Sunday, April 30, 2006

Dulcitar News

The latest on the Dulcitar progress from creator Douglas MacCormack:

Its coming up on the end of May but it looks like I will need a couple more weeks. I chose to use Imron which goes on like glass but it is slow to fully cure for buffing and polishing. It us used on commercial aircraft and boats. I thank you for your patience as I know you must be jumping out of your skin by now. The end result will be worth it though. It's really coming to life in the past 2 weeks...

After a good deal of sanding (oddly enough, sanding is a "love-hate" thing for me. Must be all those kitchen cabinets I had to finish sand as a kid in the cabinet shop), it's time to seal up the wood, and apply a thin "reader" coat of black to help bring out remaining blemishes that are hard to see on bare wood. Sanding this coat will reveal high and low spots, small dents and scratches.

After those are sanded out, automotive gray primer is applied to fill up remaining defects. More sanding and fairing....

At last its time to apply the real basecoat black. Once again we go over the whole body with a fine tooth comb and take care of the tiniest of flaws. Imron, a 2 part aircraft finish, goes on like glass- thick, rich, deep, dark and delicious! 3 coats is plenty for this stuff. It wont be ready to buff for at least 6 days but it is dry enough after 3 days to handle gently.

It's out-of-control, just how psyched I am about this instrument. It really has become a defining part of this musical evolution and the attention to detail that Doug has been lavishing upon this wood is resulting in a seriously beautiful work of art. I'm proud to be the almost-owner of a truly unique instrument!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Video From The Fair

You'll need Quicktime or something that can view .mov files to see the clip below featuring me and Uncle Charles playing "Cotton-Eyed Joe" at the Central Florida Fair this past Monday: Futch_Charles

The fair was a ghost town Monday, with people hanging around the edges of the tent where we played. Although in this video clip, you can see a couple of fairgoers (not related) who decided to hang out closer to the stage. Thanks again to everyone who came out!

Got another Dulcitar report for later!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Joy and Terror?

The band had three great sets at the Central Florida Fair on Monday; it was a ghost town. Rumors about some kind of gang activity over the weekend had reached the ears of Mark Janssen, who was handling drum duties for the evening. Jae said some of the food vendors were complaining that it was slow over the weekend, too. Maybe from a lack of attendance. Maybe rumors. Fair crowds are always a little different than most crowds. They're there to see everything, so unless you're juggling fire, hypnotizing people or happen to be Toxic Audio, you usually get a few that hang out here and there - mostly gathered at the tables across the way, eating and listening to the music or grouped around the back of the tented seating area. The Central Florida Folk group wasn't having much better luck around the corner with their stage - numbers were down all around.

But that didn't keep us from playing like there were hundreds of people watching - we always put on a high-energy show, because the emotions are always tightly wrapped into the moments of the music. It's hard not to redline emotionally when performing "Spider Rock", "Down To Earth", "Black Indian" and "Caught" - all tunes that deal with intense flesh and blood realities. There was no holding back - though I always edit the tunes for an all ages performance - at least a little.

Everybody did a great job - reviewing the videotape, it really sounded great - and we had Gene Blankenship, our dear friend and cowboy reverend sound guy, working the sound system and stoking the speakers with Johnny Cash in between sets. Our version of "Folsom Prison Blues" went over really well, considering we'd never played it with Uncle Charles before, but he's familiar with the tune, has a great ear and has played it with other bands, so I wasn't concerned. It was the only cover we did - and it was very well-received, especially by some of the fair employees.
Signed some people up for the mailing list, ate some really greasy fair food - and had Travis Lewis come up on stage and play some guitar on "Ring-A-Ding". Travis' CD was produced by the legendary Jimmy Snow and has performed onstage at the Grand Ol' Opry. We had to bring it down quite a bit to hear him, seeing as how he played into a microphone - and it was cool to have him join us for one of our last tunes! Next time, we'll have him sing one - or do an old gospel song that he knows.

I'm happy with my performance - I'm not satisfied, if that makes any sense. Still, as much joy as performing brings, there are still those little moments of terror that I must deal with. Such a lovely balance to stand at the edge of the cliff and enjoy the view! So, continued steps towards improvement, to include monitoring my equipment output more closely on-stage. Split outputs are not always beneficial, just a mental note.

An all-around lovely time - thanks to Ellen Gordon for having us back again and congratulations on the promotion, even though we're kind of late about that.

Dulcitar Pics: Update!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Dulcitar Pics: Round Two

From Doug:

OOOOH! Color! Starting from a pure green base, sample swatches are tested on a scrap veneer. Colors are mixed in increments until the target color is reached. Dyes are mixed in 2 oz of plain water. 22g means 22 drops of green while 12b indicates how many of blue. Without clear finish, it looks rather drab but the color will darken with finish coats. I may also add a similar recipe of dyes to the first coats of finish to "warm" it up and further intensify the color. The wood has a blondish cast I dont care for so this will also get rid of that. I kept thinking of my vacation in the Keys and remembering the color of the water as we drove the Rt 1 bridge as I mixed the color.......

That's about as dreamy a connection as I would've come up with. Blessings from Key West!

3 coats of stain should do it for this phase. A light sanding between the first 2 coats will intesify the contrast.
Next a few coats of finish will be applied to help protect the wood as I finish sanding and shaping the rest of the instrument.

For those fellow dulcimer enthusiasts and luthiers who are reading this - I'm not putting every last bit of detail in the e-mail - some things have to remain magic.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Knight Of The Round

Central Florida Folk had another one of its shows in the magnificent backyard of Mark Fodor. Deep in the heart of Orlando, this place is a little garden of eden on a resedential street; two stages, nicely landscaped. Bring on the potluck and a donation for the artists and invite the neighbors, that's how it rolls out. Last night, it was Bill and Eli of BluesGotUs and the incredible Scott Ainsley, whom Eric Clapton once called "the most important blues musician who ever lived."

Both shows were great - Bill and Eli are a fun couple and Bulldog Ben sat in on harmonica. Scott Ainsley was amazing. His presentation laced the authentic music with stories and history that made the music come even more alive. His picking was simply jaw-dropping, he sang the blues with great pain. I'm kind of embarassed that the crowd was so small; the CFF hasn't been able to successfully promote these shows in this beautiful space.

After the show came the jam, though not as usual, because everytime, it's different. Last night, we sat in a circle on the second stage, bathed in blue floodlights, and introduced songs. In the circle was Susie Cool, Bulldog Ben, a younger man from Tampa named Toby, CFF president Barry Brogan, me and Scott Ainsley. I tuned to open C, thinking it would give me more options; lucky guess. Mark Fodor made a sly song suggestion in the shape of "Flowers On The Wall" when it came my turn to toss in - so we did a pretty rowdy version of it. When it came around again, we did "Interstate 10 Blues" - and MAN did it smoke! What an honor to sit in a round of musicians like this and pass that ball. I had the four string and six-string handy (with Angelique on stand-by in the truck, in case we'd be plugging-in) but ended up going with the six-string ("Nikki") all night. With two steel resonators and two guitars, the dulcimer needs to double efforts to compete. (Two words that musicians hate to hear: turn down. Two more words that musicians hate to hear: gotta tune.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

New Fun In The Mail

My Jerry Rockwell books arrived and I am really happy about that. I ordered "Music Theory and Chord Reference For The Mountain Dulcimer", and a couple of song books of tablature, but it also came with a CD of some whacked-out electro-dulcimer experiments that are as boundary-pushing as anything out there in Dulcimerica. And that's right, I've coined the term "Dulcimerica", because it doesn't exist anywhere on the internet, and in about a week, the first times it pops up, my name will be associated with it.

God, I love the web.

And then I'm reminded of the naked pictures of me anchored somewhere in the blizzard of ones and zeros and then I rethink that whole "love" issue.

We don't live in a very bright house, in fact our cable connection is actually pretty stupid. Jae and I would very much like for the little green light second from the bottom of the modem to stop blinking slo-w-ly and stay the hell on so we can get some work done online. Right now, we're doing a bunch of work offline and then shooting it over when service is back up, which is every five minutes with breaks of twenty. Yeah. It's like that.

And I'm typing with a handicapped pinky, crushed by another cruel piece of electrician's hardware. In the past three weeks, I've fractured my right big toe, sprained my left wrist and then jammed my right pinky earlier today; both digits are swollen but the wrist is making a comeback. So, playing dulcimer right now has been an exercise in sheer passion. It's like, "what would you do for the revolution?"

"I'd practice injured!"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The First Of April.mp3

While diving into the music this past weekend, I decided to write some backing tracks for one of the guys, Leon Aguilar, to sing over. Leon's an up and coming writer/performer and I really like his style - so I cooked up "The First Of April."

Most of the sounds are dulcimer, including the long sustained, synthesizer-type notes that were created by using the EBow. The drums are edited loops, the bass is some edited loopage and some real-time input. The horns and strings at the end are sounds from my Roland Fantom keyboard and there are a couple of little effects here and there. It sounds, to me, a little like a David Bowie song - which is kinda cool. The odd song structure struck me as being "right" - with a big rocking bridge in place of a second verse and a large breakdown section with not a lot of drums. I'm eager to see what Leon comes up with - in the meantime, I've got some of my own ideas and designs about how this may translate.

Bing Futch - The First Of April.mp3