Mike Seeger Gone to the New Lost City

I just heard the news that old-time musician Mike Seeger died on Friday night. Mike was the son of folklorist Charles Seeger and composer Ruth Crawford-Seeger. His other siblings were Penny, Peggy and half-brother Pete Seeger (who recently celebrated his 90th birthday and seems to be going strong). Quite a lineage for a musician, and Mike certainly made the best of it. He was a founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers along with John Cohen (see here) and Tom Paley. I think their work in the 1960s represents some of the best of the folk revival movement.

Seeger’s solo work serves as a catalog of old-time banjo styles while also demonstrating his mastery of lesser-known folk instruments such as the quills and the mouth harp. I’m particularly fond of his recordings Southern Banjo Sounds (1998) and True Vine (2003), both released on Smithsonian Folkways.

John Cohen Banjo Workshop on the Down Home Radio Show

I’ve been picking and grinning along to this recording of a banjo workshop led by John Cohen. He covers so much stylistic territory for old time banjo and touches on some of my favorite players. Mentioned repeatedly is Cohen’s classic banjo compilation, High Atmosphere. It’s great to hear Cohen talk about the tunes and the players. Even better is hearing him marvel at the possibilities afforded by different picking styles and tunings. Host Eli Smith has also put together a companion mix tape of the original recordings. Highly recommended.