Tag Archives: Gmaj

Firehouse Photo Essay

My buddy Dan…

… recently moved into an old one engine firehouse that, at one point, was converted into a dance club and now is his home.

It has all sorts of character such as the stained glass that shines above his front door…
stained glass

…and this risqué firewoman painting he found under layers of drywall.

It is a great place for The Ancient Mariners

…to practice …

… so that when we get onto the street we’re all walking, generally speaking, in the same direction.

Incidentally, if you have never seen The Ancient Mariners perform, we like to clear the parade route with a cannon…

and a mutinous prisoner…

People ask me all the time, ‘Is the prisoner crazy?’ Yes, yes he is. Why else would he not be wearing a shirt and shoes on March 11th in New England? Still not convinced? You should see him during our Christmas parade!

Here are a few of the other characters from this years Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New Haven, Ct…
bobbyclintkevjoed & calbob

So, now that you’ve waded through a bunch of photos of people you don’t know, here is a recording of a tune we ran through at Dan’s firehouse over the weekend. The tune is called Katy Hill. It was originally a 2/4 but the Mariners decided to play it first as a 6/8 and the second time through as 2/4. This does not feel like any old 6/8 as you will hear. It really is rudimental drumming at its syncopated strangest, which is why I like it. I also like how you can hear people talking during the first half of the tune. Those aren’t bystanders you hear, it is the drummers debating.

The Call and the Answer

hammered dulcimer

Have you ever heard a song for the first time an yet it felt like you’ve known it forever? I guess you might call it ‘love at first listen’. Well, the hammered dulcimer player at John Stone’s, whom I’ll refrain from naming in this post, sang a song a couple months back that fits that bill. I was able to convince her to sing it again at last night’s session. Man, what a beautiful song. Once she finished singing it I asked her to sing it again. She ignored my second request, and rightfully so. Who really wants to sing a song twice in a row? But I would have listened. And today, it’s all I could do to get the melody out of my head. Or at least my fading recollection of what the melody was.

So, here is the deal. I spent a couple hours recording a melody that is probably not at all what the melody actually is but instead how I remember it. I can get away with this because, after all, it is folk music. Besides, that is how these things evolve. What I recorded is really just a sketch, a placeholder, impromptu harmony and all, until I can convince our hammered dulcimer player to show me how to really play it and record it with me, which I also requested.

The name of the song is ‘The Call and the Answer’. What I have dug up on the song is that it seems to have been written by Phil Colclough, whom I honestly know nothing about. It was recorded by De Dannan on an album called A Jacket of Batteries, which I don’t own and have never heard. So, I suppose I can not truly endorse that album, although I do generally respect De Dannan as very talented so I’m sure it is probably quite good. In any case, here are the lyrics for the chorus. Take a listen to my interpretation of what I heard and I hope to have a guest recording sometime in the near future by our hammered dulcimer player.

You are the call, I am the answer
You are the wish and I am the way
You’re the music, I the dancer
You are the night and I am the day
You are the night and I am the day

The Hazards of Hatteras

Stinson Davis

My great, great uncle Stinson Davis, pictured above, was a sailor. He wasn’t just your average day sailor. He was the real deal. In fact, he was the last real deal.

A captain of three, four and five masted schooner ships during the waning age of sail, he spent years of his life carrying whale oil from the West Indies, coal from Portugal and hauling lumber out of Africa.


Stinson was one of those witty Yankee Mainers with enough salt and grit to live four years past the centenarian mark in spite of the fact that he was cast adrift twice after loosing his vessels at sea. He had two lives worth of stories and if I accumulate half the stories of one of those lives I’d have twice as many as anyone I know.

When I was fourteen I attended his hundredth birthday party. You think it is hard buying a gift for your dad’s birthday? What do you get someone turning one hundred? My father was wise and convinced me to do some research and draw him a big map of all his sailing routes. I spent weeks with colored markers and piece poster board charting his journeys. On the day of his birthday party, in some Grange hall near Five Islands, Maine I nervously presented my gift. He quietly looked it over. After a few moments, instead of a ‘thank you’, he began pointing out the routes I had missed, like the one that lead him a thousand miles up the Congo River. He began to tell me stories of his voyages, bouts of malaria, brothers lost at sea, The Maude Palmer, Cape Horn and the hazards of Cape Hatteras. I suppose I thought I was giving an old man a map to remind him of the places he’d been. Truth is, he didn’t need it.

Reflecting back to that day I think it is safe to say that my real gift to him was the wide eyed curiosity of a young boy. And in a way it was he who gave me the map. I pull out that map on days when life is hard and I ask myself this: Have I really been everywhere I want to go? If the answer is ‘no’ then it is time to start charting a course for my West Indies, even if it means that I will have to face the Hazards of Hatteras.

The following tune is the first one I wrote that I was every happy with. It is also the first of many that have titles that serve as my own reminders of my ancestry. I have included two mp3’s in which you will find three stylistic variations of the same tune.
live album
The first recording was done by The Ancient Mariners and comes from a live album I co-produced with good friend Roger Hunnewell. Incidentally, that is me with outstretched arms at the top of the disc and no, I was not responsible for the artwork. The graphic work was a surprise to me! The second is from an unreleased recording that I did back in 2000. I was interested in combining both fifing style with Irish flute style onto one track. Lastly, here is the chart for this trio.

Banks of the Bann

This track exemplifies everything I love about the fife. I learned this traditional tune from a John Renbourn album called Traveller’s Prayer, which is a lovely album. I added a couple of voices and recorded this back in 2000 at a studio called Melville Park just prior to my first child being born.

Here is a link to the chart:
Bann 1

This and other recordings from that time period were my second failed attempt at recording a solo album. I believe I am now starting my third attempt. Anyhow, I’ve decided to publish music from those recording sessions under the internet album title of ‘Castaway’. The title feels appropriate to me since these recordings have essentially been cast away, never to be finished and now they will be Podcasted away. Anyhow, enough, here is Banks of the Bann:
Banks Of The Bann by baconworks