Last month, PineCone, or the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, and Raleigh archival folk label Old Hat Records joined forces to launch a campaign to crowd fund an anthology of bluegrass and country music from artists that performed on the Depression-era North Carolina radio program “Crazy Barn Dance.” The show took its name from Crazy Water Crystals, the snake oil elixir served as a sponsor, and aired Saturday nights on Raleigh’s WPTF and Charlotte’s WBT. During its time, it showcased roots pioneers like the Monroe Brothers, the Dixon Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys and Snuffy Jenkins.
Old Hat founder Marshall Wyatt highlights J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers’ 1937 recording on “Don’t Get Trouble In Your Mind” as a particularly interesting inclusion. Listeners may know it as a favorite of the Carolina Chocolate Drops or recognize the tune from Bill Monroe’s bluegrass standard “Molly and Tenbrooks,” though Wyatt feels the Mountaineers’ instrumentation is just as notable.
“J.E. Mainer's fiddle really puts the song in overdrive, along with Snuffy Jenkins' avant-garde banjo,” he says. “Let's not forget—this music is not just historically significant, it's highly entertaining to listen to!”
PineCone and Old Hat hope to release the two-disc collection of recordings and vintage commercials—titled Crazy Barn Dance: Bluegrass Roots on Carolina Radio 1933-1940—by September, which, in no small coincidence, is when Raleigh hosts its first IBMA convention. “Usually projects like this will progress gradually, as funds become available,” Wyatt explains, referring to the traditional sources arts councils might draw upon, like National Endowment for the Arts grants. “By pooling the resources of Old Hat and PineCone, we're hoping to expedite the completion of the project.” Crazy Barn Dance, like PineCone’s 2009 release Going Down to Raleigh: Stringband Music in the North Carolina Piedmont 1976-1998, will also contain extensive liner notes detailing the history behind the performers and the recordings.
Setting a goal of $2,500—specifically earmarked to cover remastering costs that are actually closer to $3,000—the organizations harnessed Power2Give, a crowd-funding platform created by the United Arts Council. “It was also timing, in that the Power2Give portal became available right at the time when we were considering ways to pull together funding for the project,” continues PineCone’s Jamie Katz. “The crowd-funding model lets us leverage more social media and, we hope, get the word out about the project as well as PineCone and Old Hat Records to folks who may not be familiar with these resources here in Raleigh.” Unlike Kickstarter and its many competitors, Power2Give requires that donor rewards be free of tax implications, which allows the donation to be tax-deductible but limits the conventional strategy of offering copies of the album as a reward.
Instead, the project offers tours of radio stations and recording studios, handwritten thank you notes from Carolina bluegrass artists or recognition in PineCone’s newsletter and website as potential donor benefits: “We purposefully chose experiential rewards so that the donor can maximize his/her deductions,” PineCone executive director William Lewis confirmed.
Though the rewards are unique, the campaign has plateaued recently. Today is the last day of the campaign, which ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8. The project is still more than 60% short of its goal. Fortunately for PineCone and Old Hat, projects on Power2Give receive all pledges, even when they aren’t fully funded, and Lewis says it is “one of several fundraising efforts underway to ensure the CD’s production.” Lewis also suggests that organizers may return to Power2Give to raise money for other steps in the process, such as research and writing of the liner notes, graphic design, manufacturing and distribution.
Listen to MP3 of J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers’ “Don’t Get Trouble In Your Mind” and the Monroe Brothers’ “Katy Cline” below, but don’t forget to also check out the Power2Give page for additional information and music, as well as to donate to the project.