While it is no secret that I am a lover of great folk music, there is one instrument that always makes me simultaneously want to dance and become an expert string-plucker: the banjo. Whether it’s in fast bluegrass, traditional Americana, or heartfelt folk, the twang of the banjo is consistently music to my ears. These three tracks highlight some of the awesome variety that a banjo can bring to the table.
1. “Ready Your Roommates” – Larry and His Flask
You can always count on the Flask boys to bring the energy with awesome punk-infused bluegrass. I’d liken them to Old Crow Medicine Show meeting Flogging Molly. “Ready Your Roommates” is off their first self-titled LP as a bluegrass band after playing for years as a grunge punk band. This high-energy track speaks of their desire to keep playing shows and partying for the rest of their lives: “There’s nothing else we’d rather do, like pumping gas or going back to school / So you can have your paper thin walls, and your late night business calls / We’ll be out keeping this world alive til we die.”
2. “Hit Em Up Style” – Carolina Chocolate Drops
In this cover of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit Em Up Style,” the Carolina Chocolate Drops utilize a banjo and fiddle paired with passionate vocals and beat boxing to bring a whole new dimension to this song. This is one of those beautifully rare moments when a remake of a song is infinitely better than the original. If this doesn’t make you want to sing along, I don’t know what will.
3. “Paranoia in B-Flat Major” – The Avett Brothers
The Avett Brothers are well known for their bluegrass-infused folk rock filled with beautifully relatable lyricism. “Paranoia in B-Flat Major” is off 2007’s Emotionalism and quickly reminds us why we love both the Avetts and the banjo. This is definitely a more approachable folk song, but with that same twangy goodness. While it’s easy for me to say that Emotionalism is my favorite of their albums, I might even go so far as to say this track, too, holds the first place medal in my heart.