Illustration by R. Crumb.

It’s nice to be writing a little more about Christoph Mueller and Americana after a few posts about Europe. This morning I’ve decided to start the day with a few renditions of “Stealin’,” a song composed by Will Shade that was first recorded by the Memphis Jug Band in 1928. Apart from the ever-present charm of jug band music, “Stealin'” also features some fine vocal harmony work from Shade and his band. It’s available on vinyl now from Third Man Records, but you can also find it below.

The song has also been covered by the likes of the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan, but I think my favorite cover is from Dave Van Ronk and the Ragtime Jug Stompers on their self-titled album released in 1964. I must say it’s a fine album that stands up over repeated listening, and I’m a great Van Ronk fan myself; and that’s Sam Charters, author of the excellent The Country Blues, on jug, washtub bass, and backing vocals. You’ll find it underneath the Memphis Jug Band version below.

As long as I’m in the Americana mood and plugging Mueller’s new project, I should add that plans are afoot for the next issue — #44 — of the fine magazine Mineshaft, due from the publishers this fall. On the cover, a portrait of Skip James by R. Crumb; on the inside, work by Drew Friedman, Kim Deitch, the aforementioned Christoph Mueller, Mary Fleener, Bill Griffith, Sophie Crumb, the late Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Max Clotfelter, and many, many others. If you subscribe now, you’ll get it when it’s hot off the presses.

Alright, boys. Hit it:


A toast to Mineshaft

In many ways, I’m still an analog boy in a digital world, and when it comes to leisure material for reading, watching, and listening, I prefer the hand-made sort of entertainment, whether it’s mid-budget comedy movies from the 1930s or what’s generally become known as roots music. Books and magazines that suit my temperament are harder to come by these days, though.

Fortunately there’s still Mineshaft magazine, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Inspired by underground magazines and comics of the past, Mineshaft is a modest and resolutely hand-crafted periodical that’s issued about three times a year, published by Everett Rand and Gioia Palmieri in Durham, NC, far from the media meccas of New York and Los Angeles. Produced through the increasingly quaint offset printing method, the magazine’s prose, poems, and comics are resolutely free of cant and pretension. The Spring 2019 issue (No. 37) features recent work from veteran cartoonists and illustrators Drew Friedman (front cover), R. Crumb (back cover), Art Spiegelman, Bill Griffith, and Mary Fleener; poems and paintings by Billy Childish; and work by a number of artists who are unknown to me, such as Nicolas C. Grey, David Collier, and Noah Van Sciver. What they all share is a rootedness in the physical, not the digital, world; like the magazine, the work has a distinctively handmade quality, and the comics especially share a meditative and contemplative marriage of laconic prose and atmospheric inkwork pioneered by, among others, Harvey Pekar in the 1970s. There’s a melancholy that hangs over the whole, a feeling that the analog world it depicts is being lost, if it hasn’t been lost already. That the work has a particularly satiric quality, then, doesn’t come as much of a surprise, especially when it refers to the digital realm, and it’s not much of a shock to find, tipped in with this contemporary work, a reproduction of a detail from a painting by William Hogarth.

Both single issues of No. 37 and back issues are still available from the Mineshaft web site, and you can pony up for a subscription there as well. Obviously the magazine, itself a beautifully, lovingly produced object, will be an acquired taste for those who have drunk deep from the well of the internet culture; it’s not for everybody. But it is, in many ways, for me.