Martin, Bogan & the Armstrongs

Barnyard Dance

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This group attracted lots of attention when it made its first nationally distributed recordings in the early '70s. Also known as Martin, Bogan & the Armstrongs, it was certainly an outfit that had been around the block. Three members of the group were original core members of the Four Keys String Band, which was first formed in West Virginia in 1931. In a folk music revival world dominated by fortified genres, the all-encompassing repertoire this group had built up playing square dances, churches, picnics, weddings, and bars included a range of material that could turn the average folk traditions workshop into an exorcism. Violinist Howard Armstrong represented both a typical and completely untypical traditional string band artist. Like many players in this genre, he hailed from the South and started playing music at an early age. Unlike others, he spoke seven languages, including Mandarin Chinese, and freely tossed in Charlie Parker licks whether playing a swing number such as "Lady Be Good" or the old-time "Knox County Stomp." Carl Martin and Ted Bogan brought in solid country blues and ragtime influences, while sibling L.C. Armstrong held it all together with rhythm guitar and bass. The brew should definitely appeal to fans of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, or any good-timey form of string music played with versatility. This was a production of Bruce Kaplan when he was still involved with the Rounder label; he would soon leave this too-prissy outfit and start up his own Flying Fish imprint, recording several more projects with Carl Martin and the rest of these characters in the process.

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