Wednesday, May 5th, 2004
Played guitar with Bob, Janis and Jim last night -- it went really well. I'm not sure what I was doing different but my guitar was just a lot louder and most of the notes were right, and when I missed a chord I was able to improvise single-note runs to play on top of it. I even played my first genuine, spontaneous solo against "St. James Infirmary". (On which note, I've been getting loads of idle fun lately from singing the relevant two lines of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" to the tune of the first two lines of "St. James Infirmary". For some reason I have been remembering "I went down, to the Delta drugstore" instead of "Chelsea drugstore"; make of that what you will.) By "genuine, spontaneous solo" what I mean is, we were playing the song, Jim singing; he got to the end of the verse, there was the turnaround, he signalled me, and I started playing the solo -- I had not worked out a solo beforehand, just made it up as I went along -- then the turnaround, and Jim started singing again, and I went back to playing rhythm. Totally seamless and coordinated.
We also played "Shine a Light on You" and "Loser", both sounded great.
Sunday, January 9th, 2005
Jammed with Bob today while a sick Janis moaned in the next room. My fiddle is still in the shop but I was playing Bob's violin on a lot of songs, and switching off with him between violin and guitar, a lot of fun -- I'm definitely picking it back up very quickly, I was getting how to do double-stops and open string drones, even very haltingly up in second position on the E string. This is going to be a great thing. I ordered Alan Kaufman's Beginning Old-Time Fiddle from ALibris for book-learning, and John Salyers' "Home Recordings 1941-42" from The Appalachian Center, for ear training.
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006
Tonight I practiced with 13 Scotland Rd, which is Bill Binford on guitar and vocals and Aaron Seglin on harmonica, flute, percussion and vocals. I have jammed with Aaron before at Bob and Janis' house, but had never heard him playing 13 Scotland Rd songs, and never met Bill. The music was just lovely. I played coherent, pretty solos with two of their songs, and less together stuff with a couple of other songs. I did "John Hardy" with Aaron. Anyway -- they were happy enough with what I was doing, to ask me back -- so I will be practicing with them for a while, and if it goes well, performing with them! I'm very excited about this -- I've wanted to be in a band for as long as I can remember.
Tuesday, March 27th, 2007
I was talking with Jeremy E. today about Robyn Hitchcock and realized what I have been thinking about my history with his music, which is: I was flabbergasted and overjoyed in 1985, when Jeremy introduced me to "Black Snake Diamond Role" and a little bit later to "Eaten by Her Own Dinner" and "I Often Dream of Trains". When "Element of Light" came out I bought it right away and liked it but I worried that it was just pop music, not the more meaningful, cerebral category where I had been placing Robyn. By the time "Globe of Frogs" came out, I think it was only available on CD and I had no CD player -- I tape recorded it from Jeremy (overwriting my old cassette of "Killing an Arab") but by that time I had stopped listening to Robyn besides the three records I listed first, which I idealized as sort of pristine Hitchcock, unsullied by popularity.
And now going back and listening to this stuff, I am seeing my mistake -- to begin with, "Globe of Frogs" and "Element of Light" are fantastic albums, and in no way inferior to the earlier records. Looking at the music through a filter of its popularity was hampering me from really hearing it.
I have been looking for something new to happen with my musical identity and this could be it. On Sunday when I was playing with Bob and Janis (have I mentioned that we are starting to sound really good together?), I played "Winchester" on the spur of the moment, and I could feel a level of connection to the music that is not always easy to achieve.
Sunday, June 10th, 2007
I jammed with Bob and Janis and Gregory tonight and it was really nice. Several songs came off almost flawlessly and we were just exactly in time with each other in a way that characterizes the best of our playing, for almost the entire session. The set list (constructed from memory afterward and not complete) was:
- Wild Horses -- I had given Janis the recording of Old & In The Way singing it and wanted to get us doing it.
- Knights in White Satin, more as a joke than anything -- none of us really knows it.
- Pallette on Your Floor
- Willow Garden
- Love in Vain
- May the Circle be Unbroken
- Death Don't Have No Mercy
- Some Dark Hollow
- St. James Infirmary
- I Know You Rider
- The Star-Spangled Banner (by this point we were sort of done for the night -- the last couple of songs were not great.)
- The Night They Tore Old Dixie Down
Everything between about Love in Vain and St. James Infirmary was in "best we've ever played" territory.
Saturday, October 13th, 2007
Janis and Bob and I have been jamming together for about 4 years now; today we are playing our first actual gig! At the Meeker St. block party, starting in about an hour. Exciting, we have a set list and everything!
Saturday, October 31st, 2009
This has been a really excellent weekend for playing music -- last night I jammed with John, who I met pretty recently and had not played with previously, and was startled to find that we're on just about the same page musically. We picked up each other's songs very quickly and got some nice harmonies going.
Then today I played with Bob and Janis and Gregory, and realized that we've really made a lot of progress over the past half a year or so, after a couple of years of being in a rut -- at this point one of us can call a tune and even if we haven't played it in a while, we jump right in and harmonize. A musical milestone of sorts for me this afternoon was playing violin and singing in unison with it -- I've never been able to figure that out before but today it was sounding all right. (Neither the playing nor the singing was as good, quite, as if I do one or the other -- but I could hear how they were going to get better.)
Friday, November 6th, 2009
John was over tonight (after the reading) and we jammed out for a couple of hours. This is the approximate set list with some comments. (Hoping to keep set lists every time we play -- that seems like a good way of keeping track of the music.)
- Prodigal Son -- this was good, maybe my favorite song of the evening. I used to play a pretty good version of this on guitar, I'm finding it's a very different song on violin -- here is a tape of me playing it, except with no guitar or vocals: Prodigal Son (the ending needs work, both in the solo and duet versions)
- California Stars by Woody Guthrie and Wilco -- a really fun song to play. I'm trying to work out the structure of the song a little better. Playing the solos can be very much effortless, like laying one's head on a bed of California stars. But I have to maintain a balance, not sink too much into the bed.
- Lay Me Down a Pallette on Your Floor -- another song that is very different on fiddle. Lovely old tune about adultery.
- Beautiful World by ? -- don't quite get this song.
- Angel From Montgomery by John Prine. I like playing this song a lot, not sure if I enjoy singing it.
- IKY Rider
- Honky Tonk Woman
- Jockey Full of Bourbon by Tom Waits -- totally new song for me. I like it a lot.
- Cry Baby Cry
- Mother Nature's Son
- Will the Circle Be Unbroken
- Jesus Etc.
- The Louisville Burglar
A song it would be fun to play:
Weary Day by the Stanley Bros.
- Amazing Grace, but faster and without the lack of synchronization caused by recording in multiple tracks -- which should be easily solved by having two people play it instead of one in two takes.
- After Midnight by Patsy Cline
Friday, November 27th, 2009
Speaking of set lists: I played music with John this afternoon (also his brother Vic was sitting in on piano). We played a number of songs we've done before, and also did some instrumentals out of my fiddle book (the misleadingly named but comprehensive Fiddle Fakebook) -- it was a new thing to play these pieces with an accompaniment, very enjoyable. We are going to play the open mic at John's church in two weeks!
Song list below the fold.
- Meet Me in the Morning -- I've been listening to this song a lot lately and working out some fiddle parts to it. We didn't really get it the first time around, but later on we came back to it and it sounded very nice.
- Old Joe Clark
- California Stars -- this is one of our best pieces.
- Prodigal Son -- still needs work, definitely; we're not sure yet whether to play it in D or in E, we tried it both ways.
- Jockey Full of Bourbon -- I like this song a lot, but I need to figure out how the verse goes. Right now I follow along gamely but there's a key uncertainty about where the changes come.
- Louisville Burglar -- we played this in C (which the lead sheet I sent John is in) and in G (which is where I normally play it) -- G is definitely the better key for my voice.
- In Your Dreams (by Wilco) -- this is a brand-new song for me, I don't think I had ever heard it before. It's got a nice sound, sort of ragtimey.
- Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine and a little bit of Bonaparte's Retreat. These are such fun songs! Earlier today I started learning Bonaparte Crossing the Rocky Mountains, too.
- Up on Cripple Creek -- Band songs are a lot of fun but difficult. We did not have quite straight where the verse starts, where the chorus ends, etc. I want to learn the fiddle tune "Cripple Creek" and play these two songs together.
- Wild Horses
- Will the Circle be Unbroken -- again, G seems like a better key than C.
- Sloop John B.
- Devil's Dream -- this song is my downfall -- I try to play it very fast, and I can do it, but I lose track of where I am. Need to slow down and learn it.
- Someday Soon -- another Wilco song that I don't know.
- Praying Mantis (Don Dixon) -- I had never heard this song before, I fell in love with it first time around. It is pretty easy to play on violin, too!
- Hickory Wind
- I Shall Be Released
- Angel from Montgomery
- Can't Always Get What You Want -- John's guitar part for this is great. We played for a long time, attempting with mixed results to jam into various songs like "Nails in my Coffin" and "Up on Blue Ridge Mountain".
- My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains
- Meet Me in the Morning reprise
- Saint James Infirmary -- John played his arrangement of this, which is very different from the tune I know. Definite possibilities.
- Stagger Lee -- we both played guitar on this.
- Irene Goodnight
Saturday, November 28th, 2009
Jim Cross and family were in town today; I brought a guitar for him to play over to Antonio's house and we played with Bob, Janis and Greg. Some of the songs were just great, sounding like we had been playing together for all this time -- like the thread of practice was unbroken. Song list below the fold.
- I Know You Rider
- Old Joe Clark
- Country Roads
- Saint James Infirmary
- I Threw it All Away
- Girl from the North Country
- How Long (Hot Tuna) -- I had never heard this song before; it would be a great one to work on. Sounded pretty nice just playing whatever I could come up with on the spot.
- Long Black Veil -- We batted this one around for a while but eventually could not agree on how to play it.
- Death Don't Have No Mercy/ West Texas Cowboys
- Mama Tried -- we played this straight, and then played a bluesy version Jim has come up with, then jammed from that into "Heart & Soul" and made a stab at playing "People Get Ready".
- Teardrops Will Fall -- another song I have never heard.
- Bonaparte's Retreat
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