Monday, February 13, 2012

Veteran bluesman brings music forward with Buffalo Junction

Music Maker Relief Foundation is pleased to announce the release of Boo Hanks’ & Dom Flemons’ Buffalo Junction. This album is the result of a partnership between Piedmont-style blues guitarist Hanks and Flemons, who in 2011 won a Grammy Award and played the Newport Folk Festival with his group the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Hanks worked the tobacco fields near his Virginia home for the majority of his 83 years. In 2006 he began a partnership with Music Maker Relief Foundation that led to opportunities such as opening for the Chocolate Drops collaborating with Dom Flemons on their album, Buffalo Junction, named for Boo Hanks’ hometown. The album, which will be released June 19, 2012, features upbeat, country blues that crosses generational lines.

Boo Hanks grew up sharecropping in Vance County, N.C. His father played blues guitar in the style of then-popular Blind Boy Fuller, and would entertain their small community at local events and during all-night tobacco curing. Boo was able to learn Piedmont-style blues guitar during these sessions, and from listening to Blind Boy Fuller records on a wind-up gramophone. He bought his first guitar from the Sears-Roebuck mail-order catalog for two dollars, money he had earned working in the tobacco fields. Boo began to play for the community in the same way his father had before him – at gatherings and to pass the time while working. He continued playing for that small audience until the age of 79, when he met Music Maker Relief Foundation.

Boo never thought of his guitar as a way to make a living, but after partnering with Music Maker he has played for thousands including venues in Belgium and the Lincoln Center. This past year Boo has traveled to the Savannah Folk Festival, the Black Banjo Gathering, where he is a regular, and performed for local N.C. events such as the Music Maker Jubilee and Warehouse Blues Series in Durham. During the six years he has worked with Music Maker Boo has cultivated a friendship with Dom Flemons, and the album Buffalo Junction came about from their collaborative relationship.

Tim Duffy, Music Maker’s founder, says, “Boo Hanks is the last remaining beacon of pure Piedmont Blues. Buffalo Junction demonstrates the passing of the torch from the Piedmont Blues style created by Blind Boy Fuller in 1930 to an artist like Dom, who is poised to carry the sound into this new century.”

The album highlights Boo on the guitar and vocals, while Flemons plays a variety of traditional instruments such as the jug, harmonica, bones and also sings backup vocals. The album was recorded when Tim Duffy and Flemons went to visit Boo’s home in Buffalo Junction, leading to the album’s title.

In addition to advocating for traditional music and working with elderly musicians, Music Maker brings traditional music forward with their Next Generation program, which promotes younger artists playing in a traditional style. Through Next Generation partnerships like the one between Boo Hanks and Dom Flemons, MMRF is able to foster the continuation of Southern traditional music among younger generations of musicians. Buffalo Junction is a collaborative album that does just that.

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