Tag Archives: bouzouki

Banks of the Bann…again


 
Looking over the posts from the past year, it seems as if I’ve been fairly inactive. From a blogging perspective, that is definitely true. On the musical end, however, it has been quite an active year. So, I’m gonna try to get back into the blogging swing of things.

One activity that has taken place in the last few months is the organizational beginnings of a studio recording with Mustachio and Liz. As real proof, I’ve included a recording we did in my dinning room a couple months back. This is a tune that I posted a while ago on fife. This time we are trying it on guitar, bouzouki and fiddle.

You’ll quickly notice the loose nature of the recording. We recorded our whole practice and this was the first time we ever played it together. In fact, I don’t think Liz had ever heard it. So, lots of experimentation more than anything else. Sometimes these are my favorite tracks.
10 – Banks of the Bann by baconworks

Liz Alexander

fiddle
 
Saturday night we had a great party at the Bacon house. Lots of friends, both the musical variety as well as the neighbor variety, stopped by for some food, drink and music. I set up a few mics and hoped for the best. Sometimes the best actually happens. We played lots of great stuff all evening for a lively crowd. But the best, as is often the case, happened after most of our fiends left. That’s when musicians are most relaxed, most oiled, and most able to hear and focus on what each other is doing. They are no longer playing for an audience but, instead, each other. That’s when magic starts happening.

So, here we are, past midnight, sitting in my kitchen, I convince Liz, who is ‘draggin’ and opening her fiddle case, to play just one more. Slowly, tunes we had never heard start coming from her fiddle, and we latch on for a four minute ride of some of the most beautiful fiddle playing you’re ever likely to hear.

Liz Alexander, remember her name. This is the first time she has been caught on tape. It most certainly won’t be the last.

 
Liz Set by baconworks

Amazing Grace

sunset
 
Things have been quiet on baconworks for some time. I feel moderately guilty about that. Especially since there has been a lot of good music in the past year.

For example, in April I spent two evenings with my good friends Mustachio and the White Rabbit recording in a chapel at Framingham State College. They were casual evenings that resulted in a set of recordings that I very much enjoy. One track that I was immediately enamored with was the Rabbit’s version of Amazing Grace.

The night this was recorded I came home and played the track for my wife through a set of headphones. She fell asleep listening to it before the track was finished playing. I then took the headphones off her sleeping head, and put them on mine, hit play… was hypnotized by droniness of the concertina, and fell asleep.

The next evening, being inspired by the recording, I sang Amazing Grace to my boys as I was tucking them into bed. They both fell asleep before I was done singing. I can assure you, this never happens and is a small miracle of sorts. Usually I can’t get them to quit the yackin’.

In the morning I was telling my Wife and children that I thought it was funny, not to mention a bit odd, that all four of us fell asleep to Amazing Grace. My animated son quickly replied, ‘Dad, That’s why it’s amazing’.

So, what does it all mean? I have no idea. But sometimes events happen that just mystify you a bit, you’re not sure why and you can’t let them go.

He was right, it is amazing. This popular song was originally published over two hundred thirty years ago and still has the power to move us. Quite amazing.

Amazing Grace by baconworks

Pretty Fair Maid on SoundCloud

soundcloud
 
Baconworks has been kind of a wreck for a few weeks and, consequently, all the music on this site is in a state of disarray (missing). So, going forward, the music you see on baconworks.com will be hosted at soundcloud.com. You can find my music there as well as here. One cool thing about soundcloud is that you can comment on the music within the music, which is a neat way to pinpoint what you like or don’t like.
soundcloud_comment
 
Soundcloud also makes it easy to share music that you find and like with others, so don’t be afraid to try out this feature!
soundcloud_share
 
It will take a bit of time to get everything moved over to soundcloud so please be patient. But, to get things started, I’ve uploaded a recording of Mustachio and I from early summer. We were just finishing up a recording session with our friend, the White Rabbit, and decided to try this song just for fun.

When I first learned this song I was hesitant to play it because I thought the guitar part sounded cheap. I told Mustachio how I felt and he replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll make it sound more expensive”. He was right.

Here it is – straight from soundcloud – give it a try:
Pretty Fair Maid by baconworks

Banish Misfortune

chapel
 
With my new Neumann’s in hand, I headed on down the road to the Heineman Ecumenical and Cultural Center, otherwise known as the stone chapel at Framingham State College, for a casual evening of tunes and recording. It has been sort of a personal goal to record with as many of the Stone’s session players as possible. To date I have recorded with Sally the hammered dulcimer goddess, Eamon the accordion acrobat, and of course, my good friend Mustachio the bouzouki bad ass. To the list I wanted to add Mark, sometimes known the White Rabbit, though I don’t really know where that name came from…and am somewhat afraid to ask…but I digress. Anyhow, Mark has both an incredible voice and nice touch on the button accordion. In addition, Mark has the keys to the stone chapel, which we thought would lend itself nicely to some recording. In addition to Mark and I, we also convinced Mustachio to come along.

After a tasty dinner at a local Indian restaurant – musicians don’t play well on empty stomachs – we headed over to the chapel to set up the mics.

 
chapel
 
Like most chapels, there was lots of natural reverb, which sounds great when playing but adds additional challenges when recording. From a recording engineering perspective it is nice to have well isolated tracks that can be individual tweaked after the recording. Playing live in a reverberant room introduces a bleed of the other instruments onto each mic as well as potentially slathering the tracks in reverb.

We had no real plan and just played tunes that we thought would be fun to try. Sometimes we played them twice, sometimes we didn’t. We played all the instruments at once and there were no overdubs.

After spending a few days listening to the tracks, we decided to do an additional session. Out of this second session came the track included with this post called Banish Misfortune / Sliabh Russell.

In some cases I had two recorded versions to work with and it was possible to take the best bits from both versions and merge them together. That is the case with Banish Misfortune. The first eight measures are from our first take, while the remainder of the track was from our second take. I mixed the two because Mustachio and I were subtly more in sync on the pickup measures in the first take.

Lastly, for recording geeks only, here is an interesting mixing technique the I tried with the concertina:
1. I made two identical copies of the original concertina track.
2. I shifted the first copy 17 milliseconds to the right, thereby creating a delaying of 17 milliseconds.
3. I shifted the second copy 19 milliseconds to the right, creating a delay of 19 milliseconds.
4. I panned copy one hard left and panned copy two hard right.
5. I then brought the volume of both copies to zero.
6. I then slowly brought up the levels of both copies until the delays were barely noticeable.

This gave the concertina a slightly fuller feel and makes it sound like it is in a nice room. With enough mics and good mic placement I should have been able to get a similar effect naturally from the chapel. But I did not have extra mics to work with.

Anyhow, it was lots of fun and I think we did a nice job of capturing three friends just playing music together. Also, I’m looking forward to posting lots of other tracks from The Chapel Sessions including a killer version of Amazing Grace sung by the White Rabbit.
Banish Misfortune / Sliabh Russell by baconworks

Christmas Wish

I was looking through some old files and found this recording from a session that Unstachio and I did a few months back. It was the same session that South Wind/Out on the Ocean came from.

The tune was written by George and is called the Christmas Wish.
 
Christmas Wish
 
I recall, at the time, that we both thought we could do better and decided to move on. Again, with the rosey glasses of time, I listen to this now and feel pretty good about it. The one real problem with the recording is that there is an unfortunate hum/buzz. I’m not sure how that happened and I did my best to reduce its impact on the overall quality.

It wouldn’t surprise me if George and I come back to this one again at some point, but for now here ya go.
 
Christmas Wish by baconworks

The Blacksmith

I heard The Blacksmith on the Celtic Sojourn the other morning. Man, what a cool song. It is an old classic by a band called Planxty. After hearing it on the radio I realized I did not own the Planxty album this was first heard on. Had to fix that problem right away.
 
Planxty
 
Here is a great video, probably from ’72 or ’73 of Planxty playing The Blacksmith. Though our modern ears have grown accustomed to the sounds that Planxty created, it is worth noting that nobody had really heard bouzouki in Celtic music until Andy and Donal came along. And those strange Eastern European melodies…forget about it.

Planxty:
Dónal Lunny on bouzouki
Andy Irvine on mandolin
Liam O’Flynn the uilleann pipes
Christy Moore on harmonium and bodhrán

In almost forty years no one has done it better. Check out the Balkan inspired weirdness at 3:24. Mighty.
 

Growing a Tune: The Sudbury Session

Guitar
 
This is really a cross-over post. The recording came out of the Sudbury Session and is probably the last I will post from that session. However, the tune, The Marlin Spike, is the one that we have been running a collaborative recording experiment upon. As nice as it is to spend time laying tracks on a new tune, they also have to get road tested. The only way to do that is to try them out at a session. That is where you get your feedback and it is where you really learn what works and doesn’t work on a tune.

In this recording I think you can hear the tentativeness of playing together the first couple of times through the tune. But the third time through it starts to get some bite and someone yelps as if to say ‘Go-on!’. Then after the tune, a bit of good-natured session ribbing. But, the part that makes you want to keep writing is when someone asks if ‘that is one of your own compositions’.