Rob:

I was reviewing the appendix of the banjo book you wrote, about Jimmy Martin recordings. The section mentions an instrumental album by Jimmy Martin as being a good source of easy banjo tunes. Would you by any chance recall the name of that album? I’d like to see if I could obtain it to study from.

That was an LP record on MCA called Big and Country Instrumentals, that I’m not sure has been reissued on CD format. The only way I know to get all those cuts (mostly with J.D. Crowe, some great Bill Emerson ) would be to buy the entire Bear Family Records Jimmy Martin box set covering the best years of his career. I believe it’s 6 CDs plus a large booklet about Jimmy and the material, for about $100 from County Sales.


Rob:

I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Jimmy Martin, including the recent CD with old recordings from Mike Seegers collection, and am intrigued by how effective his presentation and arrangements are in getting that Southern, country feel across. I think there are some things a Yankee-picker like me can learn from Jimmy’s approach.

Well said. Jimmy Martin is without a doubt a major influence on banjo players, having helped J.D. Crowe form his Scruggs-based style in the 50s, that has remained a vital part of Jimmy‚Äôs trademark band sound. His musical prescriptions for banjo leads and backup have, through J.D., Emerson, Tom Adams, Doyle Lawson, Alan Munde, and many Sunny Mt. Boys alumni, influenced almost all pro banjo players today: the smooth, strong, even volume, evenly spaced notes, focus on melody, rhythmic backup on mid-tempo songs — all of that we get thanks in large part to Jimmy’s insistence on them with his band.

Jimmy’s material, much of it written by longtime band member Paul Williams, is also a staple in bluegrass jams, another good reason to save up for the set.

Thanks for writing.

Pete