September 20, 2012

Keeping it ‘old timey’

The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — This past Saturday, there was a lot going on at the Nelson Pioneer Farm. For me, seeing the group New Broom perform old-timey music was particularly interesting. When I say, “old timey,” believe me it’s with the most affection for this kind of roots music.

As an avid music fan, I enjoy a lot of different genres including blue grass, folk and blues music.

My interest in older forms of American music began when I was just 20 years old. I had heard that many of my favorite classic rock groups like Led Zeppelin and Cream had been heavily inspired by blues music from way, way before even my parents’ time. Naturally, I was drawn to blues legend Robert Johnson whose short recording career took place in the 1930s.

In case you’re not aware, Mr. Johnson’s music is, simply put, the foundation for much of the popular rock and blues music we enjoy today. Nearly all of it owes at least a little something to this man.

After Robert Johnson, I explored the work of other blues artists like Mississippi John Hurt and Willie Dixon.

After that, I’d find myself listening to one of the most influential country artists of all time, Hank Williams Sr., and bluegrass legend Bill Monroe.

I know it may be unusual for a person of my generation to have any interest, let alone a significant interest in music from so long ago. For me, the appeal of these older artists is quite clear. There’s a real honesty behind their work.

When a lot of these older artists were recording their songs, the technology involved in the recording process was ancient by today’s standards. There wasn’t really any “studio magic” to enhance their sound. They had to rely on actual talent.

Believe it or not, there are artists who are alive and well today that play old-timey music. Just off the top of my head, I can think of several acts that I’ve seen perform that play some variation of old timey music. Some of these artists include Head for the Hills, The Mayflies, Split Lip Rayfield and Cornmeal.

It’s great to know that not only are there people out there still listening to this music, there are plenty who still play it as well.