A blog about the Jaw harp.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer boings

The Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Baley, by Thomas Hart Benton

This wonderful 1934 painting by Thomas Hart Benton is part of a series inspired by popular folksongs. It depicts a scene inspired from a traditional Ozark folksong. This song is a tragic love ballad in which a jealous lover lures his fiancée into the woods to talk about their upcoming wedding. She grows tired and wants to turn back. He accuses her of cheating, she protests, and under the light of the full moon, he plunges a knife into her chest. Apart from the fiddler, who Benton said represented a genuine Ozark fiddler from Jasper, Arkansas, his models for the figures are relatives and students of the artist. Benton's sister-in-law Lucy P. is the tragic victim, and the young Jackson Pollock posed for the man playing the jaw harp.

Here's a gold nugget for you. Muzina Shangai out of Osaka, Japan posts this interesting video featuring several J-harps playing together.

Oakland, California based band The Lumerians, a band that thankfully doesn't fit any category has put out a new album and they boldly feature our beloved instrument. Check out Olive Alley. I'm not sure whether the jaw harp used is a dan moi or a low Szilagyi but it's definitely a band worth checking out.

The Lumerians

Out of Chicago but sung to you in Spanish courtesy of a Belgian record company, here comes allá. Listen to a song called Es Tiempo among others to hear the jaw harp. The band is getting really good reviews from the Chicago press and I hope to catch them in LA. They're on a fantastic record label, Crammed Discs, the same label that brings us Congotronics, Balkan Beat Box, Bebel Gilberto, Romania based Mahala Rai Banda, Timbuktu locals Tartit and more. Come to think of it, one of LA's great bands, Los Lobos, should sign with them for distribution outside the island called the United States. Spread the wealth!


The forever and always beautiful as well as talented Kitty Donohoe has just released a new album called Northern Border. Here's what the Lansing State Journal says: Donohoe has always been adept at choosing accompanists, and "Border" abounds in treats. Jeff Taylor's accordion obbligatos light up "When I Was the Queen," as does his Quebeçois turn on "Pierre and Marie." Mosher's burning slide guitar, Doug Berch's jew's harp and uilleann piper Tyler Duncan (Millish) combine on a break in the unsettling "Kid With a Gun," an utterly original - and dynamite - grouping. Well hot dang, that sounds really good! Just one thing, Kitty: can you post a couple videos or music samples?

I was looking at the Jaw Harp World Map the other day and noticed a new name: Jens Mügge, from Berlin, Germany. He's a member of the Overtone Music Network I told you about in the last post and does some interesting work using voice and/or j-harp. If you haven't done so already, add your name and URL/MySpace/Youtube so others can check you out.

I leave you with this fantastic performance by Ma Guo Guo from the Yunnan Province in China. She's a virtuoso of the Kou Xian Jaw harp. She is performing at the world music festival Le rêve de l'Aborigène July 18-20.

Hasta la vista and don't forget these two festivals!

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