Inside with Tony, v2

Fri, 11/13/2009 - 7:41pm
Written by Andrea

Tony sat down with us a few days ago to talk about the latest paths in his broad-territory musical journey. “I’ve been really involved in the web site. It’s a happening place—really starting to take off. Many people seem to want to learn banjo online!” Tony has a nice, quiet room dedicated to his side of the video exchange with students. “People are getting used to the idea of putting up videos. There’s a comfort level developing. This is a very friendly bunch. And there’s a lot of activity on the site’s forums. People are relating well, thinking about each other, chiming in.” The international attraction of the site is starting to build as students are joining from England, Germany, Spain and down under in Australia.

We asked who is the youngest student? Tony: “Well, judging from how they look I would say nineteen or twenty.”

Upcoming for the site, Tony says there will be more Bill Keith and the further installments of the Pete Seeger interview.

Everybody is pretty familiar with Tony’s acumen in Americana music history, so it is a snug fit that Tony is currently writing songs for his next album—a collection of self-composed pieces drawn from Civil War story-telling. “This album I’m working on now is based in the music and social milieu of the Civil War. I’ve had a fascination with the Civil War since I was a boy, and have read a fair amount of books on it. And I’ve studied the history of the banjo in that era.” In Tony’s creative flow on this Civil War project, he’s first focusing on the lyrics, capturing the stories. “I’m writing the lyrics first, based on certain situations from the war. I’ve written about five so far. There will also be a couple of instrumentals in the album.”

In creating an authentic Civil War sound that he could model by, Tony explained, “I’ve listened to a lot of that era’s brass band arrangements, and I am working on a song that will have a brass band as part of the production.” He explained that in the 1860’s the banjo song culture was a combination of minstrel and Celtic. “Jeb Stuart (a famous Confederate general) had a banjo player that accompanied him as part of his army entourage. Hey! I just thought that would make a great song.” And Tony makes a note of that.

The album has no working title yet. So far, three of the songs depict two drummer boys on opposite Yankee and Rebel sides, an Irish widow and a riverboat gambler. Tony says he is about one-third of the way through the album’s composition. The album will be recorded with his group and guest artists.