Guitarist Daniel Bachman comes from Fredericksburg, Virginia, a town known for its Civil War history and its biggest college, the University of Mary Washington. Growing up in the area, Bachman learned a thing or two about his home state’s musical heritage, and the steel-string fingerstyle guitarist taps into it on a playlist he recently made for Smithsonian Folkways.
Culling from Virginia Traditions — a collection of recordings released by the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College and acquired by the Smithsonian — Bachman assembled an 18-track compilation of traditional Virginia music for Folkways’ new monthly series, “People’s Picks.”
Bachman’s playlist spans British-rooted ballads, prison work songs, piano tunes and shades of the blues, performed by white and African-American Virginia musicians between the 1920s and 1980s. Many of the tunes are steeped in local flavor, like “Sleep On,” performed by singers Lena Thompson, Lucy Scott and Lucy Smith to a soundtrack of crab-packing. Bachman tells its story on Folkways’ website:
This is a particularly interesting regional Virginia recording and one that I’m especially excited about, as I grew up eating a lot of crabs. The song narrative could take place in any number of Eastern Shore or coastal Virginia crab houses around that time. Behind the typical choruses heard on this tune is the sound of crab bodies and legs being cracked and packed into pint and quart containers. This particular recording was made in Northumberland County on the Northern Neck, at the Rappahannock Oyster Company.
Listen to “Sleep On” and the rest of Bachman’s playlist on Folkways’ site or via Spotify, below. (The institution says the playlist will also be available on Rdio and Rhapsody.) You can stream Bachman’s latest record, River, via NPR Music’s First Listen, too.