July 16, 2010

John Jacob Niles

"A Mephistophelean character out of North Carolina, he hammered away at some harplike instrument and sang in a bone chilling soprano voice. Niles was eerie and illogical, terrifically intense and gave you goosebumps. Definitely a switched-on character, almost like a sorcerer. Niles was otherworldly and his voice raged with strange incantations." Bob Dylan

"Over coffee and liqueurs we would sometimes listen to John Jacob Niles' recordings. Our favorite was 'I Wonder As I Wander,' sung in a clear, high-pitched voice with a quaver and a modality all his own. The metallic clang of his dulcimer never failed to produce ecstasy. He had a voice which summoned memories of Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere. There was something of the Druid in him. Like a psalmist, he intoned his verses in an ethereal chant which the angels carried aloft to the Glory seat. When he sang of Jesus, Mary and Joseph they became living presences. A sweep of the hand and the dulcimer gave forth magical sounds which caused the stars to gleam more brightly, which peopled the hills and meadows with silvery figures and made the brooks to babble like infants. We would sit there long after his voice had faded out, talking of Kentucky where he was born, talking of the Blue Ridge mountains and the folk from Arkansas..."
Henry Miller

My Precarious Life In The Public Domain (aka Folk Balladeer) 1948

Photographs from 1943

more here


  1. http://holywarbles.blogspot.com/2010/04/blog-post.html


  2. didnt see it mate.

    i think yours may be a better quality version than this recording?

    : |

  3. no they're both the cd versions.

    heres some more pics: http://oregondigital.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/Ulmann2&CISOPTR=1079&CISOBOX=1&REC=1

    great blog too by the way!

  4. no worries stiles, twas only my 2nd post on the warbler & doesn't readily pop up on any search engine. indeed my upload is the way better sounding remaster of the amazing lp. thx for the support, we dig yr blog too

  5. Thanks for the hyper-shout out. Love this blog - and you've been a roll as of late!