One Track Mind: The Dust Busters with John Cohen, "Black Jack Daisy" (2012)

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There may not be a more unlikely well-spring of hootenanny folk, jug-band blues and heart-bursting country balladry than any group of 20-somethings — but the Dust Busters have always been anything but typical.

So, here they are, doing a rip-snorting, fiddle-sawing take on “Black Jack Daisy.” And they’re just getting started: This track is, in fact, one in a series of 1920s and ’30s recordings that comprise a forthcoming studio project with early mentor John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers. Old Man Below is due August 14, 2012, from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

“Black Jack Daisy,” which perhaps has never sounded so foot-stampingly immediate, is an American iteration of a Scottish ballad called “The Gypsy Laddie” that has also been recorded countless times as “Black Jack Davy” — memorably by Bob Dylan on this early-1990s throwback project Good As I’ve Been To You. Cohen and the New Lost City Ramblers did their own version, also titled “Black Jack Daisy,” on the 1973 Folkways recording Remembrance of Things to Come.

This Brooklyn-based Dust Busters’ journey to this piece of archaic Appalachian-sounding folk is less linear, considering their vintage, but no less impassioned: Multi-instrumentalist Eli Smith (guitar, banjo, harmonica, autoharp) has started two separate old-time music festivals, all while playing host to an Internet broadcast and blog called “Down Home Radio.” He’s also often gone back with Walker Shepard (banjo, guitar, fiddle) and Craig Judelman (fiddle, pump organ) to the earliest available sources to learn more about the mythical roots of this music — including Pat Conte, Clyde Davenport and the late Joe Thompson, among others. Old Man Below follows 2010’s Prohibition is a Failure, which also featured Cohen.

The results are something that certainly sounds like something the sprung from fertile minds of the ’90s generation. The 1890s, that is.

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The Dust Busters will appear with John Cohen for a CD release concert in celebration of Old Man Below at 8 p.m. Thursday, September 6, 2012 at The Jalopy Theatre, 315 Columbia St., Brooklyn, NY. For more information: www.Jalopy.biz or (718) 395-3214.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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