Folk History

Two concerts, one week, plenty of banjo

Jazz combo: Fight the Big Bull.


Earlier this fall, Duke Performances brought two unusual folk acts to Durham, each focused on bringing music from America’s past back to the fore.

First came a three-show engagement featuring local indie-rock act Megafaun with Richmond-based jazz band Fight the Big Bull. Together with special guests Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) and vocalist Sharon Van Etten, the bands performed versions of songs from Alan Lomax’s Sounds of the South anthology. The shows were at the Hayti Heritage Center and were recorded for release as a live album.

Then, legendary singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III performed with a band of seasoned instrumentalists, including Chaim Tannenbaum on banjo and David Mansfield on mandolin, at Reynolds Theater. For just the second time since releasing the Grammy-winning album High Wide & Handsome, Wainwright and company played selections from the album in front of an audience. The songs were mostly interpretations of recordings by early-twentieth-century banjo player and all-around wild man Charlie Pool, who hailed from Spray, North Carolina.

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