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“Banjo Diary: Lessons From Tradition” Out September 11 on Smithsonian Folkways

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 Lessons From TraditionOn September 11, 2012, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will release Stephen Wade’s Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition. Its release coincides with the publication of his new book, The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience (University of Illinois Press). The album contains 18 tracks, 58 minutes, 44-page booklet with extensive notes and photos.

Innovative and often surprising, “Banjo Diary: Lessons From Tradition” explores knowledge older musicians have bequeathed to younger players. Inspired by past banjo masters of frailing and of two- and three-finger styles, Stephen Wade, accompanied by Mike Craver, Russ Hooper, Danny Knicely, James Leva, and Zan McLeod, mines new creative possibilities with pump organ, piano, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, Dobro, washboard, rhumba box, and bass. From ragtime to reels, lyric songs to mountain blues, from Irish American to African American, across moods spanning brooding to jubilant, sentimental to stark, the banjo and its many voices finds new vibrancy on these recordings.

Sneak Preview – Listen to Selections from Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition (

The album emerges from decades of personal contact, of skills and repertories passed along by living example. For Stephen Wade, a musician who writes about music, Banjo Diary takes its inspiration from the earlier field recordings that form the core of The Beautiful Music All Around Us. “Find the people who know how to play this music,” his teacher instructed him years ago. Urged to explore this creativity in its home environments, Banjo Diary chronicles eighteen of those experiences in sound and accompanying notes and booklet photographs.

Called in 1979 “a wondrous artist” by Time magazine for his landmark stage show Banjo Dancing, Stephen Wade has continued on as a documentarian, recording artist, radio essayist, and scholar. Prospecting for American folklore wherever it thrives, his last project for Smithsonian Folkways involved one such find: multi-instrumentalist Hobart Smith. That work resulted in Wade’s critically acclaimed In Sacred Trust: The 1963 Fleming Brown Tapes (2005). Now, Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition extends its underlying message, telling of “an education written indelibly in a musician’s heart.”

For more information about Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition (album) please visit:

For information about The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience (book), including an extensive events schedule starting in August, please visit:


  1. "Cotton Eyed Joe"
  2. "Train 45"
  3. "Arcade Blues"
  4. "Uncle Buddy"
  5. "Cuckoo’s Nest / Temperance Reel / Hop Light Ladies"
  6. "Home Sweet Home"
  7. "Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down"
  8. "Old Country Stomp"
  9. "Rocky Hill"
  10. "Little Betty Ann"
  11. "Cuckoo Bird"
  12. "Alabama Jubilee / Down Yonder"
  13. "Santa Anna’s Retreat"
  14. "Twin Sisters"
  15. "Wild Bill Jones"
  16. "Little Rabbit / Sheep Shell Corn"
  17. "Berkeley March / Under the Double Eagle"
  18. "Hand in Hand"

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings retail distribution is through ADA (Alternative Distribution Alliance) at 800.239.3232. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, as well as Folkways Records, A.R.C.E., Cook, Collector, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, I.L.A.M., The Mickey Hart Collection, Monitor, M.O.R.E., and Paredon, are available via mail order at 888.FOLKWAYS or 800.410.9815 and via the Internet. Visit the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website at Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition

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