Black banjo songsters

A collection of unpredictable, gloriously incomprehensible music.

Published May 27, 2005 7:05PM (EDT)

Available on the Smithsonian Global Sound store is an enthralling collection titled "Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia." The music, almost all solo banjo, often with singing, is like nothing else I've ever heard, entirely rhythmically unpredictable, full of microtonal subtleties and incomprehensible intricacies. It all sounds rushed and a bit confused, as if it were tangled up and waiting to be unraveled into something comprehensible, something ordinary. Thankfully, it never is. All the tracks are worth hearing, but I have a special love for John Snipes' sweet and crooked "Coo Coo," Dink Roberts' frenetic "Going Away From Home (Take Care of My Wife and Child)" and Irvin Cook's cacophonous "Mama Don't Allow."

By Salon Staff

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