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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.


Patty on the Turnpike

Well, I promised my friend Doursean that I’d post some “Angeline the Baker” action on my blog tonight, but when I sat down to the dulcimer, all it wanted to play was “Patty on the Turnpike,” a tune I learned this past weekend in Shepherdstown, WV. And by “learned” I also mean “taught”– I was co-teaching a class with Ken Kolodner on old time fiddle tunes, and this was one that he picked out for the class. Usually when tunes are played extra slow for teaching purposes, there’s a little voice inside my head that says, “C’mon! Hurry it up!” But with this tune, we played it all slow like this for three straight days, and that little voice in my head just said, “Ahhhh.”
I loved it most when I played it on my parents’ Yamaha piano in Cinnaminson… but didn’t have any kind of recording device with me to capture the moment. Still, it’s nice on the dulcimer, although it sounds awfully lonely without my whole big bunch of students playing along. Thanks, everyone, for a wonderful weekend at the Upper Potomac Dulcimer Fest! And especially to Ken, thanks for the tune!

Patty on the Turnpike, Sarah Armstrong’s version (from Hill Country Tunes), recorded on 18th St., March 2009:

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.

Walkin’ in the Parlor

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.

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 very happy with the music Lisa Ferguson and I have been making lately.  We conquered a whole slew of Christmas tunes for the upcoming season, and we’ve been polishing the tunes we already have in the repetoire.  This one, Steffaleken from Norway, is one of our favorites.  We haven’t reached the perfect arrangement with it yet, but we always have fun when we play it.  Lisa and I will be playing in St. Elmo on Saturday, November 29th at 11am, and we’re looking for some more Christmas gigs– so get in touch if you can use some beautiful dulcimer music for your event!

Billy in the Lowground

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.