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Sings Songs for the Masses

by Hunter Robertson

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Threw Down 01:12
She Had Eyes 02:05
Pretty Polly 03:24
Ol' Virginee 04:26
Dom Ospritch 01:26
Banjo Medley 05:37
Crawdad Hole 05:40
Red Wing 04:18
I Did Bide 03:21


1. Threw Down - Clawhammer Banjo
2. She Had Eyes - Bowed & Plucked Opus
3. Pretty Polly - Banjo, Voice
4. Ol’ Virginee - 12 String Guitar, Voice
5. You Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond - One man band: Slide Banjo, Hi-Hat, Bass Drum, Kazoo, Voice.
6. Dom Ospritch - Gut Strung Fretless Banjo
7. Soldier’s Joy - Clawhammer Banjo, Voice
8. Banjo Medley (Bonaparte’s Retreat, Salmon Tails up the River, Ducks on the Millpond, Milo Mou Kokkino) - Clawhammer Banjo
9. Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin’ Bed - 12 String, Voice
10. Crawdad Hole - 12 String Guitar, Voice
11. Souris Mécanique - Banjo
12. Will You Go Lassie - 12 String Guitar, Voice
13. Redwing - Gut Strung Fretless Banjo, Voice
14. I Did Bide - Electric Guitar

Extensive liner notes weren't on my mind when designing the cover for the CD and space was at a premium. Now however, with effectively endless storage space on this site's server, I can go on at length.

Threw Down - Clawhammer banjo in gDGCD (sawmill as it's often called. I doubt it's actually at that pitch, I like to tune my banjos down, but that's the relationship. This holds true for any other tunings I mention). One of my tunes, I can't remember much about coming up with this one though. When the Stars threw down their spears/and watered Heaven with their tears/did He smile his work to see?/did He who made the Lamb make Thee? - W. Blake

She Had Eyes - This is played on an instrument I made out of a tin-can after seeing a documentary about Africa with a guy playing something similar. There's a picture here of mine. It has two strings. I overdubbed the bowed part. This was a song that never got off the ground, but I kept the tune.

Pretty Polly - Old-time three finger picking. Sawmill tuning again. Scary old ballad. Seems to be a descendant of The Gosport Tragedy. This version doesn't give much motive, but it seems from older ones that Willie's knocked Polly up and he takes drastic measures to maintain his carefree bachelor ways. A lot of versions end with Polly in the ground, birds mourning overhead and Willie skulking off. I'm glad my version ends with him going to hell. Seems fitting.

Ol' Virginee - This is a great song I learned from a great record put out by Folk Legacy, Traditional Music From Beech Mountain. Go over there and get it. Get Hobart Smith's and Frank Proffitt's albums too. I took some liberties in my arrangement of it. The guitar is tuned CGCCGC (as on all the 12-string tunes).

You Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond- One-man-bands are so much fun - every limb going at once! Here there's bass drum, high-hat, kazoo and slide banjo. I first heard Captain Beefheart's You Gonna... and eventually Blind Willie Johnson's. I kept the refrain and added the verse.

Dom Ospritch - I have no clue anymore as to where this name comes from. It's played on a fretless banjo my father made, strung with gut. gDGBD

Soldier's Joy - gCGCD, clawhammer banjo. A concatenation of my father's playing, Hobart Smith's and John Burke's with hopefully my own personal touch.

Banjo Medley - again clawhammer in gCGCD. Learned Bonaparte's Retreat from the Folk Legacy album by Hobart Smith (he plays it on fiddle). He's by far my favorite fiddle and banjo player. He was also a great guitarist and piano player. There are a lot of versions of this tune, I like the way this one rolls along. Salmon Tails up the River is a tune I heard played on the Northumbrian smallpipes by Jack Armstrong, Northumbrian Minstrelsy the album might have been called. It was a fleamarket find. Great music from the north of England. Ducks on the Millpond is a well known banjo/fiddle tune from the Round Peak guys, I learned it from my father and John Burke's arrangement. Milo Mou Kokkino (My Red Apple), a song from the north of Greece. If I could play these "exotic" tunes on the pipes and clarinet I would, but I think they translated to banjo well enough.

Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin' Bed - I first learned this from a Bob Dylan album, but in quite a different form. This one is from John and Ruby Lomax's '39 recording trip in the South, sung by Dock Reed, Vera Hall & Jesse Allison.

Crawdad Hole - I don't recall where I got this from. Nice song though. "What you gonna do when the crawdads die? Sit on the bank until I cry, honey, sugar baby mine".

Souris Mécanique - gDGBD. Must have come to me after listening to lots of Henry Burr. Along the lines of When You and I were Young Maggie and In the Good Old Summertime. Someone told me it sounded like mechanical rodents. That, roughly translated into French, sounds pretty spiffy as a title. I believe this was Frank Zappa's most hated chord progression.

Will You Go Lassie, Go - From another flea market find, a tape of snippets of Scottish folk songs. It was very strange, I still wonder what its purpose was. But this was sung beautifully on it. Oops, I lied in the CD's liner notes when I said that She Had Eyes was the only one with any overdubbing - the pseudo throat singing at the end of this is overdubbed.

Red Wing - gDGBD. I learned a clawhammer arrangement of this somewhere, and eventually turned it into three finger picking. Versions by Harry MacDonough and Buell Kazee informed it. Played on my father's fretless gut-strung banjo. A real tear jerker.

I Did Bide - Electric guitar tuned GGDGBD. I say this is one of my own, and it is to a large degree, but it's based on We're No Awa Tae Bide Awa. I don't know how it came to be in my head, but I had worked it out somewhat and asked my father what it was, and he sang a bit of We're No Awa Tae Bide Awa. What a tune! I mixed this up with another dim memory - a friend had a wind-up doll which played some melancholy melody. As it wound down it would slow and falter. It was one of the sadder things I've heard.

All instruments played by Hunter Robertson.

No’s 1, 2, 5, 6, 11 & 14 written by H. Robertson.
No’s 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10 & 12 trad., arranged by H. Robertson.
Redwing by Mills/Chattaway


~ Sing Out!: "...Hunter Robertson is a highly talented traditional musician. Sings Songs for the Masses is as strong a solo CD as I’ve heard in quite some time."
~ Rambles.Net: "...Songs for the Masses is for neither the masses nor the timid. But if you're up for a walk through the lonesome valley that stretches across the moonless landscape of the old, weird America, Robertson will show you the way."
~ Trad Magazine: "...I consider this to be one of the best CDs I've heard recently."
~ County Sales: "If you like Old-time banjo picking and you’re in the market for something different, you might try this unusual CD. But be forewarned: it ranges from the sublime to the bizarre: “songs for the masses” it definitely ain’t..."
~ Musical Traditions: "All of the playing is pretty quirky - and extremely interesting..."
~ Low Down Nick: “I like your tunes very much... I won't say they're "the real stuff", 'cause this is a quite ungrounded cliché. It's that mixture of rawness and tenderness and the feeling that you love on different levels whatever you are engaged in when playing.”
~ Sepiachord: "...And it does sound vital. This isn't some stodgy, dusty recreation of old-time field recordings..."


released January 1, 2007


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Hunter Robertson Geneva, Switzerland

I play old-time banjo – clawhammer and 2 & 3-finger styles and mainly play traditional music from the US, especially the southeastern part of the US – though I make the occasional foray into other things.

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