Friday, August 20, 2010

Dog Days of August -- The Devil's Beating His Wife

John Cephas and Phil Wiggins have been playing the blues together since 1976. These are blues with a difference though, coming as they do from the hills of Appalachia rather than the Mississippi Delta. Now called the Piedmont Blues, this music has its roots in the black Appalachian folk tradition of the 19th century.

The Piedmont blues are distinguished by a unique alternating thumb and finger guitar picking technique. The guitarist wears a thumb pick and one or two finger picks; a steady bass rhythm is played against a syncopated melody in the treble keys producing a sound similar to that of ragtime or stride piano.

Cephas and Wiggins have devoted their careers to preserving the Piedmont Blues. Richmond Blues is a showcase of their music, a mix of traditional and original songs. Highlights include Going to the River (skip this one if you're depressed), Wiggin's own Dog Days of August, and the perennial Going Down the Road Feeling Bad with a string of new verses.

Two men, a guitar and a harmonica: Nothing beats the blues for a hot day in August.

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