Stephen Wade | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Stephen Wade 

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To the folk revivalists of the early 60s, Hobart Smith was like a coelacanth Alan Lomax had dredged up from the murk of the deep south: a living, breathing fossil of American folk music. Smith was a banjo-playing, clog-dancing, gnarly old hillbilly who'd spent his life learning tunes from people who in some cases were just one generation removed from the Civil War era. In a sense he did with his brain what Lomax did with his tape recorder, collecting and preserving songs before their performers died off. Fleming Brown, a banjo instructor at the Old Town School of Folk Music, was one of the first people to recognize the wealth of Smith's mental library, and in 1963 he invited him to Chicago to spend four or five days recording as many songs as possible. The tapes were shelved after Smith's death in 1965, but last year Brown protege Stephen Wade, one of the best-known old-timey banjo players in the country, annotated and produced a 72-minute collection of those sessions for Smithsonian Folkways entitled In Sacred Trust. For these tribute concerts Wade will perform songs from Smith's repertoire, not only on banjo but on the range of other instruments Smith picked up, including pump organ and fiddle. He'll be joined by a revolving cast of accompanists, including Mike Craver, Ed Holstein, James Leva, Zan McLeod, Tyler Wilson, Dave Prine, and David Fleming Brown, the son of Wade's mentor. Sat 3/25, 4 and 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $28, $24 seniors and children. All ages.

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