Joel Mabus | The Banjo Monologues

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Country: Old-Timey Folk: String Band Moods: Solo Male Artist
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The Banjo Monologues

by Joel Mabus

This is a unique album of old time banjo (clawhammer 5-string) with traditional songs and tunes wedded with storytelling. The monologues tell of 1930's radio and my family's career as professional "hillbilly" musicians.
Genre: Country: Old-Timey
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Foreword Looking Back
2:34 $0.99
2. The Dragonfly
2:15 $0.99
3. Cindy - Gerald & Jerald Lee
6:07 $0.99
4. Three Nights Drunk
3:04 $0.99
5. Cripple Creek - The Desert Island
6:51 $0.99
6. Whistling Rufus
1:56 $0.99
7. The Uncloudy Day - Leonard Lively
5:31 $0.99
8. Wondrous Love (Captain Kidd)
2:00 $0.99
9. No More Cane On This Brazos
3:26 $0.99
10. Roll Down The Line
2:51 $0.99
11. Liza Jane - WLS & Prairie Farmer
8:17 $0.99
12. Uncle Joe
2:25 $0.99
13. Crazy Water Crystals
3:17 $0.99
14. The Other Rock The Cradle, Joe
1:32 $0.99
15. Down In The Willow Garden
4:23 $0.99
16. John Henry's Hammer
3:26 $0.99
17. Paddy On The Railroad - The Reel With The Beryl
3:23 $0.99
18. Cluck Old Hen - One Gentleman's Opinion
6:00 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
David Higgs, host of Nashville Public Radio's Bluegrass Breakdown calls this album "a Masterpiece."

Higgs writes, "It's rare in this day and age when everybody and their brother is churning out one CD after another to encounter something that is truly original. 'The Banjo Monologues' is one of those wonderful rarities."

Ron Olesko, DJ from Fordham University Radio had this to say about "The Banjo Monologues" :

"The CD is a grand tribute to the banjo and to old-time music. Modern audiences may not understand why 'hillbilly' music was so popular in its day. Early record producers gave the style the 'hillbilly' moniker, which unfortunately created an image that has detracted from the music. In 'The Banjo Monologues,' Joel celebrates the true beauty and significance of the music, enabling modern audiences to understand the connection the music had with its audiences. Listening to the CD from beginning to end is a unique experience.

"I imagine this what Mark Twain or Garrison Keillor would sound like if they played the banjo. 'The Banjo Monologues' helps cement Joel Mabus reputation as an artist.

"Joel Mabus is the Joe Dimaggio of the folk music world - a virtuoso who can make the toughest plays appear effortless. His performances are memorable and he leaves the audience with the feeling that they have spent an evening with a good friend or long-lost relative. His charm, intelligence and skill are evident in his inviting style."

And Grant Alden, editor of No Depression, writes:

"Hearing Mr. Mabus pick and talk and sing was like running into an old friend."

Who is Joel Mabus?

Joel Mabus has split his 30-year career in folk music between the traditional and the original. Split is perhaps not the proper word, because the old and the new intertwine in his music, whether he is singing an old ballad with a new interpretive twist or writing a new song with a 21st century perspective that sounds like it has been handed down from generations past.

Where is he from? He was born and raised in a modest Southern Illinois town, about 105 miles southeast of Mark Twain, 190 miles northwest of Bill Monroe, 110 miles southwest of Burl Ives and just over the river and up the hill from Scott Joplin.

His great-grandfather Louis Charles Lee was an Illinois farmhouse fiddler of the 19th century. Most of the following generations were farmhouse musicians too. When Joel’s mother and father came of age in the Great Depression, they took their old-time music on the road as professional entertainers, barnstorming the Midwest with road shows for Prairie Farmer, the parent company of the WLS Barn Dance, the progenitor of the Grand Ole Opry.

This pedigree was not lost on Joel as a child. When his schoolmates were grooving to the Beach Boys and the Monkeys, he was learning the tunes of the Carter Family, Bill Monroe and Jimmie Rodgers. He also absorbed some of the blues and spiritual music that is thick in his native Southern Illinois along the Mississippi River.

Despite the poverty his family was thrown into after his father’s untimely death, Joel attended university in Michigan (on a national merit scholarship), where he studied anthropology by day and learned the business of being a professional musician by night. Interests grew beyond bluegrass & old time stringband music, and Joel studied older blues, western swing, and even Celtic dance music long before it was the fad. He also began to write songs.

After journeyman’s work in several local bluegrass and string bands, Joel made his first record for a Michigan label in 1977 with mandolin legend Frank Wakefield guesting. Three years later he signed with Flying Fish Records for a two-record deal. In 1986 he was one of the first established folksingers to start his own independent label, even before the advent of the home studio and compact disc, which make the practice so common today.

While he is known to many as a songwriter, having penned several songs familiar to the folk crowd (“Touch a Name On the Wall” and “The Duct Tape Blues” are two that have been covered by many and published in the pages of Singout Magazine), he is also a fixture on the traditional scene as a guitarist, old-time banjoist, singer and fiddler. He has taught at Augusta Heritage, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, and fiddled at countless dance camps.

Joel was also among the first wave to join the Folk Alliance in 1990, and showcased officially at the 1991 international conference in Chicago, where he was given standing ovations. He has made 18 solo albums in his 30 -year recording career – most of them still available. His latest is “The Banjo Monologues” in 2007, a unique wedding of oldtime banjo and storytelling.

Joel Mabus has toured widely and makes his living at music, though he is – like most professional folk musicians in the 21st century – enjoying relative obscurity. At his extensive and user-friendly website, you can find his discography, all his lyrics, promotional materials and his other writings.



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rich rambo

i also needed another banjo album, loved it, especially the monologues
One of my all time favorite cds, this is the only cd i have ever reviewed. Reason is, people need to know about this cd. Buy it and you will learn about things such as great music,the student teaching the professor, why it takes a lifetime to play cripple creek, that banjo playing can be thought of as the same thing played over and over, while it is really rythmic repetition and subtle variation. The fiddle player drives the bus. Twins with the same name, and a great story that goes with it. Thank you joel for this cd