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3 hours
First broadcast:
Friday 22 October 2010

Featuring a 20 minute Guest mix from South West Virginian 'old time' string band The Black Twig Pickers, who've just released an album of Appalachian songs called 'Ironto Special'. Tom will play a track that a listener found in a charity shop in the aptly titled 'Charity Shop Drop'. He'll also chat to a listener about their choices for the 'Tom Capsule' where they pick a year and play 2 tracks of their choosing from the capsule.

Music and featured items

32 items
  • Detailed Listings of the Guest Mix, by Mike Gangloff from The Black Twig Pickers

    1. Roan Mountain Hilltoppers:

    Chicken Reel (live 1986 Brandywine festival, Field Recorders Collective label)

    Of the musicians included in this mix, these are the only ones still active -- although Joe and Creed Birchfield, the fiddler and banjoist, respectively, heard here have passed on. In the current lineup of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, Joe's son, Bill Birchfield, heard in this 1986 recording on guitar, has become the band's fiddler, while Bill's wife Janice continues her reign as empress of the washtub bass. The Hilltoppers are from Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, probably the farthest afield from the Black Twig Pickers' homes of anyone in this mix, but we absolutely love everything they do. There are no bad Roan Mountain Hilltopper songs, or if there are, they're still better than anyone else. For more info, I know they've got a Myspace site and who knows what all else.

    2. Ernie Carpenter: Flippin' Jenny (live 1987 Brandywine festival, Field Recorders Collective)

    Ernie was a Braxton County, West Virginia, fiddler with an amazing touch on the instrument. Most of his songs had long histories within his family, and this song carries an especially amusing tale. I'll leave it to you to find it, though. The double cd that Augusta Heritage Center released would be a good place to look.......and both the double cd and the single LP version of Ernie's Augusta recordings are classics.

    3. Sam Connor & Dent Wimmer: Shooting Creek (1974, recorded at home in Copper Hill, Virginia, Old Originals Vol. 1, Rounder Records)

    Fiddler Sam and banjoist Dent separately play and discuss their versions of Shooting Creek on this long out-of-print (ridiculously out-of-print) album, originally part of a two-volume set detailing the nuances of local styles of fiddling and banjoing in Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina. The Black Twigs shared the bill at a show last year or the year before with Dent's son, who's now probably in his 70s but plays an amazingly aggro bluegrass banjo. We also visit and play with Sam's brother-in-law, the octogenarian fiddle-maker and fiddler Arthur Conner. (the whole Conner/Connor spelling and relation thing is still something of a mystery to me)

    4. Burl Hammons: Spring's All Muddy and the Pond's All Dry (1970s? home recording near Marlinton, West Virginia)

    Burl Hammons, of course, is from the justly famous-in-old-time-circles Hammons family. Burl's playing has always seemed more spidery and cryptic to me than that of his uncle Eddn Hammons, who may've been the most powerful fiddler ever, to my ear anyhow. The FOATMAD site has great background essays if needed.

    5. Kyle Creed: Ducks on the Mill Pond (live 1964 Galax Old Fiddlers Convention)

    Also a well-known figure in old-time circles, Kyle Creed was renowned as a builder of wagons (to be drawn by mules -- I used to rent a house from a man who'd gone on week-long camping-and-music mule expeditions with Kyle), an innovative home designer, and of course a banjoist and fiddler and banjo-builder. This recording is one of the songs he played in competition in the 1964 Galax contest. I haven't looked up the results to see how he did.

    6. Fred Cockerham & the Virginia-Carolina Ramblers: Let Me Fall (live 1966 Galax Old Fiddlers Convention)

    Another legend of the Virginia-North Carolina line (and beyond) playing in a Galax competition. Fred probably gained his widest fame playing banjo next to Tommy Jarrell's fiddling in the 1960s and early '70s, but he was a jaw-dropping fiddler himself. Here he's leading a band whose banjoist is playing in almost a bluegrass style. Fred's singing has always been a favorite of mine.

    7. Sidna & Fulton Myers: Brown's Dream (early 1960s? home recording near Hillsville, Virginia, Field Recorders Collective)

    Trance-inducing bewitchery.

    8. Melvin Wine: Hannah at the Springhouse (1989, Hannah at the Springhouse album, recorded at home in Copen, West Virginia, Augusta Heritage Center)

    Melvin Wine has destroyed me from the first time I heard him.

    9. Andrew Burnside & Gilbert Massey: Sugar Foot Rag (live 1957 Glenville festival)

    We needed a fiddlesticks song, and the ferociousness of Burnside and Massey, the shambolic majesty, maybe points us back to how the mix began.

  • Andrew Burnside & Gilbert Massey

    Andrew Burnside & Gilbert Massey

    courtesy of Davis & Elkins College


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