Tag Archives: jig

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

Fox in the Bramble

The Fox and the Bramble

A fox, closely pursued by a pack of dogs, took shelter under the covert of a Bramble. He rejoiced in this asylum; and for a while, was very happy; but soon found that if he attempted to stir, he was wounded by thorns and prickles on every side. However, making a virtue of necessity, he forbore to complain, and comforted himself with reflecting, that no bliss is perfect; that good and evil are mixed, and flow from the same fountain. These Briars, indeed, said he, will tear my skin a little, yet they keep off the Dogs. For the sake of the good, then, let me bear the evil with patience: each bitter has its sweet; and these Brambles, though they wound my flesh, preserve my life from danger.

I was digging through some old recordings and found this track. I recall that as I was practicing one evening this tune just sort of fell out of the mandolin. So, I slipped into my studio, if you can call it that, and put it down for posterity. I never really did much else with it.

Before posting it today I had to give it a name: Fox in the Bramble

What does a fox, a bramble, and the above fable have to do with this tune? Nothing really. I just like the word bramble and I thought the fable was a nice reminder that problems, viewed from another angle, aren’t really problems at all. Instead, they are the things that add dimension to our lives, build character, afford us opportunities, and at the end of the day, give us a good story to tell.

Good lessons for crazy times.
Fox in the Bramble by baconworks

South Wind / Out on the Ocean

Two Old Stones
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

LP: On the Mend

For quite some time now I’ve wanted to record and album. The problem used to be that the cost for studio time was so high that I could only afford it in small doses. With the advent of low cost, high quality digital recording equipment, however, that problem has been virtually nullified. In addition, the distribution of music once required the pressing of an album. However, as we are well aware, the internet has also change that paradigm. So, here is the question I wrestle with; Is there any value in recording an album? Is the concept of an LP dead? After all, the lag time between recording a track and publishing is now trivial. Why stamp out any CD’s at all? The record industry, of course, is feeling the affects of this seismic shift first hand.

On one hand the album, a product of commercialism, feels out of place in todays vast digital world. On the other hand, I am compelled by the idea of sequencing a set of tunes in a way that carries the listener along as if on a meandering summertime ride on a wooded country road. I am well aware, however, that once the tunes make their way onto your iPod and in shuffle mode, the concept behind the sequencing is lost.

While I don’t have a good answer to my own questions, and while there are plenty of good reasons to move past the traditional album format, I am not willing to entirely abandon the notion just yet.

I guess that is a long winded way of saying that I’m gonna give it a go. I don’t know what the end result will look like but I have made one important decision already. As my ideas take shape and the music evolves I am going to blog about my creative and technical process of creating the album. The thing that I find both exciting and a bit daunting is the notion that the public critiquing process can happen as the recording takes shape instead of after it is complete. I am hoping that your critical feedback will help shape a better result. I am, therefore, urging you to offer your thoughts on what you hear or would like to hear.

As a first offering, I am including a recording of a jig I wrote last week. This is a test track that I intend on re-recording for a variety of reasons, the first being that I really did not know how to play it cleanly at the time of the recording since it was authored only minutes before. Also, I have been having trouble with some buzzing on my guitar, which affected the bass notes. Going forward, I am considering coupling the banjo with a mandolin in addition to centering the banjo, which is currently off to one side. I would also like to write another tune to go along with it but am finding that I just can’t force it.

The tune is entitled ‘On the Mend’ and was named for my friend Eddie Marshall, who was recently under the weather and unable to play music for a good month or so. I was happy to finally hear him say that he was ‘On the Mend’.

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.

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.

Breakfast at Rudy’s

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.

The Roaring Bar Maid

I was going through my files and found this rough cut that I recorded a month or two ago. I learned this tune from Lunasa’s Otherworld album.

Incidentally, this 1999 album was one of Green Linnet’s fasted selling albums. Also, on their web site you can listen to the track. They happen to call the tune the Butlers of Glen Avenue but I prefer the title The Roaring Bar Maid.

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.

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.

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.

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.