Piedmont folk-blues: Ernest Troost, Cephas & Wiggins, & Etta Baker

Piedmont blues legend Etta Baker.

I recently heard folk-blues singer-songwriter Ernest Troost’s new album “O Love” and loved it. I found myself drawn into the world of old screen doors and broken hearts being mended through the only thing that can heal, love. The only song from the album on YouTube is “Close” but please check out this album. The title track “O Love” is my favorite.

It turns out in doing my research that Ernest is an aficionado of the Piedmont blues guitar style. Piedmont blues, according to Wikipedia is, “…also known as East Coast, or Southeastern blues… refers primarily to a guitar style, the Piedmont fingerstyle, which is characterized by a fingerpicking approach in which a regular, alternating thumb bass string rhythmic pattern supports a syncopated melody using the treble strings generally picked with the fore-finger, occasionally others. The result is comparable in sound to ragtime or stride piano styles.”

When I was living in the Washington DC area several years back, I was introduced to the Piedmont guitar style from the popular duo Cephas & Wiggins after attending many folk and blues festivals in the area. Sadly John Cephas passed away in 2009, but their music is memorialized through their recordings. Their last record released on Smithsonian Folkways. Here they are with “Richmond Blues” and at the end of the song they describe a little of the Piedmont style.

One of the mothers of Piedmont folk-blues is Etta Baker. Here she is doing a tutorial as to how to play this finger-picking style:

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