Lotus Wight is the nom-de-guerre of Toronto native Sam Allison, a songster, poet, fiddler, banjo historian and instrument creator who also makes up one-third of the ragtime trio Sheesham, Lotus and ‘Son. Ode to the Banjo traces the centuries-old history of the instrument both literally, in the form of a 23-stanza poem penned by Wight/Allison (included in the notes), and musically within the album’s thirteen tracks, most of which are interpretations of American folk and blues songs. Wight employs a cornucopia of authentic and playfully derivative instruments including fretless gourd, banjo, four-string banjo-mandolin, and contemporary five-string claw-hammer banjo. On “Roustabout”, a composition by 19th century Virginia banjoist Josh Thomas, Wight sings the deeply melancholic lyrics while accompanying himself to haunting affect on the Kalimba (African thumb piano). On “Skillet” and “Cluck Old Hen” Wight plays a homemade contraption called the “Contrabass Harmoniphoneum” which must be heard to be comprehended. Wight’s imaginative take on traditional repertoire makes for compelling listening, while delivering a valuable history lesson about America’s most iconic musical instrument.
From fROOTS Magazine:
Lotus Wight’s solo album is centred on a twenty-three stanza poem he wrote, which traces the banjo’s history and rise to popularity in its journey from Africa to North America.
Wight’s kalimba playing features on a terrific version of Roustabout (the Josh Thomas, rather than Elvis Presley song of the same title!) and his own invention-the contrabass harmoniphoneum on Skillet and Cluck Old Hen, but otherwise this is straight ahead solo old-time claw-hammer banjo playing of tunes like Black-Eyed Suzie, Cripple Creek, Midnight and Devil’s Jig. Standard, fretless and gourd varieties of the instrument are put to magnificent use on this slice of five-string heaven.