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Stephen Wade - A Storyteller's Story

  by Lisa Torem

published: 24 / 12 / 2019

Stephen Wade - A Storyteller's Story
Label: Patuxent
Format: CD


Storyteller/vocalist/instrumentalist Stephen Wade, originator of Chicago premiere ‘Banjo Dancing’, collaborates with iconic musicians in a rich tribute to traditional American music

“My life as a musician utterly changed,” says Stephen Wade’s, referring to the date (March 15, 1979) when his original one-man show, 'Banjo Dancing', premiered in a small Chicago theatre. The performance was earmarked by his five-string instrument and “percussive dance steps”. After the five-week run achieved critical acclaim, the show went national and Wade even landed a performance at the White House. That said, 'Banjo Dancing' became “one of the longest-running, off-Broadway shows in the U.S.” Forty-years later, Wade continues to celebrate his legacy. With the 65-minute ‘A Storyteller’s Story: Sources of Banjo Dancing,’ he plucks the devil out of his five-string, but makes it a point to include additional instrumentalists, such as Ian McLeod, Joel Bailes, Brennan Ernst, Tom Mindte, Marvin Reitz and Alex Lacquement on piano, pump organ, fiddle, washboard, jug, organ, mandolin and string bass. Whilst the project features a cutting-edge 'Voice of America' broadcast of a collaboration between the iconic guitarist/banjoist Doc Hopkins (WLS National Barn Dance performer) and Wade, which includes an educational overview of “finger style” technique, a fine duet, ‘Leather Britches’ with Tom Paley and a spotlight performance at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one needs to pay attention to the wealth of traditional material itself. Ever the wandering minstrel, Wade keeps “place” central: ‘Rhode Island Reel,’ ‘East Virginia,’ ‘Cumberland Gap and ‘Peachbottom Creek’ serve as fitting examples. ‘How Ruby Played’ features Wade’s rambling narrative upfront, complete with images of “a circus” and “a brass band.” Not since Woody Guthrie have we had such a musical sage. In contrast, chill to the 2013 Grammy nominee’s undulating rendition of ‘Up Jumped the Devil’. ‘Tales and Yarns’ brings to life Wade’s experience researching traditional music at the Library of Congress. He reflects back on “pancakes so thin they only had one side…” The distinctive melodic lines of ‘Wolves Howling’ merge delightfully together at times, so listen up. The closer, ‘Chicago’ is a vibrant homage to Wade’s native metropolis. Performed live, against frenetic chording, he observes the train: “Take the ‘el’ with its green and yellow paint; carpeting floors, murmuring customers.” In regards to historic, political riots: “They pushed you off the sidewalk; then arrested you for being in the street.” Dishing on a prominent thoroughfare, he utters: “Big, blue salt piles on Halsted.” Finally, “Chicago is the best-kept secret in America.” Wade’s welcoming style and love of tradition shine absolutely through this fine project.

Track Listing:-
1 Banjo Serenade
2 Market Square
3 Another Man Done Gone
4 Peachbottom Creek / John Henry
5 The Far-Famed Fairy Tale of Fenella
6 Station Will Be Changed After a While
7 Leather Britches with Tom Paley
8 Railroad Blues
9 Rhode Island Reel
10 East Virginia
11 Hobart Smith on Music / Cumberland Gap
12 Voice of America Broadcast with Doc Hopkins
13 Snow Camp
14 Old Paint
15 How Ruby Played
16 Up Jumped the Devil
17 Tales and Yarns
18 Wolves Howling
19 Ray Nordstrand's Introduction at Orchestra Hall
20 Chicago

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