That Green Hen Fights Mouse Music

“I always give Chris Strachwitz credit for creating, for me, the opportunity to hear accordion so I could love it.” –Taj Mahal

I watched a great documentary today. That Ain’t No Mouse Music, the story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records.

First, go to Netflix and watch this movie. Or buy it on Amazon. It is a gem, if you like music, like quirky stories, or just have eclectic taste.

Chris Strachwitz would have been a German aristocrat, managing a Polish castle, but his family had to flee his native Germany to escape the Russians at the end of World War 2. Chris ended up in the US, and soaked up parts of American culture others ignored. He began recording blues straight off the cotton fields and factories of Texas and Lousiana.

He founded the company Arhoolie Records. Arhoolie is a term for a “field holler,” the songs used by slaves and laborers in the South to coordinate the rhythm of their work and express themselves as they worked. Mack McCormick, a blues researcher who helped Chris find many of the artists he recorded in the South, suggested the name.

The film covers nearly every kind of music that does not get big play in “mainstream” music circles, starting with blues, then moving to zydeco, Mexican folk music, and Appalachian roots and bluegrass. Along the way, Chris shares stories of recording names like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Big Mama Thornton, and introduces you to enough new names in music to keep you in new music for a year.

Here is one of the bands I discovered from the video. Pine Leaf Boys are well known in Zydeco and Cajun music circles.

Pine Leaf Boys

“I Got a Camel / Lulu Don’t Go to Bingo”

This Ain’t No Mouse Music was thoroughly enjoyable, and I plan on watching it a few more times.  You can get the Soundtrack CD at Arhoolie Records. Take a look and let us know what you think!





Morning Crow: Can You Hear The Ocarina?

Hi, there, little chickens! This is Green, bringing you the Morning Crow, a quick burst of whatever is on my mind that relates to music. Today’s entry starts at under ‘music facts.”

The Ocarina, a musical wind instrument, is also known as the Sweet Potato. The music in the background is David Erick Ramos, playing an Ocarina. David has graciously allowed me to share his music with you today.  Here’s his YouTube Video:

If you’re like me, you wondered what on earth is an ocarina? Or maybe not. Evidently, there is a Nintendo game from 1998 called “The Legend of Zelda—the Ocarina of Time” that has the player make music using a digital ocarina. The game increased interest in the instrument itself. Not being a gamer (well, I play Bejeweled Blitz occasionally), I had no idea. So for all of you who have not played a gamer’s ocarina, and don’t have a repository of odd instruments in your head just in case you need a good conversation opener, here’s what I found:

According to that source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, an ocarina is an ancient wind instrument similar to a flute. It is usually made of clay or ceramic, but can be made of glass or even animal horn. It has history going back thousands of years, with early references in Asia and Mesoamerica (that’s Central America to you and me). The ocarina came to Europe, possibly by Cortes, and was used as a simple toy there. The modern version used today was developed by Guiseppe Donati in Italy. Ocarina is a Bolognese word that means “little goose.”

If Hen, our resident musician and music nerd, were here, he’s make me go over how it works, but that makes my eyes cross. Maybe he will share with the class on a later date.

Only one version is known as “the sweet potato,” presumably because the instrument looks vaguely like on of the tubers, being thicker in the middle with nearly pointed ends. Other versions look more like tiny ray guns, with one that looks like an egg.

That’s it for the Morning Crow today. Like our Facebook page to be the first to hear our next edition!