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JoeMc on 05/27/2009 at 02:03PM

The Grey Area Between Black and White

Polk Miller and the banjo on his knee

Pioneers sometimes come in unexpected and unwanted forms. Take the case of Polk Miller. Who would have thought that the son of a slave owner, who himself firmly believed in the institution of slavery, would spend his life popularizing black music as a member of the first integrated group in American music?

Born in Virginia in 1844, Polk Miller grew up on a plantation run by slave labor. As a boy, he was fascinated by the music of his father's slaves and learned to play banjo from them. Soon after, however, in a pattern that would reoccur throughout his life, he spent several years fighting to defend slavery as a member of the Confederate army. Miller was indeed well-suited to a grey uniform.

After the war ended, Miller returned to civilian life and became a druggist. A remedy that he concocted to nurse his ailing dog Sergeant turned into a successful business, and Miller became one of Richmond's most prominent businessmen. (His pet care brand, Sergeant's, is still around, by the way.) All this time, though, Miller would break out his banjo and entertain his friends with old spirituals from the plantation.

Finally, in 1892, Miller handed his business over to his son and became a full-time entertainer. Ever mindful of the sounds of the singing he'd heard as a boy, he hired a black quartet to accompany him in his reproductions of spirituals and folk songs he loved. This fivesome soon began to tour the country, playing and singing at everything from big city socials to monument raisings in country towns. Mark Twain caught them at Madison Square Garden after the turn of the century and remarked that "Polk Miller and his wonderful four is about the only thing the country can furnish that is originally and utterly American."


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tommy on 05/27/2009 at 09:50AM

Clinical Archives

Little things keep me happy. Like when my mp3 player randomly picks absolutely perfect shuffle mixes when I am driving for hours. I mean a great mix really takes your mind off of how friggin' terrible driving I-95 for 600 miles on Memorial Day weekend can be. Luckily, I had loaded up my player with tons of free FMA goodies prior to departure.

I found myself constantly checking the iPod ticker to see what the hell I was listening to, and the Clinical Archives jazz compilations were popping up all the time. Song of the weekend? Damo Suzuki & Now - Metro Girl. Just something about that incessant krautrock motorik, Damo's incoherent, Cookie Monster-growling-mouth-diarrhea, and the hum of my tires. Intrigued? Have a listen below.

Clinical Archives is a netlabel "for eclectic and illogical music" that really takes the "archive" descriptor in its title seriously. Click on any song in the Clincal Jazz compilations and you're given artist bios, recording dates and settings, pictures, and literally anything else that can be said about a single recording. Fascinating info, fascinating music.


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zlayton on 05/25/2009 at 04:24PM

alex waterman

Alex Waterman, cellist, has been a major supporter of ISSUE Project Room, playing some unbelievable music at our benefit at Santos Party House back in November, this past month at ISSUE Founder, Suzanne Fiol's birthday, and just in general being an amazing guy.  Here's an mp3 of Alex playing back in February.  Enjoy

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herr_professor on 05/25/2009 at 03:38PM

Netlabels (Big N and Little L)

Goto80 photo by rosa menkman

 With almost no commerical label support, aside from one-offs or cross-overs, the chip music community has to be creative in its use of self promotion. The great majority of chip music releases tend to be self released (think cd-rs at gigs or personal webspaces) or released on netlabels. The typical chip music netlabel is somewhere between play acting like a traditional label (Catalog numbers! Press Releases!) and curating like a highly specified blog (like the FMA you are reading right now).

 It can be rare when a constantly good label hooks up with a consistently excellent artist. So when young label Dwd Records announced the Release of Goto80's Updown, it was an announcement to the chip music community that this label wouldn't be another chip upload site and that they would deliver only quality releases. To this day, Updown is one of my very favorites.


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Goto80 - "Member" (01:31)
Goto80 - "Member" (01:31)
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pushbinlou on 05/25/2009 at 02:32PM

Shimmery Spring Sounds

Sawako - pic by anagggggg.

I wanted to highlight some more nice ambient sounds to listen to on your ipod on a beautiful late spring day like the one I'm having here in the great midwest.  Sawako is a sound artist from Japan who makes some of the most beautiful soundscapes around.  Sawako has toured all over the world and her live performances also include some really stunning visuals to accompany her sounds.

The piece featured here was recorded on Bethany Ryker's show on WFMU in March 2009.  Children's voices, birds chirping, bells and soft tones all give you a feeling of a lazy spring day.  Beautiful and moving stuff.

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jason on 05/25/2009 at 11:01AM

Roger McGuinn's Folk Den

Roger McGuinn CC by Jaycross

Roger McGuinn pioneered folk-rock (not to mention psych-rock and jangle pop) as the 12-string-weilding backbone of The Byrds. He's also a folk archivist, and a web pioneer.

Way back in 1995, McGuinn started The Folk Den Project to share his own recordings of public domain folk tunes. It was the pre-Napster dial-up days, before the mp3 format had taken hold, and his original format was 11-khz 8-bit mono WAV. Some even cite McGuinn' Folk Den files as their first music download.

With nearly 15 years'-worth of material, Folk Den has become quite a resource. Roger McGuinn documents each Creative Commons-licensed recording with a story, lyrics, and chords to inspire others to perform them as well.

"I’d been putting these folk songs up on iBiblio for some time without any thought to protect them," he explains in this 2005 interview. "My main attraction to Creative Commons was the fact that it provides a level of sharing, which is exactly what I want to do with the songs in the Folk Den. My whole purpose for putting them up there is to keep them going."

We're proud to mirror a bunch of the free recordings from Folk Den here on the Free Music Archive. I've attached one of my favorites, a 1977 live recording of McGuinn on tour with fellow Byrds founder Gene Clark.

If you enjoy these recordings, McGuinn has released a 4 CD Set of highlights from The Folk Den, available here, as well as a 22 Timeless Tracks CD. More info at Roger McGuinn's Folk Den and here on the FMA.

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nytuan on 05/24/2009 at 11:06AM

Sambucus & Ginko

Magic Carpathians on stage

Some time ago we've got the message from Jason asking to approve for uploading on FMA the recordings from live show we had played ages ago at Scott Williams programme (well, actually it was March 2001 which now seems to be entirely different era). He also explained the whole idea behind Free Music Archive which made us enthusiastic about the whole undertaking. In general, we felt really touched on this April morning: listening to those few tracks engineered by Irene Trudel at the time of recording was like travel in time. Back to the unforgettable event, the first ever Magic Carpathians' appearance in the U.S. - we've been under so much stress on that day (the very day before we had landed on JFK Airport and didn't managed to catch up much sleep, weren't sure about the audience, didn't have any clue how people would react etc. ). The only thing I can remember now is the outstanding atmosphere at WFMU and how wonderful it was to play for some people who gathered at the studio (and those who listened on the radio). We came back in 2006 (and played again on Rich Hazelton programme) and hope to come back on any occasion when we're lucky enough to make it to NYC.

Today I've uploaded another album - the live material that has been released on the tiny, brave label from UK (Reverb Worship - Roger, thank you very much for cooperation) as "Sambucus & Ginko". Vlastislav Matousek joined us on stage playing shakuhachi.

I hope to upload much more soon.

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DylanGoing on 05/22/2009 at 09:20AM

Some Goddamn Songs About Sunshine

Kneecaps of excess via flickr user brooklyn by-sa 2.0

There are 279 tracks on the FMA that involve the sun, tracks like Jad Fair's The Sunshine, although it's from his 74 track mp3 collection of acapella outer-consciousness wanderings that cover pretty much every subject.

None of those sun songs really get those whistlin lips a-pursin' and those ice cream desires a-developin' like Jon Rauhouse's version of The World is Waiting For a Sunrise with Neko Case.

This is here thanks to Bloodshot Records of Chicago who just contributed a ton of material from their collection of past and present rebel-americana.

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jason on 05/22/2009 at 12:14AM

Songs in a Secret Language That No One Can Resist

pic = pre-Foot Village performance live at WFMU last May

To help spread the word about their new album Anti-Magic (July 2009 on Upset the Rhythm), LA punk drum circlers Foot Village invited friends, fans, and anyone/everyone (that includes you!) to cover their song "Chicken & Cheese 2".

The original finds the 4-piece in their classic fucked-up cheerleader drumline formation. Check it out below.

Some of the highlight Chicken and Cheese renditions so far:

Jason Forrest (aka DJ Donna Summer) regurgitates the song in a barely re-traceable blissed out minute

Death Sentence: Panda! translate it into Spanish

T.I.T.S., the all-female 'satanic ritual abuse rockers', make their own Foot Village inspired drum circle

Steve Perry fan fiction authors Big Digits spit some added verses over a minimal hip-hop beat

Montreal's AIDS Wolf deliver a pretty awesome, albeit barely recognizeable, noise-punk rendition

San Francisco post-House 4-piece Tussle add some hypnotic banjo licks

Los Angeles' own ANAVAN reinterpret Chicken & Cheese as a New Rave electro-disco smash hit

   Check 'em all out here on the FMA. Login to leave a comment and/or star the ones you like. And if you'd like to submit your own version, Foot Village encourages this here on their newly (and elegantly) re-designed website, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

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lizb on 05/21/2009 at 09:38AM

Chenard Walcker: Music and Tragedy

I discovered the wonderful music and tragic story of Chenard Walcker all at once as I happened upon a song performed by Otis Fodder, who you may remember from WFMU's 365 Days Project.

"Nous Aimons Oui" below was actually written by Chenard Walcker, a French audio collage artist and the force behind the Free Sample Zone. Tragically, this talented artist and champion of free music on the internet fell into a diabetic coma in 2006, and to date, is slowly recovering.

Check out WM Recordings' "Tribute to Chenard Walcker, Vol. 1" compilation to hear Chenard Walcker's great songs covered by his friends and admirers. Fans of People Like Us, Ergo Phizmiz, Stereo Total, and Dragibus, take note. Be sure to check out other great releases by WM Recordings on the FMA.

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