Strawberry Blues

from by Lydia Sylvia Martin

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I heard this song on a 4 disc compilation called Mountain Blues while I was searching for that link between blues and banjo. The original 78 recordings for the compilation were borrowed from the collection of Joe Bussard, to whom I was introduced by my friend Dom Flemons.

When I visited Joe he played for me the 78 record where this song is preserved. It comes from a band called the Reeves White County Ramblers, and Joe told me an interesting story about it. The band was led by a young man who sang and played fiddle, maybe 14 years old. I loved his hollering, unhinged and free sounding voice. I loved the wild feeling of the recording. There is also a very strange whomping, yawning and dissonant accompaniment on pedal organ. the piano player from the band arrived at the studio and was told there was no piano, only this organ he had never played before. So the resulting recording is very interesting and hearing on Joe's huge vintage speakers was a real experience.

I recorded it in Brooklyn on electric banjo with Dom Flemons playing bones. A very fun experience. The early release has the electric sound but we decided that the acoustic sound is actually clearer and better, so here you have it and you can hear all the notes without that weird Hammond organ pedal I was using for distortion in Brooklyn.

At Miles of Music I wanted to play this piece for the first night faculty concert. I asked Stefan Amidon to play percussion on snare drum with me to make up for not having Dom Flemons on bones. We actually got a pretty big and cool band together including Anna Roberts Gevalt on fiddle, Chris "Critter" Eldridge on guitar, and Zachariah Hickman playing electric bass with Chris Pappas on keyboard. This live performace sort of captured the huge sound on the original 78. Of course, being on my handheld recorder it turned out a little wonky and quiet and my sister wasn't impressed. But look for this song in a live show in the future with a big band like that.

I like it like this too, bared down to the bones and the banjo. I was thinking it might have come from that before the stringband picked it up and recorded it. The bones and banjo are just locked in. There are no edited parts on this recording. I did add the vocal later which I think you can tell but wanted to get the lyrics on there. I mainly like how the banjo and bones are really on the same groove.


Looked down the road, what do I see
Another man's got my woman, and the blues got me

Money, oh money, money I see
Raising strawberries made a man out of me

I've got money, I've got my shoes,
I've got a woman with the strawberry blues

Good lookin' women sure do make me tall,
I wish I could sleep tonight I have to work so hard


from Chasing the Ghost, released October 1, 2016
Lydia Sylvia Martin, banjo and vocal
Dom Flemons, bones




Lydia Sylvia Martin Maryland

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