Miss Maybell & Slimpickin’s [Soundcloud & Interview]
Sometimes, you happen across some really special things on Soundcloud.
The tagline on Miss Maybell’s Soundcloud probably sums it up best, “Old time music for the young at heart”.
Some time back, I accidentally stumbled across a track of their’s and devoured both their playlists. The first thing I heard was this Frank Stokes cover. Frank Stokes was a fascinating musician who is considered by many to be the father of the Memphis blues guitar and the original of this song can be found here
I wanted to interview them, but knew nothing about them and there was little or no information kicking up under the usual Internet stones. I also kept forgetting to ask anyone if they knew. Knowing my luck, I’d later find out they were underground legends of the full contact ragtime circuit in Albuquerque.
The few lines I could get on the pair told the same story enough that I got to believing them. They went a little something like,
“Slimpickin’s was born to a burlesque dancer working on a steamboat on the Mississippi River. He spent his childhood listing to the old time music played by various bands on the boat. One day he swam away.”
“The illegitimate child of gypsy pirates that sailed the Caribbean Sea. Miss Maybell has only limited recollections of a life on the ship filled with music, merriment, and the occasional heist.”
“Miss Maybell and Slimpickin’s met one late night while playing poker in the hills of Kentucky. After getting caught with aces up their sleeves, they fled, down to New Orleans, where they laid low playing music on the streets for cash. Now Slim and May live like vagabonds and travel the country sharing old timey music to all who give a listening ear, pulling only the occasional heist.”
Miss Maybell & Slimpickin’s: Hello!
Screwy: How did you get started in music? Life long or recent?
Slim: I picked up guitar around the age of 18.
Miss Maybell: Life long, I started banjo more recently.
Screwy: Slim, what prompted the guitar picking up? Singing before? Maybell, piano and or singing as a child? Punk roots or always old timey?
Slim: I was in college, and my roommate got a guitar. He was a righty, but I started playing it upside-down, and eventually decided to get a lefty guitar for myself. As a kid, I was always into music, but didn’t really have much opportunity to play prior to that.
Maybell: Singing as a child, I also played recorder, clarinet, a little piano, and more recently ukulele then banjo. Since we’ve been playing together, we’ve always been in the old-time jugband genre. Maybell’s singing roots are more jazzy, and Slim’s background is more blues, so we stuck the two together into a ragtime type feel.
Screwy: How long is that now? That you’ve been making music together, and music individually? Slim, What did you study in college? Maybell, did you go to college also?
Miss Maybell & Slimpickin’s: We’ve been playing together about 5 years.
Slim: I’ve been playing guitar for 15 years, and studied fine art (painting) in college.
Maybell: I went to an art academy in NYC.
Screwy: Did you both meet at NYC art college?
Slimpickin’s & Miss Maybell: No, we met at a residency, landscape painting in the Catskill Mountains in upstate NY.
Screwy: Tell me, about how that came about and led to the act. If you can.
Slim: Maybell and I, are both artists. We lived in NYC together for a while, and then moved to the country to live in a more beautiful landscape, in the White Mountains in the State of New Hampshire. We had been playing together for a while, but as we started to lead a more simple rustic life, we would play music together by the fire in the evenings for our own entertainment. We didn’t care about pleasing anyone, we just were having a lot of fun. Eventually we started to feel that we were doing something good, and began to play out in guitar circles, and open mics locally. Without much solicitation, people just seemed to really like what we were doing, and we’ve gotten a lot of steady gigs in New England, and have been beginning to branch out.
Screwy: Did taking it from beside the fire, to the gig circuit change it in anyway particular?
Miss Maybell & Slimpickin’s: If anything it has upped the ante on the crazy zaniness of our act. Since we’ve been playing out, we’ve added numerous instruments, and also having to entertain for longer periods of time, has spurred the exploration of other styles, and a lot of new unique songs and sounds added to the set list.
Screwy: Unless I missed it, there’s nothing on bandcamp or the like. Can we expect some full releases? Is anything in the works?
Slimpickin’s & Miss Maybell: We’re mostly on Soundcloud and Youtube, but we are working on a home spun album, of originals and traditionals
Screwy: What sort of length are we looking at? Will you go the bandcamp route?
Slim: I write the songs, but Miss Maybell contributes a lot to the final production of the music. We have a penciled list of 10 to 12 songs, a few of which we’ve actually had time to record. I don’t know if we’ll go bandcamp…we’ll probably mostly sell at our gigs. We are undecided on the title.
Screwy: So are people looking at trying to track down some sort of lovingly designed vinyl or tapes at gigs?
Miss Maybell & Slimpickin’s: We’ll probably make a CD.
Screwy: Ah good. :)
Slimpickin’s & Miss Maybell: It will be very ‘do it yourself’
Screwy: Miss Maybell, Could you describe your singing roots, you mentioned Jazzy? Slim: You mentioned a blues background, are there any musicians in particular? And Slim, how about you?
Maybell: My whole life I’ve been singing along to old records of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Lucienne Boyer, Edith Piaf. Slim: I got really into country blues first…Frank Stokes, Mississippi John Hurt’s guitar style….from there I moved into ragtime getting into Blind Willie Mctell, Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Blake, etc., and recently have been exploring more early jazz.
Slim: Listening to Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and trying to arrange more non-guitar based music like that for guitar for our act.
Slim: I’ve also been really into Lonnie Johnson.
Screwy: Does the music threaten to eclipse the art at all?
Miss Maybell & Slimpickin’s: We’ve got a nice balance of art by day, music by night right now. We’re very busy, but having lots of fun.
Screwy: Have the gigs branched out of New England yet?
Miss Maybell & Slimpickin’s: We’ve had offers outside of New England, but haven’t set up a tour yet.
Screwy: As hard as it is to pick, any favourites from the recordings on your respective Soundclouds?
Slimpickin’s & Miss Maybell: We like It’s All Your Fault, Everybody Loves My Baby, Rag Mama Rag, Lonesome Day Blues.
Keeping that in mind, here’s their rendition of Spencer William’s classic “Everybody Loves My Baby (but My Baby Don’t Love Nobody but Me)”.
It was a hard call on what the earliest version of this was, so here’s three. Everybody Loves My Baby — The Georgia Melodians (1924 Edison), Trixie Smith, and Louis Armstrong
In short, they’re lovely musicians doing wonderful things to air and worth keeping an eye on and hopefully they take the show out on to further roads.
To close out, here’s their version of a Bessie Smith standard and another Slimpickin’s original
A cover of the Bessie Smith Do your duty. Mentored by Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith left behind over 160 recordings. Slimpickin’s original.
Originally published at on November 13, 2015. Some songs changed due to dead links.