Recordings

Below are some links to information on recordings with ties to the traditional music of downstate Illinois.

Dear Old Illinois (3-CD set)

Click the image to the left for details.


Airtight Stringband

Roaring away over in Charleston, this group carries on the downstate tradition in fine style. The band includes Steve Harrison and John Bishop, both of whom were active in collecting the music of Dear Old Illinois and who played on one of the Indian Creek Delta Boys (a/k/a "Crick Delters") LPs back in the 70s. Clicking on the "CD" link at their website enables listening to sound clips from their recording, "Bridging the Ages". Click here to go to their site.


Lynn "Chirps" Smith also participated in collecting the music of Dear Old Illinois and played on the ICDB records. He is the most prolific of the former Delters in terms of the volume of recording he has done since. He can be heard on two different record labels.

On Vigortone Records
At the Vigortone website, you can view their small but potent catalog, as well as a few recordings by their artists on other labels (in itself a great statement on the amiable nature of the traditional music "industry".) You can also hear clips of Chirps playing some of the pieces from his Vigortone release, "Down in Little Egypt". Click here to go to their site.

On Marimac Records
Best we can tell, Marimac maintains no Web presence, but their contact info is given below. Note that we have no idea how current this info is or isn't.

Marimac Recordings, Inc.
P.O. Box 447
Crown Point, IN 46307
phone (800) 628-4507

Chirps Smith (with a variety of other excellent players)
9039C Prairie Dog
9059C/CD Midwestern Harvest

With the Volo Bogtrotters
9022C Backside of Buncombe
9024C The Volo Bogtrotters, as Themselves
9042C Tough Luck
9067C/CD Old Time String Band with Vocal Accompaniment


3rdSunday Stringband

"Chicagoland's Old Time Stringband" is the subtitle of 3rdSunday Stringband, "a group of dynamic Chicago musicians dedicated to the preservation and performance of Traditional American Music." This is one big, honkin' string band, with over a dozen members.

Plans are in the works for a CD; meanwhile they maintain a comfortable and attractive website where, among other things, you can hear sound files of 3rdSunday in action. Legendary multi-instrumentalist Steve Rosen of Chicago comments that "3rdSunday reminded me of why we play this music." Their sound files explain this sentiment well, should you happen to be due for a reminder yourself.

Click here to go to their website.


The Ill-Mo Boys

Aptly described as "Most enjoyable old time string band with a penchant for odd tunes from the Illinois-Missouri area," the Ill-Mo Boys are long-standing apostles of midwestern traditional music. Based in St. Louis, the group features the fine playing of Geoff Seitz, Curtis Buckhannon, and Jim Nelson.

They have one release, "Laugh and Grow Fat", on Vigortone, and the Marimac catalog shows two:
9020C Timely Tunes from Ill-Mo and Beyond
9054C Fine as Frog's Hair


The Buckhannon Brothers

Brothers Curtis and Dennis Buckhannon are another group known to have sampled the music of Dear Old Illinois. You are again directed to the Vigortone site, in the "Other Great Music" section, where you will find two releases, "Back Home Again" and "Little River Stomp". Among the sound clips, you can hear their great rendition of "Creal Springs Breakdown," which was collected by Garry Harrison and Dave Miller as a banjo piece from Leonard Berkel of Equality in 1977.


The Allen Street String Band

A fine string band from the Springfield area, Allen Street was inactive for several years, but we're pleased to see that they are doing an occasional reunion concert. They made at least three recordings years back, but we don't know the availability of them. However, the Marimac catalog shows one listing:

9046C Thumping on a Well Rope


Green Fields of Illinois

This interesting project materialized in the form of "Green Fields Of Illinois," an LP record of traditional folk music, released by the Campus Folksong Club of the University of Illinois in 1963. The performers were from downstate Illinois, and the project indirectly led to our learning of Stelle Elam, who is featured on the recording. The site also features the booklet that came with the recording, which includes extensive biographical info and a photo of Stelle and the other performers. The title of the album parodies that of one of Stelle's fiddle pieces, "Green Fields of America," which is featured on the recording and in the Dear Old Illinois book.

Also, a second recording was made more recently, featuring new recordings by the few surviving performers and outtakes of the original recording. Information on this can also be found at the site. Click here to check it all out.


Folksongs of Illinois

This nicely packaged CD series presented by the Illinois Humanities Council offers a wide variety of traditional music and covers the state from Chicago to Cairo.

Volume 1 focuses on songs and is produced by historian and musician Clark "Bucky" Halker and folklorist Nicole Saylor.

Volume 2 focuses on the fiddle and is produced by scholar and musician Paul Tyler.

Both CDs include an essay and extensive notes by their producers. You can click on the CD titles to see more info on them at the U of I Press website, and you can view the track lists for each CD by clicking those links below.

Folksongs of Illinois, vol. 1  (track list)

Folksongs of Illinois, vol. 2, fiddlers  (track list)

Hear what co-producer Bucky Halker has to say about Dear Old Illinois


The Bottomlanders

These are unreleased field recordings. The Bottomlanders were Ed Bradley (fiddle) and Vince Uselton (banjo) of Old Shawneetown. They were recorded in October, 1977 by Jens Lund, with whose permission we offer a few clips of them.

Click on the titles below and enjoy hearing the Bottomlanders play a few.

Whoa Mule, Can't Get the Bridle On
Cotton-Eyed Joe
Gallatin Special
Chicken Reel

Turkey in the Straw
If I Could Hear My Mother Pray
Last Old Dollar
Old Lady Wagoner


Red Prairie Dawn

This fiddle CD by Garry Harrison and the Mule Team was released independently in 2000. It was voted "Best Fiddle CD of the Year" by County Sales that year. The Mule Team is Randy Marmouze (banjo), Rafe Stefanini (fiddle, guitar), Paul Brown (banjo), Sam Bartlett (banjo, guitar, mandolin), and Abby Ladin (bass). The recording is out of print, but you can hear it by clicking the titles below.

The pieces marked with a star were collected from traditional downstate Illinois players, and information on them is given below. The remainder of the pieces are original compositions by Garry Harrison. All pieces are played by Harrison on fiddles he built.

1. Round Barn
2. Over the Flat Lands
3. Road to Westfield
4. Why Do a Preacher Like Chicken So?
5. Pretty Betty Martin *
6. Dog Town
7. Red Prairie Dawn
8. Steam Machine
9. Dull Chisel
10. Acorn Hill *

11. Ol' Bob
12. Bone Yard
13. Hay Mow
14. Mule Team
15. Green Sleeve *
16. Jail Break
17. Ikum Got a Coon Treed *
18. Irons Massacre
19. Tomorrow Noon
20. Muddy Boots

* Pretty Betty Martin is from Robert Wilson of Dahlgren, originally recorded 1949 by D.S. McIntosh and John Allen.

* Acorn Hill (composed by Tommy Jackson) is from Charles Cruson of Rosiclare, originally recorded 1977 by Steve Harrison and Lynn Smith.

* Green Sleeve is from Henry Hall of Cave-in-Rock, originally recorded 1956 by Millie Angleton.

* Ikum Got a Coon Treed is from J.H. Wright of Makanda, originally recorded 1954 by D.S. McIntosh.