Review: Riley Baugus

Riley Baugus at the Ryburn Folk Club. Photo: Andy Day

Our American season continued in style last night with a visit from the legendary Riley Baugus. We first met Riley when he accompanied dancer Ira Bernstein to Ripponden to assist in teaching our Appalachian dancers and we immediately fell in love with his music. Not only does he play banjo expertly and excitingly but he makes them too, indeed supplying the banjos for the film Cold Mountain. Last night he was sporting a black skinned instrument with black inlay – something of a ‘stealth’ banjo. His vocal style covers the range of volumes and timbres possible from delicate ‘cabin’ vocals to full blown loud ‘preacher calling’. Every song was dressed up in a contextual introduction to the point where it could be wondered if he was a singer or a story teller – certainly a master of both.

We were the first club to have the opportunity to buy his brand new CD Little Black Train’s a Comin’ and the second song in his first set was the title track, learned from Doc Boggs. I won’t attempt to review his entire set (you could buy the CD and make up your own minds) but I’ll just list the names that he mentioned in passing, the majority of which involved personal contact – even as young as ten years old. J.P. Nestor, Wade Ward, Tommy Jarrell, Brian Bowers (dubbed the Jimmy Hendrix of the autoharp), Doc Watson – and he even suspected a family connection with Ola Belle Reed when he finished the evening (almost) with her Undone in Sorrow.

Just one last tip – Riley is touring with Tim Eriksson in 2020. We know they are going to Belgium which might be a bit too far for most, but this tour-de-force will be something to experience so keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to see them. Tim Eriksson came to our club as part of Cordelia’s Dad and was an integral part of the music for Cold Mountain. Riley + Tim = something indescribable.

Set List: (Click on the green text for extra info)
The Train on the Island (J.P. Nestor)
Little Black Train’s a Comin’ (Doc Boggs)
Shady Grove (via Wade Ward from Galax)
Farewell to Old Bedford (via Lee Monroe Presnell)
Raleigh & Spencer
Waterbound from Dirk Powell

Roustabout (Tommy Jarrell & Fred Cockerham)
Pastures of Plenty (Woody Guthrie)
Poor Ellen Smith (Google Peter De Graff for the story)
Black Jack Davy (from the Jimmy Hendrix of the autoharp Brian Bowers)
Last Pale Light in the West (by Ben Nichols)
Undone in Sorrow (OIa Belle Reed)
Sing Song Kitty ( Doc Watson)

The full house attracted a star studded supporting cast who contributed as follows:
Alice Jones: Whether I get him or no
Tim Edwards: An Accident of Birth
Helen & Mike Hockenhull: A Charles Causley poem set to music
Sue Burgess: The Greizzly Pride
Chris Manners: Broken on the Highway of Your Love
The Northern Ramblers: Not sure of the title but it involved a tune, a song and a dance – lovely young newly formed string band
Nick Dow: The Turtle Dove
Gill Himsworth: Blackmoor by the Stour (from poet Wm Barnes)
Phil Cerney: Go Down Old Hannah

The Northern Ramblers at the Ryburn Folk Club. Photo: Andy Day

Johnny Adams