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.
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.
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: