"Garth, Shania, Trish and Reba may have the names...but Joyce Brookshire has the goods." John McCutcheon
“This is as close as I can get to writing my autobiography,” says Joyce Brookshire of her new recording. And does she ever have a story to tell! In fact, this CD is not merely a collection of songs. Cabbagetown Ballad paints a vivid portrait of the changes the Cabbagetown community and its inhabitants have seen, from their arrival in Atlanta in the last century, to the gentrification of their neighborhood in recent years. A millhouse that rented for $11 a month when Joyce was growing up and her mother worked in the mill, now sells for $250,000.
Cabbagetown Ballad, Joyce Brookshire's newest recording of original songs was produced by DeDe Vogt and Elise Witt for EMWorld Records. Joyce is accompanied by The Reel World String Band, a group of 5 women from Lexington KY who have been playing together for 28 years. Musicians on the CD also include DeDe Vogt (bass and vocals), Linda Bolley (drums), Elise Witt & Melanie Hammet (harmony vocals), Jez Graham & Mick Kinney (piano), Johnny Mosier (guitars), and horn section Don Erdman (sax), Maurice Turner (trumpet) & Adam Mewerther (trombone).
In the 1880s folks from the North Georgia mountains moved to Atlanta to work at the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill, and Joyce’s family was among those who brought their rural way of life to build a new community in the city. Joyce’s musical influences were many. Her father, a truck driver, played guitar and sang in a quartet at the
family church. The Brookshire’s neighbor Grace Mote was one of the first Cabbagetown residents to own a record player and when she played Kitty Wells and Webb Pierce, Joyce would run over to her porch and yell, “Turn it up, Grace!” A teenager in the ‘50s, Joyce was also deeply influenced by rhythm ‘n blues and rock ‘n roll. Joyce began writing songs at age ten and hasn’t quit since.
In the early ‘70s Joyce went to work at The Patch, a drop-in center for kids in crisis in the Cabbagetown
neighborhood. At The Patch, Joyce met Esther LeFever who was to have a major impact on Joyce’s life. Folk singer/political activist/ex-Mennonite and friend to the poor and disadvantaged, Esther pushed, prodded, and nurtured Joyce’s talent as a songwriter and performer.“Without Esther, most of my music might still be in my head,” says Joyce.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s Joyce toured with folk legend Guy Carawan, and for a few years lived in Knoxville and had a band called Phantoms of the Opry with Phyllis Boyens (Loretta Lynn’s mother in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter). Since that time, Joyce has used her songs to express not only her own feelings, but to become a voice for the hungry, the homeless, and the poor.
Along with the Indigo Girls and other noted Atlanta musicians, Joyce is featured on the infamous Don’t Eat Out of Dented Cans album produced by WRFG Radio. Her music has been featured in the theatrical productions Cabbagetown: Three Women, Ponce de Leon, Blood on Blood, and Texas Two-Stepping With the Girls. In 1987 she was nominated for a Georgia Emmy for “outstanding achievement in original music.” Her music is also featured in the film Lipstick and Dynamite by Ruth Leitman. Her first solo album North Georgia Mountains was released in 1977 by Foxfire Records. Her second recording Whatever Became Of Me was produced by DeDe Vogt and Elise Witt and released in 2000.
REEL WORLD STRING BAND
You don't see many people up on stage who've got fire. But you girls have got it. Lord, you girls are good!"
Lily May Ledford, Coon Creek Girls
With the energy of an old-time dance, the tight vocal harmony of Bluegrass singing, the infusion of American jazz and blues, and lyrics that reflect the politics of a changing South, the Reel World String Band is an undeniable force in the folk music scene. Based in Lexington KY, Sue Massek on banjo, Bev Futrell on guitar and harmonica, Karen Jones on fiddle, Elise Melrood on piano, and Sharon Ruble on bass have been making music together for 28 years. Now they join forces with Joyce Brookshire on Cabbagetown Ballad.
In addition to their numerous recordings, the band has provided songs for the soundtracks of various independent movies: The Southern Sex, You Got to Move, and From Calumet to Kalamazoo. Many of their songs have also been published in Sing Out!, Southern Exposure, and Speaking for Ourselves. In 1984, an effort to document coal mining songs culminated in a compilation Rounder record They'll Never Keep Us Down; Women's Coal Mining Songs. Reel World collaborated with Hazel Dickens and Florence Reece (writer of "Which Side Are You On") to produce an insightful look at the problems and issues of the Appalachian coalfields.
The band is featured in Kentucky Women: Two Centuries of Indomitable Spirit and Vision, along with musicians Loretta Lynn and Helen Humes, giving credence to the band's longevity and contribution to the rich musical heritage of Kentucky. Since the beginning of the Reel World, the band has spread its southern musical roots to picket lines and folk festivals. In 1991 the band toured Italy, playing in city centers and town squares as part of a tour that also featured Lionel Hampton. They’ve played from the coal mines of Kentucky to New York’s Lincoln Center, and have appeared at almost every big folk festival in the United States and Canada.
"The Reel World String Band is ideal for dancing and just generally letting loose the spirit"
The New York Times