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A Clip from the Corner House

Truly one of my favorite places in the world, the Corner House in Cork City.  And here are some fine fiddlers (one of them is my friend Edel, who I miss terribly!!) with rising star Brian Hanlon.

Swedish trio

Sweden.  Old man.  Fiddle.  Guitar.  Volvo.  Tractor.

I’m absolutely smitten.

For anyone who knows me, this should come as no surprise whatsoever.

Jim T., thanks for the tip that led me to this video!

The day the Flat Iron Stringband came to town…

….was a fantastic day.  Magical, I might even say, as it brought a reunion of sorts.  Let me try to explain.  When I moved to Chattanooga and met Joseph Decosimo, he had to correct me, and remind me that we had actually met once before–in Cork.  Well, that’s no surprise, I guess, since I had gotten into playing some old time music there, and he showed up at a session I was at.  Ok, so around the same time, I had taken a trip to England for the big old time music festival in Gainsborough, put on by the Friends of American Old Time Music and Dance.  There I met Nick Stillman, an incredible fiddle and banjo player, an American guy in his 20s out in the UK and Ireland doing the same thing I was doing… living for/with/through music entirely.  Nice move, Nick.  Ok, so here’s the fun part.  I can remember the details of this part (since I wasn’t there), but Joseph and Nick also met each other, in Galway where Nick was busking.  So the three of us all had this kind of pre-introduction to one another—and we all got to spend an evening together earlier this month, now six years since we all first met each other.

Nick is back in the U.S. now, (now just to get him to move to Chattanooga… hmmm.) and he was on tour with the Flat Iron Stringband.  So was my good friend, Amanda Kowalski, until she got called out on assignment in China.  So although the band showed up without my Amanda, I was still majorly glad to have them around.  If I had some way of making time stop, I’d’ve done it that night after their gig.  There was music happening in the house like I’d never quite heard there before.  Fiddlers, banjoists, guitarists, and a bassist at the absolute top of their game.  All this makes me feel like I’m alive in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.  Not a single generation too soon or too late.  Just right.

Mountain Music Folk School

This is an exciting day!  I am announcing the opening of the Mountain Music Folk School, co-founded by myself, Matt Evans, and Steve Daugherty.  And in the spirit of all things nifty and new, I’ve changed the look of my own blog–And yes, I will continue to post clips from my musical adventures on this blog, but keep an eye on the Mountain Music Folk School blog as well, because there’s going to be a lot of activity there!  All of the teachers are blog contributors, so there will be a variety of stories, videos, and photos coming soon.

There’s a great video there now of Casey, Matt, and myself playing “Cockeyed Hen”, an original by Casey Phillips.


I’m living this bizarre, wonderful life where I dream up wishes and then they happen.  Like that time when I was wishing I could someday have and play a hammered dulcimer… Well in 2001 it was my sincere wish that I could learn more about Swedish music and the very fascinating Swedish folk instrument–the nyckelharpa.  It’s funny that this wish came true in Ireland of all places, but there she was.  Elin Skoglund (at the time, now Anderzon) happened to be the flatmate of my friend Zena.  At the international student orientation, Zena approached me and said I had to meet her new Swedish flatmate, because she plays this really odd, beautiful folk instrument…. And I knew my wish was granted.

So this post is another invitation to my happy place.  If nyckelharpas don’t make your heart flutter like they do mine, there’s the seated dance these two are doing and the joy on their faces–sure to bring a smile.  This is Elin and Edward Anderzon, performing last year in Pennsylvania.  The tune is Spelmansglädje.

Clinch River Ramblers

Sometime late in 2007 I met little Ethan Ferguson at a campfire at the Cove Lake State Park in Campbell County, TN. He was playing fiddle, I was playing dulcimer, and we mutually became each other’s biggest fans that day. I was lucky to run into Ethan again this past weekend at the Louie Bluie Festival, also at the park, and I took this video of him and his band stealing the show. It’s hard to believe Ethan’s only 10 years old. He plays fiddle like a champ, runs that band like a CEO, and talks to the crowd like he’s a star on the Grand Ole Opry. It’s exciting to imagine the musical path this kid’s life will take. I hope our paths cross again!

Old Chattanooga

Due to a scheduling/weather snafu, we got bumped out of our usual spot at the Market Street Tavern tonight just after we started our old time jam.  Luckily, the house isn’t too far away, and miraculously, it was even clean enough for guests, so we negotiated with the kind tavern for a case of beer to go, and transported the whole jam to 18th Street.  Now I generally look forward to Monday nights as my fiddle practice night, but given that there were already one-hundred-and-eleventy-seven fiddles, I went for the more diverse option, the dulcimer.  Of course, I was also able to pull out the banjo on a tune, and even spun around on my stool and banged one out on the piano.  It turned out to be a really fun evening with some great tunes!  Thanks to all of you who came, for being so flexible.  Looking forward to next week’s jam, back at the Market Street Tavern, 6-9.  For anyone who has just happened upon this post, the weekly old time jam on Monday nights is open to any musicians who want to play old time tunes–no experience necessary!  Beginners welcome!

Here’s the tune, Old Chattanooga, being played in my living room, Monday, May 26, 2008:

Old Aunt Jenny With Her Nightcap On

Whoooooa cool tune alert! Butch and I were asked to come play at McCallie tonight, and Joseph DeCosimo was also on the bill. Lucky us! Joe taught us this tune outside before the show, and even though Butch is just finding his way around the chords in this video, we nailed it in the performance, and I thought it sounded great. I hope we get a chance to play with Joseph again soon! Chattanooga doesn’t know it yet, but this place is full of young talented musicians, some of whom, like Joe, are into keeping the old traditions alive and rockin’. This must be what it’s like to live in the same town as Bruce Molsky… Lucky lucky lucky….


Just ran across this video on Youtube…. Gotta love the way these Swedes interpret Poor Man’s Troubles, an American fiddle tune. Also, I think I recognize that percussionist from the Swedish band who crashed the festival in Gooik, Belgium, last summer. Incredible music.

The Home Rulers

Luxury of luxuries!  I stepped out my front door the other evening and saw that my across-the-street neighbors, Rick and Brandy, had their front door open.  So of course I peeked in to see what they were up to, and their dining room was full of Irish musicians!  And they were all working at learning a tune together.  And it just so happens that I bought a fiddle this week, so I ran back over to my place, grabbed my fiddle, and ran back to learn the tune with them.  This is the tune they were learning, a hornpipe called “The Home Rulers” (which I assume is a handy tool used by homeschoolers).  After that we did a slip jig, and I went home a happy bug.  Yay for awesome neighbors!!