Canadian multi-Juno award winning banjo artist, composer, producer, and teacher Jayme Stone will be giving us a sneak peek of what he and some of his collaborators have been up to recently. His upcoming NAC show on March 16th will feature 14 newly developed songs in a 4-stringed quartet ensemble. The songs have been pulled from the Library Of Congress’ historical archives of documented international folk music, which were captured by American field researcher Alan Lomax. Stone explains:
“Alan Lomax was a pioneering folklorist, who started making field recordings in 1933, and continued for the next 60 years. He made well over 30,000 recordings. The idea behind the project was to unearth some of the lesser-known treasures and use them as a jumping off point for our own creative process.”
For the past few years, Stone has been dedicating his time to the discovery and exploration of this material, and with the help of 15 musicians, re-crafted and re-imagined a selection of songs on his latest effort, Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project (March 2015), which has been nominated for Traditional Roots Album of the Year at this year’s Juno Awards. The album serves as a sample of Lomax’s preservation of worldly folk music, while exhibiting a creative infusion of instrumental adaptation and innovation. Stone elaborated on this immense undertaking:
“Three years ago, we began listening to some of these recordings and made arrangements together. We then did some educational work teaching young people and musicians, after which we finished with a concert. The whole thing was designed as a one-off. The camaraderie and chemistry was so good that we continued and took it on the road. After a year and a half of touring, it seemed pretty clear that we needed to document it all on record, so 15 of us recorded 20 songs over several months. But more than anything, we saw it as an opportunity to place our own stamp on the music which I think is a big part of the folk tradition. We continue to tour and develop a new repetoire. On this upcoming tour, we have 14 new songs we’re debuting that aren’t even on the record… so it continues.”
The album bursts with an array of international flavours, instrumentally and vocally, which vary from charming traditional folk tales, early American gospel, sea chanties, Celtic overtones, and Caribbean and African rhythms. All are marked with historical accounts of culture, religion, family, musical stylings, and stories of the time. One can picture a country hoedown scene in “Hog Went Through The Fence”, with its toe-tapping, reel-like feel and full, multi-stringed instrumentation. Vocal highlights include some marvellous a cappella work in “Now Your Man Done Gone”, and the hand-clapping Southern Gospel goodness of “Sheep Sheep Dont’cha Know the Ro”. I also enjoyed the storytelling, three-quarter-timed ditty of “T-I-M-O-T-H-Y”, as well as the amazing banjo/guitar/violin blend on the quick-paced, Latin-flavoured, “Lazy John”. Many also showcase the typical age-old banjo/fiddle combinations of the time, as in “Julie and Joe”. Stone spoke of this tradition, as well as his love of the banjo:
“Back in the early part of the 20th century, everybody would go to their local square dance or hootenanny, where there’d be music shared. There was always fiddle and banjo… that was the string band before there was a string band. The two go hand-in-hand. I love the timbre, the sound, and the quirky physics of the banjo‘s instrumentation. I was also very inspired early on by Béla Fleck, who is well-known for taking the banjo into new directions musically. I love banjo music, but I also love exploring music that‘s not directly associated with the instrument. It‘s really gratifying to push it in new directions and do things that aren’t already maxed out.”
The Lomax Project tour will zig-zag the continent for most of the year. At the NAC Fourth Stage show, Stone’s accompanying musicians will consist of Moira Smiley – a percussionist, accordion, and banjo player from Los Angeles; Berkeley graduate, Sumaia Jackson – a fiddler from Boston; and Joe Phillips – a bass player who plays in various symphonic and folk groups, from London, Ont. All four musicians are also singers and the show will feature some a cappella material, while gathered old-time style around a single microphone. The performance invites all to experience a unique journey into the past-meets-present, and to discover a glimpse of folk/roots music heritage here and abroad, in this masterful melange of creative interpretation.
Apt613 is giving away a pair of tickets to see Jayme Stone at the NAC. To enter, email us, email@example.com with the subject line “Alan Lomax”. A winner will be drawn at noon, Monday March 14th.
Jayme Stone brings the Lomax Project to NAC’s Fourth Stage on March 16th, 2016, at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased here.