The term “old-time music” has taken on a few different meanings in my day. I recently met a band claiming that name who performed original music reminiscent of 1920’s era dance tunes. However, when I consider the term and discuss it with older musical minds, “old-time music” reaches a bit further from the city-crazed dance halls, and into the hills and barns of Appalachia. This is where rural folk songs passed from generation to generation were being recorded (mostly for the first time) from artists such as The Carter Family, Dock Boggs, and countless others. This music has been the foundation for much American folk music throughout the years, and continues to be a source of inspiration in the 21st century. Such inspiration can be found in the latest recording from Bloomington/Indianapolis duo The White Bread Boys (of Pilsbury, Indiana*).
Everything about The White Bread Boys Complete Recorded Works 1923-1932 Volume 1 is reminiscent of those so-called “old-time” days. From the purposely dated looking photo,the album title, the song selection, and the recording style. Local old-time enthusiasts Davy Jay Sparrow (vocals, guitar, harmonica) and Chance D. Wagner (vocals, banjo, spoons) recorded the album live at Sound Workshop with Mike Notaro to truly capture the essence of the old Appalachian style. On top of excellent work on guitar and banjo, this album features twenty-three songs drenched with tales celebration, suffering, drinking, and sickness.
Expect what you will from the song titles such as “Cumberland Gap”, “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy”, and “Cat’s Got the Measles”, The White Bread Boys successfully deliver a carefully planned, well-performed collection of traditional songs and spirit. There are plenty of hoops and hollers, deadpan banter, foot-stomps, and spoon taps to keep even the moderate old-time fan interested. Something I’ve always enjoyed about old-time music is that seamless balance between rhythm and melody, Sparrow and Wagner handle the relationship with ease, drifting in and out of verse and instrumental phrases with a natural comfort. The album ends with a real treat “Double Harmonica Special” featuring just that, a dance-worthy harmonica and spoon duet.
In a nutshell, what should you expect from this album? Good-old, well-preserved country tunes. Capping in at twenty-three songs for Volume 1, I can only imagine how much material is still waiting to be released from this duo. The album is a great testament to those who make and those who appreciate old-time country music. Both Sparrow and Wagner did a respectable job handling songs and a style that are so important to American history and the development of American folk music. It’s because of true enthusiasts like them, that these styles will be unforgotten as time, technology, and innovation continue to push society further away from our past.
The White Bread Boys:
*Note: Pilsbury, Indiana does not actually exist