Monday, September 25, 2006

etta baker (1913-2006)

Etta Baker, influential Piedmont blues guitarist, has died in Fairfax, VA. Baker quit her shoe factory job at age 60 to pursue her musical career.

From Billboard: Baker was raised in a musical family in western North Carolina. She made her first mark in music in 1956, when she appeared on a compilation album called "Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians." The recording influenced the growing folk revival, especially her versions of "Railroad Bill" and "One-Dime Blues."

Baker became a hit on the international folk festival circuit, playing Piedmont blues, a mix of the clattery rhythms of bluegrass and blues. She won a 1991 Folk Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

[Taj] Mahal, who recorded an album with Baker in 2004, was among those who found inspiration from her rhythmic finger-picking. "I came upon that record in the '60s," Mahal said. "It didn't have any pictures so I had no idea who she was until I got to meet her years later. But man, that chord in 'Railroad Bill,' that was just the chord. It just cut right through me. I can't even describe how deep that was for me, just beautiful stuff."

NPR has some tracks available here.