A group class: String Band Blues class, levels 1/2/3

Suzy Thompson and Jim Kweskin

We’ll learn and arrange vocal and instrumental songs with the repertoire drawn from the Kweskin Jug Band and from the early great jug and string bands, black country blues and rural hillbilly artists of the 1920’s and 1930s, such as the Memphis Jug Band, the Mississippi Sheiks, Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers,  Uncle Dave Macon, Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers, Charlie Poole's North Carolina Ramblers etc. This music is truly uplifting and lots of fun to play as a group, and there’s no limit to the number of musicians that can join in.  Most instruments are welcome - guitar, fiddle, ukulele, mandolin, bass, banjo, harmonica, washtub bass etc. Or if you're inclined to bring your bassoon, your baritone sax or your oboe, what the heck, let's give it a try. There will be lots of singing so it’s fine to join this class even if you don’t play an instrument; you might end up as a virtuoso kazoo or comb and tissue player! This class is suitable for advanced beginners and up. There is plenty of challenge for more advanced musicians as well. We won’t be giving instruction on how to play your instrument in this class; it’s more about exploring a wonderful repertoire and playing as a group.  This class will improve your over-all musicianship and help you get to the next level.

Prerequisites: Chord instrument players should know basic chords and be able to switch from one to the other easily. Single note instrument players should at least be able to play a melody. Source material recordings will be made available to class members some time during the two weeks before camp so that folks can enjoy the songs and familiarize themselves with the material and the style beforehand. It’s not required for you to listen in advance, but you’ll probably enjoy the class more if you do. Lyric sheets will be provided, but we’ll write in the chords later ourselves and as part of our process we will be choosing keys for the songs. All material will be taught by ear; you don’t need to be able to read music.

Bring a pencil or pen. A recording device can be helpful too. If you have a kazoo, feel free to bring it to class but please use it with restraint. Suggestions for repertoire (either specific songs or particular artists) are welcome, especially if you can make them in advance.

Suzy Thompson plays just about anything with strings, but is best known as a fiddler and vocalist. She has performed and recorded this type of material with Jim Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur, Del Rey, the Todalo Shakers, Any Old Time String Band, etc.  She also performs in a duo with her husband Eric Thompson, and in various other configurations including the Todalo Shakers, the Sneaky Freaky String Band (with Meredith Axelrod and Craig Ventresco), and her duo with resonator guitar and ukulele goddess Del Rey. 
   Suzy was the Artistic Director of the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes (Port Townsend, WA) for six years, and is currently the Director of the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention. She has taught hundreds of jug band and blues songs in her ongoing String Band Blues class in Berkeley.  She's taught String Band Blues at many music camps including Alabama Folk School, Bluff Country Gathering, Centrum’s Blues Week, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Lark in the Morning, and here at Walker Creek, where her students always LOVE this class, which has often been regarded as the most fun class at camp. We’re very pleased to have Suzy on staff.

Jim Kweskin is probably best known as a singer and bandleader. He also created one of the bedrock guitar styles of the folk revival, adapting the ragtime-blues fingerpicking of artists like Blind Boy Fuller to the more complex chords of pop and jazz. He has maintained a remarkably consistent musical vision since his jug band days, continuing to explore traditional folk and blues with the sophisticated sensibility of a jazz musician and jazz with the communal simplicity of a folk artist. He has recorded solo ventures, as a member of the U and I band, and with U and I bandmate Samoa Wilson, and continues to perform widely in various formats. In recent years he and Geoff Muldaur have often appeared as a duo, revisiting and expanding on their Jug Band repertoire. 
   Jim has taught various classes in the history of American music, and we are delighted that he is coming to camp to share his love of this music with us.

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