Joseph Decosimo is a fixture in the old-time music scene in the central Piedmont. He is known for his intuitive banjo and fiddle playing and wide knowledge of traditional string band music from North Carolina and his native Tennessee.
“Joseph Decosimo’s sound has a haunting quality that lends the old songs he chooses to interpret a certain magic,” wrote Glenn Kimpton in the Folk Radio UK Newsletter.
Joseph has studied the music as an academic but learned much of his repertoire the traditional way, sitting knee to knee with musicians like his friend and mentor Clyde Davenport (1921-2020). “He was a character,” said Joseph from the stage at a 2023 Down Home Concert. “He played 100s of tunes that he learned from his father and from his community that easily date back to the 19th century..”
Joseph has three solo albums out, including “The Aluminum Wonder,” a 2021 online only album named after the banjo he’s had since the 7th grade. He has also released records as a member of the string band The Bucking Mules.
“You can feel the exultation and veneration informing Decosimo’s trained folklorist methods. You can hear joy, anguish, satisfaction, and sorrow—all the same emotions braided into these songs’ old-time roots,” wrote IndyWeek in a review of Joseph’s 2023 album “While You Were Slumbering.” Americana UK said the Sleepy Cat Records release “…displays a deep affection for traditional music while placing it at the heart of a living process.”
A compelling performer and a natural teacher, he’s hosted PineCone workshops and is a regular at camps like Swannanoa Gathering, Mars Hill Old Time Week and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. He also teaches private lessons in both banjo and fiddle.
Joseph holds a Masters in Folklore and a PhD in American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Durham, NC.