Costa never lets his virtuosity obscure the elemental fact of the pre-war old-time idiom: this is party music.
I first heard Costa jamming in Fayette County, WV, at the famous Clifftop festival back in 2012. The experience was revelatory. It was my first visit to the banjo heartland, and I’d been hearing a lot of boutique open-backs played with perfect sensitivity and precision. The sound began to cloy, even while making my jaw slacken in envy.
But then, walking past the Chestnut Lodge, I heard—how to describe it?—a gleaming rattle, the buckle of an old belt. The music smelled like a hardware store or a suntan.
It was like being handed a shot of corn liquor three hours into a wine-tasting.
Although “success” in the old-time music scene is a slippery phenomenon to define, Jimmy Costa deserves it at least as much as Adam Hurt or Bob Carlin.
It’s a shame that Costa doesn’t have an extensive discography. He’s a walking encyclopedia of Appalachian heritage, an insightful folk scholar of Uncle Dave Macon and early country music, a singular musician, an engaging vocalist, and someone who deserves an audience.