For those of you who haven’t come across him, Chuck Levy has earned the title of Florida Old-Time Banjo Champion and is also a prize winning fiddler in Florida, where he currently resides.  We met Chuck at the Blue Ridge Old-Time week at Mars Hill, North Carolina, where he was teaching advanced banjo.  He did a great workshop on Florida fiddle tunes and, a couple of days later, another workshop on akonting, (or ekonting, there seems to be shared consensus on this).  This is a West African 3-string ancient form of the banjo played by the Jola people of Gambia [and Senega], in a similar style to clawhammer.  Chuck made two visits, to Gambia and Senegal, learning form two master Jola akonting players.  Chuck’s akonting workshop was fascinating, and we were fortunate to interview him about it for the Old Time News.  Look forward to it in the winter edition. Chuck also gave us a copy of his CD, “Banjourneys”, produced by Bob Carlin.  This is a really interesting CD.  It is very attractively packaged with a lovely cover cartoon by Roz Chast, and a Magritte spoof of Chuck’s dog with raining banjos printed on the disc.  There’s lots of information on the inside cover. I am really enjoying this CD.  Chuck is a very fine banjo player, and there is great fiddle on here too, provided by Dave Forbes, Mike Eberle, and Chuck.  I think the best thing about “Banjourneys” is the way the banjo flows through the music, giving the listener a continuity through a very nice variation of musical and cultural tradition: akonting folk tunes, minstrel pieces, old time tunes, even a Rolling Stones song.  There is also a very nice self-penned tune “Doctor Levy’s Walk-Around”.  Throughout, the banjo shines, with great rhythm and syncopation, and the listener can hear the connections, from the banjo’s ancestry through to the present day.  Blecha/Mariam Sajoe, a medly of traditional Jola tunes, has a fiddle provided by Mike Eberle on it, and it works so well, reminding me of the kind of primitive old time tunes you can hear on Christian Wigg and Whitt Mead’s “Chadwell Station”.  Banjos played include a Gold Tone cello banjo, a “banjonting”(a self designed akonting variant with a gourd body, for more consistent tuning) and a 6-string fretless.  There is lots more information on Chuck’s website:  about the instruments used on the CD, the tunes, translations for the Jola songs; MP3 samples; also more details about the akonting and how Chuck found his way to it. “in Banjourneys, I have tried …to weave these various threads into something new and old, here and there.  I hope this resonates within you in the same manner as this all has with me.” I think Chuck has managed this beautifully, with the aid of his excellent co-musicians, and it is just so nice to get to meet some of the banjo’s ancestors and have the opportunity to listen to a part of its journey over time, in such a coherent and enjoyable way.” - Emily Poole

— Old-Time News