One of the best parts about updating the Busk Break archive is discovering recordings I’d completely forgotten about. A good example of this is my recording of Andrew Jones. Until just a few hours ago, I would have summed up my encounter with him something like this: He played the harp, he looked kind of like a young Art Garfunkel, and he was living in Black Mountain. I only recorded a single song, I recalled, probably I got the impression that he didn’t want to be recorded.
As you’re probably guessing, I found something that proves I’m actually remembering it wrong. And that’s exactly the case. I’m way, way off on this one.
While the original video is lost to the ether, I did manage to find the original audio. It tells a totally different story, and one filled with detail. It turns out that I did a passable interview with Jones in our brief encounter.
Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” isn’t a very complicated tune. It’s so simple, in fact, that the melody and charm of the song can easily fit in almost any genre of American music. It’s considered a country tune largely because Miller was considered a country artist, but even a quick glance at YouTube shows just how flexible the song structure is. The lyrics are purely functional and entirely literal: It’s a song about a vagabond who has mastered the art of getting by. There are a few idioms and metaphors in the lyrics, but overall it’s a tricky song to read subtext into. Perhaps it’s that very simplicity that makes it so catchy and memorable.
Even without lyrics, Miller’s 1964 hit is still instantly recognizable. In this 2011 recording, Asheville-based sax-playing busker Ashby Gale covers the tune in the doorway of a futon store on the corner of Walnut and Broadway. The recording happened to take place in October during the annual Superhero 5K race, and if you watch the background you can even see a few costumed runners wandering around. Continue reading Ashby Gale covers “King Of The Road”
In this archive recording from 2010, Ashton and Rama Cheromaya perform their original duet “Mayan Queen” in front of Malaprop’s cafe and bookstore in downtown Asheville. If you like powerful female voices in the acoustic folk genre, this will be well worth listening to. The duo was also known for a time (and may still be known, actually) as Sweet Water Revolver, and there are many additional recordings of them floating around the internet if you like what you hear.
What’s up with that video, though? WLike many of the very early Busk Break recordings, there is no original video to accompany the audio, and I’ve once again paid a visit to the public-domain Prelinger archive content at Archive.org to make some thing suitable for sharing. In this case, I’ve edited down a 1954 educational film called “Habit Patterns” to be more in fitting with the audio. The original is largely about the terror that comes from having lazy habits, and tells the story of a girl who no one likes because she wore a stained top to school one day.
Here’s another hidden gem from the Busk Break vaults! In 2011, I recorded two tunes by new-to-Asheville singer/songwriter Andrew Constantino. It was a busy era, however, and I already had a few dozen other busking videos in the pipeline. As a result, I only created a video for the first tune in that session, “The Sun & The Moon,” and moved on to the other waiting videos.
When I met Andrew Constantino on a breezy June day in 2011, he struck me as painfully shy. Although clearly a skilled performer and capable singer, even from a dozen paces away, it was hard to make out what he was playing. After I got him talking, however, the context became more clear. Having only arrived in Asheville a few weeks earlier from upstate New York, he was completely new to the local busking scene. In fact, this particular performance was only his third experience busking downtown.
He seemed flattered when I asked him to do an original song, but he stopped dead in his tracks for a few seconds when I asked what the title of it was.
“This is called ‘Looking For Some Time.’ It’s my ode to North Carolina,” he said, followed by an almost embarrassed laugh.
I met Alex Williamson on a cool afternoon in late October 2010. It was just before the start of MoogFest, and the city was swarming with world-class musicians and their crews, all frantically trying to settle in before the madness of that Halloween-fueled festival. He was playing on the corner of Battery Park and Page Avenue in downtown Asheville, a good block from two of the best-established busking hotspots, and I assumed he was from out of town. But he wasn’t. He was a local guy who either hadn’t done enough busking to know where the money spots were. Continue reading Alex Williamson is just “Looking For Some Time”
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.
Watching this video of violinist Amy Alvey and Hang drum player Blake “Blake Abyss” Larson perform together, you’d probably expect to hear that the duo had been busking together for weeks, if not years. As unusual at the pairing of the instruments is, the whole thing comes together in a way that implies the comfort and ease of players who know each other very well.
And, as you’ve already guessed, that’s not the case at all.
In fact, Blake and Amy met for the first time mere moments before this video was filmed. I was on one of my “busk hunts” when I encountered them finishing up a tentative jam in front of the Iron sculpture. They seemed so natural together that I assumed they were touring band, or at least regular buskers.
There are some songs that bypass every bit of cynicism, pretense and stylistic preference. They slip right through the portcullis bars of the psyche, and slide into the unguarded heart where nostalgia and memory live. For me, one of those songs is “Over The Rainbow.” Sure, the The Wizard of Oz plays a part in this, but an even bigger reason is Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole’s medley version of the song. Played on a tiny ukulele by giant hands, that tune is one of the reasons I first started paying attention to folk and traditional music.
Not that Adhi’s cover bears much resemblance to that version, mind you. It’s entirely his own. But I like this performance as much for the power of the song, which shines through even when given a jazzed up improv treatment. Continue reading Adhi covers “Over The Rainbow”
It may be surprising given how confidently he plays, but klezmer and old-time inspired banjo player Adam Kobetich had only been working on his busking set for a few months when I first encountered him. Although hardly new to the Asheville musical community, at this time Kobetich was still learning the ropes of street performing, and spoke with me about the trail-and-error process of discovering good tunes for busking.