Airhorn Slim’s upbeat charm on resonator guitar and kazoo

Airhorn Slim
Airhorn Slim
What’s not to like about upbeat tunes played on resonator guitar and kazoo? Not much, that’s what. And given how much fun Airhorn Slim is to listen to, it’s worth giving each of these tunes a few listens.

Eagle-eyed viewers may recognize Airhorn Slim from other Busk Break videos, such as Balkan Death Grip’s “Men Trinkte Mashke” performance, as he’s a regular collaborator with other regional buskers. This 2011 session in front of the Woolworth Walk, however, was the first time I’d ever encountered Slim performing on his own.

In this session, he performed his original tune “Can’t Hold Me Down,” as well as a cover of the Washboard Sam song “Who Pumped The Wind In My Donut?” Both are a lot of fun. Continue reading Airhorn Slim’s upbeat charm on resonator guitar and kazoo

Banjo Ben Shirley plays “Sugar Hill”

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Banjo Ben Shirley performing in front of the Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville, NC.
In the muggy heat after a week of rain, Richmond, VA-based busker Banjo Ben Shirley performs the traditional tune “Sugar Hill” in front of the Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville, NC. You may know him from his previous appearances on Busk Break with Abby the Spoon Lady, but he’s not exactly a slouch when it comes to solo performance. With a clear voice, a tambourine on his foot keeping time, and no shortage of talent, there’s a lot to like in his take on a classic tune. Continue reading Banjo Ben Shirley plays “Sugar Hill”

Banjo Ben Shirley performs “Feast Here Tonight”

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Banjo Ben Shirley performing near the Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville, NC.
“I’m going to play this song because your fuzzy microphone cover reminds me of a rabbit,” Ben Shirley told me as he warmed up. After a moment, he added, “It was on the Three Pickers record, so this can be a tribute to Doc and Earl passing this year.”

I first met “Banjo Ben” Shirley last year, when he came through town with Abby “The Spoon Lady” Roach on their never-ending busking tour. Continue reading Banjo Ben Shirley performs “Feast Here Tonight”

Charles Clyde Toney II performs “Drunk Angels”

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Charles Clyde Toney performing in front of the Woolworth Walk.
Charles Clyde Toney II is hardly a stranger to Busk Break. In fact, he’s one of the most documented performers in the series, thanks largely to one particularly fun evening of music on a very warm spring night this year, where he was joined by fellow buskers Kris Wahl and Eris Valentine. Until now, however, there hasn’t been a recording of Toney performing by himself. Continue reading Charles Clyde Toney II performs “Drunk Angels”

Patrick and Cody play an untitled original

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Patrick and Cody playing in front of the Woolworth Walk on a sweltering summer day.
It was scorching hot on the streets of Asheville when I met Patrick and Cody, but you’d never know it from how chill these two were during the recording. They were hanging out in the shade in front of the Woolworth Walk, brought there by local busker Charles Clyde Toney II, and all three were performing together as I approached. Continue reading Patrick and Cody play an untitled original

Damn Girl! perform “La Policia”

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Damn Girl! perform at the Woolworth Walk.
When I first encountered Tom├ís and Derrick, the duo that would later add a few rotating members to their lineup and perform as Damn Girl!, they insisted that they were only passing through town. Perhaps a month passed, and by that point they’d become as established as any local band in the Asheville busking scene. I was hardly surprised. Even in early spring, there are plenty of tip-wielding tourists for buskers to perform to, and, as a rule of thumb, loud buskers do better than quiet ones. This is true even when the songs being played aren’t even in English.

Watching Damn Girl! perform their original tune “La Policia” in front of the Woolworth Walk, the only surprising thing was that the band was still claiming to be passing through town. Continue reading Damn Girl! perform “La Policia”

Sparrow performs “Power Ballad”

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Accordion-playing busker Sparrow performs her original song “Power Ballad” near Woolworth Walk 2011.
It had been the better part of a year since I’d encountered Asheville-based busker Sparrow, and I was glad to run into her again. Her video had been one of the most popular from the first year of Busk Break, and I genuinely enjoyed listening to her perform. Although she’d seen the video from Halloween the year before, she said she couldn’t recall which song she performed for me. I remembered the tune, but couldn’t remember the name of it. So, after a moment, she decided to go with a song she was almost certain she hadn’t performed for me.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t quite recall how the song she wanted to play went. So, right in front of me, she worked the entire thing out. Continue reading Sparrow performs “Power Ballad”

Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas perform “Caffeine”

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Aaron Gunn and friends perform his original tune “Caffeine” in front of the Woolworth Walk.
It’s not every musician that can write an entirely new song that also manages to feel timeless. That’s doubly true when their chosen genre is the nostalgia-driven jazz, blue and old-time hybrid that has been dominating the regional busking scene for the past several years. I was absolutely certain that “Caffeine” was a cover, like some jazzed-up, long-forgotten companion b-side to Clara Smith’s “Ain’t Got Nobody To Grind My Coffee.” But it turns out that it was written by a guy I’ve known for years. Continue reading Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas perform “Caffeine”

Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas cover “My Fat Gal”

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Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas perform in front of the Woolworth Walk.
Filmed on a gray spring day outside the Woolworth Walk, Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas performed an exceedingly fun take on the Merle Travis tune “My Fat Gal.” In other hands, it’s one of those songs that could be interpreted as insensitive, or even outright offensive. But here, it’s neither. It’s just a great band playing a truly entertaining song. Continue reading Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas cover “My Fat Gal”

Sparrow performs “Walt’s Waltz”

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Accordion-playing busker Sparrow performs in front of the Woolworth Walk on Halloween weekend in 2010.
I met Sparrow the weekend of the first MoogFest in downtown Asheville. Even on an average weekend, the city could be mistaken for a costume party that had somehow spilled out onto the streets, but add Halloween weekend and a major, national-level electronic music festival to the mix, and the experience began to border on the hallucinatory. Continue reading Sparrow performs “Walt’s Waltz”