Tag Archives: Dmaj

Skip Healy Concert Review

Skip Healy
 
Over a few pints in the local establishment Skip, Mark and I watched as the Red Sox failed to deliver the go ahead run in a critical playoff game. As frustrating as that was, the evening of Celtic music that preceded it gave me plenty of positive energy to make the late night drive back from Connecticut where the three of us played together for a very appreciative crowd.

This was our second time playing together and it felt like a reasonable improvement over the last time. Instead of amplifying our show we opted to rely on the natural acoustics of the hall for the Company of Fifers and Drummers, which is in Ivoryton. Skip Healy, a true entertainer, played not only a beautiful variety of traditional and original jigs, reels, marches, aires and hornpipes, but also mixed in his own unique form of humorous storytelling, sprinkled with insightful commentary on the music he plays.

As we were reflecting on our performance over that aforementioned pint, Skip shared with me his thoughts on performing by reminding me of a quote by John Ringling: “The public would rather be entertained than enlightened.” Well I certainly felt, as I was playing next to Skip, that he gives you a bunch of both.

Here is one set from our show. This is a brand new set of tunes that Skip authored. The first tune is called the Gotha Swale and the second is The Taxes are Late and the King is Still Dead. You’ll just have to go to his next show to hear the story behind those names. It will be worth your while.

Breakfast at Rudy’s

Rudys
Here is a set of tunes that the Mariners are expecting to play in Switzerland this summer. I put together this recording as a reference track for them.

The title comes from our St. Patrick’s Day tradition of cooking breakfast in the parking lot outside of Rudy’s in New Haven before the parade. Good times.

I learned both of the tunes off a Kevin Crawford album called In Good Company.
 
In Good Company

He actually plays them in different sets on the album. The first is called The First Pint. I believe the second is called Mouse in the Mug.

I don’t own a bodhran so the percussion in the second tune is me tapping the back of my guitar.

I’ll Mend Your Pots and Kettles ‘O

snare
 
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.

prosound
 
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?

Amadán – Scotsman / Paddy Clancy’s

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.
 

Amadan Photo
 

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.
 

Amadan cover

 
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.
 

Castaway – Paddy Clancy’s

Here is another track from Castaway called Paddy Clancy’s. I first heard this tune on The Bothy Band – 1975 album.

1975
 
If you don’t already own this album, you should. It is a classic and permanently changed Celtic music. My recording of this tune, which is much slower than how the Bothy’s played it, ends rather abruptly because I had planned on overdubbing another tune after it. Oh well, it is what it is.

Castaway

Like many artists I tend to be protective of my work until it is complete. Picasso toiled for seasons and changed painting styles several times before unveiling the most grotesque masterpiece the world had seen in El Bordel, later renamed to Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

avignon

Like Picasso, I’m aware that critics are part of the creative game and I generally have no interest in attracting them until the work is complete lest a novel idea be diluted with the thoughts of others. The question, then, is this; when is a piece of work complete? Some critics argued that Picasso’s mockery of modern art was, indeed, incomplete, which implies that maybe completeness is all about personal perception. How can a critic say that Picasso’s painting was incomplete when Picasso himself had packed up the paint and cleaned the brushes? It seems fair to say that, overall, Picasso’s work was not complete but he would not continue that work on the canvas of El Bordel.

Mozart’s Requiem, on the other hand, marked the end of the line for the great composer. His death made sure that there was to be no more work. And yet the world wonders, was it complete? It is common knowledge that Mozart’s friend and pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr ‘filled in the holes’ for his dying friend. Had Mozart lived longer would we have a different masterpiece? Completion was a result of his death and not a desire of the composer to move on to new work.

While all this talk about ‘completeness’ is interesting to ponder, the fact remains that the world is a better place with great works like Requiem and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Their level of completeness doesn’t change what they are or the enjoyment they give us.

With my own work, in which I am certainly not intending to draw any parallels to the aforementioned geniuses, there are pieces in various states of completeness. In particular and as I mentioned in a previous post, I recorded a number of tracks over the course of a few months in early 2000 at a little place called Melville Park Studio. I have kept them hidden away from any real critics because they were incomplete. I have not changed a flawed note on these roughly-mixed recordings since 2000 so it is with great trepidation that I have decided to cast them away and move on. In my mind they are unfinished because they ultimately don’t sound as I intended them. For example, this track has some tuning issues that were to be reworked and I had hoped to add percussion. But they represent a time in my own musical development that I have hopefully passed and I think it would be a disservice to my own work to go back and change anything with the ideas I have today. Therefore, they are complete. Besides, what good will they serve if nobody ever has a chance to enjoy or criticize them?

So, here is the third track, not that they are in any particular order, to Castaway. The track is made up of two traditional tunes. The first is called Devany’s Goat and the second is called The Morning Star.

In keeping with the theme of incompleteness, I whipped up some cover art for this internet album.

castaway

I don’t really think the image has much to do with Castaway except for the fact that it was a picture that was taken of me a couple years prior to these recordings. The photographer’s name was Jessica Strauss.

In addition, some have asked if it is possible to buy this recording. It is not. It has never been printed and I don’t really expect it ever will be.

Calliope House / Stone’s Mongrel

Home recording has never been easier. Recently I have been experimenting with some equipment and have found the audio quality to be quite stunning. The experiments have looked something like this:

recording

I record in my basement in between the furnace going on and off, which is a real pain since it has been so cold lately. Nothing like a perfectly good track ruined by the boiler firing up.

The track at the bottom of this post is made up of two tunes. The first is called Calliope House and is a tune that was written by Dave Richardson of ‘The Boys of the Lough’.

The second tune is one I wrote in January of 2007. I have been attending a session at a pub called John Stone’s Public House. After hearing lots of A minor jigs this tune fell out of my head on the way home from the session. I am quite sure it has to be a mix of all the tunes I had been listening to. The thing I like about the tune is that the A strain has ten measures … two more than is typical.

Stone’s Mongrel

For those interested in the recording details, I used the following equipment:
AKG C1000S microphone ~$200
into a
Pesonus TUBEPre preamp ~$100
into an
Echo Indigo IO ~$150
into the pcmcia slot on my laptop, which is not at all optimized for recording. It has a Pentium M processor, 1500 MHz and 1 GB of RAM.

I used free software called Kristal Audio Engine for mixing tracks, adding reverb, EQ and such. I also added additional effects such as compression from Kjaerhus Audio. They provide a set of free VST plugins.