A few weeks back, hand-tool woodworker, luthier, musicologist and performer Aaron Keim sent us a book and CD he and his wife, Nicole Keim, published to encourage people to learn and enjoy some work songs. Titled, “Let the Work I do Speak for Me,” the book (and CD) is a collection of 14 tunes (some traditional, others more contemporary) with a brief history of each song, the words, chords and tabs, plus links to tutorials.
Aaron plays the ukelele and banjo (and makes them), so many of the songs include the tabs and tuning for those instruments – but I pulled my Martin D1 out of the back of my closet to see if I could pick out a few tunes, and had no trouble (other than than the self-inflicted trouble of almost never practicing my guitar, and the resultant sore fingers).
It’s a fun project, and thanks to the hand lettering (by Nicole), it feels folksy and personal – as it should.
Check it out – and hear some of the Keim’s music – at quietamericanmusic.com.
And if you want to read a bit about work songs, check out this page at the Library of Congress.
11 thoughts on “Traditional Work Songs”
I’ve had this on while working in the shop. It’s good stuff!
Thank you for posting this. I enjoyed listening to the recordings on the website and hearing the quality of sound coming from the instruments. I find there is a link between the origins of music and craft, especially woodworking. All were done and enjoyed by just regular people and it is when music divided those academics of music, with it’s rules, from those whose daily life celebrated music for all, somehow their own abilities we’re less refined. Wasn’t that somewhat true with woodworking? I believe that people getting degrees for their credibility in the field have separated those that have learned from life experiences and their own passion for the work and can even be examined as a class issue to some extent. There are always exceptions, of coarse, but something to consider.
The Quiet American meets Lost Art Press. Two of my main interests have collided nicely. Cool.
I have to say I am a classic rock kinda girl, but a mix tape of rock with some of these songs sprinkled in would be nice.
Thanks. Great stuff. Now please post a pic of your Martin 🙂
I heard about a sort of variation on the concept of a work song recently. My son in law works for a guitar manufacturer, and he mentioned that when he notices that they have an order from a well-known artist, he would often listen to that artist’s music while that guitar was making its way through the build process. He mentioned that to a co-worker, and it turned out that pretty much everyone there does that routinely. He also mentioned that it gave him a deeper appreciation for some music that was outside his normal taste.
Thanks for the shoutout Megan and Chris, happy strumming.
What’s a D1 ?
I have my roots in the late 50’s and the folk movement. I learned about Woody Guthrie’s songs from his son Arlo. In college I taught myself to finger pick on an old Gibson guitar which was carved like a violin. Later, when I had become a young father, I played the music for church services with a finger picking style. Long ago,on National Public Radio, they had a series of programs on work songs and politial songs in this country narrated by some of the folks who had lived through those times.
I will always be grateful that the music took me “outside” of myself. It accompanied my growth as a carpenter. I had a long successful career making built-in cabinets for my customers using wonderful American hardwoods and distinctive styles such as Art’s and Crafts, Colonial, and Cottage. One of the countertop shops in Denver used to clear off their workbenches Friday afternoons and have jam sessions for this kind of music.
“Let the Work I Do Speak For Me” brings it all back. All of the days and the music they held. All of the fine woodworking I got to do. All of the intensity of it. Thanks Megan. Without you writing I wouldn’t have known about this. The work we have done speaks for us.
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