Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music

Today I’m going to talk about a specific compilation titled, Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music. This particular compilation contains recordings that would be extremely difficult to locate elsewhere. What this albums contains is non-blues, non-gospel live performances from black artists. My bet is most of the artists if not all of them have long since passed on. In layman’s terms it’s chock full of old time songs, some from a black background, some of a Anglo background but all in the vein of rural Virginia music from the 1800′s. This is folk music by the people for the people in it’s purest sense. These guys weren’t looking to make a buck, weren’t looking for any fame, just looking to fill the dance hall and play like their pappy taught them.Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music

I think what I love most about this set of recordings is how accessible the music is. As I said earlier this is music for the people but it comes off that way to the ear as well. These aren’t recordings of closet virtuosos gifted from birth. These are normal guys, with “real” jobs. They play this music because they love it and it’s a part of their heritage. I looked around and tried to find other recordings by some of the artists on this album to no avail. Sad indeed but it makes this particular compilation all the more appealing. Now I see that Global Village has stopped printing this album too so if you are interested you better get a move on.

One of my favorite songs from the album is “Bile Them Cabbage Down”, it’s recorded by Lewis Hairston with no accompaniment. Bile Them Cabbage Down is one of the most popular old time songs to be found. I’ve been playing it on my fiddle for years, in fact it was the first song I ever learned on the fiddle. Hearing Lewis’s harsh vocals accompanied by his sprightly banjo playing is such a breadth of fresh air. For me it brought home just how common this music is and how unique it is that it can be performed in so many different ways by such a wide audience. I also liked Lewis’s lyrics so much that their the ones I now use for that song and have no plans of ever changing. Here’s to you Lewis Hairston and the other performers on Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music.

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