I have embedded a video of Sam Quinn + Japan Ten at the bottom of this blog. Sam, along with Josh Oliver (piano) and Tom Pryor (pedal steel) are also members of the Everybodyfields, which are currently on hiatus. My wife and I have followed the ’fields closely for the past four years.
What drew me to them, and continues to be a draw in Japan Ten, is what folk musicologist John Cohen heard in the voice of Kentucky singer Roscoe Holcomb; a sound that led Cohen to coin the now over-used expression high lonesome sound. You hear this as Japan Ten tune up their voices in front of an old house in a quiet Greensboro, NC neighborhood before the main video shoot.
Appalachian folk voice is sometimes harsh, modal, eerie and, to unappreciative ears, downright dissonant and annoying. But for me it is a sound that has buzzed in my head from my earliest youth. It is a sound that has antecedents in the folk singing of the Scottish border country and English West Country.
For a Carolina-Tennessee borderer like myself, it is the sound of home.