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José Saramago

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Sunday, March 18th, 2012

🦋 Folk Process

Practice with John this afternoon was composed exclusively of almost-new and brand-new songs.

  • "Chinese Bones" -- we've abortively tried playing this a couple of times before, today was the first time it really came together, through the magical-seeming addition of a short capo on the second fret.
  • "Old Joe Clark" -- we've played this once or twice, how could we not have, but not for a long time. Sounded really nice.
  • "See Emily Play" -- this one will take some work, I'm excited about doing that work.
  • "Jug of Punch" -- we tried playing this (in honor of the Saint's day) a couple of times, it was sounding ok, suddenly John got the idea to speed it way up and completely alter the melody of it; and all of a sudden it was a Mountain Station song! Really fantastic. I will post a video later on.
  • "I've Just Seen a Face" -- what fun. We haven't done any Beatles covers but this one might be a keeper.

posted afternoon of March 18th, 2012: Respond
➳ More posts about Mountain Station

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

🦋 Jamming notes

Bob and Janis are coming over this afternoon to play some tunes -- I'm eagerly anticipating my first jam using the custom shoulder rest I carved this morning. Ever since I got this fiddle I have been thinking that a wooden block shoulder rest would work better than the contraption the maker provided, to attach a standard violin shoulder rest. Fate forced my hand a few weeks ago by ordaining that I should lose the said contraption... (come to think of it, I've been playing with no shoulder rest for a few weeks, and have been making some interesting music that way too... Mountain Station recorded a fun take on Odds & Ends last week.) Turns out I was right! It's extremely comfortable to hold the violin with this extension.

I've been listening to some old (well not that old I guess but from like last year) Mountain Station tracks lately and enjoying our sound. And it is just getting better -- our new "St. James Infirmary" is a different, more organized and complex song than our first recording of it.

Also -- bought a pickup for the fiddle, I decided to get a saxophone pickup that will clip onto the bell. This will help with amplification when we play at Studio 12 in Montclair next Friday.

posted morning of October 15th, 2011: 1 response
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Sunday, October second, 2011

🦋 Jamming

John came over tonight and we had some fun playing songs we did not know... It was a change from our practice routine because John had left our songbook in Andrea's car, so we did not have words and music written out, so we just jammed on a bunch of songs that we have not played before. Highlights included "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (which I find incredibly fun to sing but do not have much of a fiddle part to), "Harvest Moon" (which turns out to be really easy to come up with a fiddle part for), "When the Ship Comes In" (fast, with lots of instrumentals -- not sure what song the instrumentals were from but they seemed to fit ok), "Banks of the Ohio" (dedicated to Martha -- again, a lot of fun to sing, not sure what I should do instrumentally), "Rolling in my Sweet Baby's Arms," "Frankie and Johnny." Also, "Long Black Veil," and a medley of "Odds and Ends" into "Johnny 99."

The fixed fiddle sounded all right. It was going out of tune more than usual, which I put down to the new strings; the tone is clear and even and the volume is there. An irritating buzz I had noticed in recent weeks is gone -- not sure if that had anything to do with the bridge.

posted evening of October second, 2011: Respond
➳ More posts about Fiddling

Saturday, April second, 2011

🦋 Mountain Station

photo by Sylvia

Well out of a year and a bit of jamming together, John and I have put together something worth listening to (IMO obviously). You can download our demo tape from if you'd like to check it out. (Click the "Download Folder" button to get the tape as one big .zip file.) Streaming here:

Track list

  1. "Highway 61 Revisited" by Bob Dylan (with a bit of fooling around with the lyrics from yours truly)
  2. "NJ Transit" by Jeremy
  3. "Dancing Barefoot" by Patti Smith
  4. "Revelator" by Gillian Welch
  5. "Shady Grove," traditional
  6. "California Stars" by Woody Guthrie and Wilco
  7. "St. James Infirmary," traditional
Mountain Station is John Hicks on guitar and vocals, Jeremy Osner on Stroh fiddle and vocals. Follow us on Facebook to see new songs when we record them, and works in progress...

Update -- I am thinking with this post I'll be taking a brief hiatus, a couple of weeks. Thanks for reading, those of you who stop by regularly -- I'll be back, just want a little time off.

Please help us find our audience! If you are reading this post and you like the music, I would greatly appreciate links back, from your blog or your rss reader or Facebook, whatever. Help get the word out...

posted evening of April second, 2011: 4 responses
➳ More posts about Sylvia

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

🦋 Mountain House

Thanks to Rex Broome and to neighbor Dan Rosen for introducing me to House. My recording with Dan of Saint Etienne's "Stoned, to say the least" will appear on Rex's 39-40 Covers project tomorrow. A lot of fun playing and recording this, it seems like almost the perfect music for me -- repetitive improvisation over a fixed beat is about my favorite violin activity...

What a fortuitous coincidence, to have connected with Dan at the same time Rex asked me to cover Saint Etienne! I met Dan last December, at Woody and Lisa's Solistice party; and two weeks ago we started taking the same train in to the city for work, and talking about music as we ride in. So it seemed like a natural thing to ask Dan for help with this cover; he came through in a big way!

(Update: Post #2500 for this humble blog! Halfway there, woo-hoo!)

posted evening of February 20th, 2011: Respond
➳ More posts about Cover Versions

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

🦋 Busy, fun, weekend

Lots of stuff going on this weekend! Sylvia (a child of the millenium, a dragon baby) is as of today, no longer able to write her age with a single digit (assuming of course that she is writing in decimal notation). We are having a birthday dinner with some friends this evening, and tomorrow afternoon her party will be at the Raptor Trust in the Great Swamp.

The other big activity for me, outside of celebrating Sylvia's birthday, is fiddling. Barbara Lamb is in town this weekend, she's giving a concert at Menzel Violins tomorrow afternoon -- I can't make it because of the party, alas, but I've arranged for a fiddle lesson this morning. Really looking forward to it! I've learned her jig "Twisty Girl", I'm hoping she'll teach me "Älgen på taket". And the fiddling continues this afternoon, when Mountain Station (i.e. me and John) will have its first gig, at John's neighborhood block party. I'm pretty shocked at the amount of music we are comfortable playing -- we didn't work out a set list exactly, but we have enough songs to play for an hour set easily, and the order of the songs will determine itself...

posted morning of September 18th, 2010: 4 responses
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Monday, September 6th, 2010

🦋 Mountain Station on the radio

John and I have our first track playing on the radio! Tune in to Henry Musikar's always-great music rotation at KCUF and you will (every so often) hear our cover of Gillian Welch's "Revelator." Here is the track if you don't want to wait:

posted afternoon of September 6th, 2010: Respond

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

🦋 Practicing

John came over today; we played almost exclusively new songs, songs that we've played at most once or twice before, plus the two songs we'll be playing on Thursday at the open mic. Before he came over, I had been working on a tune that was in my head, without being able to figure out what it was -- turns out what I was thinking of was the chorus of "Frim Fram Sauce"; but not knowing that we just played through it together a couple of times, and came up with a bridge. Might be nice to learn the lyrics and try that one out. Other songs we played:

"Frim Fram Sauce" below the fold.

posted evening of June 29th, 2010: Respond

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

🦋 Dead and Gospel

were the de facto theme of tonight's jam with Bob, Janis and Greg. Two songs I had been thinking about this afternoon before I went over there, were They're Red Hot (by Robert Johnson but I'm not sure precisely whose version I am thinking about -- don't think the Dead ever played this song) and "Simple Gifts", a Shaker hymn. As it turned out we tried a couple of verses of "They're Red Hot" and decided to try it again after listening to it more, and Janis and me played a few verses of "Simple Gifts". The playlist:

  • "The Deal" started us off with a Grateful Dead sound -- after that we tried "Simple Gifts" and entirely too-slow-if-one-does-not-have-an-organ performance of "Amazing Grace", then back to the Dead/New Riders to speed things up a little.
  • "Panama Red"
  • "Glendale Train"
  • "Rollin' in my Sweet Baby's Arms"
  • "Oh Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz" -- I sang this, but I do not really have the range needed.
  • "They're Red Hot"
  • "Summertime" -- this was great, slow with lots of solos...
  • "Harder They Come" -- I never played this before, it was a lot of fun.
  • A few false starts in a row, including "I Shall Be Released"*, "Red Rubber Ball", "My Baby Wrote me a Letter" and "Whiskey Bar"
  • "C'est la Vie"

* It would be more than worthwhile to learn "Harder They Come" and "I Shall Be Released", so that we could jam from one into the other -- these two songs go together really nicely.

posted evening of June 27th, 2010: Respond

Monday, June 14th, 2010

🦋 What does that song sound like?...

John and I had a great practice session last night, recorded a bunch of practice takes of tunes -- including a new take of "The Ballad of Hollis Brown", which I have put into the Hitchcock-heavy mix in place of the messy old take of that song. (And the mix is no longer "random"... oh well...)

Big news is, our band has a name now! We are Mountain Station, named after the train station near my house. (As John said, cool -- now all we need is a banjo player and a bass...) Here are some other cuts from the practice last night:

posted morning of June 14th, 2010: 2 responses

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