New Binkley Brothers
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New Binkley Brothers

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"New Binkley Brothers bring old South sound to summertime events"

New Binkley Brothers member Matt Downer says the group’s rhythm is bound to attract anyone who happens upon one of the its summer performances at Rock City or Riverbend.

“(Our music) offers more than entertainment. It’s a living history,” said Downer, referring to the band’s old-time music style. “We try to whoop it up and bring a lot of energy to it.”

Downer said that the band will play at Rock City every Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day from noon to 4 p.m. and will rove around the Riverbend Festival on a nightly basis.

He added that the low-key performances nicely reflect the band’s fun-loving and easygoing sound and approach to music.

“We (play) the more energetic, raw stuff that was going on in this area back in the early ’20s,” said Downer, who rotates guitar, banjo and fiddle duties with band mates Daniel Binkley and Clark Williams.

Downer said that the musicians were brought together by a common passion for older traditional music from the South, music that was played decades ago by Binkley’s great-uncle and grandfather, the original Binkley Brothers, in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry.

Downer said the New Binkley Brothers sound simmers with flavors brought by the early settlers of this country, indicating the music introduced by the Scots and the Irish and African-Americans.

“It’s kind of like an oral tradition that has been passed down,” said Downer, who added that the band is passionate about sharing their love of music. “That’s what excites us about playing is the opportunity to bring it to the people." - Chattanooga Times-Free Press


"The New Binkley Brothers preserve local musical traditions"

Ever since Bill Monroe slicked its hair back, shoved it in a Nudie suit and called it bluegrass, traditional Appalachian music has moved farther and farther from the spotlight. Modern old-time string bands like the New Binkley Brothers are trying to help it share in the limelight again.

The local band, consisting of multi-instrumentalists Matt Downer, Daniel Binkley and Clark Williams, played together only a handful of months after meeting in December 2006. Binkley and Williams then left for Europe, but their collective commitment to the music continued to bind them, Downer said.

“Performing these tunes and this music ... here where much of it originated, serves a much deeper purpose than entertainment or playing music for music’s sake,” he said. “This is what sets old-time music apart and makes it a much deeper well from which to draw than other genres.”

Although Binkley will remain in Spain until July, Williams recently returned to Chattanooga. Saturday, he and Downer will share the stage as a duo as part of a triple bill at JJ’s Bohemia with Christabel & The Jons and Ian Thomas.

The New Binkley Brothers are named in honor of Williams’ ancestors, the original Binkleys, Amos and Gale. In keeping with their goal of exposing people to Chattanooga’s rich old-time heritage, Downer said the New Binkleys play several tunes by the original pair as well as tunes from the region.

As in most traditional arrangements, the band spotlights fiddle sawing and plunky, clawhammer banjo, but unlike bluegrass, flashy playing isn’t the focus; the music is, Downer said.

“Bluegrass moved further away from the music and started spotlighting the musicians,” he said. “I always prefer the old-time music because a lot of it was untrained people doing it and untrained voices singing it.

“It’s really the people’s music.” - Chattanooga Times-Free Press


"People to Watch: Daniel Binkley"

When he was 17, Daniel Binkley found several 78 rpm records by his ancestors, The Binkley Brothers’ Dixie Clodhoppers, in his parents’ attic and discovered a musical heritage worth honoring.

Mr. Binkley’s great-grandfather, Amos Binkley, and a great-great-uncle, Gale Binkley, were among the first commercially recorded artists in Nashville. They made frequent appearances at the Grand Ole Opry in the 1920s and ’30s.

Three years ago, Mr. Binkley, along with local musicians Matt Downer and Clark Williams, formed The New Binkley Brothers, an old-time string band in the tradition of the original Binkley Brothers.

We spoke with Mr. Binkley about paying homage to his musical heritage, why old-time music is still appreciated and what attracts him to it.

Q: Is there more than family ties that attracts you to old-time music?

A: Growing up in Nashville ... you can go to a bar five nights a week and hear a band with their outfits ... waiting for some guy to come in there and give them some money. It was always off-putting to me. What I like about old-time is that it’s normal folks screaming or singing in a plain voice. It’s a lot more genuine.

Q:Do you have a favorite song by the original Binkley Brothers?

A:It’s called “When I Had but 50 Cents.” It’s really funny. It’s about a guy who takes a girl on a date, and he has only 50 cents. ... It’s kind of silly, but it’s funny.

Q:How do you make old-time music sound authentic?

: A Some people are more into technical ability and keeping things polished, never missing a note. I think, for us anyway, it’s about energy and having fun, keeping the spirit.

Q: Why do you think people still come hear music that saw its heyday a century ago?

A: I heard someone, maybe (Bob) Dylan, say, “It’s so old it sounds new.” I think it was just forgotten about. I think people always like to hear a good story.

Q: What do you think your great-grandfather and great-great-uncle would think of your music?

A: I think they’d probably like it. I know when I have the occasion to play with older people, they’re always really encouraged by younger people getting into it.

Q: If the original Binkley Brothers were around, what would you ask them?

A: I think I would just want to play with them ... or my granddad, who also played on the radio on WSM (in Nashville). ... I never met any of them, so I would really just want to learn some tunes from them. - Chattanooga Times-Free Press


"Down to the River to Play"

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2007/aug/01/august-2007-city/?norightaditc - In the City magazine


Discography

All material by the New Binkley Brothers has been self-released and is available through their myspace page, www.myspace.com/newbinkleybrothers, as well as streaming audio.

Photos

Bio

The New Binkley Brothers are three piece Appalachian string band whose name is derived from their great-grandfather's band, the Binkley Brothers' Dixie Clodhoppers, members of the original Nashville Grand Ole Opry from 1926-1939. The Binkley Brothers were among the first groups to be commercially recorded in Nashville in the legendary 1928 Victor sessions. The New Binkley Brothers play many of their old tunes as well as originals, and are heavily influenced by other 20's-era groups of the North Georgia and East Tennessee region, such as the Skilett Lickers, Jim and Andrew Baxter, Bob Douglas, and the musicians of Sand Mountain, AL.

The New Binkley Brothers play traditional styles, but bring a new, driving, energetic, youthful exuberance to traditional music that has not been seen in quite some time.

The New Binkley Brothers have played with such fine acts as the Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Felice Brothers, The Two Man Gentleman Band, Paleface, Christabel and the Johns, Michael Hurley and are booked for summer gigs with the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers and Larry Keel. In 2008, The New Binkley Brothers went on a short tour of Spain, playing at the Victoria Theater in Priego de Cordoba, and recording with the founder of Eureka records, Fernando Vacas. They have played in competitions, performances halls, tourists attractions and on the street, and are always eager to keep bringing their music and heritage to whomever will listen.

One member of the group, Matt Downer, has received numerous Alabama Folk Life grants to study and record with such classic Alabaman old-time musicians as Gene Ivey, Wayne Heard, Cast King, and most recently, long-time Norman Blake collaborator, James Bryan. His field recordings of the late Cast King resulted in his critically acclaimed debut album release at age 80, Saw Mill Man, on Locust Records: 2005.