Tag Archives: Jersey Beat

Peter Stampfel pushes banjos to the limit

Peter Stampfel torturing a banjo and assaulting our ears at the Gerdes Folk City 50th Reunion in 2010. (Photo 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Peter Stampfel on banjo at the Gerdes Folk City 50th Reunion in 2010. (Photo 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

The granddaddy of freak folk is still going strong with his latest album, ‘Better Than Expected’

Peter Stampfel defines freak folk.

It’s a category that didn’t even exist when Stampfel, now 75, was starting out as a young musician, releasing his first album, “The Holy Modal Rounders,” in 1964.

The genre developed to describe the work of current musicians such as Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Akron/Family, and the like. But Stampfel was there first, and has provided inspiration and collaboration all along.

The  Holy Modal Rounders cofounder is an acquired taste, for some, with his cracked vocals, inimitable fiddling and banjo playing, and genre-busting choice of material.

His is a restless mind, and his art challenges the conventionality at every turn.

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