RANKED ONE OF THE TEN BEST ALBUMS OF 2003 BY JEREMY SEARLE OF AMERICANA-UK (www.americana-uk.com)
JOHN MINTON * LIFE & TIMES
ORIGINALS & ADAPTATIONS IN THE SOUTHERN IDIOM
SOUTHERN CAN CDs SCCD 2221
New Cumberland Parkway Blues
Life & Times
Black Night Is Falling (Seven Sisters in New Orleans)
Moon Going Down Slow
Strange Dream Blues
The Leaving of Liverpool
Glory in the Meeting House/Ships Are Sailing
There's A Ship
The Devil Been Busy (Down in Carterville)
Some Familiar Heart
All songs composed by John Minton/Monkey Knuckles Music ASCAP, except "The Leaving of Liverpool," "Glory in the Meeting House," and "Ships Are Sailing," which are traditional, arranged & adapted by John Minton/Monkey Knuckles Music ASCAP.
JOHN MINTON vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, bass, keyboards, lap steel & percussion
Produced by JOHN MINTON
Recorded, mixed & mastered by TOM TEMPEL at Tempel Recording Studio, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Summer 2003
Although LIFE & TIMES represents his first solo album, John Minton has been performing--and pursuing--American roots music for the past three decades. That dual focus is reflected in his current standing as both a familiar performer in acoustic music venues around northeast Indiana, and Professor of Folklore at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he teaches a variety of courses on world folk and popular music. A bit on the life & times that took him there--
Minton took up the guitar in the late 1960s in his hometown of Houston, Texas. Although much of his early inspiration came from rock and the urban folksong revival, he also grew up surrounded by the Southern genres shaping those trends--the blues, bluegrass, folk & country music, r & b, gospel & soul--and even in his formative years sensed the essential interconnections within these disparate styles. In his early teens he began regularly attending bluegrass festivals and fiddlers' conventions, as well as soaking up live blues from such local heroes as Lightnin' Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, and Juke Boy Bonner. Records and concert appearances by other contemporary roots artists led him still deeper into the South's traditions, as did the increasing availability of historic field recordings and pre-World War II "hillbilly" and "race" records on commercial LPs. While still in high school, he began gigging himself at local parties, coffeehouses, and clubs, both as a solo act and with a succession of folk-or-country rock and bluegrass groups.
That pattern accelerated once he went off to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, a ways north of Houston in the piney woods of rural Deep East Texas. Like most college towns, Nacogdoches has always enjoyed a lively local music scene, in its case complemented by the still-active vernacular traditions of surrounding East Texas and northwestern Louisiana. Minton became involved in both--in later years he would even return to conduct formal fieldwork on the region's rural styles--quickly establishing himself on the scene, whether alone or in the company of others. Most memorable among these groups, he was a founding member of the Fredonia Rebellion, at that time one of the area's premier bluegrass bands. Somehow he also managed to complete his B.A. and M.A. at SFA, authoring as his first formal folklore study a master's thesis on hillbilly-and-race recordings of medieval British (or "Child") ballads.
In 1980 Minton relocated to Austin, where he initially found work teaching composition and literature at Austin Community College. (Other day jobs during his Austin years included stints as a staff writer with the Texas State Historical Association, as an editorial assistant on the Journal of American Folklore, and as a research associate with the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio.) Briefly striking out musically on his own, he was soon joined by other former members of the Fredonia Rebellion. Here, they morphed into Austin's anti-legendary "punkgrass" band the Foves, who, though generally confounding all who heard them, still managed to eke out an extraordinarily devoted if remarkably small following, occasionally even outnumbering the band itself.
After the Foves disintegrated in 1982, Minton continued to play around Austin, sometimes by himself, more often with various one-off ensembles; however, much of his time was now spent earning a doctorate through the Center for Intercultural Studies in Folklore & Ethnomusicology at the University of Texas. In 1990 he accepted an appointment at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, eventually rising to the rank of Full Professor, primarily on the basis of his sizable published research on American folk and popular music. His fieldwork, conducted mainly in Deep East Texas and around the Gulf Coast, has ranged from the remnants of rural blues and ballad traditions to the zydeco music of Houston's Creole community, supplemented by his historical research and travels throughout the South. While focusing on music, he has also studied such related forms as oral narrative, folk belief, and festival & ritual. Besides his many articles, he has published two books with the prestigious Folklore Fellows' Communications monograph series of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters. He is currently completing a book on the phonograph's impact in the pre-World War II South, and beginning another on the traditional roots of rock & roll, intended as a text for a course he regularly teaches on the subject.
LIFE & TIMES
Since arriving in Fort Wayne, Minton has also continued his checkered musical career, infiltrating the local coffeehouse and festival circuit, in the process achieving some local notoriety--he is, for instance, regularly a featured performer at the area's foremost venue for acoustic music, the Toast & Jam coffeehouse in Fort Wayne. Successfully or otherwise, he tries to bring to his musical gropings the same reach characterizing his academic interests. Such is hopefully the case with LIFE & TIMES, produced at Tempel Recording Studio in Fort Wayne and featuring Minton on vocals and all instruments (acoustic & electric guitars, bass, keyboards, lap steel & percussion). Comprising ten original songs, plus three traditional adaptations (the Anglo-Irish folksong "The Leaving of Liverpool" and a medley of the fiddle tunes "Glory in the Meeting House" and "Ships Are Sailing"), the album's influences span blues and bluegrass; American and British folk; gospel, country, and rock; and Minton's own musical bad habits (what's sometimes been charitably misidentified as "his own style"). More particular inspirations are drawn from artists as diverse as Delta blues great Charley Patton, legendary Kentucky fiddler Luther Strong, and little-known Texas folksingers Maggie & Foy Gant. LIFE & TIMES is not, however, intended as an academic exercise; rather, it attempts a contemporary, ever respectful--and hopefully not altogether misguided--take on the Southern idiom by someone fortunate enough to have experienced it throughout his lifetime.
JOHN MINTON-SELECTED PUBLICATIONS Books * The Coon in the Box: A Global Folktale in African-American Tradition (with David Evans), Folklore Fellows' Communications No. 277. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2001 * "Big 'Fraid and Little 'Fraid": An Afro-American Folktale, Folklore Fellows' Communications No. 253. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1993 * Articles & Book Chapters * "Zydeco on CD," Journal of American Folklore 111 (1998): 417-34 * "Houston Creoles and Zydeco: The Emergence of an African American Urban Popular Style," in New Perspectives on the Blues, ed. David Evans, 480-526. Special issue, American Music 14 (1996) * "West African Fiddles in Deep East Texas," in Juneteenth Texas: Essays in African-American Folklore, ed. Francis E. Abernethy, Patrick B. Mullen, and Alan B. Govenar, 191-213. Publications of the Texas Folklore Society No. 54. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1996 * "Lullaby," "Shape-Note Singing," "Worksong," and "Zydeco," in American Folklore: An Encyclopedia, ed. Jan Harold Brunvand. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996 * "Creole Community and `Mass' Communication: Houston Zydeco as a Mediated Tradition," Journal of Folklore Research 32 (1995): 1-19 * "The Reverend Lamar Roberts and the Mediation of Oral Tradition," Journal of American Folklore 108 (1995): 3-37 * "That Amazing Texas Version of Child 84, `Boberick Allen,'" in Ballads and Boundaries: Narrative Singing in an Intercultural Context, ed. James Porter, 61-75. Proceedings of the 23rd International Ballad Conference of the Commission for Folk Poetry (Société internationale d'ethnologie et de folklore), University of California, Los Angeles, June 21-24, 1993. Los Angeles: Department of Ethnomusicology & Systematic Musicology, University of California, 1995 * "`The Waterman Train Wreck': Tracking a Folksong in Deep East Texas," in Songs About Work: Essays in Occupational Culture for Richard A. Reuss, ed. Archie Green, 37-76. Special Publications of the Folklore Institute, No. 3. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993 * "Cockaigne to Diddy Wah Diddy: Fabulous Geographies and Geographic Fabulations," Folklore 102 (1991): 39-47 * "The Fause Knight Upon the Road: A Reappraisal," Journal of American Folklore 98 (1985): 435-55 * "`Our Goodman' in Blackface and `The Maid' at the Sookey Jump: Two Afro-American Variants of Child Ballads on Commercial Disc," JEMF Quarterly 18 (1982): 31-40 *