New Roanoke Jug Band,
Play It for a Long Time
(Copper Creek, 2002)

The New Roanoke Jug Band's members are Scott Baldwin (guitar, banjo, slide guitar, vocals), Jay Griffin (fiddle, washboard, vocals) and Andrew Thomas (double bass, backing vocals). The original band played circa 1929 and recorded one four-track record, the contents of which is included as a bonus on this CD. Most of the songs on the album date from around that era, with a couple from the '60s giving a token nod towards modernity.

The appeal of this band and their chosen tunes is the traditional and simplistic acoustic sound and the apparently unenhanced vocal style. This won't appeal to some, but then they are unlikely to get beyond the band's name or the sepia photo on the CD cover. The band believes in old-fashioned value for money, too -- 20 tracks from them and the four from the original band's 1929 recording! Their playing invokes images of a Saturday night social, rolling up the rugs in some front parlour and stepping out lively with the partner of your choice. The musicianship is just fine, and they are joined by some talented friends to supplement the banjos and guitars and contribute a mandolin to the foot-tapping sound.

I found the album did indeed "play for a long time," which is great if you can be dancing but a bit wearying on my ears when the feet aren't moving; just three or four tracks into the CD, I was wanting a change of pace. Die-hard fans of the old-time blues style will luxuriate in their element, wallowing in "Cornshukin' Time," "Stone Mountain Rag," "Right Now Blues" and "Johnny Lover." It is to Copper Creek's credit that they seek out this traditional approach to music so that it may be brought fresh to new fans, and to the credit of the New Roanoke Jug Band that they perform with such evident dedication to the traditional style and original spirit of the music.

I thought it a shame that no one had managed to clean up the hisses and crackles from the original 1929 recordings -- maybe technology was deliberately shunned, but it is a pity the fresh sound of the old-timers is marred by this.

My favourites are "Home Brew Rag" and the lively "Chain Gang Special" -- if I'm honest, they began to blur, all being similar in style, but I remembered the words to the former and the chorus and beat of the latter. Great for putting in with other CDs on a multiple sampler player, but a bit heavy for a single start-to-finish session for me. True enthusiasts will doubtless be enraptured!

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 10 May 2003

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