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Me and Sylvia, walkin' down the line (May 2005)


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If he hadn't been so tired, ... he might have seen at the start that he was setting out on a journey that would change his life forever and chosen to turn back.

Orhan Pamuk

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Saturday, June 30th, 2012

🦋 Let's Listen to

"You'se a Viper" by Stuff Smith Harlem Hamfats [wow! I always thought this was originally a Stuff Smith tune! He was covering Hamfats] -- this is Dale Burleyson and the 4th St. NiteOwls performing a truly spectacular cover version. Dig the washboard, dig the pedal steel and clarinet solos -- fast forward to 20:30:
Or really, don't -- watch the whole concert, get a "Viper" treat midway in. This is the NiteOwls performing a year ago at Barbes -- tonight Ellen and I are going to see them at Tierney's. Can't wait! They are opening for Ruby on the Vine, whose new album is included in the admission.

posted afternoon of June 30th, 2012: Respond
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Friday, January 20th, 2012

🦋 The bottom strings

I was once again unable to resist cutting up my fiddle, though I think with potentially better results (cf.) this time. I bought a new C string -- a Super Sensitive Red Label from Musician's Friend -- and found it a huge improvement on the string that had come with the instrument. Suddenly I wanted to play on the bottom strings which made me notice a problem with the bridge; namely, when I cut grooves for the strings I did not make enough space to accomodate the width of the C string. So I cut a little more away and have been playing almost exclusively for the past couple of practice sessions on the bottom 3 strings. See whatcha think of this recording I made of "Walkin After Midnight" : After Midnight by The Modesto Kid

posted evening of January 20th, 2012: Respond
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Thursday, January 20th, 2011

🦋 8 bars: Notation and Improvisation

This is the sketched-out notation of a melody I was working on the other night. (The focus is not right, I can't seem to take a picture of the page in focus; not sure why. The unreadable text is "slow walking tempo" and "(let ring)" -- the Ⅴ-shaped symbol above the staff I think means to stress the marked note; in any case this is my intent where I've marked that symbol.) An interesting aspect of writing this out was trying to justify writing it out, trying to explain to myself why it's not a waste of time, what's useful about it...

Writing the melody out ends up being useful to me as a way to let myself improvise -- my favorite thing to do when I'm practicing is to take a short melody and repeat it with variations. I had been trying recently to improvise the melodies "from scratch" but the problem I run into is not being able to keep them in mind long enough that the structure of the melody repeats among variations.

posted morning of January 20th, 2011: 6 responses

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

🦋 Swing Low

Trying to do something with the violin by itself -- no voice, no guitar. Here's what I came up with:

It almost works, I think -- there are places where it is a little hard to follow the melody without lyrics but they are short in duration, the song comes back quickly.

posted afternoon of May 16th, 2010: 2 responses

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

🦋 Billy in the Lowground

For the first time in a little while, I've found a new fiddle tune I want to learn. Here is the Ether Frolic Mob (featuring Peter Stampfel, Craig Judelman, Stacey Samuels, Eli Smith, Jeffrey Lewis) playing "Billy in the Lowground":

A few other versions:

Also, turns out "Billy in the Lowlands", which is what I thought this song was called, is a movie.

posted evening of May 4th, 2010: 1 response

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

🦋 Some new songs -- "the jig is up!"

This weekend I started working on a couple of new songs, some solo fiddle tunes and a blues tune I could play with John.

I thought I would explore the latter half of the alphabet in my music book a little; paging through the R's I found "The Road to Lisdoonvarna" -- well! I've been to Lisdoonvarna -- on a bike trip in western Ireland, with Ellen about 13 years ago -- and remember it fondly, and I have a shortage of jigs in my repertoire; so I thought I'd give it a try. Looked it up on YouTube to get an idea what it sounds like, and I found Ryan and Brennish Thompson playing it along with two other Dorian tunes:

I like all of these songs and have set myself the task of learning them -- they're coming along pretty well, I think. "Lisdoonvarna" and "Swallowtail" are jigs -- i.e. fast tunes in 6/8 time -- and "Drowsy Maggie" is a reel, in 4/4.

Another song I took a look at last night, which I think will be great to play with John, is "If the River Was Whiskey", Charlie Poole's version of "Hesitation Blues." Here are The Dough Rollers playing it:

or you can listen to Poole at It's a great fiddle part, a lot of fun, and it'll sound great with John's guitar.

posted afternoon of February 7th, 2010: Respond
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Friday, January 22nd, 2010

🦋 Mackie Messer

Ellen and I watched Quiz Show tonight, and among other things it made me want to learn the song "Mack the Knife" which plays (Sinatra's version) over its credits. Here are some versions:

posted evening of January 22nd, 2010: Respond
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Monday, January 18th, 2010

🦋 Walk Right In

This is encouraging! I went to sleep last night thinking about "Walk Right In", with the different versions running through my head; and I woke up this morning with some ideas for my own version running through my head. So far today I have recorded three versions of it, each one sounding progressively better -- takes 2 and 3 even being music that I would play for somebody else without feeling embarrassed! It still needs guitar in it to sound like a complete song -- if you'd like to hear what I'm working on you can download take 3 from my account.

This seems like a good place for a note about my current recording setup, which has gotten a lot more hi-tech in the last couple of weeks. I am recording into condenser mics which are going to a Behringer Xenyx 1204 mixing console, then a Behringer UCA-200 analog-to-digital converter, into my USB port, and REAPER is storing the sound and turning it into .WAV and .MP3 files. This seems to work pretty well -- I am happy about the sound quality of the recordings -- I need to spend some time on learning the ins and outs of the software, which is a good deal more complex than Audacity but also works better. John and I are working towards the goal of recording both of us together; to do this properly we mainly need another mic stand or two and possibly another mic.

posted afternoon of January 18th, 2010: Respond
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Sunday, May 10th, 2009

🦋 Rainy Day

(Not today; yesterday -- today the sun is shining.)

Snufkin got a feeling that he wanted to write songs. He waited until he was quite sure of the feeling and one evening he got his mouth-organ from the bottom of his rucksack. In August, somewhere in Moominvalley, he had hit on five bars which would undoubtedly provide a marvellous beginning for a tune. They had come completely naturally as notes do when they have been left in peace. Now the time had come to take them out again and let them become a song about rain.
This is nice: last night I was reading Moominvalley in November with Sylvia, and we came across the passage above. Later on, and without being conscious of the coincidence until this morning, I sat down and finished writing out a song I have had in the back of my mind since two weeks ago (when I first thought of it I wrote down the first two bars) -- I'm tentatively calling it "Rainy Day".

An interesting thing with the key of this piece -- when I started out I was thinking it was in D minor; but then something happened in measure 5. If the three-note run at the end of that measure is D-E-G♮, then the song ends up resolving on D; if it is E-G♮-A, the resolution is on A, and the key is A phrygian. I am not sure what the accidental sharps on C and G are doing to the key. Hoping to record this later on, it's pretty hypnotic (like listening to a heavy rain outside, was the genesis of the working title.)

posted morning of May 10th, 2009: Respond
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Saturday, November 8th, 2008

🦋 Practicing with the Devil

So I've been practicing this folk tune called "Devil's Dream" -- I happened on it in my book of tunes, and recognized it pretty well so I thought I'd try learning it. It's starting to sound alright -- not 100% yet, and not up to speed, but it's getting to where it sounds like a song. And then today, I was sort of noodling around with the idea of it and started playing a different song, in triple time, which I'm calling "Devil's Drunk" for now -- it is recognizably based on a similar tune idea, but it sounds drunk. Here is a rough recording of the two pieces:

Here is sheet music for Devil's Dream and for Devil's Drunk in PDF format, or both songs in ABC format.

(Thanks for the inspiration, Martha!)

(Sylvia wants to know if there is any relationship between these songs and "Friend of the Devil".)

posted afternoon of November 8th, 2008: Respond

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