Chattanooga is a great bicycle town. Now that my office at the folk school is pretty much put together (I’ll be having to haul less stuff back and forth), and now that the weather’s getting better, I’m looking forward to daily bicycle commutes– And counting on my bike to be the official vehicle of my spring and summer nighttime ramblings around town. In a daydream about riding around town, this song bubbled to mind. It’s exactly the kind of happy little melody I like to sing when I’m on my bike. I hope it helps summon the warmer weather and a cheerful spring in Chattanooga!
I just recorded this here at my desk, using Lisa’s handy Zoom H4n. Nothing fancy… Just a simple little song about the city I love, with a nonsense chorus, “Chicky Run”!
Well here’s me skipping a month of blogging, all for starting a folk music school…building local connections stronger, deeper, and more intricately woven than before. It’s been an amazing month since returning from Belgium. For one thing, I hit the ground running with the promotion of the Mountain Music Folk School fall schedule. I’ve been the mad music messenger of Chattanooga, riding around everywhere with my posters and schedules to hand out. Matt’s been right there with me, and so has our business consultant, Mike Harrell. We’re a few more meetings away from having a completed business plan, but we couldn’t wait for that– we decided to jump on this wave of momentum and kick off our first “semester” of group classes. We’re throwing ourselves into this with all our energy, all just to find out the answer to this question: Will the people of Chattanooga support a folk music school, student by student, class by class? It would be too soon to speak now, but let’s just say, so far so good.
I’ve decided that my current job title should be “Community Gatherer”, as I’ve been pulling together first all the teachers to teach our classes and workshops, and now the really fun part of pulling in all the people who might be willing to sign up for a class–or at least sign up on our mailing list. All the lists are growing and growing. Since Casey’s article hit the Times Free Press last Monday, the phone’s been ringing steadily, and all our “gathering” efforts are starting to materialize with real human beings actually stepping up to say, “why yes, I would like to learn to play the banjo!”… and so forth. But also in all our gathering this month, we’ve managed to pull some amazing musicians into our folk school orbit. If our mission is to help these people live musically fulfilling lives, share their knowledge and talent, and help them help others get on board with playing an instrument, heck yeah! We’ll take it! It’s been SO worthwhile so far. I love knowing that a few dozen Chattanoogans (and Chickamaugans, and Ringgolddiggers, and Hixsonians, and RedBankistanis, etc.) are going to spend one hour a week for the next 8 weeks in the presence of patient and passionate musicians like these….
Lon Eldridge. Biologically, he’s 23 years old. Spiritually, he’s 108. When this guy plays and sings, it makes you wonder what kind of soul-swapping took place to stuff the weathered old bluesman into Lon’s body. Lon’s teaching some classes with us this fall, and he’s been such a good sport, coming out with us to all of our wild promotional stunts, like the gig we did at Riverbend last June. Here’s a video clip from that:
Obuobi Ashong. I call him the African gypsy, because he’s been wandering the planet following his musical whims. It is so nice to spend time with someone who cares about nothing more than to play music… and you gotta love the permanent smile look. I think it’s quite the fashion statement. Obuobi will teach a guitar class with us this fall, specifically on this style he plays called “palmwine” music or “highlife.”
Thank you, Chattanooga, for bringing my musical path to a point of intersection with these and other musicians. I’m not taking this for granted!
Well if you’re going to have a city-themed song stuck in your head all the time, I suppose this is the one to have. I can’t help it! There’s a neon sign I see from my porch that says “Choo Choo”— (or sometimes just “oo Choo”, or sometimes “Choo Ch”, or sometimes “h Choo”)…. And there’s just something so inviting about that little chromatic walkup on the words, “Pardon me boys,” that gets the tune going in my head before I have a chance to stop it. I’ve heard Glenn Miller’s rendition, of course, but I’ve never seen this little production before today. How awesome is this?!! And how about that slippery dance floor routine at the end? Wonderful stuff.
Oh, and by the way, if you’re a really cool person and if you ever find yourself going to visit (or stay at) the Choo Choo, drop me an email, because I really do live four blocks from there, and I really would meet you for a beer or a walk around 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.
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 stumbled across this on YouTube. I think it’s kind of fun that some tourist happened to capture a piece of this unique day when my friend Helen Gubbins was visiting.
As long as he keeps inviting me out for gigs and playing these beautiful tunes on his many banjos, Matt Evans will always run the risk of getting splashed up on my blog. We had a really nice time playing tunes at Rock City’s Enchanted Maze down at the foot of Lookout Mountain last weekend. We sat under the wide canopy of an old oak tree, entertained the visitors and ourselves… Made some very nice music with hammered dulcimer and banjo (and then at one point, Matt made the mistake of handing me the banjo, which is kind of like hiring the Swedish Chef to cater your next tea party). I enjoyed this moment when Matt pulled out the minstrel banjo and played a few tunes uniquely suited for the instrument. I sat back and took in the whole scene: oak tree, mountain, music to time-travel by, the very beginning of autumn in Chattanooga, the joy of having friends to play music with…
Some guy who was listening came up to me and asked if Matt was Amish, to which I replied, “No, but he sure does look the part.” And then this guy, figuring the coast was clear, and that no actual Amish people would be harmed in the telling of this joke, proceeded to tell me one of the tiredest Amish jokes of them all: “What goes clip clop, clip clop, clip clop, bang!?”
…Which reminds me, Matt, you have to get a little matching hat for your limberjack. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.
I’m so lucky to have friends like these!!
Short notice session, Rick Davis’s house, Chattanooga, TN, August 12, 2008:
Casey Phillips on tenor banjo, Ken Doyle on flute, and Rick Davis rockin’ the bodhran.
Tunes tunes tunes!! This weekend I was paid a visit by the fabulous Helen Gubbins, a very dear close friend of mine from my Cork days. She primarily plays accordion, but whipped out a fantastic tune on my piano, which promptly became my favorite tune…
…Or at least it was my favorite tune for an hour or two before I got to the session at the Tremont Tavern and heard this new tune by Casey Phillips. Casey is a rock solid player and all-around terrific guy, and he knows approximately 3,424,502 tunes– and as if that’s not enough, he’s writing more! This one in particular completely won me over. I’ll be working on this one for the next few days.
Cockeyed Hen, by Casey Phillips, performed on tenor guitar at the Tremont Tavern, July 27, 2008:
I was too busy making mojitos to fuss with the camera (or a fiddle, or a dulcimer) while the big part of the party went on. But when it all died down, I found myself in a fairly odd–but totally fun–jam session with Ken Doyle on Irish flute and Ken Harrison on saw. This is our rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”. A rather soulful ensemble, don’t you think?
18th Street “surprise” party for Rick Davis, July 5th, 2008: