playing and the different styles he learned from his Dad. Watson is honest to say that he could never really figure out drop thumb frailing and that he really fakes the drop thumb style with pull on and pull offs and other picking. It was also nice to see him doing thumb lead picking on Willie Moore, a song of his I have loved since around 1971.
Likewise it was wonderful to see Kirk Sutphin and Greg Hooven two younger musicians playing banjo and fiddle and talking about playing and also talking about how individual styles developed. They were both informative and very positive to the beginner or the learner. Of course as an African American banjoist and fan, I was really please to see Etta Baker play several of her specialities, and to Joe and Odell Thompson on DVD when Odell was still living. Bob Carlin does a great job playing with Joe, but both Joe and Carlin point out it is nothing like Jo and Odell.
Of course Mike Seeger is here himself playing his banjo, instructing songs, singing and being his clear, informed, and respectful of the music and the cultures that made it self.
There is also a cameo appearance by the late Ralph Rinzler who launched the folklife program at the Smithsonian, helped bring Doc Watson and Bill Monroe to the folk music audience, was a great guitarist and mandolin player and singer with the Greenbriar Boys and was a real power along with Mike in doing the hard work that made both traditional artists and the old string band recordings available to new generations in the 1960s and 1970s.
To be sure, this is not a how to play the banjo video for a brand new banjoist. The video focuses on showing a variety of styles and players. This also means that it is quite entertaining and can be enjoyed by anyone who likes good music and like to hear interesting people talk about what they love.