I was sitting through the credits of a movie I had just watched on Netflix (as is my wont) and I noticed that a washboard player was credited in the score. A little bit of research brought me to David Langlois, formerly of France, now of Brooklyn and playing with a gypsy jazz-inspired group called The Blue Vipers.
He plays his board with thimbles in the style à la française. It’s rigged out with an old fondue pot, a woodblock, the sieve from a food mill, and a little piece of kitchen hardware that looks like a pie tin or dish pan. He has an unusual style that puts me in mind of Theophilus Stokes: he builds very complex rhythmic patterns in which he often manages to hit every piece of equipment on his board. The really unusual part is that he generally seems not to use the crimped metal surface of the board for the usual scraping and riding; instead, he sweeps the bottom of the dish pan with the thimbles like brushes on a snare. It’s a very subtle sound that builds a nice bed of rhythm under the Blue Vipers.
He has a nice little writeup in the November 2013 issue of Modern Drummer. Check it out.
You can find out more about the Blue Vipers here.