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Suprised by the Old Guard, but also Pleasantly Shocked

Posted by DantheBanjoMan on Tuesday, August 10, 2010


       For the past several years my favorite banjo player has been Dave Guard, the original banjo player from The Kingston Trio.  This was largely based on the banjo part to the song "Desert Pete" which I have recently learned was not performed by Dave but by Glen Campbell (playing a banjitar).  I still like Dave's playing, but this does change things a bit.


  With that in mind, the banjo player whose ability I admire the most has shifted to Steve Martin.  I know, there are banjo players who can do things that Steve can't, but  he is a really clean player who can play with a lot of drive and a lot of nuance at the same time; he can play both Scruggs style and clawhammer banjo; plus I heard him do a rendition of "Ain't She Sweet" on The Tonight Show (back in the 1970's) that was plinky and bright and sort of its own style.  

   There’s something about his attack on the strings that keeps his tunes sounding melodic even when he’s playing aggressively, plus he adds a lot of delicate touches so it sounds like he’s paying a musical instrument instead of emptying a machine gun. (I must confess that I am the worst offender in the history of the banjo when it comes to this. A friend of mine wanted me to add a bluegrass track to one of his songs, and since I’m primarily a folk player I wasn’t sure what to do, so I played as aggressively as I could and it sounds the banjo is being played by an angry robot).

      We've all heard Steve play Scruggs style, but listen to this clawhammer medley and you'll see what I mean about his versatility:

     For years I have been under the impression that the lyrical version of "Blackberry Blossom" (as sung by Michelle Shocked) was the original version of the song, but I have recently learned that the words came later and were written by Michelle herself.  The words fit so perfectly with the tune that I was sure the lyrical version had to be the original, but I am happy to be wrong and happy to know the identity of true author of the lyrics.  Also, the lyrics are "my cheeks a-flush" and not "a-flashy" as one often sees on the Internet.




1 comment on “Suprised by the Old Guard, but also Pleasantly Shocked”

Frebazak Says:
Thursday, August 12, 2010 @6:33:50 AM

I have always considered Steve's sound clean. He strikes clean and crisp and at any speed you can hear the melody. Here is my favorite Steve Martin clip .... you can hear it in this clip... Plus the off the off-the-cuff humor of Steve shines through...

Emptying a machine gun.... gawd I like that....

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