Introducing Stoneybatter…

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Stoneybatter is the newest, baddest band in town. Organized in Ashland, MA. Playing wooden instruments. Smokn’ tunes. Brilliant songs. Find out why people are raving about them. Be the Buzz.

Here’s a few of our favorite fan comments:

refined & rehearsed

outrageous facial hair

I felt like I should have paid to watch ’em

Stoneybatter will perform this Friday, October 9th, at Fiddler’s Green in Worcester. No cover charge. Show starts at 8:30pm but get there early!

All the cool kids are going. Don’t miss this anticipated event!

Here’s a clip of them from a few weeks back.

Pretty Fair Maid on SoundCloud

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Baconworks has been kind of a wreck for a few weeks and, consequently, all the music on this site is in a state of disarray (missing). So, going forward, the music you see on baconworks.com will be hosted at soundcloud.com. You can find my music there as well as here. One cool thing about soundcloud is that you can comment on the music within the music, which is a neat way to pinpoint what you like or don’t like.
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Soundcloud also makes it easy to share music that you find and like with others, so don’t be afraid to try out this feature!
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It will take a bit of time to get everything moved over to soundcloud so please be patient. But, to get things started, I’ve uploaded a recording of Mustachio and I from early summer. We were just finishing up a recording session with our friend, the White Rabbit, and decided to try this song just for fun.

When I first learned this song I was hesitant to play it because I thought the guitar part sounded cheap. I told Mustachio how I felt and he replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll make it sound more expensive”. He was right.

Here it is – straight from soundcloud – give it a try:
Pretty Fair Maid by baconworks

Tracks from the Electric Seisiun

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It is probably not fair for me to do a review of last nights show at John Stone’s. What I can say is that those of us that played had a lot of fun. Much of that fun was due to the fact that we had lots of friends and family that came out to listen. So, thank you! I hope we get to do it again!

I was able to record the entire night, except, sadly, for one set of tunes. The recording was done with my pair of KM184’s. So, naturally the charm of the crowd noise has been captured as well.

The set that I’ve included with this post is a nice representation of what the evening sounded like. The set includes a couple of well known session tunes called Lark in the Morning and The Cliff of Mohr. Sandwiched in between these two tunes Joey Sullivan leathers into a bodhran solo. One thing I like about this track is that, in typical session style, the instruments trickle in. First the guitar and tenor banjo. Then the fiddle. Then flute and bouzouki. Finally the uilleann pipes and the bodhran. It’s funny, tunes like these can make your Guinness taste twice as good.

The Electric Seisiun

Clear your schedules, The Electric Seisiun is coming to town this Friday!
 
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We’ll be setting up the L1’s in John Stone’s for an evening of fun music. Come on out, grab some dinner, have a couple of Perfect Pints, and enjoy some of the finest traditional music outside of Boston. We will be looking forward to seeing you there. It will be a special night at John Stone’s!

Mariner Week

A lot of folks have been asking why I’ve not posted about Mariner Week. Well, I have, just not here. I’ve started and will continue to post over at themariners.org.

In short, the week was great. Here is a photo of me mugging with a Fasnacht mask after all the festivities and just before getting into my Jeep to leave the Deep River Muster. Although I was smiling, it really was a sad moment.
 
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Just to whet your appetite about themariners.org I’ve included one recording here from my week with the Mariners. This is a set of two tunes called In the Back Seat and McGowan’s Motorcar. Both these tunes were written by the founder of the Mariners, Roy Watrous. Joe, myself and a few others had planned on performing it at the Mariner Muster, but when it came time to play it, the announcer skipped right past the piece. Oh well.

This recording is at Dan’s Firehouse late one evening. Joe and I played it for our Swiss friends since they never got to hear it during our concert.

In The Back Seat / McGowans Motorcar by baconworks

Mariner’s 50th Anniversary

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My jeep is packed like a Beverly Hillbilly vehicle in preparation for the Mariners 50th Anniversary. The festivities start with the Mariner Muster this weekend, followed by a week of music with our friends from Switzerland, the Swiss Mariners, and then capped off by a performance at the Deep River Ancient Muster next weekend. It is possible that events from the week will get chronicled at www.themariners.org. Remember, I said possible, not probable.

I know I’ve posted the following track before, but it is a good example of the music we play when we get together with the Swiss. Fun, fun.

Whipple and the Gaspee by baconworks

Farewell Tim

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Tim Livernois, passed away on Monday. Tim was a member of our musical community, playing fife with the Kentish Guard and Irish flute at our late night sessions. Year after year he and I kicked off the session in the Wayside Inn on Saturday of the Sudbury Muster. He had a casual style of flute playing that I always enjoyed backing.

Tim was also instrumental in bringing color to the muster scene by helping to construct the elaborate Casbah for many years. The Casbah became a well know respite during the evenings festivities and often served as the final destination for many late night wanderers.

A few years ago Tim was diagnosed with Brain Cancer and had a tumor removed. After surgery he had to learn how to function again. He came to the Sudbury Session that year knowing that he couldn’t really play any longer. But he fought his way back and relearned how to play music and, astonishingly, was back in the swing a year later.

Farewell Tim, I’ll miss your color, your playing and your friendship.

Farewell Chantey by baconworks

Banish Misfortune

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With my new Neumann’s in hand, I headed on down the road to the Heineman Ecumenical and Cultural Center, otherwise known as the stone chapel at Framingham State College, for a casual evening of tunes and recording. It has been sort of a personal goal to record with as many of the Stone’s session players as possible. To date I have recorded with Sally the hammered dulcimer goddess, Eamon the accordion acrobat, and of course, my good friend Mustachio the bouzouki bad ass. To the list I wanted to add Mark, sometimes known the White Rabbit, though I don’t really know where that name came from…and am somewhat afraid to ask…but I digress. Anyhow, Mark has both an incredible voice and nice touch on the button accordion. In addition, Mark has the keys to the stone chapel, which we thought would lend itself nicely to some recording. In addition to Mark and I, we also convinced Mustachio to come along.

After a tasty dinner at a local Indian restaurant – musicians don’t play well on empty stomachs – we headed over to the chapel to set up the mics.

 
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Like most chapels, there was lots of natural reverb, which sounds great when playing but adds additional challenges when recording. From a recording engineering perspective it is nice to have well isolated tracks that can be individual tweaked after the recording. Playing live in a reverberant room introduces a bleed of the other instruments onto each mic as well as potentially slathering the tracks in reverb.

We had no real plan and just played tunes that we thought would be fun to try. Sometimes we played them twice, sometimes we didn’t. We played all the instruments at once and there were no overdubs.

After spending a few days listening to the tracks, we decided to do an additional session. Out of this second session came the track included with this post called Banish Misfortune / Sliabh Russell.

In some cases I had two recorded versions to work with and it was possible to take the best bits from both versions and merge them together. That is the case with Banish Misfortune. The first eight measures are from our first take, while the remainder of the track was from our second take. I mixed the two because Mustachio and I were subtly more in sync on the pickup measures in the first take.

Lastly, for recording geeks only, here is an interesting mixing technique the I tried with the concertina:
1. I made two identical copies of the original concertina track.
2. I shifted the first copy 17 milliseconds to the right, thereby creating a delaying of 17 milliseconds.
3. I shifted the second copy 19 milliseconds to the right, creating a delay of 19 milliseconds.
4. I panned copy one hard left and panned copy two hard right.
5. I then brought the volume of both copies to zero.
6. I then slowly brought up the levels of both copies until the delays were barely noticeable.

This gave the concertina a slightly fuller feel and makes it sound like it is in a nice room. With enough mics and good mic placement I should have been able to get a similar effect naturally from the chapel. But I did not have extra mics to work with.

Anyhow, it was lots of fun and I think we did a nice job of capturing three friends just playing music together. Also, I’m looking forward to posting lots of other tracks from The Chapel Sessions including a killer version of Amazing Grace sung by the White Rabbit.
Banish Misfortune / Sliabh Russell by baconworks

Mic Reviews

I’ve been in search of a new microphone for the purposes of recording my guitar. I had been using a Rode NT1-A but felt that it might be interesting to try a few others. So, I got in touch with Parsons Audio, my local audio guys. After some helpful conversation Chris, my man at Parsons, set me up with microphones from four different companies.
 
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There they all are, stacked on my table. Here they are up close; a Charter Oak M900, Neumann KM184, Shure KSM141 and a Beyerdynamic MC 930.
 
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Before I go much further, I should mention what I’m recording and some of the equipment that I’m using to make the recordings. First, I’m playing a Lowden O25 with a cedar top and rosewood back/sides. I’m also playing on a set of John Pearse Slack Key strings, which I’ve tuned to DADGAD.
 
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In addition, I am running my mic through a PreSonus FireBox and into a PC. Now, before I get flack, I know what you’re thinking, all those nice mics running through a less-than-optimal pre amps. Well, yeah. It’s what I got, and I imagine that most everyone’s road to audio nirvana passes over a few bumpy roads. Having said that, the firebox has served me very well and I have thoroughly enjoyed that road.

So, onto the mics. First a brief description of what I found in the case.

First up, the Charter Oak M900. The case, while attractive and functional, seemed a bit weak in places, such as the handle.
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When I opened the case I found a rugged looking mic with two switches. One for bass roll offs at 150Hz and 75Hz. Another for a -10dB and -20dB pad. In addition there were capsules for cardioid, omni and hyper-cardioid. Lastly there was a nice shock mount for the mic.
 
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Next up, the Shure KSM 141. The case on the Shure is obviously not as flashy as the Charter Oak, but it still served its purpose.
 
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Inside the case were a couple of funky looking mics. One cool part of their funkyness was that with a twist of the capsule, you can change it from a cardioid pattern to an omni pattern. Neat. These mics also have a three position bass roll off switch as well as a -15dB and -25dB pad. Lastly, there were the typical mic holders.
 
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The Beyer mics came in a plastic case as well. Once inside the case I found a shock mount similar to that of the Charter Oak mics, but a bit bulkier. The mics also had a two position switch for both bass roll off and a -15dB pad.
 
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Finally, the Neumann KM184’s. First, the case. The Neumann’s come in an attractive case, which does make them feel a bit special. Inside the case the mics are found with a cleaner and simpler design than the others. They also do not include any switches for roll offs or pads. Also, if your looking for a different pattern you have to pick up the 183’s or the 185’s. The mics also have a very sturdy and compact feel to them.
 
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I tested these mics, as well as my Rode NT1-A mic in the following manner: First I set up a single mic at ten inches away from the 12th fret of the guitar. I then proceeded to play a few short pieces. I varied capo positions as well as style. I repeated this process for each mic as carefully as I could.

My first reaction was that all four of the mics were noticeably better sounding than the Rode. I always felt the Rode had an artificial sound on the mid ranges of my guitar, which was not the case with the other mics. My other observations were that the Charter Oak seemed to have places in the frequency range that were slightly hyped and others that were not. The Shure felt more even but sort of thin and not a lot of character. The Beyerdynamic had the most bass response of any of the mics, which has garnered a lot of praise from others. At first I was impressed, but the more I listened, the more I felt it might be too much for my instrument. The cedar topped Lowden is a warm, full bassed sounding guitar to begin with. The Neumann’s seemed very even, maybe a bit light on the bass response, but overall a very consistent sound throughout the entire frequency range. At first I thought the Neumann’s and the Shure sounded similar, but then came to the conclusion that the Neumann’s seemed to capture more of the nuances of the strings and I ultimately felt they were more well rounded with a nice character. These are just my impressions.

I should note that I also did not really have too much time to try different mic placements, which might have compensated for some of the above mentioned characteristics.

After this first test, I narrowed my choice down to the Neumann’s and the Beyerdynamics.

Next I decided to try them in a mix that I have been working on, which includes a bouzouki, bass, hurdy gurdy and a bodhran. As I suspected, the Beyerdynamic was a bit too bassy without EQ, whereas the Neumann seemed to fit easier into the mix.

Lastly, before I had to return all the mics to Parsons, I decided to try setting up they pair of Neumann for a stereo recording. I had not really planned on buying two mics, so this was sort of a last minute experiment. I shouldn’t have conducted that last experiment, because the results were so impressive to me that I ended up buying the set of Neumann’s. To me they were the mics, without getting real technical, that were able to best reproduce how my guitar really sounds, which none of the others were really able to do.

So, there you have it. I’m the proud owner of two Neumann KM184’s. Along with this post I’ve included one set of my audio tests. Each recording was essentially left as is. In other words, I did not add any EQ, compression or reverb. I did, however, adjust the volume slightly on the tracks so that they would be close to even in terms of loudness, so as to not be swayed by the louder track. Also, I labeled each recording with a nondescript label so that you can do your own blind taste test, so to speak. If you download the files you can get the mic name from the properties of the mp3. Also, I will post which mics go with which files in a couple of days.

I would love to hear what others think as they listen to these samples.