Photo: Zosha Warpeha

Tui Brings Black String Band Music to the Forefront with “Old Aunt Jessie Get Up in the Cool” (premiere)

Reviving the work of Teodar "Teolee" Jackson, Tui's Jake Blount and Libby Weitnauer bring an old folk song back to light.

Tui is an old-time touring duo comprised of Jake Blount and Libby Weitnauer. Consisting of a couple of accomplished musicians in their own right, Blount and Weitnauer find a portion of their origins in studying the art of their inspirations—names such as Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Hubby Jenkins. Their new album, Pretty Little Mister, reaches further into unearthing the oft-forgot and long-standing history of African-American folk artists, ranging through fiddlers like Frazier & Patterson, Cuje Bertram, and Austin’s own Teodar “Teolee” Jackson.

Ahead of the LP’s 28 June release, “Old Aunt Jessie Get Up in the Cool” is Tui’s interpretation of Jackson’s arrangement. Like each track that Pretty Little Mister houses, Tui’s rendition of the song is done with great respect paid to its original artist. Stripped back to fiddle, banjo, and vocals, when performed, their arrangement is a lens that offers an authentic view of Jackson’s intent. Without whittling down on the whirlwind rhythm of Weitnauer’s fiddling along the way, she and Blount—an award-winning scholar and performer of Black string band music—do wonders in both making an old folk song fresh and bringing it back to light.

Tui tells PopMatters, “Teodar Jackson was a Black fiddler from Texas whose expertise spanned several genres. Cajun, blues, and old-time sounds all emerge in his playing. His improvisational, versatile musicianship served as an inspiration to us during the recording process. We worked to explore different speeds, moods and sound textures on each track (and sometimes within a single track) just as he did. Jackson’s music has never been publicly released, and we’re excited to be the first musicians to record this tune since Jackson did in the late 1960s.”