Bob Carlin manages to blend his urban roots with his love of the banjo and the music of southern Appalachia. "I play fretless and fretted banjo and sing the music basically of the mountains -- though it's not odd to find me throwing in a Rolling Stones tune," says Carlin, who performs tomorrow at 8 p.m. at the Takoma Cafe.
Born in New York City, raised in several New Jersey suburbs and currently living in Philadelphia, Carlin started playing the banjo at 16. "My father, who is a very amateur musician, saw that a local guy was teaching the banjo. He said, 'If you take it, I'll take it.' He dropped out after three weeks and I continued," Carlin says.
He has never lived in Appalachia, but he has spent a great deal of time there, studying with local musicians and doing research. In addition to performing in clubs and music festivals around the country, Carlin has made several records and has produced "Our Musical Heritage," a series of radio programs that draw upon musical material of the Library of Congress archives to explore different kinds of folk music and instruments. The series is currently being broadcast on WETA-FM.
"My first goal is that people come away from my performance entertained," says Carlin. "But very quickly following that, I would like them to feel a love for this kind of music and to appreciate it as much as I do."