A few weeks back I convinced Unstachio (formerly Mustachio) to swing by and record a few tunes. We had been talking about doing just that for some time but the stars had never quite aligned. We had no real plan other than to just play through some things that we play on Tuesday evenings over at Stone’s.
We did all our recording together, he on bouzouki and myself on guitar. The next day, as I began to play with the tracks, I found that they were super-easy to overdub. It is amazing how playing music with someone else results in a track that is much more musical than anything you can do alone. It is that relationship between musicians that is the real magic dust and it is what transforms notes to music. I feel like we captured some of that here and, at the very least, it was a whole lot of fun.
This track is a combination of two traditional tunes. The first tune is called South Wind and is one we just started playing. The second is a popular jig called Out on the Ocean. I love how the bouzouki (left speaker) just seems to lick around the guitar melody (right speaker). Incidentally, I’ve added this track to the working album title called Two Old Stones (George, did I tell you we’re making an album?) South Wind Out OnThe Ocean by baconworks
After posting last night about the Sudbury Colonial Faire, it dawned on me that I wrote a tune a number of years ago in homage to the fall festival. So, I spent the remainder of the evening dusting off the music and recording this trio entitled Autumn Faire.
The Sudbury Colonial Fair, often called the Sudbury Muster has been the muse for many composers including my friend Jason Malli. He wrote a tune called Wayside Moons, which we performed along with Autumn Faire in a fife solo five or six years ago. It was an interesting solo because the two tunes really have nothing in common aside from their inspiration.
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.
Back it 2001 I was on a kick where I would go into a studio once a month and record. The one month interval was working well since it would give me time to both save money for the session and plan out what I was going to work on. After several months, however, I got a bit lazy and found myself unprepared for a session I had the following morning. Slightly panicked, I pulled out the flute on the evening before the session and was inspired to write the first of the two tunes included here. The first tune in the set I named Blackwater Tide. The second tune, which I wrote in ’99, is called Licking the Moss. This is one of those recordings that is part of the Castaway album.
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.
How poetic is it that the first steps towards independence in America happened at a bridge? Standing on one bank the colonists were subjects to a distant king. Fighting their way across the bridge they took their first steps on the shores of freedom. The bridge I speak of is the North Bridge in Concord, MA.
On the morning of April 19th, 1775 men from Concord and many surrounding towns gathered on Punkatasset Hill to discuss the movement of British troops. Upon seeing a column of smoke rise from the town, and naturally assuming the Regulars were setting their homes ablaze, they “resolved to march to the middle of the town to defend their homes, or die in the attempt.”
The common belief is that, led by the fifes and drums, the men marched towards the North Bridge, which arched the river between them and the good folk of Concord, to oppose the tyranny before them. What was running through their minds as the beat of the drums steadily marched them towards their great foe in red? The moment must have been surreal and the future so dizzyingly uncertain. It amazes me that, at the brink of certain conflict, music was played at all.
What they played on those fifes and drums, as well as the story in general, is the subject of some debate. The surviving tradition, historically correct or not, is to play The White Cockade, which was a “traditional Scottish tune that celebrated the attempt by Bonnie Prince Charlie to reclaim the throne of Britain for the House of Stuart.”  If the story is true, playing the White Cockade represents a “bold taunt of defiance” according to historian D. Michael Ryan.
The fact is, it is not really clear if they played the White Cockade or any tune. There was no mention of the tune being played on that day until 1835. A hundred years after the battle the story was further promoted with a well known article from Harper’s new Monthly Magazine called The Concord Fight.
Regardless of the historical details it is, nevertheless, moving to hear the drums and fifes slicing through the fresh April air every spring on the morning of the 19th as they march down the dusty road towards freedom playing The White Cockade.
Biscuits McGillicudy was the sound man for a band that I once belonged to called Amadán. He is shaggily bearded, pierced, stout in stature and gritty in character. His arms bear the permanent markings of India ink artwork as well as more crafted dermal displays. These are not the trendy tribal tattoos that all the smart kids from the ‘burbs are gettin’ but instead they represent the chapters of his life. Worn and faded, the older chapters are outshone by the vividness of the newer chapters. One look at him and you tell yourself that you’d prefer him to be a friend rather than foe. To reconfirm your knee-jerk judgment one only needs to hear a colorful line or two of his northeastern-biker-bar-localisms.
Once, after an Amadán show, I watched as he slogged up to a sweet, pretty young lady and opened with, ‘do you like stabbin’ people?’, to which she happily replied ‘Who doesn’t?’. To my astonishment his pick-up line afforded him a certain amount of latitude with her and they continued on with a delightful conversation. True story. Another time we were at a restaurant together after a gig. He heckled the waitress into telling him how old she was. ‘Thirty-two’ she said leerily. He boldly proclaimed, ‘thirty-two… that’s the age I date’. She then gave him her number and I believe they went on a date. How either of these pick-up lines worked is almost beyond my comprehension. I say ‘almost’ because just beneath his knives, guns and dump trucks facade is actually a very kind, giving and gentle person. He is an incredible example of how true character always shines through the thin exterior that we often work so hard to construct. I suspect both women quickly saw through his shell in spite of the shocking things he says that I’m afraid to print.
Biscuits is also a phenomenally talented rudimental snare drummer. A few years back Biscuits and I were talking about a new tune I wrote for the fife called Neptune‘s Trident.
He wanted to try his hand at putting a drum part to it. Sounded like a good idea and I agreed to get him an audio copy of the tune so he could work on it. Four years has passed, I’ve been negligent on my promise and Biscuits is starting to send me threatening emails.
So, Biscuits, before things get out of hand and you decide to give me a piledriver during out next encounter, here you go. You can call off the dogs. I’m expecting to see a drum part by the Sudbury Muster.
P.S. – Biscuits, the wife and I would love to have you over for dinner. I’ll send you a list of the words you’re not allowed to use around my kids.