In May of 2011, Craig Evans packed up his video equipment and headed out across the United States to capture the thoughts and methods of the modern-day individuals who build one of America's most iconic instruments: the banjo.
Conversations with North American Banjo Builders is a 4-volume, 12-DVD series that includes 38 interviews with open-back banjo builders, historians, and retailers. Each episode in the series devotes 20+ minutes to a single builder, and includes a personal statement, workshop tour, production information, and images of finished banjos. Many include sound tracks of the banjos being played by recognized old-time musicians and/or the builders themselves.
The series covers a wide range of building styles, including gourd, minstrel, traditional, and modern. Although construction techniques and philosophies may vary, the common thread uniting this series is the practice of banjo building as both art and craft. The four volumes, with three DVDs in each, are divided into builders east of the Mississippi (1), west of the Mississippi (2), historians/performers/teachers (3), and even more builders (4).
"I've always wanted to talk to banjo builders, not only to learn what makes a great banjo, but to understand what it is that makes these people so passionate about this instrument. As a 60th birthday present to myself, I decided to give myself permission to do just that. And therein lies my big adventure." - Craig Evans
"Fascinatingly personal." - No Depression
"It's a safe bet that this documentary will be talked about for a long time to come." - Banjo News