Who wants to mess with success? Not the people planning the Leeds Folk Festival.
They’ve invited two popular musical acts from 2009 for return performances at the 2011 festival on Sept. 17-18. Flying Jenny, a five-member string band, will present toe-tapping old-time music, some sung in three-part harmony. Singer/guitarist/composer Bobby Horton will perform stories and songs of the Civil War in a tribute commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war’s beginning.
Although Horton and Flying Jenny differ in their musical delivery, both share an interest in performing and studying the music played and sung by America’s early settlers. And all are residents of the Birmingham area.
Flying Jenny includes Jim Cauthen on fiddle; Joyce Cauthen on guitar; Duncan Blair on banjo; Rachel Turner on bass, and Charlie Hunter on claw-hammer banjo and fiddle. Like Horton, the Cauthens have researched fiddling traditions and authored books on old-time fiddling.
“The band’s name comes from a story two elderly Sand Mountain fiddlers told us about how they got their first paying jobs in the 1920s,” said Joyce Cauthen. “They sat in the center of a mule-powered carnival ride called a Flying Jenny and played tunes. The ride was like a carousel, except that it had wooden benches instead of wooden horses. Each time the ride stopped and people got off, the carousel owner would drop a nickel into the musicians’ pockets.”
Flying Jenny has performed at the Leeds festival several times and has learned what the audience likes “One number we like to do is ‘John Henry,’ in honor of the legend that Henry’s competition with the steam drill took place beside the Coosa Mountain tunnel,” Cauthen said. “Leeds audiences also like our train songs, such as ‘Don’t You Hear that Train?’ ”
Horton, who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on music from the Civil War period, has produced and performed music for 13 Public Broadcasting System films produced by Ken Burns, two films for the A&E network, and 16 films for the National Park Service. As a member of the musical trio Three on a String, he has toured extensively for 40 years. He plays several instruments, including a treasured pre-Civil-War Martin guitar.
“I travel just about everywhere and always come home to Birmingham,” Horton said. “I have never considered moving to any of the standard destinations such as L.A. or New York. Even though I do a lot of film music for Ken Burns, the History Channel and others, I do it all in my studio here at the house. This area is and hopefully always will be my home.”
Both Horton and Flying Jenny will perform at the Gazebo at the corner of 9th Street and Parkway Drive. Flying Jenny’s program will begin at 4 p.m. on Sept 17. Horton will perform at 4 p.m. on Sept. 18.