NEW YORK TIMES: Williamsburg-Appalachia- Country-Blues Goes Pop
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NEW YORK TIMES: Williamsburg-Appalachia- Country-Blues Goes Pop

NEW YORK TIMES: Williamsburg-Appalachia- Country-Blues Goes Pop

Valerie June, the country-and-blues-ish musician, was exploring the vintage stringed-instrument store and repair shop RetroFret — a sprawling series of rooms accessible to the public only through a secret-feeling rooftop garden, which was itself up a flight of stairs and behind a nondescript silver door on an otherwise abandoned-seeming block in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood. A friend had introduced her to a luthier there for the purposes of repairing a 1920s-era banjo ukulele that she played the previous night at a gig in the East Village.

June, with her dreadlocks piled into an updo, slipped easily into banjo banter with the tattooed RetroFret luthiers. Banjo ukuleles are called banjoleles, she said, “but I call ’em babies.” She laughed about a few imitation “mother of toilet seat” pearloid instruments before admiring a 1924 Martin ukulele, which she cradled lovingly in her arms for a few moments before flipping the tag dangling from its neck. “Wow,” she said. “This is the Cadillac.” It cost $12,000.

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