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I found a vein of mid-19th century "Honky Tonk" piano LPs at a junk shop yesterday, and I want to know everything about the person whose collection they were from.

I brought home a few and as I expected, they've got that Shakey's Pizza Parlor vibe to them; ragtime era music distorted through the lens of 1950s/60s nostalgia, conflated with early jazz and mashed into an old-timey pastiche. /

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The playing on this Knuckles O'Toole album is stellar but it was deliberately recorded using an out-of-tune spinet piano that sounds like shit. I don't doubt that many of the venues where ragtime originally rose to popularity had crappy pianos, but this album was recorded in a professional studio in 1958 and to use a bad piano was a very deliberate (and unfortunate) choice. /

I am not sure I agree that a lot of these tunes are ragtime per se, at least not in the way I've come to understand ragtime listening to the music of Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb; ragtime was scandalizing at the time but there was still much more of a graceful formality to it than the jazz that it involved into. I'm no authority, though, and definitions are sort of meaningless when most people would absolutely hear this and say "ragtime!" and/or "dixieland!" /

I need to find more recordings like Virginia Eskin's "American Beauties: The Rags of Joseph Lamb" youtube.com/watch?v=GDuvovk6pc /

All of that being said, this a good album in a double-nostalgic Disneyland Main Street USA sort of way; 2020 nostalgia for 1950s nostalgia for 1900.

"Knuckles O'Toole" recorded a bunch of this stuff, have a listen: youtube.com/watch?v=zBdHAiXZK4 /

also, I was very surprised to learn that he is still alive, 92 years old and still performing in Florida. His real name is Dick Hyman, and I'm going to drop him a line:

dickhyman.com/

Holy smokes, Arthur Shilstone, the artist who painted the evocative cover of Vol. 4 is also still alive (I think? He was in 2017) in his 90s and still painting. He is an absolutely incredible watercolorist (google.com/search?q=arthur+shi)

...and this evening I received a nice reply from Dick and "Knuckles", how lovely and surreal.

There are of course also Joshua Rifkin's excellent recordings of Scott Joplin's rags, originally released in 1970, also played solo on a nice piano, in stately fashion:

open.spotify.com/album/3EKlROH

There is something about this music that gives me great big enormous feels; it's got one foot still in the victorian world but it also feels strikingly progressive for its time, a precursor to the comparative chaos of jazz, on the cusp of the whole modern world that eventually followed

open.spotify.com/track/1O8yOMf

Listening to 'Maple Leaf Rag' for the umpteenth time in the last couple of weeks and imagining people losing their minds hearing it for the first time in 1899

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