A guest post by my wife, Jessie:

For a long time, I have wanted to learn to play banjo, and so this year Jake and I finally purchased one for me to learn on. It’s a handmade, open-back style banjo, the kind used in old-tyme and folk music, the kind you play clawhammer style (as opposed to bluegrass style, for those of you familiar with those styles of playing the banjo). I like the banjo for it’s plunky sound, and because it is easier for me to fret the chords on a banjo rather than on a guitar with my small hands. Anyway, I get frustrated with the learning process often as it’s always difficult to learn something new, so I’ve been making myself listen to more artists lately that include banjo in their music. It’s actually relatively easy to find bands that have a banjo-ist included that are not bluegrass or old-tyme bands now that banjo is becoming one of the more “hip” instruments to play, thanks to Bela Fleck, Iron and Wine, Sufjan Stevens, and others.

Another great push for me to learn this instrument came after reading David Crowder’s Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die book, whose subtitle is “An Eschatology of Bluegrass.” Although the book is written in a really eccentric style–art for art’s sake, I guess–the sections that dealt with the history of bluegrass music and the origins of the banjo were great! I found that the banjo actually has it’s origins in Africa–where, incidentally, the clawhammer style is still played in places.

Anyway, over the past few months I’ve discovered that quite a few bands and songwriters implement the banjo in their music, so I thought it’d be a fun idea to compile a mix CD of some of the good stuff. In keeping with this blog’s mostly Christian themed music, all the songs are by Christian artists or at least have a biblical sort of message in the lyrics. Either way, it’s pretty fun!

By the way, you may have heard the quote by Steve Martin, “The banjo is such a happy instrument–you can’t play a sad song on the banjo – it always comes out so cheerful.” While many of the songs on this CD fit this mold, a few artists manage to bring out the hidden melancholy of the banjo. Or maybe it’s just they take an already melancholy song and add a little bit of that cheer to it, in an ironic sort of way. Whatever the case, I hope you enjoy this mix called Pluck It – A Banjo Throwdown Mix. 

1. Danielson – A No-No (Download or Stream)
2. Havalina – Green Skies (Download or Stream)
3. The Ragbirds – Love’s Great Joke (Download or Stream)
4. Psalters – Dumpster Divers (Download or Stream)
5. Half-Handed Cloud – Disaster Will Come Upon You and You Will Not Know How to Conjure It (Download or Stream)
6. The Lighthouse Band – Do a Few Things (Download or Stream)
7. Aimee Wilson – Timbers Fall (Download or Stream)
8. Doug Burr – Always Travel Light (Download or Stream)
9. Don Peris – Help Me Out (Download or Stream)
10. Rosie Thomas – Why Waste More Time (Download or Stream)
11. Sufjan Stevens – Come Thou Fount (Download or Stream)
12. Brenton Brown – Lead Me (Download or Stream)
13. The Peasall Sisters – That Old Account (Download or Stream)
14. Abigail Washburn – Keys to the Kingdom (Download or Stream)
15. wovenhand – Glass Eye (Download or Stream)
16. David Crowder Band – Be Lifted or Hope Rising (Download or Stream)

Get the whole album all at once right here.

Download the album art above or here.

Note: All MP3s will be removed after one week.