Tag Archives: friend music

Any Time At All

Morphing reels to jigs, and vice-versa, is a fun game that we sometimes play on Tuesday evenings at John Stone’s. Here is how it works. We take a tune, any tune, and begin playing it in a different time signature. If it is a reel (2/4), we might play it as a jig (6/8) or as a slip jig (9/8). My buddy Brian Hebert is sort of the king of the morphs. In fact, he has just released a whole CD of Beatles morphs. On his new album, Any Time At All, he took classics like She Loves You and turned it into a slip jig, Penny Lane is now a hornpipe, and Strawberry Fields has been rendered as a waltz.
 
Any Time At All
 
Here is what the Liverpool Echo – yes the very same Liverpool that gave us the Beatles – had to say about Brian’s new album:

A SURPRISINGLY gutsy album of instrumental Beatles songs done in a raw and edgy Celtic folk style. Crammed full of wild bodrans, duelling mandolins, and skirling Irish pipes, reminding of Planxty, de Danaan and The Chieftains, with a taste of Bert Jansche’s Pentangle, it’s a radical reinvention of the great Lennon and McCartney songs that brings a whole new dimension to something we thought we already knew everything there was to know about.

Tonight I, along with Unstachio and our friend Joey Sullivan, backed Brian and a couple of his Beatles morphs for a local Television station. It was a good bit of fun and was a great opportunity to see how a TV show is produced first hand. It was also the first time I have ever performed for a TV show. Not quite Ed Sullivan, but cool nonetheless.

You can find out more about Brian and his CD on his website. Also, you can order a copy of his CD from cdbaby.

To whet your appetite I’ve included a track from his CD, which you may recognized as Please Please Me as a Jig.
 
Please Please Me Jig 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

Country Roads

Country Road
 
Most people, these days, will not admit to being big fans of John Denver. I’ll admit it. Always have been. Ever since I was a child and my parents would throw that scratchy vinyl onto our gargantuan record player … you know the kind, where the speakers, turn table and radio dials are all built into a big honkn’ piece of furniture. It was big enough to make a good television stand as well.
 
stero cabinet
 
John Denver songs remind me of the innocence and beauty of childhood. It reminds me of a peaceful time in life where family is your only focus and you can’t ever imagine that when you grow life will present you with challenges. What is not to like about that?

While many will not freely admit they like John Denver, I have proof that most people actually do. I recorded this impromptu version of Country Roads Saturday evening at a friend’s house along with thirty other friends. We played lots of tunes and sang lots of songs. Irish tunes, sea chanties, classic rock, English ballads, drinking songs, songs about ale, songs about dog fat, songs about war, songs about trombones … but John Denver’s Country Roads is always the song people sing the loudest at parties. Always.

While the recording quality is not great I hear something wonderful in it. I hear friends. I hear family. I hear joy. And it brings me right back to being a child, playing in my living room with my family, my father trying to find the notes on his Goya while the record played. And I can only assume, when I listen to this, that the other players and singers have similar unspoken memories and feelings. The music brings them back, like a country road, to a peaceful and happy place, and in that space and time, it unites us. It completely transcends pop music and becomes folk music, which is really what music was meant to be in the first place.
 
Country Roads by baconworks

The Long Trip Home

The Long Trip Home   You know the old line:

Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.

Well, I’m gonna try anyhow.
 
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.

I am certain you will enjoy it.

 

The Home Ruler

Bodhran
 
My long time cohort Roger Hunnewell, A.K.A the Beave, was visiting this weekend. Roger and I started the band that we eventually would call Amadán, many years ago. I have not had much of an opportunity to hang out with Rogi lately. Needless to say, we reminisced over a few cigars and couple of frosty brews. At about three in the morning, after being sufficiently over-served, we decided to flip on the recording equipment. After trying out a few tunes and discovering that we should have started recording long before all the ales and cigars, we opted for a tune with an easier pace.

I don’t think this recording will win any awards, but it was fun. It is a tune called The Home Ruler written by Frank McCollum from Ballycastle, county Antrim. Roger played bodhran while I played the flute. I then did a quick overdub of some guitar parts. All complete before the sun came up, well, close anyhow.

Here comes Joshua Dukes

Joshua Dukes
 
One of my most talented and humble friends is about to release his first album. His name is Joshua Dukes and, man, let me tell you, this album is gonna rock. He occasionally sends me tracks as he is working on them and I occasionally quit playing music after listening to them.

Josh tells me the album will be ready in early July but you can email him now if you are interested in getting in line for a copy. I recommend it. His email address is joshuadukes@mac.com. He is also on facebook where you can hear a few of his newest tracks.

Josh had some help on the album from a variety of other talented musicians. Here is the run down:
Josh Dukes – Flute, Guitar, Bouzouki, Bodhran
Sean McComiskey – Accordion
Peter Brice -Accordion
Jim Eagan – Fiddle
Danny Noveck – Fiddle
Brendon Bell – Flute
Patrick Cavanagh – Banjo

Josh was kind enough to send along a finished track prior to the albums release so that I could share with you. This track is a real nice example of his great flute playing. Enjoy.

Evening with Eamon

Eamon Marshall
 
In December of 1999 there was a tragic accident that took the lives of six Worcester fireman. It is quite possible that the number might have been seven had Eamon Marshall, a fellow fireman, not been in the hospital for some planned surgery. Instead of being on the scene with his unit, he heard the crushing news as he was recuperating at his home. As any good firefighter, he regrets not being there to help his men and, as evidence, their pictures still hang on his refrigerator as a reminder of all that was lost.

I met Eamon a couple years ago, long after the fire. Selfishly, I am glad he had a medical issue that kept him from the heat of that day. I am glad because I have had the great pleasure of playing some wonderful music with him and, consequently, my life has been enriched.

Eamon and his brother Jimmie both started playing the button accordion when they were young boys. I can only imagine that the sibling rivalry to out-tune each other is one of the things that shaped Eamon into the fine craftsman of his instrument that he is. But, instead of taking my word for it you can judge for yourself.

A few evenings ago I went to Eamon’s home, set up a couple of microphones and the two of us just played. We did not worry too much about getting the perfect take. In fact, most things we played only once. And while there my be a few missed notes and disjointed endings, the overall feeling was quite nice.

It makes me wonder how many people around the world are sitting in their living room with friends making great music. Music that will never be heard. Fortunately, this is one evening that did not slip into the ether without being captured.

Below are a couple of highlights. The first recording is of a lovely waltz that I learned from Eamon. He tells me it is called Matthew’s Waltz.

The Maltese Cross is the first tune of the second set. It is a tune that Eamon wrote. The Maltese Cross is the insignia that Eamon’s unit wore on their uniforms. We could not remember the name of the second tune in the set. If anyone knows, please leave a comment and let me know.

If you want to hear Eamon play live he is often found at the sessions at John Stone’s in Ashland, MA on Tuesday evenings.

Collaborative Recording

In my recent post, LP – On the Mend, I talked about how the low cost of digital recording equipment brings high quality recordings into the hands of everyday musicians. An exciting idea, which I intentionally skimmed past in that post, is that the marriage of digital recording and the big pipes of the internet also makes collaborative recording ridiculously easy.

Imagine this hypothetical scenario. John Lennon is sitting at his white grand piano in his big white room at Tittenhurst. Has a brilliant thought and flips on the eight track recorder. “This song needs a string section”, he thinks to himself. He then takes the one-inch open-reel tape that he has just recorded on, packages it up in a big box and ships it off to New York. A week later, when it arrives, Phil Spector adds the string section. Phil then calls John on the phone and says, “Hey man, you gotta hop on the next plane to New York so you can hear the final results…”
 


 
Now image how things would be different if they could have emailed the recorded tracks back and forth. In fact, since we are no longer talking about physical tape, John could have emailed the recorded tracks to ten or a hundred different studios in virtually no time at all. I can just imagine the email.

Engineers around the world…
I just recorded the basic tracks for a song called ‘Imagine’. I have sent this track to a hundred recording studios with the hopes that each will bring in some session musicians and lay down a string section for me. Once your recording is complete, email it back to me and I will make a grand selection to be included on my next album. -John.

Our technology makes this sort of collaborative recording very easy. So easy, in fact, that no coordination between you and the studios of the world needs to take place at all. Simply post your music on the internet and wait for the emails to roll in with remixed versions of your tune.

Think I’m crazy? Well, I have proof. I posted an mp3 of On the Mend to baconworks.com on Monday. Less than a week later a friend sent me the following email:

…finally got my recording crap working again. So……I noodled around with your great tune. It’s got shades of Longnancy’s Jig to it. Anyway , hope you didn’t mind me Pluc’n with it.

:-{ Mustachio

That just made my week.

Below is Mustachio’s new version of On the Mend with a new bouzouki track mixed in. Hearing this makes me want to go change my guitar parts to give the bouzouki more room. Imagine all the possibilities!

Leaf in a Stream

Leaf in a Stream
 
In every endeavor there are pivotal moments. These are the moments where we decide to either proceed or halt, push forward or go back. Sometimes it is obvious, as the moment unfolds, that they are important and that there is a decision to be made. Other times those pivotal moments slip by, like a leaf in a stream, quietly and unnoticed. No course correction is made and you quietly slip into the next moment traveling the same path you started on. It is only on future reflection that you can look back and realize the value of that moment.

I was thinking about this as I was recording a great little tune called the Concord Police the other evening.
The Concord Police
 
The tune and words were written by my good friend and former fife instructor Dan Moylan.
Dan Moylan

Dan, the only true music instructor I ever had, is a man of great energy and passion and truly has a love for fife and drum music. Such a passion that, as his grown son once told me, he would play a form of Reveille on his snare drum in the mornings to wake his children for school. Apparently, this was a regular occurrence in the Moylan household.

When I was first learning the fife I would make a weekly trip to Dan’s house in Sudbury, which, incidentally, was walking distance from the Wayside Inn, and hack through the ten tunes I needed to have under my belt before marching with the Sudbury Ancient Fife and Drum Companie. Not long after learning the required ten tunes I had an opportunity to play with an auxiliary group to Sudbury called the 85ème Régiment de Saintonge.
 
Saintonge

The Saintonge was a sharp looking French unit and I was excited to play with them for a parade in Boston on Bastille day. However, when I arrived it quickly became apparent that I was the only fifer and Dan the only drummer. Given my total lack of experience, I was, to say the least, petrified. To make matters worse, as we marched down the street a man and a woman were shouting obscenities and throwing bottles at us. I assumed they didn’t like the French and to get them to stop I wanted to yell out, “No, Bacon…that’s not French!”. It is the first time, in all my fife and drum/reenacting experience, where our militia unit actually had to protect us (there was an incident in Ireland years later but that is a different story). I recall that several of the guys from the unit flanked out with their bayonet-affixed muskets and kept the antagonizers at bay. All awhile, I was bludgeoning the tunes I was supposed to be playing while Dan did his best to follow my cacophonic improvisations. Then, as we turned the corner, the TV cameras showed up. I was mortified into playing worse.

That evening, Dan drove me home. I sat sullenly in the passenger seat gazing out the window hoping he would not bring up my wretched performance. When we reached my driveway, I got out, quietly thanked Dan for the ride, and made my way to the house door where my mother had affixed a note that said “You’re famous! You made the evening news on TV! Hope you had fun! Love Mom.” Now I was certain that I was going to crawl into a dark hovel and never come out. I seriously contemplated quitting this whole fife thing. Why should I continue doing something, where, apparently, I am risking life and limb, I suck, and I get the opportunity to be humiliated on TV?

Now, you might be questioning, “where is the pivotal moment here?” Was it the jackass launching bottles at you? Was it the pitiful performance? Was it your face on the evening news as you were wrecking everything that is good and joyful about fife and drum music? No. Instead, the moment was as the leaf on a stream. It was that long quiet car ride home.

I was embarrassed and figured he thought I was a horrible student. Had he said something as simple as, “well, we have some things to work on”, I am quite sure I would have been too ashamed to show my face at his home for practice that next week. Hang up my britches and call it quits. But he didn’t. And the moment passed. And I moved forward. And I showed up for practice. And now I look back and think about all the wonderful things I would have missed had I naively decided I wasn’t good enough. And, funny enough, that is one of those lessons that I’ve found useful again and again as life keeps rolling. The idea that moving forward, in spite of your fear, is the thing that will pay dividends.

So Dan, thanks for being passionate, for being my instructor, and for driving me home.

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.