Joel Mabus CDs
...and how to get them!
Click on the CD title to
see the cover & read about it
scroll down to browse the overview:
Pepper's Ghost & other
banjo visitations *
A Parlor Guitar
American Anonymous *
No Worries Now *
The Banjo Monologues *
Parlor Guitar *
Golden Willow Tree
Thumb Thump *
of One *
How Like The
Western Passage *(cd is out of stock, but
available as download)
Short Stories (out of print, but most cuts
reissued on Omnibus)
Firelake (out of print, but most cuts reissued on
DIGITAL SINGLE (downloads only)
The Lights Are On In Michigan *
* available as download at CDbaby,
iTunes and Amazon
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CDs are $16 each, to your
door. [Click here for ordering info]
Here is a list of my recordings. Click on any title to read more about it, including a list of song titles,
cover art, and a link to the lyrics
for that CD. There are links to listening (updates in progress) Or try my own MP3
page at this site for some full length free downloads. Listed in reverse chronological order:
Pepper's Ghost &
other banjo visitations -- Release date, Oct 28, 2013. This
album is all-banjo. 13 tracks, some with vocals, some instrumentals.
All are the old-time clawhammer style of playing, more rhythmically diverse than
typical bluegrass style. Some are new tunes, some old. My first
all-banjo record since The Banjo Monologues in 2007, and a good follow-up to
that one. Packaged in an eco tri-fold wallet, with no plastic to
crack. A good choice for you if you love the sound of banjo -- or for the
banjo fan in your life.
Guitar Christmas -- Release date, Oct 2, 2012. The holiday
sequel to Parlor Guitar (see below) wherein I play 14 great old Christmas
Classics on an acoustic guitar in the fingerpicking style. No vocals, just
a guitar with great tone played with care and affection. I am very pleased with
the way this one turned out. Just the thing for calming the nerves in
Christmas shopping traffic, or for an evening spent with candles and
Anonymous -- Release date, July 4, 2011. Available here 6/1/11.
Fourteen classic American folk songs, all by "author unknown" adapted
and arranged by me for either guitar, banjo or autoharp, and of course, my
voice. This is an album I've been cooking up for years. If you like my rootsy
side, you'll go for this one.
No Worries Now
-- Release date, September 15, 2009. A collection of new songs, all
written 2008-2009. A plate-full of new songs for these weary times. The musical moods oscillate from jump swing to bluegrass to gospel — with a little taste of jazz manouche and ragtime guitar in-between. The lyrics blend whimsy, politics, history, humor & philosophy in my usual manner.
New for Fall of 2008. A two-for-one compilation. My 1990 album, Firelake
and 1992's Short Stories are combined in one 70 minute disc -- 19 cuts in all.
Includes "A Better Voice," "The Fiddle & the Bow,"
"Love Is A Song," "Snow On The Water" and many more. (note:
3 songs are not included from those two original albums due to time constraints,
but they are available on other discs.)
New for 2008. All new recordings of 12 of my vintage songs. Includes
studio versions of "Touch a Name on the Wall," "Duct Tape
Blues," "The Naked Truth" and "Swing That
Thing." Also: a new version of "Hopelessly Midwestern" and
fresh takes on "Holding to the Land," "Five Kinds of
Snow," "What 'my doin' Wrong," "The Preacher
& the Flood," "Guadalupe," "Sea of
Dreams" and "Lucky, Lucky You."
Banjo Monologues -- New for 2007, a unique album of oldtime banjo (clawhammer 5-string) with
traditional songs and tunes wedded with storytelling. The monologues tell of
1930's radio (WLS Barn Dance, Crazy Water Crystals) and my family's career as
professional "hillbilly" musicians in downstate Illinois. Also speaks
to why oldtime music -- and the banjo in particular -- matters. REVIEWS
Parlor Guitar --
From 2005. All guitar instrumentals on a small "parlor guitar"
playing classic melodies from the parlor music era -- about 100 years ago.
George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Eubie Blake, Irving Berlin and much more.
You don't have to be a guitar player to enjoy this stuff, but fingerstyle
players will want to check some of these arrangements out. A book
of ten arrangements, note for note, is available now from Hal Leonard
Publishing, also titled Parlor Guitar. It includes a CD of those ten
Golden Willow Tree --
From 2004, my idea of folk music.
A few originals, and a few traditionals and some versions of old songs you
probably haven't heard before. A fair dose of banjo and a bit of a capella
singing along with the guitar & vocals you might expect. REVIEWS
Joel Mabus' new CD, "Golden Willow Tree," has such a classic,
timeless feel that one is surprised to discover all but a few tracks are
originals. But this CD, perhaps more than any of his many recordings,
exemplifies Mabus' grasp of traditional music as a living thing - it's
always been impossible to distinguish the proverbial roots from the new
fruit. LANSING STATE JOURNAL
Thumb Thump -- from 2002, a blues and ragtime
collection with all guitar & vocals.
It takes its name from the incessant rhythm created by the thumb of the right
hand -- something common to both traditional blues and ragtime guitar. A few
originals, but mostly my versions of traditional music, with a nod to my St.
Louis roots. REVIEWS
Mabus’ weathered voice is a great folk-blues instrument. Just the move
from free time to a steady meter leading into “East St. Louis” is a
thing of beauty. Named for its
fingerpicking style, the exquisitely recorded Thumb Thump (Fossil
1402) is irresistible in a Mississippi John Hurt way – unless your blues
have to be all low-down, all the time, you should love it.
Six of One -- from 2001, a great "first choice"
if you want to check me out.
Half original and half traditional, the old songs and the new ones take turns
exploring life's perplexing questions of love and life. The styles of music run
from country-folk to crusty blues to old-time bluegrass to smooth swing.
Fabulous sidemen, Don Stiernberg and Madcat Ruth lend their talents. REVIEWS
Six Of One
combines the best of both worlds, good songwriting with songs that have stood the
test of time, performed with intelligence and honesty. I'd like to hear dozens more
recordings like this one from other contemporary singer-songwriters. SINGOUT
How Like The Holly -- A holiday CD.
Not your typical Christmas album, I have gone way back to include some rarely
heard carols, along with a few of my own new songs and my new settings of some
It's something of a quiet album, more powerful for its
understatement. But more importantly, Mabus brings a clear-eyed sense of
tradition, of connectedness to the past that rings just the right bell for the
season in a way that few other Christmas recordings do. LANSING STATE JOURNAL
Top Drawer String Band -- all contra and square
Not really my album, but that of my partners in the TDSB. The fiddling of
Brian Bishop takes the spotlight. Laura Stein plays Boston-style dance
piano. I'm in the middle, playing sometimes guitar, sometimes banjo and
sometimes fiddle, too. This album includes several hot Brian Bishop
originals, and the first recorded version of my contra "hit" -- "The
Blue Jig". It has been covered since by several top contradance bands.
Rhyme Schemes --
from 1997, all originals with an emphasis on wit.
Actually the humor is a bit on the dry side most of the time. But it does
include the tongue-twister, "The Druggist" and the silly "Bubba's
3 B's (Barbeque, Banjos & Beer)". Also has the spoken poem,
"The Fiddler's Reply" -- a favorite of many fiddle players and
reprinted widely on the web.
The depth of this recording is astounding. SINGOUT
A tour de force of contemporary folk performance CROSSCURRENTS
Western Passage -- from 1996, fingerstyle guitar
Recorded on a classical guitar, this is a highly personalized look at the music
of the early 19th century America. Sort of an instrumental "Heart of
Darkness" tour of early American music. But I don't try to recreate an
early style -- this is "all Mabus" on the guitar.
NOTE: Western Passage is currently available only as a Music CDR. I have
plenty of the original printed matter that came with the original pressing --
booklet and traycard -- in the normal jewel case. But if you order this today,
the disc will be a CDR burned
from the original master and signed by me. Guaranteed to work in any music CD player.
Promised Land -- a songwriter's look at the USA,
This was out of print for a while, but happily back in stock. A lot of fans'
favorites: "Alice & Ralph" -- the out-of-step couple,
"Holding to the Land" -- a song that Tom Paxton always asks for, and
"Sea Of Dreams" -- the lullaby that begins, "In the morning comes
Progressive populist songwriting that would
do Woody Guthrie Proud ACOUSTIC MUSICIAN
Flatpick & Clawhammer -- guitar
and banjo double album. Newly remastered!
This one takes some explaining. This was originally two albums on tape.
"Clawhammer" came out in '91 to great reviews. Even though on
cassette, this all-banjo album sold like gangbusters. The sequel was
1993's "Flatpick" which came out on tape the same time that the CD
compilation was released. Both halves of the CD were digitally recorded,
so the sound is very clean. All the tunes and songs are traditional, and the instrumentals
outnumber the vocals, though there are both. Runs a full 74 minutes.
... a relaxed yet propulsive feel, unfailingly beautiful tone, and fine, ever-graceful ornamentation.
Beautifully simple and simply beautiful. GUITAR PLAYER
What a pleasure ...a wonderful album BANJO NEWSLETTER
Short Stories -- from 1992, all original songs with a tale
Don't be confused -- these are all songs, not spoken storytelling. At least two
songs on this album I get requests for continually: "The Preacher & The
Flood" and "The Fiddle & The Bow"
The best crop [of songs] Mabus has produced to date DIRTY
NOTE: Short Stories is out of print. (I
have a few copies left -- write to me if you are desperate to have one) But most of the cuts were re-issued as part of the compilation
Firelake -- from 1990, a personal favorite.
The title cut is a banjo original that serves as the theme song for Public
Radio's "The Folk Sampler" with Mike Flynn. This is also the CD that
has "Hopelessly Midwestern" on it -- a song that has been covered by
many other folksingers since. "A Better Voice" is on this one,
Fine listening for a cold quiet winter evening - DIRTY
NOTE: Firelake is out of print. (I
can burn a CD-R -- write me) But
most of the cuts were re-issued as part of the compilation album, Omnibus
The Naked Truth -- 1988 concert CD, my best seller (NOW
with new liner notes!)
This one has a bit of history. This is a "true" concert recording,
meaning that it was recorded in one night at one place. No edits or sweetening
were done, and all the songs were originals being debuted in my first set that
night. It originally was on LP, and the first side of the platter was the first
22 minutes, and the flip side was the rest of my first set that night. Folk
radio station WUMB in Boston named it the best folk album of the
When it was re-released on CD in the 1990's, we dipped into that same night's second
set for a few bonus tracks. The first CD version was in a long box
(remember those?) and didn't have room for notes. The current version has notes
written in 2003, fifteen years after the show.
Fans still request this album for
several of the songs here. Most notably, "Touch A Name On The Wall" is
still my most requested song in concert. "The Duct Tape Blues" still
has its fans, and "Swing That Thing" is the favorite of many guitar
players. The title cut is also still in my repertoire and a favorite of some.
Fortunes -- originally an LP, now a CD-R
In 1987 I launched my own record label after being on Flying Fish records for a
few years. This was my first LP. It sold pretty well as an LP and a cassette
tape, but when those media went the way of 78's and 8-tracks, the album was hard
to find. In 2004, I took the original masters and had them remastered into CD
format. For now, I am making CDR copies of the master for sale in a
slim-line case with a one-page insert.
I hadn't listened to this album for a few years before remastering it, but I was
surprised at how much I still liked it, some 20 years later. A bit of
studio wizardry has me playing two instruments at the same time on few
cuts. "Lucky Lucky You" and "The Kitty Ditty" are two
of the songs here I still get fans asking for.
My early albums before 1987 were for other record labels,
released only in LP format and long out-of-print. They sometimes come up
on eBay or other used album sites. They were:
Fairies & Fools, American Celtic -- Flying Fish
Settin' The Woods on Fire -- Flying Fish Records #235
Grassroots -- Grand River Records #003 (see my mp3 pages)
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© 2011 Joel Mabus
Last edited 12/02/13