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
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.
With Halloween approaching I thought it only appropriate to continue my trend of playing sessions in places that are haunted.
So, last night I trekked up the road with Unstachio to The Stagecoach Inn in Groton, MA. Sadly, I didn’t encounter any ghosts but I’m happy to report that there was a lot of spirit. Vicky the bartender, Aisling, the woman who organized the session, Mary, Martha, Kevin, Raymond, Peter McGuire, Laurel Martin and all the other fine musicians were warm and welcoming.
One nice thing they do at their session is have monthly workshops where they bring in a seasoned musician to provide instruction during the early part of the evening. Well, unfortunately, I missed the early part. However, once the session got moving, Unstachio and I did get to have a go at backing Tony DeMarco, this month’s special guest. Tony is a universally known and respected Sligo style fiddle player from Brooklyn, NY. I can’t tell you what he thought, but I thought it was quite fun.
Here is a video of Tony with the legendary Kevin Burk. The video is not much to look at, in fact you can hardly see Tony, who is on the right side of the video. The audio is quite good however, and makes it worth a listen. Incidentally, they open their set with Paddy Clancy’s, which is the same tune I posted the other day.
Also, I should mention, that Tony has a new album that can be found on his website. Also, he will be performing this Friday, October 3rd, at the Kendall Tavern in Leominster, MA at 8pm. Apparently there is a session to follow. For more information and tickets contact Aisling. Should be a fun night.
I am supper happy to announce that my buddy Josh Dukes just released his first album. No, I’m not going to do a track by track album review, I think you should listen for yourself. But I will tell you this, the first time I listened I thought, ‘hmmm, this makes me want to get better at playing the flute…damn him.’ The second time I listened I thought, ‘well now, listen to that sweet guitar playing, why didn’t I think of that slick chord progression…ggrrrrr’. Needless to say, I was afraid to listen to it a third time…but I couldn’t resist. And I’m happy to say that Josh is the man. He, along with a host of other very talented musicians have put together an album of really tasty traditional tunes. Plus he’s got all the instruments I like on this album; his Olwell, guitar, the bunka-bunka (that’s the tenor banjo for those not in-the-know), ye ole goat skins and a variety of other cool instruments.
But, I’m sure that you don’t need to hear me ramble on about what a great recording this is and why you should get your own copy. So, instead, take a listen for yourself. Josh was kind enough to let me post one of his tracks here. Then, immediately following, I want you to head over to CD Baby and make one yours so that you can hear the remaining fourteen tracks. Also, if you are local or plan to be mustering in the rain at Sudbury this weekend, I have a dozen or so copies on hand for the reasonable price of $15.
Today I received an email from someone I have not heard from in ~20 years … apparently Facebook really does have a way of connecting you to your past. Anyhow, this old friend ultimately stumbled upon baconworks and asked me about more music that her children might be able to step dance along with. So, I began poking around my site, realizing how difficult it actually is to find all the mp3’s I’ve posted (I’ll have to fix that), and discovered that I have yet to post a few of the tracks from my old Amadán album. I guess I’m just getting lazy.
This set of tunes was the first that we recorded as a group. As I recall, we were real excited to get into the studio and lay down some tracks. We were well prepared, had it all planned out…except for the part where Kevin, our guitar player, broke a string while tunning up. In his guitar case he found no spares. I offered my guitar, not the prized Lowden, but instead the infamous Rhapsoby . No, that is not a misspelling. Rhapsoby, not Rhapsody. The guitar is so obscure that even a Google search turns up almost nothing. And when I say ‘obscure’ I don’t mean the good kind, like a 1909-S VDB penny.
Needless to say, Kevin wanted no part of the Rhapsoby. So, there we were, wasting precious time and money in the studio, with no guitar. We had no other choice but for Kevin to leave the studio to try and track down some strings. Scrap all the practices and all the preparing, we had to come up with a new plan, which, of course, we did only after Kevin left on his hunt for new strings. In his absence Roger the percussionist, Damon the fiddler and I on the Rhapsoby, pulled this old set out of the bottom of our repertoire. We recorded it once or twice together and had the track nearly finished, to Kevin’s dismay, by the time he returned an hour later with his new strings.
The set starts with a little Rhapsoby intro, followed with some tempo challenged foot stomping. Incidentally, the foot stomping seems as bad of an idea today as it did then, but neither I nor the engineer could convince Damon to can his cacophonous idea. In addition, my good friend Roger plays some real nice Bodhrán and Bones throughout the set. And, just so Kevin didn’t feel entirely left out, we let him overdub some tenor banjo.
Incidentally, I enjoyed Devany’s Goat so much that years later I did my own recording of the tune, this time setting aside the Rhapsoby and opting for the Lowden.
So, I don’t know if this is step-dancable but, here is Moving Cloud, Devany’s Goat and Julia Delaney.
Here is a song written by Dougie MacLean that I recorded with Amadán back in ’99 called Caledonia. Sarah Kennedy was our singer at the time. Just to avoid confusion, she is not the same girl that is in the picture of Amadán from my Amadán – Scotsman / Paddy Clancy’s post. She was a tough Somerville chick but I really loved her voice. We had planned on recording The Foggy Dew, which I once heard her silence the nÓg with, but when we got into the studio she changed her mind. Such is life.
Damon, our fiddle player, and I had never heard Caledonia, which is a romantic name for Scotland (thus the photo above from flickr), until that day. So, we improvised all the instrumental bits. For the instrumental break I asked the engineer to play the song while a worked out a flute part. Once I figured out what I wanted to do I asked him to roll tape. He said “I’ve been rolling all along, do you want to take a listen?” I did and decided my job was done.
Not long after this recording Amadán parted ways and I have not heard from Miss Kennedy since. Hopefully she is still singing.
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.