This short film explains the motivations and mission behind the Banjo Earth project. We’re really excited about the next adventure to India in April of 2018. Help us create an amazing work of art by backing Banjo Earth: India at – https://andyeversole.com/be-india
Much Love to you all, Andy Eversole & Banjo Earth
Video by the amazing Paul Byun
I hope you are all off to a great 2018. Though times have been strange and difficult lately in our country, and all around the world, we’re still here to share humanity with each other. Cherish your friends and family, the work you get to do daily, and enjoy your life while you have it.
The last 13 months for me personally have been crazy! A car zoomed into my lane and ran me off the highway, totaling my car. Miraculously, I stepped out of the car only with minor injuries, and was able to walk away with another chance at life.
Four Months later, I lost a fight with a lawnmower and chopped off the end of left ring finger. This is a finger that I use more than any other in my banjo playing. Obviously, this has had an enormous effect on my style and proficiency, but I’ve continued to try to work around it and make music that people enjoy nonetheless. In other words, I fought the lawn and the lawn won!
With all that behind, I’ve realized that it is even more urgent to do the work I do around the world. To do what I do best, and use my talents for the good of all. Making music, sharing culture, showing how we can create More love and understanding with each other…
So, I’m back at it with Banjo Earth, and we’re headed to India for Part II of the series. Going to China for Part I was such an incredible experience, and the ripple effects have reached far and wide. Many of you were a creative force in that project and I thank you for helping make that happen.
This time around we are partnering with several organizations and businesses which will help cover some of the expenses. In addition, we have created a Kickstarter campaign, now in progress, which allows you to Pre-Order at various levels. If you believe in what we are doing here, believe in me, or just enjoy some really good music and videos from around the world, then please consider backing our project on Kickstarter – http://bit.ly/banjoearth – You will play a vital role in the mission to bring “Peace through Music. Community through Creation.”, and will be helping us create the best project possible. Thank you all so much for being you, and for being a part of Banjo Earth. Shine On!
Much Love, Andy Eversole, Banjo Earth
Click this link to visit our Kickstarter Campaign – http://bit.ly/banjoearth
The Story of Little Omie Wise
by Andy Eversole
North Carolina is a treasure trove when it comes to myths, legends, and the aural traditions that tell them. Musical storytelling, the method of conveying historical events through song, is one of these aural traditions. Through music, the story, which is often a true historical event, is able to be passed on, from generation to generation, allowing history to live and breathe. One of my favorites of this genre, and North Carolina’s oldest murder ballad, is the sad tale of Omie Wise.
The story is told a couple different ways, and there are at least 2 completely different versions of the song, but here is the gist. Naomi was murdered by John Lewis in 1808 in Randolph County, North Carolina. She was an orphan girl, who was being raised by Squire William Adams and his wife Mary. John Lewis, who lived in Guilford County, would ride his horse to work in Randolph Co. at the beginning of each week, then back home for the weekend. Along his route was the Adams farm, where he would stop by and court the beautiful Omie. This apparently continued until she became pregnant.
Coming from a well-to-do family, John Lewis’s mother had plans for him to court another woman, Hettie Elliot, whose family was also in “high standing”. Rather than deal with an illegitimate child from an orphan girl, Lewis decided to murder Omie and dispose of her body in the Deep River, near Randleman, NC.
Once everyone noticed that Omie was missing, Mr. Adams gathered a search group and followed the horse tracks down the spring. There they found her beaten, pregnant body floating in the river. A woman later testified she heard screaming in that area the night of the murder.
John Lewis was found and brought to jail. Only one month later, he escaped and traveled to Kentucky, where he soon started a new family. Several men, including the Sheriff, were arrested for aiding John’s escape.
Word soon got back to Randolph County concerning John’s whereabouts, and they demanded he be returned and tried for his crimes. He was brought back to North Carolina from Kentucky, and remained in jail from 1811 until 1813 awaiting his trial. Despite overwhelming evidence and eye witnesses, when brought before the court he was only tried for escaping jail, and not for the murder of Naomi Wise. He was found guilty and spent 47 days in jail, after which, he was a freed and traveled back to Kentucky.
No one knows for sure who killed Omie, as there was never a confession. However, legend has it that John Lewis confessed to Omie’s murder on his deathbed. He died on April 25, 1817 of unknown causes.
*Naomi Wise is buried at Providence Friends Home, in Randleman, NC. You can actually visit her grave, which is nestled in a cemetary right across the road from the Church. As we filmed the video, we were told by a member of the Church that back then her burial was very controversial. Because of her circumstances in pregnancy out of wedlock, none of the churches wanted to accept her burial. Providence Friends Home, a Quaker meeting place, took her in, and there she rests to this day.
*In this case, the song, Little Omie, could have actually played a part in the arrest of John Lewis. It is said that someone became quite agitated as a musician played the ballad in a bar in Kentucky. After a little investigating, it was found that the overly disturbed man was John Lewis himself, and the incident was instrumental in bringing him back to North Carolina to face trial. I’m not sure if this part of the story is true, but it does add a wrinkle to the tale…
*I first heard the song played by the great Doc Watson, a legendary North Carolina musician. My version is based on his, but with different instrumentation. The Banjo Earth version features Abigail James on vocals and me on banjo. The video was filmed in the graveyard where Omie is buried, and in the exact location of the Deep River where she is said to have been found.
Banjo Earth w/ Abigail James – Omie Wise
-sources found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omie_Wise
-historical consulting by David Long
What happens when you take a banjo to China, play an old African melody, and jam with a Mongolian badass? Here is the video of Reuben from Banjo Earth: China!
Reuben was recorded in Dali, China, in a one-hundred year old wooden structure. We were invited to record in this amazing place, and introduced to Gawa, the Mongolian throat singer and instrumentalist featured in the film, by some mutual wonderful friends. It was an amazing night of music, collaboration, stories, food, and fun! I hope you enjoy. Read the blog post HERE.
In this episode I travel with the Sassagrass Trio to the outer banks of North Carolina, where we jump on that 420 Train and hang on. A gorgeous sunset, cool water on your feet, and a rowdy bluegrass crowd…All aboard!
Scotch – Not for the Youngsters, but for the Young at Heart
By Andy Eversole
Scotch Whiskey. Your Dad probably sips it. Your Grandfather likely had a bottle stashed away in a cupboard somewhere, ready for special occasions, from which your Grandmother snuck nips. It’s the kind of libation that rarely finds its way to the drink counter of a party, or the open bar of a wedding. Perhaps this is due to its price tag ($40/50 on one end, $5,000+ on the other), or maybe it’s just the imported nature of it. Whatever the reasons, Scotch is something you have to seek out, to learn about, to experience. The complexities of the flavors, and the history that this drink tells, is something that I am only beginning to understand. But I feel the kilt is being lifted, and I am slowly but surely getting a glimpse of the magic that is underneath.
I was born in Harlan, Kentucky, where it is mythicized that we drink bourbon out of baby bottles. This was not me, however. When I became old enough to drink, you know, 16 years old at high school camping parties, while everyone else was drinking Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey, I was doing my best to get down doses of Zima and Budweiser (If you don’t know what Zima is, consider yourself lucky.) My palette and my body were just not ready for the hard stuff. And, I have to say, that ended up being a good thing. But now that I’m deep into my 30s, I’ve seen many strange things. I’ve been around the world. I’ve had loved ones pass away. I’ve lived through several American presidential elections. Now, with this accumulation of life experience, I think that I am finally able to sit down, relax, and really appreciate and enjoy a good glass of Scotch Whiskey.
The first mention of scotch comes from 1495 in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, which are records of royal income and expenditure. The literature reads, “To Friar John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae, VIII bolls of malt”. John Cor was a distiller in the Country of Fife, and the above record documents eight bolls of malt be given to him by the king for distillation. This was enough malt to produce 1,500 bottles, suggesting that the process was quite robust at this point. According to this document and historians, the original name was Aqua Vitae, which is Latin for “Water of Life”. The name is evidence of the reverence the Scottish people and culture have for this holy concoction.
History aside, you’ve never really had the full experience of a glass of scotch until you’ve sat down in a pub, in the country of origin, and ordered from the source. I was lucky enough to visit Scotland this past summer, and promptly upon arrival, found the first watering hole. “What al ya have?” in that wonderful Scottish accent, echoes from behind the bar. Since I have been doing my research on the plane ride over, I know what I’m looking for. “Ardbeg”, I say, “and a Scottish Ale”, as my southern Appalachian accent begins to take on Scottish undertones. “Aye”, says the bartender. I take that first smoky, rich, complex sip, and the hair on my arms stands at attention. As it slides down my throat and warms my soul, I turn to the old lad next to me at the bar, ready to share some stories.
The last day of Banjo Earth has arrived! It has been a long and extremely exciting month. We have worked very hard, and created some spirit-filled art. Many places, friends, and smiles have graced our path along this journey. Things went mostly right, and when they didn’t, were fixed quickly. We learned many lessons along the way: things to do and not to do in China, foods to order and foods not order, things to say and things not to say. Every day was full of new and surprising adventures, incredible music, and life altering experiences. This trip and project have been way more than expected. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, as the idea was pretty far out. Combining bluegrass and old time American music on the banjo with such a rich and deep Chinese musical culture could be wonderful, or it could be a disaster. Even I, the project’s creator, had my doubts. But as soon as I landed on Chinese soil and got to work, things started falling into place immediately.
I could never have foreseen all the awesome adventures and musical collaborations that would ensue. The hospitality of everyone along our way was immense and genuine. Without the help and generosity of our Chinese hosts along the way, this project would have not been possible. I feel truly blessed to have been able to conceive of this project, bring it to fruition, and execute it the way we did. I am extremely thankful to all of the friends and family that helped me get it off the ground, into orbit, and see it through. It is truly a project that has taken a village to create! Ben has done an excellent job of filming and photographing the adventures, recording the music, and being a friend and travel partner. It’s hard to think of this project happening without him. My brother Ryan has been an huge part of the making the performances fun, and despite being dropped into a completely unfamiliar environment, has performed really well in the shows, recordings, and travels. Banjo Earth: China is only the first installment in what is hopefully a long running series. I can see this project carrying over into countries all over the world, spreading that Banjo Love to the farthest corners of the planet. I’m really excited to see how this album and movie turn out, and even more excited about the possibilities for Banjo Earth in the future.
With all of these thoughts swirling around in my mind, we welcome a friend into town today. I met a lovely lady in LiJiang, about two weeks ago, who lives near Shanghai. She has decided to come spend the day with us, and grace us with her vivacious spirit. She shows up in a sparkling purple dress and fedora hat, and as soon as I see her, I know we are in for a fun evening. Her name is Weng Liang Liang, or Fiona for short, and her energy lights up the city. She lives in Hangzhou, and catches a 40 minute bullet train to Shanghai. I greet her at the subway stop near our place, and we go to where everyone is chilling at the coffee shop, getting some internet work done.
After catching up, singing a song or two, and sharing some laughts, we head over to our new Airbnb spot for the evening to check in. As we arrive, everything goes smoothly until we find there is no key in the locked box. I send the homeowner a message, and 45 minutes later he shows up with the key. This could seem like an inconvenience, but Liang Liang has better ideas. She has an app on her phone that is so much fun, and she loves to use. It allows you to overdub videos onto preexisting music and talking. Our first performances include “Man in the Mirror” and “Everybody Loves Christmas”. This is way too much fun, and soon, we even get caught by some old ladies staring at us from the upstairs window of a nearby apartment! I realize quickly that this is an app I have to have on my phone. I’ve seen the American version, but the Chinese version is way weirder and cooler.
We get into the place, settle in with some showers and fruit, and start stepping on the town. We have vague plans to find some food and visit the Pudong district, which is the financial section of Shanghai where all of the crazy and tall buildings reside, the most exciting being the purple space needle that dominates the skyline. After a few bites at Granny’s Kitchen, we catch the subway and head across the river. Aw we come out of the underground, the towers and funky shapes of Shanghai’s skyline take you by surprise. Not only is the space needle hovering over you, but close by is the Shanghai Tower, the second tallest building in the world. It twists and turns up into the sky farther than any building I’ve ever seen. We find our way to the space needle, get our tickets to go inside, and up we go. It is such a futuristic and funky looking building that I feel like I’m in a completely different world.
Once we get to the top and look out across this beautiful city, my heart sings a tune. Shanghai is vast, colorful, and alive. We walk around in a complete circle around the tower, catching an amazing view in every direction. There is even a walkway that is built out of glass that you can walk along, and look down some 300 meters straight to the ground. At first, it can give you pause to be suspended so high, by just a plate of glass, but soon I find my feet and Liang Liang are dancing to our own music above the city lights. The open air draft adds a nice touch to the environment, and gives one the feeling that they are suspended in the middle of the sky, which, in effect, is the truth.
After enjoying the needle so, we are all a bit tired, and head for home. We stop by to get some snacks and drinks for the house. Some sake, beer, fruit, meats, cheeses, and caramel candies fill the table. From there on we enjoy the evening, and each other’s company. We play and listen to some music, talk about life, laugh, and even make some more videos on Liang Liang’s phone. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the last evening of this epic Banjo Earth adventure. The Love is real. Keep making wonderful things in the world, and realize your dreams. Peace through Music. Community through Creation. Until next time, Andy