It’s been a while since I’ve posted a good old fashioned recorded-it-in-my-living-room kind of post. Partly, that’s because I haven’t been in my living room lately for long enough to record a tune. But the other evening, Matt came by for some tunes (as well as folk school plotting and scheming), and this is what we made. Exploring the quiet, the slow, the simple, the serene side of old time music… We’re inching towards the place where old time music meets African music, or at least the kind of African music I love to listen to. [I reference this mbira post.] Actually, now that I think about it, most of the traditional mbira music from Zimbabwe I’ve heard is fast and busy… And maybe I’m just really into what Forward Kwenda does when he takes those traditional melodies to a mellower place. Well certainly I appreciate knowing how to reach that mellower place in old time music. Matt Evans is the conductor on the express train to old time mellowland…the slowest, quietest, most peaceful train you could ever imagine. Here’s my first official wish to the universe in 2009: I wish for Matt and myself to someday collaborate with Forward Kwenda. Crazier things have been wished for on blogs, haven’t they?
Walkin’ in the Parlor, recorded by Matt and Christie on 18th St., Chattanooga, Jan 11, 2009.
I’m thinking that one of the highest insults you can pay a banjoist is to ask “What was that tune?” when they stop playing, when all the while it was Soldier’s Joy. That’s one of the first things I ever liked about the banjo, how the melody gets cooked into a casserole of counter melodies, so even “Three Blind Mice” would sound fresh… But it’s been a while since I’ve spent a lot of time with a banjo player who does this trick so masterfully. Seems like when Matt Evans plays, even the old tunes sound new again, like I’m hearing them for the first time. So today’s magic tune was Billy in the Lowground. I’m a goober for not recognizing it, but when Matt plays tunes in the key of C, I just assume it could be anything. We played it beautifully inside the house, and then relocated to the great outdoors and tried to recreate the moment. It’s just not the same when I actually know that I know the tune we’re playing. But anyway, it’s a nice version all the same. Perfect weather in Chattanooga today for the key of C.
After all the excitement of the Chattanooga Dulcimer Festival last weekend, it all boiled down to a few modal tunes I got to share with Matt Evans at the old time jam last Monday. After a weekend of wailing away on my dulcimer, we quieted down with “Texas” and “Falls of Richmond” all slow and groovy, and Matt pulled out this one, “White Face Reel”. Quiet moments like these are rare at our session. The voice you hear at the end is Shelley, my dulcimer friend from Chicago, one of half a dozen guests who stuck around for a free day after the festival was over. Yes, there will be some dulcimer fest videos soon…. I was too busy to capture any of it myself, but Philip was on the scene working his magic. Now he just needs to work his editing magic and get those puppies uploaded! In due time… In the meantime, Fred, enjoy some fine banjo playing from my buddy Matt.
Matt Evans, White Face Reel, Market Street Tavern, June 23, 2008:
The first time I heard this tune, Snowbird, I was sitting in the all-purpose room of an elementary school in Gainsborough, England, and the guy playing it was a fiddle/banjo player from Vermont. I had recorded it then, back in 2004 with just me and him playing it, and have loved the tune ever since. But I’ve never found anyone else who knows it, so I’ve kept it to myself, just played it maybe a few times on my own, but never in a session… until yesterday. Fred, Ouida, and I paid a visit to Lucy Long’s cabin at the Breakin’ Up Winter festival in Lebanon, TN. We brought instruments and the birthday bourbon, sat down and had us a few great tunes. Luke of Lawrenceburg was also there pulling out all kinds of tricks on the guitar, banjo, and harmonica. I was so delighted when Lucy started playing Snowbird!
I recorded it on my iPod, experimenting for the first time with the new Belkin recording attachment I just got for it. I wasn’t using an external mic, although I think it would sound better if I had. Still, not a bad job for just a little guy.
What do I like so much about this tune? It’s rather plain… not crooked, not in the key of A, no surprise key changes in the second part… I don’t really get what gets me about it, but I’m got. It’s a sweet tune.