Carolina Banjo Review in Bluegrass Today :)


Post navigation

Carolina Banjo – Mary Z Cox

Mary Z Cox’s latest entry, Carolina Banjo, opens with the rousing strains of Foggy Mountain Clawhammer and never lets up in terms of its freewheeling finesse. 

The fact that Cox’s main instrument of choice is banjo, the otherwise alluring Got No Use for a Banjo Manseems to make a statement of sorts, one that easily interpreted as rallying for women in this age of empowerment. It refutes any notion that it has to be confined to any one particular gender. It also reflects the fact that Cox, a two-time Florida and North Carolina banjo champion who first picked up the banjo at age 12, has remained an exceptional artist for the past 20 years.

To her credit however, Cox seems more than willing to share the spotlight, and guest appearances by multi-instrumentalist Tim Gardner, Darren Nicholson on mandolin and guitar, and harmony singer Cindy Neal Carpenter add to both the flourish and frenzy of the album overall. She’s clearly dedicated to the task at hand, and her banjo playing, in combination with her deft dulcimer work, effectively bring this set of mostly traditional tunes to life.

Whether it’s the uptempo takes on Hangman’s ReelCottonand Black Eyed Susie/Forked Over, or the more more subdued sounds of Washington’s March (The Dream), Elk River Blues and Barlow Knife, she captures a spirit and sway that makes each entry as compelling as the next. Although the vocal offerings are few and far between — the aforementioned Got No Use for a Banjo Man, the equally determined Red Rocking Chair, and the readily familiar Same Old Man Living at the Mill, are the only songs that feature singing — the inclusion of notes about every track in the album’s inner sleeve, and the shared chord progressions for those prone to play along, finds enlightenment shared with entertainment. And given that there’s no shortage of enthusiasm in Cox and company’s execution, it makes each of these offerings all the more enticing. 

Ultimately, Cox ought to be credited with having created an album that succeeds on several levels and can’t be confined to any one era. Given her past trajectory, that ought to be expected.  Nevertheless, the fact that she succeeds so astutely makes this Carolina Banjo ring all the more emphatically.

New Banjo Shoes 2019 :)

Home again from the 2019 Florida Folk Festival & it was awesome & thank you to everyone who came out to see my shows in the 100 degree + weather & got copies of my new Carolina Banjo CD & Carolina Banjo Tab Book.  For folks who may be visiting the Stephen Foster State Park this summer--there are copies of the new CD & Book available onsite in the air conditioned Thelma Bolton Gift Shop :)

MOUNTAIN DULCIMER PLAYERS :) The gift shop is again stocked with my mountain dulcimer instructional book & CD "Easy String Band Method For the Mountain Dulcimer"   They were sold out--but they are back on the shelf again for your dulcimer pleasure :)

Florida Folk Festival 2019


Here is when & where I'll be playing--please come out to hear me--lots of fun new songs & tunes :) Please remember that I'm bringing my new cd--Carolina Banjo & hopefully will have the new tab book done too. :)  

Friday May 24

2pm--Jam Tent

Ukulele strum & sing--this is for everyone who has a uke. Not a workshop--we'll be a strumming & singing together--come with your uke & voice tuned & I'll bring some cool uke songs for us to strum and sing.

4:30 pm Tower Stage (Going to bring my baritone banjo--you don't want to miss this one--the Tower has AC :)

Saturday May 25

6:30 Pm--Under the Oaks.  

Sunday May 26

10:30 Am  Old Marble Stage

Carolina Banjo Tab book is here !

Carolina Banjo Tab Book is at the printers and will be back in a few days !  It turned out great--going to have 17 tunes & songs--tunings, notes & playing tips, fun stories & pix and spiral binding.  If you preorder now--it will mail next week ! 

And--every order comes with a bonus digtal download that is not on Carolina Banjo CD called BONUS POSSUM :) (Can you guess what one of the tracks is gonna be :)

If you haven't ordered Carolina Banjo CD yet--now is a good time to order them together for the same postage :)

Both are available on my website :)

Carolina Banjo Valentine :)


Banjo, bluegrass, blues & beyond !

Carolina Banjo is what happens when 2-time Florida & North Carolina banjo champion,
Mary Z Cox & Champion North Carolina fiddler, Tim Gardner, get together in October in the Carolina Mountains and record. And this time, Darren Nicholson dropped by the studio—adding that high lonesome bluegrass patina on mandolin & guitar.  If that weren't enough—MaryZ's new Goldtone baritone banjo debuts with deep slinky tones, and Cindy Carpenter adds her just right vocal harmony to the mix. And this is about as old school bluegrass as it gets in a modern studio—heartbeat instead of click track—tapped feet—eye signals—laughing & singing & hey let's try this!
This recording may be my best yet & its available on my website right now.
If you order in February--I'll also include a free secret code for a digital copy of Carolina Banjo :)  
 And if you forgot to order my last CD--Good Morning Banjo--remember--you can order both for the same postage :)
A special reminder for friends and family--yes--you can wait around until Christmas or birthday & you may get one for free--but I'd really appreciate it if you would go ahead & order one from me.  I have several thousand $s charged on my charge card to record and produce Carolina Banjo & if even 100 people would go ahead and order now--I could break even and have a few dollars to have the upcoming tab book printed.  
Also--banjo cds are a great gift to give loved ones too :)
Happy happy Valentines Day,
Mary Z Cox


Banjo, bluegrass, blues & Beyond at Blue Tavern

Carolina Banjo CD will be here in time for this! Its going to be fun and some really fresh music too--hope you can come--love to see your smiling faces :)

Carolina Banjo & Beyond for 2019

                                        (October 29, 2018  Tim Gardner, Mary Z Cox, Darren Nicholson)

Very excited about the music recorded for the new recording that is coming soon in 2019 !  Got down 17 tracks of banjo, baritone banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, & vocals--all kinds of mixes and matches and think you are going to love the tunes & songs--new & old.   

What a fabulously fun and abundant music week--almost magical with the fine talents of Tim Gardner, Cindy Carpenter & Darren Nicholson mixing it up with my old Gibson banjo & the new baritone banjo :) 

October News !


Heading back to the mountains for October 2018 & going to be recording a new CD for 2019.  2019 is the 20th anniversary of my first Cd--Vintage Banjo & we are picking out some really fine traditional tunes for the new CD.   Also--gonna have a new Banjo tab book AND

 going to be putting together a new mountain dulcimer book too. 


If you have been thinking about inviting me to your town or music club for a concert or workhshop in 2019--please email me and let me know as I'm beginning to book engagements for 2019 now.  It's going to be a fun celebration year .

June in the mountains :) Banjo & dulcimer & Beyond !

Evening of Banjo & Beyond with Mary Z Cox



Please join two time North Carolina & Florida Banjo Champion & recording artist Mary Z Cox for an evening of banjo voices great and small—cello banjo, fretless banjo, mermaid banjo, John Hartford banjo, and debuting in concert for the first time ever—the Missing Link baritone banjo. Wait till you hear the voice of this banjo! It was designed by Wayne Rogers & Bela Fleck and Mary Z had it set up for clawhammer banjo for a unique sound.

Since February is the month of love and birthdays and chocolate cake with fudge icing—there will be songs of love –heartfelt and heartbroken, desperate love & love you can only dream about.

Hear fiddle tunes fast and furious-- Banjo beyond bluegrass & blues-- Celtic reels & haunting mountain music gone coastal.

Mary Z’s 10th and newest cd, Good Morning Banjo, was played this summer on NPR’s Thistle & Shamrock by Fiona, and now its going to be at the Monticello Opera House too. Please join us for this very special evening of fun, laughter, singing and the camaraderie of banjos and beyond.

Tickets: $18-45. Optional preshow dinner package available, catered by Carrie Ann and Company
This is going to be so much fun--please join us--there is an awesome pre-concert dinner and the historic Monticello Opera House is just a wonderful experience.  Here is the link to the opera house where you can go online and get tickets for the concert & the dinner & there is a link to a page of Bed & Breakfast Inns in Monticello --if you're coming from out of town or state and want to spend the night.  This makes a wonderful Valentine's Day getaway :)


Happy New Year 2018 !


2018 is going to be a wonderful banjo year. Please save Saturday February 17th on your calendar for my concert at the Monticello Opera House--details coming soon :)

And I'll be playing at the 2018 Florida Folk Festival on Memorial Day weekend in May--so hope to see you there then !  

My new Missing Link baritone banjo will be debuting @ both of these events--hope to see you there :)

Happy holidays & Joyful New Year :)


WOW! What a rollercoaster ride of a year 2017 has been! Thank you, thank you all my wonderful banjo, dulcimer, guitar, singing friends & family in Florida, NC, Alabama, & Montana for hosting me for workshops & concerts & jams & recordings & all kinds of musical adventures and fun.  This banjo life journey has been so much fun and filled with love & good camaraderie lately--that I'm not really sure I have a solid destination--its just wonderful meeting happy and joyful folks who want to hear and play good music .

And thank you so much to all the folks who supported me this year ordering my new CD & Tab book--GOOD MORNING BANJO :)

Thanks for the good reviews and thanks to NPR's Thistle & Shamrock Radio for playing it this summer and all the other radio stations that have been playing it & Pandora & Spotify too.  And a special thanks to my fiddle friend, Tim Gardner, who recorded it in his studio and stepped forward & really brought my recorded music up to a new listening level.  :)  

If you do not yet have this CD & tab book & would like to order them for yourself or for a holiday gift for a banjo or dulcimer friend--if you order both from me on my website--I will send you a hard copy of "Girl With the Banjo Tattoo"  CD as your free gift for the holidays!

Do not press the order button for Girl With the Banjo Tattoo--I will include it automatically when I see the 2 item order 




Good Morning Banjo is my 10th CD & I really want to record a new CD this next summer of 2018. I have a brand new Goldtone ML-1 baritone banjo & I can't wait for you to hear its unique and wonderful voice. 

But--I live in a small house and I need to find homes for my hard copy cds to make room for the new ones.

I've thought it over carefully & I've decided not to re-print hard copy CDs that have sold out.  All my cds are available digitally & I will continue to offer the print tab books as long as folks order them. 


It can be digitally downloaded on Bandcamp

and CDbaby, Pandora, Spotify, Itunes & many other digital sites. 

The tab book for it may still be ordered from my website

Also--there are very limited copies left of these CDs

Florida Banjo

Walkin' that banjo home

Chickens Crowin' at Midnight

You may order these from my website and buy them at live shows until they are sold out. The tab books to Florida Banjo & Walkin that banjo home are still available on my website. 

And here is my holiday special to you if you were waiting to buy some of my cds or books in the future--the time is now at hand :)

If you purchase any two items (cds or books) from my website in December --I will send you a free gift copy of  "Girl With the Banjo Tattoo. "

Girl With the Banjo Tattoo is one of my very best instrumental cds--it had wonderful reviews from Banjo Newsletter & Sing Out Magazine & several tracks from it were soundtracked in a Canadian movie. ITS GOT CELLO BANJO, FRETLESS BANJO, CIGAR BOX BANJO! 



2018 is coming fast and there is something special coming up right away!  

The Monticello Opera House has just booked me for "An Evening Of Banjo & Beyond" Concert for Saturday February 17th.  All the details will be up on my website soon--but please mark your calendars now if you'd like to come.

Those of you that came out 3 years ago to my last concert there will remember how much fun it was & the Monticello Opera House has some of the finest acoustics in Florida & there is going to be a wonderful sit down dinner & did I mention its my birthday month--so Feb birthday celebration & there will be love songs (good & bad) for Valentines & did I mention THERE WILL BE BANJOS ?

 And me and my banjos will be at Florida Folk Festival 2018 this year :)

& North Carolina Folks--I'll be back in Western North Carolina all of June & July 2018 and already have one workshop & concert planned--if you would like to host me for a small or house concert or banjo or dulcimer workshops in June or July 2018 in NC, North Georgia, East Tennessee, or SW Virginia during these months--please contact me soon and we can make it happen :)

Please feel free to email me back and let me know how you have been and your musical happenings & hope we will be together again in 2018--picking & singing under a big blue sky on a sunny day or a starry night by campfire, or inside all picking and singing together with the joy of it all :)

Florida Folk Festival 2018


It is with great pleasure that I extend to you an invitation to perform at the 66th Annual Florida Folk Festival scheduled for May 25 – 27, 2018 at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. The Festival strives to present Florida’s best folk musicians, artisans, storytellers and other tradition bearers, and your presence will make this year’s gathering a success. Thank you in advance for being part of this event.

Details TBA in 2018--but Florida Friends--I'll be bringing my nice new Missing Link baritone banjo for you to hear & enjoy

Good Morning Banjo 2017 on NPR's Thistle & Shamrock

Good Morning Banjo 2017

This is what happens when 2 time Florida & North Carolina banjo champion,

 Mary Z Cox & Champion North Carolina fiddler ,Tim Gardner, get together in October in the Carolina mountains and record.


 Mary Z. Cox has played banjo since she was 12 and has been a recording artist since 1999. She’s recorded 10 CDs, plays concerts & festivals, gives workshops, and authors banjo books.  Her music’s been played on National Public Radio’s, “Thistle & Shamrock”, “All Songs Considered,” Pandora World Music Genome, & the BBC.  She’s taught claw hammer banjo for over a decade at the John C. Campbell Folk School as well as camps & festivals nationwide, including the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC, Cal Tech, & the Florida Folk Festival.


Mary Z is a third generation Floridian originally from Brevard County where her paternal grandparents were early settlers of the Indian River Colony.  Her maternal granddad, also a professional banjoist, inspired her early interest in the banjo.


Her video interview in Smithsonian Folkways’ “Conversations With Old Time Performers”/ volume II (2015) is the only interview in the series featuring Old Florida music culture and photos as well as many of Mary Z’s unique banjos. 

Her photo and banjo music is also featured in Banjo Babes 2016  & 2017 Calendar/ CD compilation.

Good Morning Banjo is Mary Z’s 10th CD recorded in Tim’s Coyote Ridge studio in Mills River and its full of clawhammer banjo & fiddle & much more.  

"Tim Gardner is an award-winning fiddler, multi-instrumentalist, banjo builder, and recording artist/engineer from the mountains of NC. He grew up in a musical family and is well-versed in a variety of styles including old-time, bluegrass, Celtic, and swing music. Tim is currently fiddling with the bluegrass band Unspoken Tradition and has performed extensively throughout the Southeast at venues such as MerleFest, IBMA Bluegrass Ramble, Suwannee Springfest & Magnoliafest, and many others. His music and craft has been featured on UNC TV, Sirius XM's Bluegrass Junction, WDVX Blue Plate Special, and several other documentaries and radio shows. Tim can be seen performing around western North Carolina with a variety of musical acts."


Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year--what a wonderful year 2016 was & now 2017 is a year that I'm so looking forward to !  First of all--there is going to be a brand new cd soon ! It's my 10th CD & IMHO its the best one I've ever recorded.  Award winning fiddler, Tim Gardner, recorded it  in his studio & I can't wait for you to hear his wonderful fiddling. Also--there's going to be some mountain dulcimer, vocals, guitar, bass & did I mention banjo and cello banjo ? And I will try to get in gear and get busy on some banjo tabs for a book too--lots of banjo on this new cd :) 

Besides playing banjo and mountain dulcimer shows this year--I'll also be playing again in the FSU Irish Music Ensemble in the world music department.  Mostly I'll play celtic guitar with them--but there will be banjo attacks too :)

Also--gonna be some forays into NC & Montana and who knows where else this year ?  I'll send an email around soon to let you know the routes --if you'd like to host a house concert or workshops--let me know and anything is possible and fun :)

Florida Folks and friends--going to be playing the 2017 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs on Memorial Weekend in May--so hope to see you there--probably bringing that big fat cello banjo again :) 

October News !

Lots of banjo & more happening in October !

Concerts In Your Home Site for Mary Z Cox

Banjo solos, duets & drumming on the edge of banjo available !

Lots of Mountain Music Gone Coastal happening in live shows around here & I'll be posting a link to a Concerts In Your Home profile and booking website soon.  Got a really nice solo show this year (folks who saw it last year are hiring me back this year) & there may be the option of having a duet show with two different, but very talented young guitarists & Yazid & I have put together a new and updated Drumming On the Edge Of Banjo show with even more African/Caribbean & drumming. 

And--I'm adding a little mountain dulcimer back into my solo show with the banjos--due to popular request.

If you book me for a house concert --I'm happy to teach clawhammer banjo or mountain dulcimer workshops too :)

Ask me about booking a Mountain Music Gone Coastal show with me & Justin Lindley (hot instrumentals & bluegrass/folkgrass vocals) this Spring (Florida) Summer (North Carolina) or Fall.  Our show would be great for small Folk or Bluegrass Festivals too.  He's a doctoral student in classical guitar at FSU--so only available for some dates--but we do some really good & fun music :)

And ask about booking a duet show with Sugar Hill (me & Kyle Willard)-who is also a FSU music student, great guitarist & vocalist) This spring in North or Central Florida or South Georgia ?

Would like to book Florida festivals & house concerts this Spring :)

Happy New Year 2016

Hope you and you’re loved ones have a happy holiday season of peace, joy, love and of course, wonderful music & a prosperous and fun new year ☺

2015 has been an exciting and fun banjo year for me ☺

• A new CD-my very first vocal-- Blue Sky Banjo & a new tab book to accompany it.

• Video interview in Craig Evan’s Smithsonian Folkways “Conversations With Old Time Performers Volume II” (humbled and honored to be the only native Floridian included in this 4 volume series)

• Pix, bio & music in 2016 Banjo Babes Calendar & CD (don’t be afraid to order this—it is very sweet with lots of pretty girls and banjos—but nobody is naked)

• Played many new venues this year & returning venues as a solo performer for the first time. (Thank you everyone who came out to hear me—its scary to play all by yourself—but looking out there and seeing smiling supportive faces makes it fun)

Thank you –thank you to everyone who has bought my cds, tab books, posters & calendars this year & thanks so much for all your kind words and sharing with me which tunes were your favorites. Your support and encouragement are one of my best rewards for hanging in there and continuing to learn new tunes and get them out there for folks to enjoy ☺

And thank you to all the folks who believed in me and booked me for concerts and gigs at your venues—I love you ☺

The Banjo Babes Calendar & CD came in yesterday and I have a few for sale and there is still time for them to mail before Christmas. They are big & beautiful (full color) and with the attached compilation cd—they make a wonderful holiday gift for your favorite banjo enthusiast (or for yourself to enjoy the whole year.) There is a link on my updated website to order them—but they are a limited edition and I only have a few copies left here at the house—so please order soon if you’d like one ☺

One of my projects this year is to load my cds on Bandcamp for your digital listening pleasure—so far I’ve loaded “Blue Sky Banjo”, “A Secret Life Of Banjo” & “Banjo Dreamin’ Suwannee Nights “ And I’ve loaded a bonus track of “Washington’s March” on fiddle (Tim Gardner) and Banjo (me) if you download Blue Sky Banjo.

Please take a look and listen

And a reminder that “Banjo Dreamin’ Suwannee Nights” is my only holidayish banjo cd & that I only have a few physical cd copies left (LOL—only 10 years in print and nearly sold out—haha)

Here’s a full streaming listen on Bandcamp.

The reason I’m going on Bandcamp is because of the newer streaming companies like Spotify and other like them. The fees you pay only go to the companies and not to the artists—we get about a penny per track on these. I saw on one where over 9,000 folks had downloaded Blue Sky Banjo for free the first week it was out---if they had only sent me a few dollars per download—I would be rich and ready to record a new cd ☺

The digital companies that pay me a good share are: iTunes, cdbaby, Amazon & bandcamp. Thank you for using these companies when you digital download ☺

Wow—this is getting really long—but have to say a few words about my trip around the world in Sept. /October. It was wonderful & my pix are still not organized—but I put up a lot of pix on Facebook as I was traveling (it was the easiest site to upload) & managed to tape a few short banjo videos along the way. I’ve set my Facebook page for public viewing—so you can go on and look at my photos and videos even if you are not listed as a friend. ☺

If you are interested in traveling to Vancouver, Tokyo, Koyosan, Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, Shanghai, Beijing, Mongolia, Siberia, Moscow, Warsaw, Budapest, Brussels, Bruges, or London—you may enjoy the pix and vids. Just email me if you have any questions ☺

Thanks again for all your support and encouragement in my banjo life. I greatly appreciate you each and everyone.

I did update my email list for the first time in a couple years because so many folks change emails often & found that over a hundred folks ordered cds & books directly from me on my website this year & some of you ordered more than once

And what I really loved and made me smile is that I recognized most of your names & that there were quite of few of you that have been supporting my music for over 10 years—and yes—even quite a few who have been ordering my cds since I first began over 16 years ago—thank you—thank you—your continued loyalty means a great deal to me ☺

Best wishes always,

Mary Z Cox

Ps.—Yes Bob & the kids are all still alive, well and kicking—although everyone is super busy—if you go to Facebook and look at my pix of Japan—you’ll see pix of Arcy and Satoko ☺

Conversations with Old Time Performers

 I'm both humbled and honored that Frailin Craig Evans made the trip to Tallahassee to video interview me for this fine series . Here's an impromtu jam we had that day--it was not really a part of the interview--but was too tempting not to play a couple tunes together since this is the only time we have actually met in real time :)

Florida Banjo tunes chosen for Cowboy Film :)

Florida Banjo cd

Yeeesss! Just when I was wondering where I'd get the funds for my next day of recording --a video company contacted me to use 3 tunes from Florida Banjo in a film they are shooting about Florida Cracker Cowboys. The company told me that they bought this cd last May at the Florida Folk Festival & loved the music. I'm so thankful that an older cd will help pay for the recording of the new one. 

Yeeesss! Just when I was wondering where I'd get the funds for my next day of recording --a video company contacted me to use 3 tunes from Florida Banjo in a film they are shooting about Florida Cracker Cowboys. The company told me that they bought this cd last May at the Florida Folk Festival & loved the music. I'm so thankful that an older cd will help pay for the recording of the new one. 

Cold Frosty Morning 2014

This is our first new track in 3 years ! Haunting version of Cold Frosty Morning on banjo, mandolin & guitar. Listen to the full streaming version for free on Bandcamp--and if you have a dollar--please download it for your listening library :) Thanks to everyone who has already downloaded it :)




Finally First Place :)

I've entered the Old Time Banjo contest at the fall festival in Brevard, NC for several years--and although I've won many first places there in mountain dulcimer--the best I've ever done in that particular contest is 2nd place. 

Well, this year--the contest was held on an outdoor stage in 35 degree weather--so I played "Snowdrop" and won first place. The prize this year was a check and a beautiful pottery coffee mug--no banjo prizes--but as always--had the pleasure of seeing and playing music with wonderful old and new friends while there. 

mary z cox first place

More tunes in Canada this year :)

Received a check from the Bank of Canada for several tunes that will be in the soundtrack of a movie on Canadian Immigration. :) Here are the tunes they chose & the cds we recorded them on.

Pretty Polly (Girl with The Banjo Tattoo) 

- Chickens Growin At Midnight (Girl with The Banjo Tattoo)

- Swannanoa Tunnel (A Secret Life of Banjo) 

- Wayfaring Stranger (A Secret Life of Banjo) 

- Star Of The County Down (Girl with The Banjo Tattoo)

- Bonaparte's Retreat (Vintage Banjo)

- Sugar Hill (Vintage Banjo)

- Julia Delaney (Girl with The Banjo Tattoo)


- Andrew Jackson/Go Back Home (A Secret Life of Banjo)

- Sandy River Belles (Vintage Banjo)

I was pleased to see that they wanted a couple tunes from Vintage Banjo & Girl With the Banjo Tattoo as well as A Secret Life Of Banjo. 

A secret Life of Banjo

2013 news !


Lots of fun happening this year !

Still time to sign up at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC for my intermediate/advanced level clawhammer banjo class for the week of April 7, 2013 ! We are going to push to new levels and have a lot of fun doing it!

Extra fun--Jeff Sebens (the hammered dulcimer building instructor) is going to join me for the Tuesday morning morning song.

Have a Thursday night concert at the school--and I'm bringing some cool banjos for you to see and hear :)

We are having a little field trip to Ken & Virginia Miller's guitar studio on Wednesday Evening &  banjo builders, Lo Gordon and Tim Gardner will be visiting Thursday afternoon to show their beautiful banjos, styles, and jamming with us on banjo and fiddle. :)

It's going to be a fun week!


Florida Folk Festival 2013 coming Memorial Day weekend--as soon as we know which stages and times we will be playing--we'll get them up on this web page calendar :)



Mary Z. Cox/ Girl With the Banjo Tattoo

Girl With the Banjo Tattoo ( Mary Z. Cox is one of today's top clawhammer banjo players; this collection will dispel any doubt there may be about that. Fourteen traditional tunes include: Scarborough Fair, Morning Has Broken, Pretty Polly,Star of the County Down, and Chinkapin Hunting. Cox also plays guitar and dulcimer. Fans of clawhammer style banjo won‟t want to miss this one!  (Mitch Finely)

September/October 2011 Inland Northwest Bluegrass Association Newsletter

Banjo Newsletter 2011


Here's what the editor of BNL, Don Nitchie, has to say about "Girl With the Banjo Tattoo" after a first listen.

"Here's an old-time recording for you: "The Girl with the Banjo Tattoo" by Mary Z. Cox, consisting of 14 old-time tunes on eight different banjos in 10 different tunings! Stand-out cuts include Sweet Bama on a custom Chuck Lee paired with dulcimer; Last Chance on a cigar box banjo in fDFCD, and Chickens Crowin' at Midnight on a Bowlin fretless (dADF#A) paired with a banjolin. Just tunes, performed solo or duet, no singing, yet somehow a lot of variety. Good Stuff! "

Happy New Year update :)

  • Bob and Mary Z. Cox at the Florida Folk Festival 2010
  • Hello and a very happy new year to friends and family,
Thank you everyone that welcomed us to your town and home this past year.  We really enjoyed seeing many friends and meeting new ones in White Springs, Cashiers, Charlotte, Brasstown, Unicoi, Manasota Key, Port Allen, Tallahassee, Palm Bay, Murphreesboro, Fort Walton, Brevard,  and in Ecuador and the Galapados Islands.
Thanks you to everyone who bought our cds and books and digital downloads and for all your kind words about them. You make it possible for us to continue to spread banjo music around the world. :)
Here are some of our musical highlights of 2010

  • Drumming On the Edge of Banjo (our new cd) was played on NPR's Thistle and Shamrock twice in 2010, and accepted into Pandora's world music genome.

  • John Bowlin's Groundhog Strut was included on efolkmusic's new compilation cd.

  • Tamlin was included on a Dulcimer Players News cd compilation this year.

  • Had musical genius students at the John C. Campbell clawhammer banjo workshop, and at the Violin Shop in Charlotte, NC.

  • Had awesome dulcimer students at the Suwannee Dulcimer retreat and at the Violin Shop in Charlotte.

  • Magical Carolina House concert in Charlotte and an awesome weekend with Jennifer Stanton.

  • The 58th Florida Folk Festival

  • Dulcimers In History at the Cashiers Library--another magical and unexpectedly packed event.

  • The North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association Fall Festival at Unicoi

  • The Lagnaippe Dulcimer Fete in Port Allen, Lousiana

  • An impromptu house concert on Manasota Key with visiting Hawaiins, Char and Michael.

  • An evening of playing Afro/Caribbean drumming with Celtic clawhammer frailing fushion banjo at the Mockingbird Cafe  with Yazid and Jim Crozier, packed with friends and family.

  • The Cracker Coffee House at the Stephen Foster State Park.

  • Lots of good feedback on "Easy String Band Method for the Mountain Dulcimer"  Thanks for letting me know you like it.
  • Bob gave me a beautiful Timber Hill mountain dulcimer for my birthday built by Paul Conrad.
  • Ken Miller's "Little Star" guitar came to live at my home.

Here are some highlights coming in 2011. I've just updated my web site with a whole new look and have begun to ad some event dates for 201l. Please take a look if you are interested in hearing us live or attending a banjo or dulcimer workshop :)

  • New banjo centric cd coming soon. (it's almost half complete and hope to have it out early in the year.

  • New banjo tab book with tabs from the upcoming cd and tabs for tunes on Drumming On the Edge of Banjo.

  • Mark Sickman is ready with his Grand Canyon DVD--we have been watching the early release and it is wonderful.  There is a lot of old time banjo soundtrack, and some really innovative singing and storytelling too.

  • Heading west in October and wil be giving a concert and worshop in Albuquerque.  If you are on the route to or from there or in or near Arcosanti  in the beginning to middle of October and would be interested in hosting a house concert and/or banjo or mountain dulcimer workshop in your town--please contact me. :)


Dog Days 2010

Hello Friends and family,

Hope it's cooler where you are than in Tallahassee in August. :)

Lots of fun happening with "Drumming On the Edge of Banjo."  NPR's Thistle and Shamrock played a track from it in June and now they've sent me a questionaire for more information.  Oasis just sent out the radio sampler of world music which included a track and we've been hearing from DJs across the country asking for more. :)

I have been working on a banjo tab book to go with it.  We are leaving for Ecuador and the Galapados Islands in a few days and will be back by August 31st--so I will resume work on it then and hopefully will finish in the fall.

We are greatly looking forward to seeing everyone in Charlotte in September.

Thank you to everyone who has bought our new CD or download of it.  We really appreciate your support and also all your kind words about the music. :)

Best wishes always,

Mary Z


Thistle and Shamrock (NPR)

We got a pleasant surprise yesterday.  When I was driving home from the grocery store I heard a track from Mary’s latest CD playing on “Thistle and Shamrock” (a Celtic music program) on our local public radio station.  They have posted the playlist but have not yet posted the podcast.

 It is the June 17 program (number 1412).  Mary’s track is in the middle of the list.

Florida Folk Festival 2010

Bob and I will be at the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs on Memorial Day weekend. Here is where we will be playing:
Friday/May 28th   12:30 PM  Song and Story Tent
Saturday/May 29  7:00 PM Old Marble Stage
Sunday/May 30  12:40 PM Under the Oaks
Bob and I have been working up some nice new sets and hope you will come by and have a listen and say hello.
Notice that the Old Marble Stage is near the food vendors at dinner time and the Under the Oaks time is at lunch near food vendors--so you can actually eat and listen at the same time. :)
Mary Z. Cox & Bob Cox/Kentucky Derby party 2010

Back story/ Drumming On the Edge Of Banjo

Drumming On the Edge Of Banjo/ Back Story This is not another African roots meets modern banjo cd. It began as an American story--a blend of Afro/Caribbean, Celtic, old time, and a fusion of American music from the 17th to the 21st century. It began with "The Old Plantation" painting from the 1700s. Two men are pictured playing a banjo and drum for a dance--and we wondered--where would that music have taken them with today's awesome banjos and drums and the freedom to choose their musicians? We chose Yazid for this project because he is not African--but African American--and his drumming has a heavy Caribbean as well as African flavor. He more accurately reflects the feel of the music in colonial America gone modern--more than current African/American blends. :) Mary Z’s family roots are Scotts, Irish, English, Hungarian and Bohemian. Her Celtic ancestors came to the Americas in the 1600s and 1700s and her middle European ancestors in the 1800s. We believe we have thrown the feel of this early American mix of music into the cook pot, let it simmer, and—voila-- present day acoustic fusion. The things we played J Goldtone 5 string cello banjo, Lame Horse open back banjo, Gibson RB250 banjo, Deering John Hartford banjo,(the black and gold one) John Bowlin 1865 fretless banjo, (made from a tracing of Mary Z’s left hand) Ken Miller custom guitar, Blue Lion mountain dulcimer, Ron Ewing dulcimette, bowed bass, djembes, congas, bell, Revere Ware copper bottom pots and pans,(a wedding gift from Ma Cox) snapping fingers, (Gordy Cox) wind chimes from the front porch, shakers, tambourine, Gordy’s car keys, church bells, George Clinton singing “Old Groundhog.”

Drumming On the Edge Of Banjo

Mary Z. Cox & Yazid with Afro/Caribbean, Celtic clawhammer, frailing fusion "Worldgrass" (with banjos, cello banjo, drums, percussion, pots and pans, guitar, bowed bass, mountain dulcimer, dulcimette, and featuring George Clinton on vocals.) A fusion of a 17th century colonial American drumming and banjo with a 21st century edgy acoustic beat. This is the Afro/Celt sound that fuses old and new :) engineered and produced by Gordy Cox graphic art by Rich DiSilvio AAG1902__DIGIPAK_DRP001.jpg_resized

Line Notes for Florida Banjo Cd

Notes for Florida Banjo (for the inside of the CD panel) Mary Z. Cox 2008 1. Ponce de Leon (gCGCD#) Guitar: Ellen, Banjo: Mary Z., Bass: Jim Ponce de Leon came to the Americas on Columbus's second voyage. He was a wealthy Spaniard, who not only discovered enough gold in Puerto Rico to increase his own wealth, but sent enough treasure home to make the king of Spain a rich man too. As a reward he was appointed governor of Puerto Rico and allowed to lead expeditions north in search of additional treasure. Everyone knows of the quest for gold and the mysterious waters of eternal youth. Instead, the Prince of Lions found a land of flowers. Somehow, the Gabriella seemed the right banjo for this tale of a quest for golden treasure. Played on a Deering Gabriella banjo. © Mary Z. Cox 2006 2. Spanish Fandango (aDADE) Mandolin: Ellen, Bowed Bass: Jim, Banjo: Mary Z. We learned this traditional tune from dulcimer players in the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association in jams. Mary began playing it successfully in dulcimer contests and we liked it so well, we recorded it on our “Dulcimer Fandango” CD. This time, we recorded it on banjo, mandolin, and bowed bass and hope you will enjoy this version too. Played on a Custom Deering GDL banjo 3. Cluck Old Hen (gDGCD) Cigar box banjo: Mary Z. We’ve played this traditional fiddle tune for years. It just seemed the right tune to play on my fretless Joe Masel cigar box banjo that is strung with electric guitar strings. I played it in G sawmill instead of the more traditional A modal because it sounded better on the cigar box. “My old hen, is a good old hen, she lays eggs for the railroad men.” Can’t you just imagine those railroad men smoking cigars and turning those boxes into banjos and egg baskets? 4. Ragtime Annie (aDADE) guitar: Bob, banjo: Mary Z. This old time fiddle tune is a popular jam and dance tune. The earliest documented recording was in 1922, by Texas fiddler Eck Robertson, playing three parts. It is more often played with two parts for dancing. It seems that whenever we hear a third part played by fiddlers—it is seldom the same, and we suspect it got tagged on by different fiddlers as the tune was passed along. Here, we added our own third part because we don’t think fiddlers should have all the fun, and that banjoists should be able to add third parts too. Played on a Cedar Mountain A2 banjo. 5. Yearlings In the Canebreak ( c#AEAB) Fiddle: Kerry, Banjo: Mary Z., Bass: Jim Kerry Blech taught me this tune and sent these notes for it. This tune came from a 1925 commercial recording (on the Victor label) by Captain Moses J. Bonner (born in Alabama in 1848,though later lived in Arkansas, but most of his life in Texas -- He had been in the Civil War and the Texas Rangers. I think his rank was from the latter). This tune is the antecedant to "Cattle in the Cane," which has been popular amongst bluegrass and Texas-style contest fiddlers. Played on a 12” Ramsey Woody banjo. 6. Shenandoah Falls (c#AEAB ) banjo: & mountain dulcimer: Mary Z., bass: Jim We learned this old time breakdown jamming at festivals and playing at dances. I recorded a track in low A on a gut strung banjo. Then Marshall Goers showed me how to tune the mountain dulcimer in E AA to play the tune in A . I played two tracks of dulcimer (melody and a freelance harmony) to go with the banjo as a duet. Played on a Goldtone EC-1 banjo and a Kurt Simmerman mountain dulcimer. 7. Frankie’s Blues (dADF#A ) banjo: Mary Z. This tune began as the traditional “Frankie and Johnnie”, but after tuning the fretless, gut strung, Hunchback Wunder Banjo in low D for this tune, it took on a bluesy feel. 8.Yellow Rose of Texas (aDADE ) Banjo: Mary Z. This is the old time string band fiddle tune version—not the one from the movie. This is such a pretty tune that I slowed it down and added three banjo tracks so you could hear how pretty banjos sound played together. Played on a Custom Deering GDL banjo. 9. Chinquipin ( gDGBD) fiddle: Kerry, banjo: Mary Z., Bass: Jim Kerry Blech taught me this tune and sent the notes. “This Chinquipin is from the playing of Roscoe Parish of Coal Creek, Virginia, near Galax. Tommy Jarrell played the tune, nearly the same way, but called it "Sail Away Ladies" and sang to it.” Played on a Custom Deering GDL banjo 10. Waterbound (c#AEAB ) banjo: Mary Z. This traditional tune is played in low A on a gut strung banjo and recorded on two tracks. It is a traditional fiddle tune that we learned jamming at festivals. Although it isn’t a Florida tune, it always seemed to me that the words could be rewritten a bit and it would be an excellent state song. Played on a Goldtone EC-1 banjo. 11. Wind That Shakes the Barley (aDADE) banjo: Mary Z., bass: Jim This is a Celtic tune that may be Scotts or Irish. I don’t remember where I first learned this tune, but I began playing it one day on the banjo and loved the melody. Then I asked Jim about playing bowed bass with it, and here it is—a banjo/bass duet. Played on a Custom Deering GDL banjo. 12. Peach Bottom Creek (f#DF#AD ) Banjos: Lo & Mary Z. Lo taught me this tune and tuned both banjos in this tuning for this recording. I play the melody and Lo plays the harmony on our Cedar Mountain banjos. Jim just seemed to know the right bass to play with this. 13. Hail Agin' The Barn Door (c#AEAB) Fiddle: Kerry, Banjo: Mary Z., Bass: Jim Kerry taught me this tune and here is what he says about it. “ Hail Agin' the Barn Door comes from the playing of Lum (short for Columbus) Hawkenberry, from a 1947 field recording of him that is in the West Virginia University State and Regional archives. I forget where in WV he lived.” Played on a 12” Ramsey Woody banjo 14. Turkey In the Straw (gCGCE) banjo: Mary Z., bass: Jim I learned the basics of this tune many years ago from a tab in the John Burke book. Of course, my version is quite a bit different after all this time. By the way, I loaned my copy of that book to someone over 35 years ago and never got it back. I can’t even remember who I lent it to—so I hope they enjoyed it and learned to play lots of tunes from it! Played on a 12” custom Chuck Lee banjo. 15. Loch Laven Castle (aDACE) mandolin: Ellen, banjo Mary Z., bass: Jim This is an old Scott’s reel that Ellen taught us. She plays the lead and I offer backup on the banjo in this version. This tune goes by many other Celtic names, but this one is named after a castle in Scotland from which Mary, Queen of Scots, escaped. Played on a Custom Deering GDL banjo

Tied To the Tracks interview There are five tracks to this interview that features the tunes: Winders Slide, John Stinson's #2, Western Cowboy, Rockin' In a Weary Land, Ponce de Leon & Liza Jane and you get to see and hear four different banjos and a Kurt Simmerman mountain dulcimer.

BanjoQuest is here! Field videos of banjoists, banjos, tunes, and banjos in locations you may or may not have seen or heard before. :)

Old Blue Bus review of Florida Banjo

Drumming on the Edge of Banjo

Drumming On the Edge of Banjo Two time Florida Banjo Champion, Mary Z. Cox, and African Caribbean drummer, Yazid, blend early Florida roots music in highly percussive rhythms for dancing and listening. Yazid (William Johnson), a former professor of ethnomusicology at Florida State University, and drummer for Marvin Gaye, is a professional drummer and percussion instructor that plays regularly with several performance and dance groups all over Florida. Mary Z. Cox, banjo recording artist, plays banjo with her guitarist husband, Bob Cox, in concerts and workshops from coast to coast, and has also played for old time dances in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina for many dance groups. Mary Z. & Yazid are very pleased to introduce this new sound that draws from the not so diverse African/Caribbean and Southern banjo cultures. The banjo, is, after all, a drum with strings. Yazid and Mary Z. are currently recording a “Drumming On the Edge of Banjo” CD which will hopefully be available in 2009.  (Acoustic World Music and Americana Music for listening or dancing) For concert or dance bookings contact:

Dulcimer Fandango gone!

Dulcimer Fandango is now OUT OF PRINT! There may be a few copies left at CDbaby, County Sales, the Stephen Foster State Park Gift store (White Springs, Fl) and at Celestial Mountain Music (Brevard, NC), and at the John C. Campbell FolkSchool gift store (Brasstown, NC) If you had been meaning to get one, but never got around to it or wanted to give one as a gift because it was a favorite of yours--please check with these stores to get one of the last copies.

Banjo Pix 2008

About new banjos!

If you suspect you need a new banjo--you do. Trust your musical instincts. If a banjo calls to you to buy it, don't fight destiny. It was meant to be. :) Mary Z. Cox

Review of Ne Plus Ultra

Review Recording King ne plus ultra 036 Where Purchased Recording King Year Purchased 2008 Sound Ne Plus ultra has a white laydie style tone ring and it has a warm,yet bright tone. It is one of the nicest tones on a maple rim with a white laydie tone ring I've heard. The tone is close to that of a vintage banjo. It fits my style of clawhammer quite well. Sound Rating 10 Setup Setup included my name engraved on the truss rod cover and railroad spikes installed for the fifth string. It came slightly damaged in shipping--the tailpiece screw was bent and the tailpiece was out of place. I took it to a local luthier for the repair and set up--and it sounded awesome. Setup Rating 9 Appearance The inlay is awesome--Greg Rich designed it and it looks like a cross between tree of life and flowerpot except it is all in motion. An exquisite piece of art. I also love the appearance of the blonde maple with the ebony stripe and cap. I fell in love with this banjo the first time I saw a photo of it. Appearance Rating 10 Reliability It appears sturdy and the gears keep it nicely in tune. I've already taken it out to a couple performances and in the field and it holds up very well. Reliability Rating 10 Customer Service I love Recording King and Ali and Greg. They have been very generous with me and I've only had positive dealings with them. They offered to fix the part that was damaged in shipping, but it was easier and quicker for me to have it done here. Customer Service 10 Components I think this banjo is worth about double of what you would pay for a new one. It is a nice all around clawhammer banjo that looks as nice onstage as it does in the campground. The gears work nicely and everything about it sounds good. I may in the future, change the bridge to a moon bridge (because I like them) and the head to a real skin head--but the sound is so nice as is that I'm hesitant to change anything at the moment. The neck fits my hand well, not too thin or thick and it fingers easily and in tune all the way up the neck. Components Rating 10 Overall Comments This is about the nicest banjo I've seen in this price range. You can buy this banjo from Elderly Instruments for just under a grand and it is one of the best deals around. It sounds and plays much like a Wildwood Troubador that I owned years ago--except the Ne Plus ultra has a prettier tone, and it is actually prettier with the fancy inlay and the contrasting maple and ebony woods. Please don't steal this banjo--it has my name on it--and I love it. Overall Rating 10

Review of John Bowlin 1865 Fretless

Review for John Bowlin 1865 Fretless Where Purchased John Bowlin Year Purchased 2008 Price Paid 795.00 ($US) Sound Big booming sound with gut strings, skin head--very robust and fun to play. Sound Rating 10 Setup Sounded wonderful right out of the box. John marked where to put the bridge very well --easy set up. Setup Rating 10 Appearance Lovely with elegant dark wood, dark fingerboard, hardware is antiqued. Looks like a vintage 19th century banjo, but with new parts and construction that make it so easy to play. I particularly love it that the fingerboard is glossy. Appearance Rating 10 Reliability Everything quality. In fact, I plan to take it in June on a tour from Tallahassee to Pasadena to Albuquerque to Brasstown, then back to Tally again. This is the first minstrel type of banjo that I have felt comfortable with on the road in changing climates. I took it festival camping last weekend and it played quite well around the campfire at night. In fact, the folks camped next door who we didn't know, came over the next morning and said "What was that big banjo you were playing last night? My husband and I think that is the most beautiful banjo we have ever heard. " Reliability Rating 10 Customer Service I love John Bowlin. He is such a gentlemen and I enjoyed every communication with him. :) I hope there will be John Bowlin Society gatherings in the future--I would love to meet him and his lovely wife in the future. (She is a wonderful quilter) Customer Service 10 Components I love the little period tuning wrench he slipped into the case. I'm really tempted to wear it as a necklace. :) Also, the bridge is heavy duty and carved like a heart. The whole banjo is very elegant with a romantic, yet boisterous personality. Components Rating 10 Overall Comments Sure--this banjo was a wonderful value. I'd cry if someone stole it. Please don't steal it because it would not fit your hand or play nicely at all for you. It was made especially for me and would not sound as good for anyone else. Also, my sons would hunt you down and take it away from you and they may even use violence--so it's best to not even think about taking my banjo. Overall Rating 10

RSS feed

Stay connected
Please sign up for my email list
Only once in a blue moon notices (I won't spam you!)