Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas for Cowboys

A nice version of my favorite Christmas song of all time performed by Wylie Gustafson, the cowboy crooner, from Conrad, Montana.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Singing for Our Supper

Last Friday night Georgianne and I performed, as Homegrown Two - The Duo, at The Whole Foods Acoustic Cafe in Stony Brook, NY. The idea of playing acoustic roots music in a grocery store seemed kind of strange at first, but I guess we're kind of strange too. So what the heck; carrots, radishes, potatoes, blues, shouts, hollers -- it's all roots to me. We had fun.

Photo by Erica Jackofsky -  (I like the shopping cart in the background)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Frailin', Sawin', and Singin'!

We played a show yesterday and a photographer covering the event gave me this photo that he took of me and my daughter Erica playing together last summer. A reminder of how blessed my life has been. Like Johnny Cash said, "These are the things from which my mind and spirit feed."

Erica and Rick,  Frailin', Sawin,' and Singin'  - photo by Mark Shanholtz

Life is Good!   Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Copper Finger

A new nemesis for James Bond? No, a new clawhammer banjo finger prosthetic device. I was working in my metal shop and I got my fingers a little to close to the bench grinder. I didn't get hurt (this time) but I gave my clawhammer banjo fingernail an unwanted manicure. Usually when this happens I will use a National or Dunlop metal finger pick spun around backward as a fingernail substitute. I was never really happy with the way they felt or sounded. I would often get the edge caught up on the banjo strings. So today I decided I would make a banjo specific metal finger pick. I made a sketch and paper pattern with a nice wide fingernail the same size and shape of the one I had accidentally ground off. I cut the shape out of 16oz copper and customized it to fit my middle finger perfectly. So far I think it sounds and feels pretty good. It's also loud! I may be hooked on my new copper top banjo pick!.

Rooster Rick's Copper Top Clawhammer Banjo Picks!
By popular demand, I am now making these unique picks available to the banjo pickin' public.

 I'll give it a full test run at our show this weekend at the East Meadow Library.

Sunday, November  18, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

1886 Front Street
East Meadow, NY

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rocky Point Farmers Market Winds Down

Annalee minding the store at the Rocky Point Farmers Market 
Today was our last day at the Rocky Point Farmers Market. This was the first year for the local market place sponsored by the Rocky Point Civic Association. The market started out slowly in May and built up to a peak with the big Octoberfest pig roast celebration in early October. Since then activity has been gradually winding down as the weather cools and farmer's crops become more limited. As winter sets in I will miss the community spirit that was built and nurtured by this local gathering. I'm already looking forward to springtime in Rocky Point.

This Sunday (November 18, 2012) will officially be the last day for the market, but we wont be there because we have a show next Sunday. The Homegrown String Band will be performing at the East Meadow Library at 2:00 pm on Sunday afternoon. The library is in an area that was hit hard by "Post Tropical Cyclone Sandy". Hopefully we can give folks a break from clean up and recovery with a couple hours of old time music and dance.

East Meadow Library
Sunday, November 18, 2012 @ 2pm
1886 Front Street
East Meadow, NY

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Super Storm Sandy

Downtown Port Jefferson, NY  Monday October 29, 2012 - photo by Erica Jackofsky

Now they are calling it Super Storm Sandy, and things got worse before they started to get better. I spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday cutting up and clearing away downed trees. Power was on and off all week. We just got internet back this afternoon. Most traffic lights were down and local businesses were closed for a couple days. Up here on the north shore we had mostly wind damage, which is getting fixed relatively quickly. The big thing now is no gasoline. We had to cancel our show in River Vale, NJ scheduled for this Sunday because we didn't think we would have enough fuel to get back home. On the south shore a lot of the damage was caused by flooding and fire. That will take much longer to get back to normal. At one point over 90% of the three million people here on Long Island were without power. LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) is estimating that 100,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged to the point where power cannot be safely returned. I think there are still about a million people in Nassau and Suffolk counties without power and it is getting pretty cold. Many on Staten Island and the south shores of Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties are are in dire straits due to the severe damage to the infrastructure. Disasters like this bring out the best and the worst in people. We are hearing stories of looting and fights breaking out between people waiting on gas lines. So far I haven't witnessed any looting or people fighting for resources, only people helping each other get through a difficult time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Made a Mess on Long Island

Sandy has come and gone. While we personally got off pretty easy, Long Island overall is a disaster area. We had a couple big trees come down but neither hit the house or our cars. Many of our neighbors weren't so lucky. We took a bike tour around town this morning and saw lots of trees down on houses and cars, blocking roads, and hanging on power lines as well as heavy erosion to beach front property. Our lights were out for about 4 hours, but we are among the few families on LI that have power. 90% of the island is still in the dark and will be for a week or more. Lives were lost, homes were lost, and the flooding on the south shore and in NYC was catastrophic. I expect recovery will be a long time coming. Our prayers go out to all the people up and down the coast who suffered and are still suffering from Sandy's dreadful wind and rain.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy's Knocking on Our Door

11:30 AM October 29, 2012

It is getting real windy here, not much rain yet, but according to the weather service the wind and rain are going to get pretty intense during the next 36 hours or so. They are calling it Frankenstorm, a mega storm, a hybrid storm, the Perfect Storm . . . one meteorologist said it was "part nor' easter, part hurricane, all trouble." Whatever it is, Sandy looks like it will create a dangerous situation for a large part of the eastern U.S. Though we live within two hundred yards of the Long Island Sound, which is expected to experience a 12 - 14 foot storm surge, we are up on a hill and don't expect to be effected by tidal flooding. Our property is heavily wooded with some big trees close to the house, so that is our biggest concern. Yesterday we received an automated phone message from the local power company (LIPA) telling us to expect outages that could last up to ten days. We are pretty well prepared for anything, well anything but a tree coming through the roof. I hope all our friends, up and down the east coast, have taken precautions to stay safe and don't experience too much damage from Sandy's devastating left hook.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Octoberfest! Rocky Point, NY - Sunday, October 7, 2012

Octoberfest at The Rocky Point Farmers Market

Pig Roast by Naturally Grass Fed Meats
Octoberfest Beer by Rocky Point Artisian Brewers
Music by The Homegrown String Band

Thursday, September 27, 2012

2012 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival - September 29 & 30

If you've never been at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival get ready for a real treat. Located in the town of Saugerties, NY at the foot of the beautiful Catskill mountains on the Hudson River. Prepare to have a wonderful time! 10 musical acts on 5 stages.

The Homegrown String Band on the West Market Stage
Saturday and Sunday - 3 sets each day!

Click Here For Directions to the HVGF

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nickels and Dimes

In these hard times, a lot of hard working people are struggling to get by while a few are doing very well.

I wrote this song over the, just past, Labor Day weekend for the people who whose sweat and hard work have helped to make America great. I Hope you like it and will share it with others.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Homegrown Weekend on Long Island

The Long Island Apple Festival - Sunday, September 23rd @ Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket

Just want to let folks know about a couple local (Long Island) Homegrown String Band shows coming up this weekend. On Friday, September 21, 2012, Erica, Georgianne, and I will be performing as a trio at the Levittown Library Coffeehouse Concert Series. The show starts at 7:30 pm. "Light refreshments served in a cabaret atmosphere" Call ahead to reserve free tickets.

Levittown Public Library
1 Bluegrass Lane
Levittown, NY 11756
(516) 731-5728

On Sunday, September 23, 2012, the full band (including "The Amazing Annalee) will be returning to Long Island's premier apple festival at the Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket. We will be splitting the bill with Larry Moser and Mary Nagin. The music, along with many other activities, will be going on all day from 12 noon to 4 pm.

Sherwood-Jayne Farm
55 Old Post Road
East Setauket, NY

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sheep and Fiber Festival

Hunterdon County Fairgrounds

9AM - 5PM  September 8 - 9, 2012

This weekend Georgianne and I will once again be taking our Homegrown Two show on the road as we assume the role of wandering minstrels at the Garden State Sheep Breeders 18th Annual Sheep and Fiber Festival. We will be entertaining the visitors, vendors, sheep, and alpacas as we roam from barn to barn playing acoustic American music on guitar, dulcimer, harmonica, banjo-uke, doumbek, and banjo. We did this last year and had a lot of fun; there is so much going on, including sheep shearing and sheep dog herding demonstrations, a parade of breeds, sheep and fleece competitions, spinning and knitting workshops, and much more.

Erica and Annalee won't be performing, but they will be there as vendors "manning" (womaning?) our tables stocked with Erica's hand dyed yarn and knitting patterns, Annalee's hancrafted soaps, Georgianne's copper, brass, and aluminum shawl pins, and my Navajo spindles, copper bowls, and wooden spoons.
Come on out and check out this wonderful festival. If you have any interest in, or curiosity about, animal husbandry or any facet of fiber arts you are in for an enoyable day.

Hunterdon County Fairgrounds
Routes 202 & 179
Ringoes, New Jersey

We had a great time at the NJ Sheep Breeders 18th Annual Sheep & Fiber Festival. A big thanks to all the peeps and sheeps who made it possible.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Citico: An Oldtime Fiddle Tune

I was just listening to some of our old recordings. I had forgotten about this one. It is an oldtime fiddle tune played in an open tuning. This was recorded in July of 2000. Erica had just learned this tune a couple days earlier from fiddler Bruce Molsky who was passing through and took time to give a few private lessons. She was fifteen years old at the time. It's one fiddle recorded live no overdubbing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ed Pressnell: Dulcimer Maker

Photo by Paul Macatee
Georgianne usually plays her dulcimer on a song or two in each of our Homegrown String Band sets. She received her first mountain dulcimer as a fifteenth wedding anniversary present, from yours truly, in 1994. Over the years she has developed her own unique chording style that fits in well with the band and gets a more featured role in our Homegrown Two duo shows.

The Appalachian dulcimer is a type of zither developed and popularized by folk musicians from the southern Appalachian region of the United States. This unique instrument owes much of its beauty, both visual and musical, to its elegant simplicity. Audience members are often fascinated by the look and sound of this traditional American folk instrument.

Here's a short film profiling traditional dulcimer builder Ed Pressnell, produced by Thomas Burton and Jack Schrader in 1973.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Putnam County 4H Fair

Our Homegrown Two show in Herald Square scheduled for this afternoon has been canceled because the threat of thunder and lightning was just too frightening. Hopefully we will be able to reschedule another date later this summer.

The full band will be performing two sets this Sunday at The Shady Grove Ampitheater on the grounds of the Putnam County 4H Fair in Carmel , NY. Our sets are at 1:00 and 3:00 pm. We will be sharing the stage with other local, regional, and nationally known performers. Music runs from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park
201 Gipsy Trail Rd.
Carmel, NY 10512

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Tails and Tales from the Garden and the Road

Strange Tail from the Homegrown String Band Garden
Well, we are deep into summer now. The garlic is cured and the tomatoes, including this funky little plum tomato with a tail, are making their way to the dinner table.

The band just got back from a hot trip to Delaware and the Jersey Coast. We played a concert at Stango Park in Lewes, DE, on Tuesday and another in Ocean City, NJ, the following day. On Tuesday afternoon in Dover, DE, where we spent the night, the mercury hit 107 degrees. By the time we took the stage in Stango Park that evening the temperature had dropped to a "comfortable" 98 degrees. It really wasn't too bad, we were well shaded and there was a nice sea breeze coming off the ocean. The audience and concert presenters in Lewes were a pleasure, as always. In Ocean City we played to a lively audience in a nice theater style room located in the library section of the Ocean City Community Center, which also houses a cafe, a museum, an art gallery/studio, and a fitness center.

This Friday, July 27th, Georgianne and I will be doing a Homegrown Two show in Herald Square Park at 35th Street and 6th Avenue in NYC. It's a free lunch time concert in the park and runs from 12:30 to 1:30. On Sunday, July 29th, The Homegrown String Band will be doing two sets at "The Shady Grove Theater" during the Putnam County Fair at the Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park in Carmel, NY. Our set times are 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.

Photo by Rick Jackofsky

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ophio Garlic Harvest 2012

2012 Garlic Harvest photo by Rick Jackofsky

Our show at the Ossie Davis Theater last night went very well, and I'd like to thank everyone who came out on a holiday night to see The Homegrown String Band in action. I hope you all had as much fun as we did.

I harvested my garlic today, about a week earlier than I had planned. We had a very warm winter this year and I'm not sure if that helped or hurt the garlic. We harvested our garlic scapes three or four weeks ago. This year, I lost about 10% of my crop to some sort of root rot and the 90 bulbs I dug up today were all small to medium size. People often ask me when they should harvest their hard necked (ophio) garlic. I usually go with the rule of thumb (green thumb, of course!) that you should harvest when half of the leaves have turned yellow. The remaining green leaves represent the layers of protective "paper" that will protect the garlic during curing and winter storage. If you let all the leaves die back there will be no paper wrapping the bulbs. You also run the risk of the heads over ripening and beginning to open up, which creates an opening for moisture and disease that will drastically shorten the storage life of your garlic. We were eating garlic from last year's harvest into March this year. Another thing to remember when harvesting garlic is that you should never harvest from wet ground. I usually stop watering my garlic patch a week or two before I plan on harvesting. Now I will dust off the loose dirt and cull out any damaged heads, which we will use uncured, then I'll let the rest of the garlic cure in a cool, dry, well ventilated area (our kitchen) for about two to four weeks. At that point, I will cut off the tops, trim the roots, take off the outside layer of dirty paper, and store the bulbs in mesh bags in our basement. When we perform at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in September I will try to find some garlic with bigger cloves to use as seed garlic for my fall planting. If not I will pick the biggest cloves from my harvest; "plant the best and eat the rest!"

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ossie Davis Theater - July 3, 2012

Tomorrow (Tuesday, July 3, 2012) at 7:00 p.m. The Homegrown String Band will be kicking off Independence Day festivities with a performance featuring the music and dance of rural America at the Ossie Davis Theater; a beautiful intimate 145 seat theatre located in the New Rochelle Library.

New Rochelle Public Library
1 Library Plaza
New Rochelle, NY 10801


Friday, June 29, 2012

A New Arts and Crafts Movement

Gourd bowl with pyrographic design by Georgianne Jackofsky

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century a movement, led by English writer and artist William Morris, sought to restore the glory and appreciation of traditional craftsmanship. The movement took place at a time when the industrial revolution and machine-made products were devaluing skills that had been refined by artists and craftsmen throughout the course of human history. Once again we find ourselves at a crossroads in human history; where artists and designers with unique and valuable skills are being replaced by machines. This time the machines are not the steam, coal, and electric powered inventions of the nineteenth century, but the digitally controlled computer programs of the twenty-first century. There is a New Arts and Crafts movement taking place right now and it is happening on a global scale. In the last century, the movement was centered around schools, communities, and individuals dedicated to preserving traditional art forms. This time around the movement has no clear leader or epicenters of activity. One reason for the difference between the twentieth century movement and the twenty-first century movement is that the same technology that is creating the need for the movement is also aiding the movement by providing easy availability of tools and the rapid dissemination of the information needed to learn the practice, as well as the appreciation, of traditional art forms. The digital genie is out of the bottle and there is no turning back to the age of analog technology, but we should follow the advice of William Morris by recognizing the talents of traditional artists and craftsmen, giving the simple beauty of traditional folk art the respect it deserves.

Now for some shameless self promotion. The Homegrown String Band not only creates homegrown and handmade acoustic music, we are also practitioners of traditional arts and crafts. Annalee has created her own line of handmade soaps and lotions, Erica is a well known knitter and designer who creates original knitting and crochet patterns as well as a line of hand dyed yarn. Georgianne is an amazing artist who creates incredible works of beauty using pyrography (drawing with fire) on wood and gourds, as well as fashioning copper, brass, and aluminum wire jewelry. I work in copper, silver, pewter, wood, and fiber to create jewelry, decorative art, spoons, bowls, buttons and Navajo spindles

You can find us hawking our wares, every Sunday (if we are not doing a show) through November, at The Rocky Point Farmers Market located on Prince Road just east of Broadway (Old Depot Park) in Rocky Point, NY. We put up two tents and several tables displaying soaps, sundries, jewelry, gourd art, copper bowls, knitwear, and hand dyed yarn. Stop by and support the New American Arts and Crafts Movement. While you're there you can also stock up on organic produce, nursery stock, eggs, grass fed beef, free range chickens, and maybe catch a few tunes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Homegrown Two - The Edison Sessions

On Saturday, June 2, Georgianne and I had the pleasure of taking part in an Edison wax cylinder recording session on the grounds of the Thomas Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, NJ. The machine used for the session was over a hundred years old, using technology from the late nineteenth century. This acoustic recording technology was the industry standard up until the electric microphone was invented in 1925. The sonic vibrations were picked up by a large horn with a diaphragm attached to a needle at the narrow end. The sound waves cause the diaphragm to vibrate as the needle engraves a groove on a wax cylinder being turned by a wind-up motor. As the recording was taking place, the recording engineer, museum curator Jerry Fabris, was constantly blowing wax debris away from the engraver. The recording time limit was two minutes. We recorded three tracks; one solo banjo and vocal track that didn't come out due to a defect in the cylinder, and two tracks with guitar, banjo-uke, harmonica, and vocals. Here is the digitized version of our take on the ever popular Doctor Humphrey Bates and the Possum Hunters classic "How Many Biscuits."

All the other bands that took part in the session were loud instrumental brass bands who were able to be picked up while performing about six to ten feet away from the sound gathering horn. Because we played quieter stringed instruments, we had to move right up to the horn. I actually stuck my head into the horn while singing. Now we have first hand experience that taught us why the golden age of string band recording took place in the mid to late 1920s, after the invention of the electric microphone made it possible to record vocals and stringed instruments with improved fidelity.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Doc Watson Passes

"Doc" Watson 1923 -2012
Doc Watson, AKA Arthel Lane Watson, passed away today at the age of 89. Doc was born on March 3, 1923, in Deep Gap, NC. Blind by the age of two, Watson used his musical talent to support himself and his family while introducing a new generation of Americans to the traditional music of the Appalachian region. Doc, one of my musical heroes, was "discovered" in the early1960s by Ralph Rinzler who was in the neighborhood to make some recordings of Clarence Ashley. Rinzler asked Ashley if there were any other talented traditional musicians in the area. At the time Doc was playing electric guitar in a rockabilly band; he didn't even own an acoustic guitar. Nevertheless, Doc impressed the visiting folklorist, on a borrowed acoustic guitar, with his repertoire of traditional folk songs and early commercial country music. Doc Watson went on to become one of the most popular traditional artists of the 20th century, and one of the most influential flat picking guitarists of all time.

My first exposure to the playing of Doc Watson was a happy accident. It was 1972 and Doc was the opening act for the Paul Butterfield blues band. I was awed by the playing of this unknown (to me) blind country gentleman. Shortly after seeing Doc perform live, I picked up the, now classic, LP "May the Circle Be Unbroken" and I became more familiar with the playing of this exceptional musician. His album of children's music, "Songs for Little Pickers," provided much of the material I used to entertain, and, hopefully, inspire my children to have a life long appreciation of traditional American folk music. Doc's incredible flat picking was an inspiration to acoustic guitar players around the world, while his elegantly simply banjo technique demystified and provided the foundation for my own clawhammer banjo playing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Twa Sisters - Homegrown Two

The Twa Sisters, Child Ballad #10, is a supernatural tale of sibling rivalry, karma, and fratricide collected by Francis Child in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Various versions of the story were told and sung throughout the British Isles as well as Scandinavia. This digital video recording of Homegrown Two performing an original arrangement of the classic ballad was made by Paul Essenfeld during our performance at The Windsor Art Center on May 3, 2012.

Next week, on June 2, 2012, Homegrown Two will be recorded using technology that was available at the time Francis Child was putting together his ten volume set of "English and Scottish Popular Ballads." We will be traveling down to Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey, to participate in Edison Day 2012, where we will take part in a wax cylinder recording session using technology from the 1880s invented by Thomas Edison.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Emma S. Clark Library

On Sunday, May 20, 2012, at 1:30 pm, The Homegrown String Band will be returning to one of our favorite local venues: The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. This library, which first opened in 1892, is Suffolk County’s oldest public library in terms of continuous community service from its original location. This is also the site of one of our first family shows; The Homegrown String Band first performed at Emma S. Clark in the summer of 1997. The show is free and open to the public, call the library for more information.

120 Main Street 
Setauket, New York 11733-2868 
(631) 941-4080 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Homemade Music

Postcard illustration, and social commentary, by R. Crumb
This postcard, titled "R. Crumb's diatribe on modern music" by artist/musician R. Crumb, says a lot about the devaluation of traditional culture. Who needs history, shared experience, and cultural continuity? There's an app for that, right? Ironically, the invention of the electronic microphone that began the golden age of recording, the source of Mr. Crumb's record collection, was the beginning of the end of homemade music in many families and communities across America. The easy availability of professionally made music through radio, records, TV, CDs, Mp3s, etc., convinced many musicians and would-be musicians to pack up their fiddles, accordions, and guitars and listen to the homogenized sounds of commercial music. Still, I would have to disagree with Crumb's gloomy conclusion that the beautiful music died with our grandparents. I would say it lay dormant and, though not as ubiquitous as in days gone by, the American tradition of homemade music is alive and well despite the onslaught of mainstream media.

Got a hankering to hear some homemade acoustic American folk music? Come on down to the Patchogue - Medford Library on Sunday, May 6, 2012, and catch the next appearance of The Homegrown String Band, a post modern, neo-traditional old time family string band, America's premier purveyors of high energy acoustic American music. The show starts at 2:30 pm, is free and is open to the public.

54-60 East Main Street, Patchogue New York 11772
(631) 654-4700  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Two for the Road; Cajun Kate's

Georgianne and I did a duo show at The Darlington Arts Center last night. It was our third show in a row down in the Philly area. We hit the road early Friday hoping to avoid the Friday afternoon traffic we hit last week. No traffic this time; we breezed down the turnpike and got to Garnet Valley several hours early. We decided to use the time to check out the Booth's Corner Farmer's Market. We found a great little Cajun eatery tucked in amid the craft, produce, and antique vendors. Cajun Kate's serves authentic Cajun cuisine at very reasonable prices in a no frills setting. The cooks let us sample several dishes before we placed our orders. Georgianne settled on the tomato garlic bisque with pesto and garlic croutons. I went with the slow cooked pork gumbo and the gator on a stick. Deee-licious! I should have gotten a crawfish pie for the road! We rolled down the road, literally and figuratively, and did two sets of acoustic Americana for a full house at the Darlington Arts Center Coffehouse. We had a great time and met some real nice folks, including Barbara and Paul Macatee. Paul took some great photos of us including the one below and one I already put up on the Rooster Rick page of our website. We finally pulled into our driveway around 2:30 am. Long day, but lots of fun!
Homegrown Two @ The Darlington Arts Center: Photo by Paul Macatee

The next Homegrown gig is another Homegrown Two show, next Thursday, May 3, 7:30 pm at The Windsor Arts Center in Windsor Connecticut. Windsor Art Center is a place for the visual and performing arts located in Windsor, Connecticut. Begun in 2007, the Center is housed in a former freight house adjacent to the Amtrak line in downtown Windsor. Parking is free, easy and accessible.

Windsor Arts Center
40 Mechanic Street
Windsor CT 06095

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Photo by Steve Gravano
My old ibook, circa 2005, was starting to act kinda funny so my wonderful wife, Georgianne, took up a collection and my generous friends and family all pitched in and got me a nice new Macbook. Recovering files and contacts has kept me pretty busy the past couple weeks. My old html editing web design and ftp programs don't work with the new OS, so I had to load and learn to use some new software. I needed to access the HGSB website to update our calendar, so this old dog spent the better part of this week learning some new tricks. As of today I've got all the pages on our site redone in xhtml code with a new look. As my friend Steve says; "Take a Look Around"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

HG2 at The Darlington Arts Center

The Darlington Arts Center
The band had a great time performing for an enthusiastic audience at the Friday Night at St. Paul's concert series in Exton, PA last night. Georgianne and I will be back in the Philly area again next weekend performing at The Darlington Arts Center Coffeehouse Series in Garnet Lake, PA. The show is Friday night, 7:30 pm on April 27, 2012. Come on out to see Homegrown Two, the roots of The Homegrown String Band, in an intimate setting.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sounds Across the Sound; Saturday & Sunday

The Long Island Sound
This weekend we will be heading across the Long Island Sound to Barrington, Rhode Island. On Saturday, March 31, at 2:00 pm Erica and I will be presenting beginner to intermediate clawhammer banjo and fiddle workshops at the Barrington Public Library in Barrington, Rhode Island. The following day, April 1st, also at 2:00 pm, the full family band will be performing in a concert setting at the same venue. Both events are free and open to the public.

281 County Road,
Barrington, RI 02806
(401) 247-1920 

Earl Scruggs 1924 - 2012

Photo by Rivers Langley
Legendary bluegrass musician Earl Scruggs passed away yesterday at the age of 88. Earl was an incredibly talented guitarist and banjo player who is often credited with inventing the three finger style of banjo picking. While he may not have been the first to play the banjo using three fingers, he definitely elevated the three finger, rolling, picking style to an art form. It was Earl's high energy banjo style that turned Bill Monroe's country band into a "bluegrass" band. His "Scruggs style" banjo picking would become synonymous with bluegrass banjo. Earl's wife and agent, Louise, once defined bluegrass as "folk music in overdrive," and it was the Scrugg's style of banjo that shifted the music into high gear.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gerry Riemer: So Long and Thanks For the Music

R.I.P. Geraldine Riemer
We were shocked and saddened to hear of the untimely passing of our friend Gerry Riemer this week. I hadn't seen Gerry since last fall at the Sherwood-Jayne Apple Festival and only found out about her passing when I decided to investigate why a certain post, on this blog, that mentioned her was getting so many hits. 

Geraldine was a lady and a scholar too. The first time I tuned into Gerry's Monday Night Traditional Folk show on WUSB I fell in love with her melofious voice, and was greatly impressed with her vast knowledge and deep understanding of the folk musics of America and the British Isles. Over the past fifteen years, Gerry was always very supportive of the musical efforts of the Homegrown String Band. I think she really appreciated the idea of us carrying on the tradition of families making music together. Her thoughtful and encouraging words were always welcomed and appreciated by our family. We usually ran into Gerry at a few festivals and music events each year, mostly here on Long Island, but sometimes far from home where it was nice to see a familiar face. Whenever she was an MC at a festival where we were performing she would always make a point of being the one to introduce us. I was often humbled and always grateful for her wonderful introductions. Between sets I enjoyed sitting and visiting with Gerry. I always looked forward to, and will miss, my discussions with Geraldine about obscure musicians and songs, as well as the social and political significance of the music of the people.

In this fair land I will not stay
Here labor is in vain 
I'll leave the mountains of my youth
And seek the fertile plain 
I'm going to the west. . .

So long Gerry, it's been good to know ya!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Better Than Sliced Bread

I just put a loaf of bread in the oven and for some reason I thought of the saying "the best thing since sliced bread." What a weird saying. Pre-sliced bread is terrible! 99% of all Americans get their highly processed, pre-sliced, tasteless, possibly toxic, mishmash of artificial ingredients they call bread from a plastic bag. Products like Wonder bread probably put thousands of traditional bakeries out of business, or else forced them to specialize in dessert products, while simultaneously replacing a traditional nutritional food staple with an unhealthy tasteless facsimile. Here's a photo of my homemade bread:

Homemade Music and Homemade Bread

I used 4 cups of King Arthur Bread Flour (I usually use 3 1/3 cups of white flour and 2/3 cup of whole wheat flour), 1/4 tsp yeast, 1 tsp salt, 2 cups of water, and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (homemade with a live mother). I covered the dough and let it rise overnight then baked it for 42 minutes in a preheated Romertopf covered unglazed clay baker at 475ยบ F. I don't know what the difference is between "bread" flour and regular unbleached flour, but it came out pretty well; I don't miss the whole wheat at all. 

So, what does homemade bread have to do with music? Well, just like bread, somewhere along the line, music has become a mass-produced consumer product. These days we are eating less and less nutritious homemade food and listening to less and less heartfelt homemade music. Thanks to clever marketing, slick packaging, and the misdirection of consumer's attention to superficial appearances and details, most people now prefer the perfectly formed factory made facsimile to the rougher hewn traditional, locally produced, artisan product. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring Time

We got off really easy this year as far as winter weather is concerned, but I'm still excited about the upcoming vernal equinox and the corresponding increase in outdoor activities. (I'm going to plant some peas and kale tomorrow right after band practice.) By the time we play our next show, at the West Deptford Library on Thursday, March 22 at 7:00 pm, spring will officially have sprung.

West Deptford, NJ, is down near Philadelphia. If you live in the area stop in and say hey. Maybe some High Energy Neo-Traditonal Acoustic Americana Family String Band Music and Dance will help put some spring in your step as we step into spring.

West Deptford Free Public Library

420 Crown Point Road

West Deptford, NJ 08086
(856) 845-5593

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Free Concert - Montrose, NY

We will be bringing our High Energy Acoustic Americana Music to the Hendrick Hudson Free Library this weekend.  Join The Homegrown String Band for an afternoon of 100% Natural Organically Grown Music and Dance in Montrose, New York. Sunday, March 11, at 2:00 pm.

Hendrick Hudson Free Library
185 Kings Ferry Road, Montrose, NY 10548
(914) 739-5654

Saturday, March 3, 2012

New Clawhammer Banjo Book

Ragged but Right: The Ungentle Art of Clawhammer Banjo
A Celebration of America's Greatest Multicultural Musical Creation
Bump Ditty Press 2012
By Rick Jackofsky

I just published a new book about clawhammer banjo. Ragged but Right: The Ungentle Art of Clawhammer Banjo.

I had a lot of down time in February so I decided to organize the print-outs I usually hand out to my banjo students. I thought I would just staple a few sheets together to hand out at a clawhammer banjo workshop I will be presenting in Barington, Rhode Island on March 31st, but I got carried away and ended up with a 40 page, 8 1/2 X 11, perfect bound book. Topics covered include practical music theory, clawhammer banjo technique, resources, and some interesting historical notes from the instrument's ancient African roots through the twenty-first century.

Now Available Online, at Shows and at Workshops
Only $15.00 (+ $3.00 shipping)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Joe Thompson 1918 - 2012

Today we mourn the passing of old time fiddler Joe Thompson. Joe, who passed away yesterday at the age of 93, was an African-American traditional musician who, along with his banjo playing cousin Odell Thompson, did much to keep a unique American string band tradition that was largely ignored by the mainstream music media alive. Joe was born in Orange County, North Carolina, in 1918 where he learned his fiddle style and repertoire from his father. He received the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship in 2007, and was a mentor and inspiration to the contemporary African-American string band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Joe Thompson 1918 - 2012   R.I.P.

Monday, February 6, 2012

R. Crumb: The Complete Record Cover Collection

Back in the early 1970s I used to follow the adventures of Mr Natural and Schuman the Human in R. Crumb's  Zap Comics. The other day, while surfing the web, I came across this interview with Mr. Crumb promoting a new book of his album cover artwork. In the piece Crumb talks about his love of old time country, blues, and jazz music while a video illustrated with his wonderful artwork plays.

The book came out this past November. Check it out as well as his earlier collection,
Heroes of Blues, Jazz, and Country,
which comes with a great companion CD of music from the golden age of recording.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fifteen Years of Family String Band Music

I guess the roots of our family band can be traced back to the late 1980s when I used to sing the kids to sleep, or maybe to 1994 when Erica and I led the middle school orchestra in a rousing version of Rosin the Bow. That same year our father/daughter duo entertained a group of seniors at a pancake breakfast with some old-time fiddle tunes. 1994 was also the year I surprised Georgianne by giving her a mountain dulcimer for our fifteenth wedding anniversary. But the first public performance of "The  Family That Plays Together," AKA The Homegrown String Band, was at a Long Island Traditional Music Association member's concert on January 10, 1997. Fifteen years ago this month.

Our first performance of 2012, our sixteenth year of performing together as a family, will be right down the road at the Longwood Library in Middle Island, NY on January 15th at 2 pm.

Longwood Public Library
800 Middle Country Road
Middle Island, NY 11953
(631) 924-6400