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:
….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’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:
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: