Return to the Tangleweed home page

Weems String Band playing Greenback Dollar

This side, recorded in Memphis in December, 1927, represents one half of the total recorded output of Weems String Band. It’s a pity, too, because it’s a rather extraordinary record. With more weemses than one could shake a stick at.

The personnel:

  • Dick Weems, fiddle;
  • Frank Weems, fiddle;
  • Alvin Condor, banjo/ voc;
  • Jesse Weems, cello

While the inclusion of the cello is unusual, the loose two fiddle and banjo sound is classic old-time country: multiple instruments playing simultaneous variations on a melody. There’s not really much accompaniment per se, just thick, glorious heterophony.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Courtesy of


Gene Autry singing Atlanta Bound

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: Audio, TweedBlog. Tags: , ,

Before he was a singing cowboy, Gene Autry was a Jimmie Rodgers imitator, and a good one. His earliest recordings include several titles from the Rodgers canon, as well as new songs in Rodgers’ style, delivered in a vocal style remarkably similar to the Singing Brakeman’s.

Autry was a national radio star before he transitioned to films, performing on the WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago from 1930-1935.

This track was recorded in New York in October, 1931, and issued on a slew of cut-price labels: Banner, Oriole, Conqueror (one of the Sears house labels), Melotone, Perfect, Romeo, and Panachord. The tenor banjo accompaniment is by Roy Smeck, one of the most versatile instrumentalists of his era.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

Courtesy of


Tangleweed mentioned in the Chicago Reader’s Best of Chicago Issue

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: Reviews, TweedBlog. Tags:

Though Tangleweed didn’t claim the top prize for the best Folk, Country, or Americana Group, we got a nice mention from the Reader this week:

Reader’s Choice: Spires That in the Sunset Rise

Maybe this pick is a reach when so many local traditional acts do their genres such honor (Devil in a Woodpile, Tangleweed, the Hoyle Brothers, and the many faces of Kelly Hogan, for starters). But this all-female freak-folk band is something different under the sun. They play goose-bump-inducing music that sounds like the ancient oral tradition of a culture of their own invention, and they play it with a sort of primordial shamanistic elegance and economy of purpose. Still, I was having a little angst over this decision, until “Black Earth” from their latest, Curse the Traced Bird, shuffled up on my iPod. I froze stock-still in haunted wonder, as if I were hearing it for the first time—and did I mention I was crossing State Street in traffic at the time? The band that can override your survival instinct wins.

Thanks to Monica Kendrick for the kind words. You can read the whole thingy online at


Pictures from Hideout’s ‘A Day In The Country’ Fest 2008

Tangleweed had a great time playing at Hideout’s A DAY IN THE COUNTRY Fest on Sunday, our fourth Chicago show in four days. Other bands included Blue Line Riders, Deanna Varagona’s Gospel Jubille (featuring our own Kip Rainey on some tasty mando work), Lawrence Peters Outfit, Gin Palace Jesters, Fulton County Line, Hoyle Brothers and more. See here for pictures from Sunday’s proceedings:

Tangleweed @ 2008 A Day in the Country

The Lawrence Peters Outfit


What folk heroes look like

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: TweedBlog. Tags:

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover art for the new Tangleweed CD, Most Folk Heroes Started Out As Criminals, due out in a few weeks. Tony Nuccio did the design work (he also did our first two CDs). I had a hankering to use this image for years — an image of a hard-luck kid during a Chicago Stockyards strike — but we weren’t able to reach an agreement with the rights holder until a few months ago.

We’re in the home stretch with this thing. The master has been delivered to the manufacturer, and we should have design proofs in a few days. Stay tuned.


A Day in the Country: Sunday

We’re very proud to be back at the ‘A Day in the Country’ shindig at the Hideout. Last year, we got things rolling with an all-acoustic set outside. This year, we’re inside, toward the end of the evening. I’ll also be assisting Deanna Varagona’s Gospel Jubilee with their special reunion set.

A Day in the Country show poster

The complete schedule, in reverse chronological order:

9:45 Hoyle Brothers

9:00 Fulton County Line

8:15 The Lawrence Peters Outfit

7:30 Tangleweed

6:45 Gin Palace Jesters

5:45 Deanna Varagona’s Gospel Jubilee

5:00 The Blue Line Riders

4:15 Katie Belle and the Paramount Boys

3:30 Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader String Band

2:45 Northside Southpaws

2:00 Possum Hollow Boys


Home again, home again

We’ve just finished two shows at the Bill Jorgenson Memorial Bluegrass Festival, and are heading south at an unlawful rate.

We had a Saturday night show, and a Sunday afternoon show. Both went well. Andy Leach filled in ably for Scott on guitar. Lots of folks bought CDs, and pre-sales for the new CD, Most Folk Heroes Started Out as Criminals, were brisk as well.

After Saturday’s show, we hung out with the Chasin’ Steel guys for a while, and jammed with some good pickers in the barn until about 1 am or so. Billy, Paul, and Ryan reenacted some scenes from Iron John and Lord of the Flies afterward, the results of which have been videotaped. The tapes will be released to the media in the event that any of them attempts to run for president.

Paul and I played a round of mini golf at our hotel, fighting to a draw. Billy acquired a large quantity of golf balls. Ryan made three cents busking. I heard the Clash playing over the store speakers at the Piggly Wiggly. We fit four people, a fiddle, bannjo, mandolin, and suitbass into a Honda sedan, largely due to Billy’s genius packing job.

Unlike our previous two trips to Wisconsin, no band members were threatened with firearms.


Woody Guthrie’s American Song

By Billy Oh. Filed under: TweedBlog. Tags: ,

I am playing the fiddle in yet another Chicago theater production. This time it is with Blindfaith Theatre’s production of Woody Guthrie’s American Song, playing at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theater (2257 N. Lincoln Ave).

This musical tells the story of one of America’s greatest songwriters and folk singers, interweaving his songs through the show. The nine-member cast sings some great harmonies and everyone plays an instrument. I will be performing in half the shows, which run from June 14 to July 20, Thursdays through Sundays.

Escape the summer heat in a cool air-conditioned theater and help pay tribute to an American legend!