Words by Doug DeLoach
Formed in 2008, The Dust Busters are the upper crust of the new generation of old-time string bands that have sprung up across the US in the last decade or so. New York residents Eli Smith, Walker Shepard and Craig Judelman are carrying forward the legacy of the American folk revivalists of the late 50s and early 60s. Fuelled by a passion for the (mostly) rural canon captured on shellac 78s that similarly inspired musicians such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and bands like The Almanac Singers and the New Lost City Ramblers – one of the founders of which, John Cohen, is prominently featured on Old Man Below.
The opening track, ‘The Honest Farmer,’ is a toe-tapping ramble played on banjo, fiddle, guitar and harmonica, which neatly lays out The Dust Busters’ approach. The song’s title and lyrics were appropriated from Fiddlin’ John Carson, a Georgia native who was a legendary figure during the early decades of the fledgling commercial music industry, while the arrangement and tempo were inspired by a rendition of ‘The Wayworn Traveler,’ which was popularised in 1936 by the Carter Family who in turn had adapted a hymn initially published in 1900. The Dust Busters’ instrumental and vocal acumen shines through the song, setting a tone that resonates throughout the remainder of the album’s 20 selections. ‘A given song is less important to us than the style in which it is played,’ writes Smith in the informative 36-page booklet that accompanies the release. ‘The style makes the song.’ It also makes Old Man Below a worthy entry in the Americana library.
TRACK TO TRY: Black Jack Daisy