Hello everyone…or as they like to say in Basel, ‘Sali zaemme’. As the Mariners first entered the amphitheater in Augst, playing a marathon of a medley called Union Jack, we took the opportunity to greet the audience. Just in the middle of the medley, you see, there is a four beat rest where we usually yell ‘one, two, three, four’ in German. On this occasion we were, instead, asked to yell ‘sa-li zae-mee’. It was a nice way to start the show.
The video below starts with the greeting and chaotically progresses until the end of the medley. It is one of the few bits of video I have of both the Americans and the Swiss playing together. Also, I love the bit at the end of the video where all the drummers are tightening their drums. Did they forget to do that before the show started? I don’t know.
To break up the monotony of fife and drum during our Swiss concert we mixed in some Celtic music. We performed three sets of tunes. Here is the middle and slowest set that we played, which is a well known hornpipe called The Rights of Man. Evidently this was a real treat for the Swiss audience since this is not a style of music they typically hear. At one point, although not in this set, we had the entire audience clapping along with us. It was great fun. The other interesting point is that half the guys playing this set were Swiss including Sam the bouzouki player. The first time we ever played this tune with them was two days before the show. That being said, I think it went quite nicely.
This is a set of tunes that my buddy Joe, a great flute player, wants to play in Switzerland. The tunes in the set are all fairly common and can be heard at most sessions. Nonetheless, they all rock. This is definitely a reference track as you will hear some flubbed notes here and there. Recording this gave me an opportunity, however, to figure out how I might like to back Joe.
In any case, I don’t have any real plans for recording a more polished version of this tune. I was just experimenting with the guitar and trying to get it to sound decent with my recording equipment. I just happened to use this tune for the experiment.
O.k., a new high def TV and a vacation have stolen me away from blogging in the last two weeks. I know, I know. Lame. The upside is that I have been productive in the Pigtown Fling Studio (the new name I’m giving to my studio space). I have been working on a march called I’ll Mend Your Pots and Kettles ‘O. I learned this tune from the playing of Jimmy Marshall, an accordion player from Worcester, MA, though originally from Ireland. Jimmy and his brother Eamon, who often plays at John Stone’s, have both been playing the accordion since they were children. They are close in age and Eamon is retired, so I suspect they have been playing for fifty-plus years apiece. They are both great and a wealth of tunes.
I started playing this tune on the guitar about a year ago. I always envisioned a nice harmony part to it. In this recording I experimented with using the penny whistle as a melody and using the flute for second and third voice harmonies. I rewrote the arrangement several times before I was happy. In addition, I recorded it three different times in the last two weeks. I have had a lot of fun with both the arrangement and experimenting with how to get a good recording of my guitar. Where I am at with this version is the guitar track is made up of four tracks. On the first two tracks I played identical part and panned one track all the way left and the other all the way right. I then played a melody track that is an octave up and sits in the middle. Lastly I added some light harmonics on the B part.
I also added a snare drum and a bass drum to the mix in one version. Unfortunately I do not really have any decent drums to play on and, oh yeah, I really suck at drumming. For the snare I used an old Eames Drum that my Grandfather gave to me when I was a child. All the snares were off it and I had to jury-rig them back on just to do the recording. It needs a lot of work. The bass drum is a real quality instrument. I found it at the local dump. It is a Magnum ProSound and is part of a children’s drum set. It has that great ringing quality that shouts out, ‘hey, I’m cheap, I’m plastic, but I’m guaranteed to drive your parents nuts!’. My wife was thrilled with this find.
Together the two sound like I’m beating a bag of wet bananas. Good enough for me. It gave me an idea of what a drum track might sound like. I will have to solicit the help of Captain Dan, Biscuits McGillicudy or some of my other drummer friends if I really want to make the drumming work.
Below is the version without the drums. I would love to hear what people think about adding drums. Should they be included on the track or should I nix ’em?
Every year, on April 19th, the Sudbury Militia and Minute Company and the the Sudbury Ancient Fife and Drum Corps marches from the old Sudbury center to the North Bridge in Concord, MA in honor of the colonist that took up arms on that day in 1775 against the most powerful army in the world. For me, April 19th was on par with Christmas for excitement. I loved the way everyone dressed. I loved the smell of the black powder from the muskets and, most of all, I loved the music. The melodies of the fifes were infectious and it became my instrument of choice. Since I only heard fife and drum few times a year I was, on the eve of the march, as restless as most kids are the day before Santa shows up.
The first tune I can recall as a child is called ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ and has the distinction of being the the first tune played every year to start our walk to Concord. I have recorded my arrangement of this tune with three voices to go along with this post. I will get the written music posted as soon as I can.
Ok, I was inspired after listening to My Love is in America over at the Irish Flute Tunes blog. Here is my version of it on the tenor banjo. I usually go into Rakish Paddy after this tune but it was getting late and my banjo playing is just too rusty to pull off the second tune.
After my last post it occurred to me that in addition to recording Paddy Clancy’s on my own, I recorded it with my old band Amadán back in 1999. The two versions are quite different. This one, being the second tune in the set, is quite lively with a bit of impromptu harmony the second time through by Damon our fiddle player. The set starts with a nice jig called The Scotsman Over the Border.
Here is Amadán, during our Vermont tour, mugging for a shot in the foundation of an old abandoned farmhouse somewhere near Grafton. That is me in the upper left.
The track below, as well as four others, came from a CD that we recorded as a demo album. The cover artwork, as I recall, was actually a close-up picture of a pig’s belly inverted and then colorized. I don’t believe I ever told the band where the image came from.
We were not very well organized and would typically sort out what we were going to record the night before the session. Then, once in the studio, we would inevitably record something that we had not planned. It was lots of fun. Incidentally Amadán is the Gaelic word for ‘fool’, which, given the high cost of studio time and our general lack of preparation, was probably apropos.