This series never fails to unearth great records that should have been in my orbit all along. I’m continually intrigued by whether an artist will choose an album that feels so in line with their tastes it makes perfect sense, or a surprise outlier that seems to come out of nowhere. For veteran string-slinger Daniel Bachman, the pick lands squarely in the former camp. Bachman, if you’re unfamiliar, has been a purveyor of fingerpicked folk of the highest order, and with his latest album, he’s arced over into experimental waters that feel both jarring and perfect. He’s picked an Appalachian banjo gem from Virgil Anderson, a spot-on pick for fans of his own idiosyncratic style. Check out how it came into his life below.
Giving some backstory on the record, Bachman explains, “Virgil was a one of a kind performer from Wayne Co. Tennessee, a region that produced a number of highly stylized fiddle and banjo players, dancers and personalities. Dick Burnett, Clyde Davenport, The Troxell Brothers – just to name a few – are all from this area known as the Cumberland Plateau, a southern section of the Appalachian mountain range. The thirteen tracks on this record were recorded by folklorist Barry Poss and Bobby Fulcher and represent the broad range and unique songwriting style that Virgil possessed.”
“Virgil’s music is not only unique in its picking style, but also in how he learned the tunes,” muses Bachman. “Virgil is one of few white banjo players that I can think of who was recorded by and learned directly from African American communities in Appalachia. As a young man Virgil developed his sound from his relationship with the Bertram family, a family of black musicians close to him, which surely not only expanded his taste and style but also his views on race in his rural mountain community. The result is a lighthearted and gorgeous blend of two-finger picking and voice, some blues, some hillbilly tunes, some his own compositions – but all undeniably his own unique expression”.
On how Anderson’s work has impacted his own style, Daniel admits, “Virgil’s music has made it directly onto one of my records. I was so inspired by his version of “Wild Goose Chase” that I had to put it out myself. He breaks the melody of the song with these high harmonic notes that are supposed to be the sound of wild geese honking while flying above – it’s beautiful. Although I haven’t learned to play fully like Virgil I have a lifetime hopefully to get there and I am continually inspired by this seemingly kind and open-hearted man.”
Definitely a worthwhile pickup if you can find it and a solid recommendation from Bachman for those who want to scratch deeper into the blues and roots of the American South. His own latest work is no slouch either and should be on any self-respecting year end list in 2018. The Morning Star is out now on Three Lobed.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.