Monday, July 31, 2006

Dulcimerica Vol. 1: prepus morus

There are more than a fair share of Irish tunes that are going to be on the disc, but one of the originals, "Please Bury Me By The River Shannon", has more of a western feel to it, which suggests an immigrant who doesn't want to die in a foriegn land. Although the tune doesn't have lyrics yet, the title is clearly pronounced within the melody. Something interesting just happened as I recorded the demo. The song is in DAA and the chords are D - Bm - A - G. The melody swirls against the chords in 3/4 time, referring to the minor just about every other measure, giving it an occasionally dark feel. At one point, I goofed and played a G instead of the Bm, which I made a mental note to clear up later. But listening back, it really gave the tune even more of a cowboy feel, so that little "accident" is going to be recreated on the final recording. I love when that happens.

Dulcimerica Vol. 1: more prep

Recording for Dulcimerica: Vol. 1 begins this week at Full Sail, though I've been recording pre-production demos for about two weeks, trying to figure out what will be tracked there. Some of the record will be done here at Dark Studios, but I'd like to take advantage of the Full Sail set-up, so it's been kinda hard to figure which tracks would benefit the most.

The first track on the album will be "Swing Low Sweet Chariot/He's Got The Whole World In His Hand" because I wanted to include some Negro spirituals in what is essentially the first brushstroke of a tapestry that will feature many of the elements that makes America the diverse place that it is. I'm playing these two straight for the most part, though I've added some little notes of flavor and a joyous kind of chorus bounce-through of the chords in the second half. Of course, as soon as I began recording today, the thunder started rolling outside the window. The sweet chariot has a sound system like you would not believe.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Meeting Jean

When I first started playing dulcimer in 1985, I had a fleeting idea of who Jean Ritchie was. Since then, of course, the cat's been let out of the bag and I've been looking forward to seeing her in the flesh ever since. She's 83 years old now and doesn't make that many public appearances, which is why I was immensely stoked to hear that Nancy Barker had booked her for Kentucky Music Weekend. Nancy and Jean go back a-ways, so I was hoping for an introduction at some point during the event and that happened on Saturday just after Jean presented a workshop on folk ballads. Her clear, pure voice seems unchanged by time and she sang a capella on that hot afternoon, instantly transporting us back to the simpler days of Kentucky summers.

Her husband George is a respected photographer and videographer; Nancy knew that I'd enjoy talking shop with him and she was right. Once she had introduced me to the two of them, George and I had a blast talking about the cameras that we like to use and which editing software worked best for us. After awhile, while on the subject, I asked if he would take a picture of Jean and I and he happily obliged, using my Sony VX-2000. Jean was very accomodating, even as her husband guided us this way and that way into better light. He began snapping some shots, but kept saying that the lighting wasn't quite right. In a candid moment, Jean suggested that we tilt our faces up towards the high roof of the ampitheater's backstage area, which resulted in this very whimsical shot. I like this photo for a number of reasons, one of which is the fact that it's not posed - we were actually in action, gesturing and looking up at the lights. We're not looking at the camera and I like the fact that we're looking up; a gaze towards Heaven. Jean was incredibly sweet and simply glowing with positive energy. When Nancy told her that I played dulcimer, she asked why I wasn't out there with them on-stage during the ballad workshop. How do you reply to that? I didn't. I sort of smiled and blushed. It's not often that you meet a living legend, especially one that is so gracious, down-to-earth and very, very real. I have to tell you, it was superb treat and a blessing meeting Jean Ritchie.

I just got in from the airport and have so much to share about the weekend, suffice it to say that a blast was had by all and there'll be more pictures and stories to share. The highlight of the whole thing, however, was meeting Jean, as I've always hoped. Talk about a dream come true!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Some new recordings

My flight leaves in eight hours, what the hell am I still doing up? Oh. Printing business cards, finalizing the whole packing thing, charging up camera batteries, etc. Earlier, I did a quick update to my website which included some new recordings that I've been working on in anticipation of next week's Full Sail sessions. Posted on the music page, in addition to what's already there, are clips of "Soldier's Joy", "En Avant Deux" and "Edelweiss." "Soldier's Joy" is a mite sloppy, but I've been combining versions and trying to get it up to speed, simply fascinated by Don Pedi's ability to dampen strings as he's strumming them to beat all hell.

It doesn't matter how late I stay up, really, since I'm hoping to fall asleep in the plane (with perhaps some Makers Mark to aid the cause.) Flying isn't my favorite sport and I know I'm not alone in that ballpark. Just don't be the hapless soul stuck next to ol' Sawin' Logs, here.

There's an actual link to the weekend's events that I hadn't noticed before. After surfing around to the various performer sites, I'm now way more stoked than ever to be heading up that way. Fer cryin' out loud, Jean Ritchie is gonna be there. How cool is that?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Kentucky Bound (again)

I'm excited to get back up into Kentucky country - though I'll mostly be shooting video, I'm bringing Joline because there's gonna be a layover and there will be down time in which to practice.

Lately, I've been working on some familiar tunes to dulcimer folks - "Sandy River Belle", "Booth Shot Lincoln", "Old Yellow Dog", "Barlow Knife" and also preparing for whatever tunes I'll record when I get back from Kentucky. Looks like two four-hour sessions on the 3rd and 4th of August in the evening, so that gives me plenty of time to record some demos here at the studio and then give them to Charles so he can choose the right harps. I also have an old Michael Rugg Celtic dulcimer album (a cassette actually, ooooh..) that I've been learning some tunes from by ear - two of which, "Flowers Of Edinburgh" and "Faerie's Hornpipe" are coming along pretty quickly. But over ten years of listening to an album will certainly do that to you.

And I'd just like to say that my wife rocks - she really and truly does. She stands behind the music way more than 100% and is the unseen motivator for both Mohave and my solo work. Of course, there's more solo work going on at the moment and that's by choice. This interlude of woodshedding has been highly productive and extremely enlightening.

Finally, here's some video from Kentucky Music Week. Nothin fancy, the camera's on a tripod in the back and I'm performing "Nowhere" and "Gold Trails Hotel" in the key of D. This was one of the best audiences I've ever had the pleasure of boogieing for! (Is "boogieing" an actual word? Looks a trifle odd.)

Bing At Kentucky Music Week 2006

Sorry for the big byteage of the video - having some issues with my lil' ol' G4 933 mhz single-processor and it's starting to groan. By the time you read this, it should be somewhat ready. Go make a sandwich.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Now Back To Work You Dog

Took a walk, took a walk outside. Got a glimpse of the sun inside, another chance to evaluate another life to continuate...

I hate the city. It makes me cringe.

My studio is on the edge of the house, in what used to be a porch, but is now a covered office that is the hottest spot in the plan. And when it rains, water pours under the door. And my speakers blew out today - or at least the receiver did, because the speakers are pretty good. And I was recording some tracks and just shut the whole thing down and said "$#%@ it."

The angels and devils were in full force tonight and I'm pleased to say that it was tie. Actually, if you were to go on my own thoughts, I'd say that the angels kicked much devil ass, especially when it came to me singing "Flip Side" between sets. It was Zeke's birthday tonight at Holly's and Dolly's and I brought Joline, an acoustic, and was totally unprepared to be as plugged in as was House Party, the band of the evening. Still, it was a fun short set - did "Cotton Eyed Joe" and "Soldier's Joy" while a good portion of people tried their damndest to figure out what the hell it was all about. Wild Bill ran the sound and I had a single SM-57 pointed towards the lower right sound hole, but it wasn't quite enough. Ended up tuning down from DAD to GGC for "Flip Side", which I could've done just acapella, considering how much dulcimer made it out. It felt good - Zeke offered up some filler.

The angels and devils were so obvious tonight - and I got home about 0:30 - (just after midnight) - realigned. Oh, the storm to come.

Great conversations with Johnny Lahr formerly of Johnny's Rockin' Bistro and the band Nightwing. It was through Tim Williams and Johnny's pizza place that I got my first taste of the Orlando music scene, and we tread through many memories tonight that he had forgotten, but we had shared - and as they came flooding back through my gleefull recollection, we had a good yuk or five - God, history is so important, isn't it?

A great night - Zeke is 45 - he was instrumental at our wedding and the video tells the story. (Haven't seen the wedding video? I might just have to upload this - it's quite the fun.)

Fergle-Bergle, 5 am comes early - another week of this lifting heavy crap for 40 hours - wait, nah - Friday's a no-go, because I'm on a plane for Kentucky pretty early. Four days of lifting heavy crap, then bye-bye-bye.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

It's All Happening So Quickly

They say time speeds up as you get older, so I must be getting ancient because time is freakin' flyin'!

Got my planet ticket for Louisville, so I'm heading back up to Kentucky for Kentucky Music Weekend, which is an entirely different thing altogether. I sent an edit of the video footage I took during Kentucky Music Week to Nancy Barker, who is the administrator for the thang - and she definitely wanted me to come up and capture this show as well. It's a shame that over the past twenty years or so, no-one has archived any of these events, so we're looking to change all that now.

Michelle Bunker from Full Sail called and wanted to know if I'd like to book any recording time. If you're not familiar with the program - they invite artists into their multimillion dollar facility to record as part of the student's curriculum. You never know what you're going to get, depending on the aptitude of the class, but faithful bands and performers tend to get classes that are at the end of their sessions, thereby knowing a lot more than those who are just beginning. Mohave has spent dozens of hours at Full Sail (in fact, "Spider Rock" was completely recorded there), both in the recording studios and the live sound reinforcement studios across the street for both concert audio and video.

The dates I've got to work with are in first week of August (yikes!), so I've sort of had to scramble and take a closer look at what I'd like to record. These artist sessions are smaller deals than the full-fledged band sessions, so I'm only going in with Charles on harmonica and possibly a bass player, but more than likely not. If I go in prepared, I could probably knock out twenty pieces by myself and perhaps add a little something in overdubs - but the idea behind the solo album is to present the music as stripped-down and acoustic as possible, which means just dulcimer, a few songs that are dulcimer and vocals, and then a few with added elements like African tongue drum, jaw harp, etc. Still, in case I'm able to snag a bassist that quickly (and I mean stand-up bass), I'm charting out a few tunes to make everything go smoother.

In the meantime, with all this going on, I've been diligently working out my chops - learning new songs and going over and over and over the ones that I'm trying to get down. One of the techniques that I'm using is repeating phrases on different parts of the fretboard, first playing them as written or figured out, then playing them higher or on the bass string. I've never done much of that, since soloing wasn't really my thing, so getting to know the other octaves has been very eye-opening! I also discovered that the bridge and nut work that I had Patrick do the other day was too much and now I've got buzzing along the frets when I play higher than the seventh - so I'm going back todayy to have him correct that. Good thing I found out now and not while sitting there in the studio saying, "hell's bells!!"

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

History In Limbo

An interesting story on an album I guested on some time ago. The internet is filled with time capsules like this!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Some new recordings...

..I've been trying to get some tunes together for my sister-in-law to play for folks who may want to book me for weddings down in Key West. So, with every conceivable amount of noise going on outside this city window (sudden hellacious thunderstorm, sirens, hip-hoppin' bass cars, etc.), I knocked out a few pieces that I've been working on and because I had to keep doing them over and over, actually got some practice in as well. Here are a couple of links:

"Why Walk When You Can Fly" (intro) - Originally a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter, it was covered by Butch Ross, one of my instructors at Kentucky Music Week, on his album Moonshiner's Atlas and he subsequently taught both the intro and the solo version of the song in his workshop. The intro has become one of my favorite pieces to play because it's so free-flowing, very lyrical and has a nice amount of lick-age in it. The recording is terrible, there's some kind of heinous noise at the outset, but it clears away in time to let the song sing out.

Planxty Fanny Power (or Poer, if you're a purist) - One of Turlough O'Carolan's most recognizeable tunes, it's a sweet, sweet song and I've finally got my head somewhat around it.

I've probably got another couple of days recording until I have enough to put together a wide variety of song samples, which I'll then edit into an audio montage for prospective brides and grooms. Maybe I'll wait for a day when there aren't any ear-splitting claps of thunder outside the window, though it was kind of cool - the directional mic didn't pick it up well enough to be a neat effect - just sounds like a hip-hop car going by.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Minor Surgery

Not to worry, it wasn't me that went under the knife. Rather, it was Joline, my old Folkcraft. The notes were sounding a little sour, especially on the treble drone and I had her refretted earlier this year, which helped quite a bit, but not all the way. It occured to me that Patrick had lowered the action on Angelique some time ago by my request and that it made all the difference in the world. So he did a quick file job on the bridge and nut early today just before I went to see "An Inconvenient Truth" and it's just mind-blowing how a fraction of an inch can turn your sound into gold. My left hand doesn't have to work nearly as hard to sound notes and the tones aren't sharp on the treble drone. Hammer-ons and pull-offs are much easier to manage; sometimes it's the little things that mean so much, right?

This couldn't have happened at a better time. Michelle Bunker from Full Sail dropped me a line a little while back and wanted to know if I'd come in to do their Artist Sessions, where they record singer/songwriters as opposed to full bands. Since I've been ramping up to make a new solo record ("Dulcimerica: Vol. 1"), this comes at a really silly good time. Now, it's just a matter of what I'm going to record. I've talked to Charles Stansell about doing some harmonica and I know a great cello player (Kevin Stever), so it's sort of all about running through material and seeing what speaks up and wants to get tracked. I'm leaning towards "Squire Woods' Lament", "Amazing Grace (Miles To Go)", "The Old Black Cat Couldn't Catch A Rat", and re-tracking some of the solo dulcimer stuff from clear blue trickling without the effects. Suggestions are always welcome!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Song Explosion

This has been one of those weeks where songs are just dropping out of my butt. Two so far, with a third on the way. Two have been sassy (one a sexy Van Halen-style rocker, the other a blues-rocker about paranoia confirmed and the federal government) and one has been, well, "Two." "Two" was emotionally inspired by a huge vat of sadness that hit me today in the early afternoon that came in conjunction with a listening of Peter Gabriel's massive tune "San Jacinto." It's been awhile since I've written a tune that encouraged tears to flow - and I think that "Two" is going to be one of those tracks.


it is two
every day has ever been the same
time's two
me and you connecting
with the hands
and the lines
two's the time
I love you

two til' two
our solitude remains until the gears
engage the mechanisms and our fears
casting doubts upon the ticking river too
one til' two

now two
like clockwork, new dream meanings are learned
and still, they turn
these hands reach towards another time
left behind
for moments counted down can never last
these two will pass and sometime come again
this too shall pass every now and then

For Jae - 7.13.06-14:00-15:46
© Copyright 2006 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

KMW Recollections Part 1

As I review video from Kentucky Music Week, as well as a host of pictures from the event, I'm overwhelmed with just how much stuff was going on. In fact, "stuff" is the right nomenclature here because it was sort of the educational and social equivalent of that feeling you get after Thanksgiving dinner. You're happy, this is true - and you're also really ready to take a nap. Since I kind of hit the ground running upon returning to Orlando, there hasn't been much time to pause and reflect - though I've diligently been practicing what I learned in Bardstown and it's refreshing to note that a goodly portion of it seems to have stuck.

Brought home a whole bunch of repertoire, so that's been part of the daily practice routine. Just basically playing them over and over again until they become somewhat ingrained in memory, a technique that Don Pedi accentuates in his workshops. He doesn't deny the importance of getting history down on paper - but his emphasis is on "feeling" the music, letting it resonate inside of you until you can play it without ever reading a note. And if you must use the music, then hum to yourself while you play - and it helps to imprint the tune into your head. Of course, without Don Pedi here in the living room, sheet music helps (although I did pick up his DVD and am itching to get to it.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Oy, So Busy!

And I'm Yiddish all of a sudden this week. Since getting back from Kentucky, it's been non-stop madness, plowing back into work, the Fourth of July holiday slipping in somewhat mid-week and throwing everything off, and then booking a wedding playing dulcimer down on Smathers Beach in Key West this past weekend. Jae went along for this trip and it was a whirlwind affair, driving down on Friday night after work and coming back yesterday, so I spent most of last week working on repertoire and rehearsing a version of the wedding march that that been requested by the bride and groom. It was a lovely wedding, the weather was beautiful and the reception was at a place on Duval Street - which led us to have dinner at Two Friends, which then led to karaoke, which then led to a long night getting back to my sister-in-law's house on the island.

Just before we left for the Keys, I posted a new version of "Monster" at, which is getting some decent comments - some for the music and mixing, some for the content, which is awesome; it's nice to know there are more folks out there who feel that America needs a good old-fashioned enema, starting from the top!

I also wrote a new song today, it came out of nowhere (ha!) and when I get it demoed up - here it will debut. It's quite unlike anything I've ever written before, part Van Halen and part roadhouse rant. It's fun, and very crazy - recorded the idea using the Dulcitar and Garageband 3. I'll tell you, it's so nice to be able to write without worrying about what key I'm in. Chromatics are a nice compositional tool, ayuh!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Kentucky Music Week Photos

Courtesy of Tom and Missy Smothers, who set up this nifty slide show page.

From my own collection, here's a pic of me with first session workshop instructor Lorraine Lee Hammond.

More to come!

Quick gigs and learning tricks

Still decompressing from the trip to Kentucky, I'm turning around and heading to Key West this weekend to play dulcimer for a beach wedding on Saturday. I can play a basic version of the wedding march, but wanted to get a more traditional version that I could work off of - so I found this midi file of a brass quartet which is pretty simple. Now I've just got to filter it into a program or transcribe it into tablature. We call this "winging it."

More on Kentucky Music Week, soon.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Home again, home again....

Just finished unloading the rental car (A Chevy HHR - which I originally thought was just a cheap knock-off of a PT Cruiser, but is actually a superior vehicle) and Jae is asleep after greeting me with a kiss and a happy, overdue hug. I had actually posted much more this week than what got cut off, which is sort of disappointing, but - that's technology for you. I'll have to go very slow at this, to capture went down, but suffice it to say that KMW was a mind-blowing and absolutely heavenly experience. Just amazing.

For now, I'll just say that I've gotten in deep. LOL! Nancy Barker, "Miss Nancy" and den mother to all of the KMW folks, has invited me to be an instructor next year, teaching DAA for mountain dulcimer and a couple of other courses which will probably involve performance and songwriting. This is a very humbling and honorable offer! I owe it to Stephen Seifert, who put in a good word for me with Nancy early on - and also Tom and Missy Strothers, who likewise had good things to say - I pass the praise onto God, while sticking my finger in the icing and taking a little lick at the same time. : ) It was a tremendous blessing to meet them all, and all the other people who made a huge impression this past week. From my instructors, Lorraine Lee Hammond, Don Pedi, Stephen and Butch Ross (along with his fiancee' and my MySpace pal Christie Burns) to my fellow classmates and the other instructors that I got to interact with, this was a week of total bliss, musically, socially, spiritually. I'll start chipping away at it tomorrow - but right now, I've got e-mails to catch up on and the bed is looking mighty good after 13 hours of driving.

The "wow" factor is still settling in. What an amazing week this has been. And it looks like I'll be heading back up there, at least to Louisville, for Kentucky Music Weekend at the end of this month - but more on that later.....