Tag Archives: penny-whistle

We Are the Mariners – The Rights of Man

Rights of Man
To break up the monotony of fife and drum during our Swiss concert we mixed in some Celtic music. We performed three sets of tunes. Here is the middle and slowest set that we played, which is a well known hornpipe called The Rights of Man. Evidently this was a real treat for the Swiss audience since this is not a style of music they typically hear. At one point, although not in this set, we had the entire audience clapping along with us. It was great fun. The other interesting point is that half the guys playing this set were Swiss including Sam the bouzouki player. The first time we ever played this tune with them was two days before the show. That being said, I think it went quite nicely.

Moving Cloud / Star of Munster / The Scholar


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.

Versions of these tunes can be found on thesession.org
Moving Cloud
Star of Munster
The Scholar

After taking a glance at the music it appears I don’t play them at all like they are written. Oh well, that’s folk music for ya.

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.

I’ll Mend Your Pots and Kettles ‘O

O.k., a new high def TV and a vacation have stolen me away from blogging in the last two weeks. I know, I know. Lame. The upside is that I have been productive in the Pigtown Fling Studio (the new name I’m giving to my studio space). I have been working on a march called I’ll Mend Your Pots and Kettles ‘O. I learned this tune from the playing of Jimmy Marshall, an accordion player from Worcester, MA, though originally from Ireland. Jimmy and his brother Eamon, who often plays at John Stone’s, have both been playing the accordion since they were children. They are close in age and Eamon is retired, so I suspect they have been playing for fifty-plus years apiece. They are both great and a wealth of tunes.

I started playing this tune on the guitar about a year ago. I always envisioned a nice harmony part to it. In this recording I experimented with using the penny whistle as a melody and using the flute for second and third voice harmonies. I rewrote the arrangement several times before I was happy. In addition, I recorded it three different times in the last two weeks. I have had a lot of fun with both the arrangement and experimenting with how to get a good recording of my guitar. Where I am at with this version is the guitar track is made up of four tracks. On the first two tracks I played identical part and panned one track all the way left and the other all the way right. I then played a melody track that is an octave up and sits in the middle. Lastly I added some light harmonics on the B part.

I also added a snare drum and a bass drum to the mix in one version. Unfortunately I do not really have any decent drums to play on and, oh yeah, I really suck at drumming. For the snare I used an old Eames Drum that my Grandfather gave to me when I was a child. All the snares were off it and I had to jury-rig them back on just to do the recording. It needs a lot of work. The bass drum is a real quality instrument. I found it at the local dump. It is a Magnum ProSound and is part of a children’s drum set. It has that great ringing quality that shouts out, ‘hey, I’m cheap, I’m plastic, but I’m guaranteed to drive your parents nuts!’. My wife was thrilled with this find.

Together the two sound like I’m beating a bag of wet bananas. Good enough for me. It gave me an idea of what a drum track might sound like. I will have to solicit the help of Captain Dan, Biscuits McGillicudy or some of my other drummer friends if I really want to make the drumming work.

Below is the version without the drums. I would love to hear what people think about adding drums. Should they be included on the track or should I nix ’em?

Castaway: Blackwater Tide / Licking the Moss

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.
Blackwater Tide seemed to be an instant hit. The Sudbury Ancient Fife & Drum Companie started a new medley, called Blackwater Indeed, with the piece. The Company of Fifers and Drummers included the tune in their latest music book with a drum part written by Dom Cuccia, a former Hellcat. Most recently the Bluff Point Quahog Diggers Fife & Drum is working it into a new medley that I think they are preparing for this summer!

It is fun to see a tune make some rounds.

For the first time I am publishing the harmonic arrangement for this tune. When I get a chance I will record the arrangement and post it here as well.

Neptune’s Trident


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.

Neptunes Trident

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.

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

Tunes I Like…

One of the things that I thought would be nice to do with this blog space is to do some real simple recordings of tunes I like. These are tunes that I did not write but play frequently enough and enjoy them to the point where I would like to share them. I am not giving any guarantees about my interpretation of these tunes as I tend to drift away from the way I originally learned them as the years go by. They are simply tunes the way I play them. When possible I will try to include a link to the sheet music or a reference to where I learned the tune.

The first tune I have selected just rocks. It is called Colliers’ Reel. It seems that this is a fairly well known tune but, man, it can cook. The version I play is a bit different than the version found at thesession.org but it is the same in spirit. I learned my version from a book called Smoke in your Eyes, which you can get from my friends over at cooperman.com:

I like to play this tune into another popular tune called The Earl’s Chair, which I will leave up to you to find.

Here is the mp3:


It is funny how a word can have very little meaning in your life one day and the next it turns up around every corner. In the fall of 2006 I went out sailing in the waters around New London, CT with some old friends on a boat called The Indigo. Since then I have been trying to lyrically incorporate the word ‘Indigo’, along with my experience, into a song. Unfortunately my songwriting skills are horrible and I have, to date, failed miserably. More recently I have been testing some recording equipment and coincidentally one of the components is called Indigo. Oddly enough both Indigo the vessel and Indigo the hardware have provided me with a sense of revitalizing freedom. After thinking a bit about the tune I blogged about last night in Hot off the Brain I realized that it is Indigo. So I put together a quick mp3 of the tune on whistle with some guitar backing. It’s a rough mix but you’ll get the point. At some point I am hoping to thread it together with some other tunes and record them all.

Also, here is a legible copy of the sheet music for the tune.