When Marco Giovino and I (Jo) sat down to begin exchanging ideas for this new project, one suggestion by Marco was to look into the past and track down a few lesser-known artists and songs.
In a discussion with Robert Plant, Marco received a suggestion to look at Dock Boggs, a very early “hills” banjo Player and songster from the turn of the century. Marco sent me a version of Boggs’ Sugar Baby – and I was hooked immediately. It took some time, but I worked on being able to perform the track in its original form. We then took it to rehearsal and in-time found our own interpretation, hoping to encompass the roots lyrics and gritty emotional feel of Boggs’ early work.
As the studio version evolved, Marco eventually used three outstanding guitarists, Bobby B Keyes, Duke Levine (banjo), and Doug Lancio. Doug also happens to be one of the newer additions to Bob Dylan’s current band.
Boggs recorded ‘high and lonesome’ songs passed down for generations in the mountain regions of West Virginia and the Appalachia’s. His original version of Sugar Baby was recorded on the Brunswick label during one of two sessions, first in 1927 and the second in 1929. The depression eventually forced Dock to put down his banjo and go back to work in the coal mines and moonshining.
As fate would have it, he was re-discovered in the early 60s by folklorist Bob Seeger. He was persuaded to return to his music after decades in the mines and recorded for The Folkways, Smithsonian label. In his remaining years, he appeared at folk festivals and was able to receive appreciation for his talents and music.
Although stylistically, The Mystix interpretation is quite different, we feel that Dock’s presence still lurks within the track. I love this song and believe the origins go way back before Dock.
One of the missions of this project is to go back and find people like Dock and enjoy the journey that is Americana music.