Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Stuff and Travel

Aloha, familiar readers - you may have noticed the new little box from Last.FM in the top left corner of the blog. This is part of an ongoing experiment which will reveal itself more as the days pass by. Basically, I'm broadcasting music in a stream that can easily be picked up via your music player.

The first link gets you the actual audio - the second gets you artist and song info.

There will be a big announcement forthcoming that explains what this is all about - in the meantime, expect dulcimer music during the day up until midnight - after that, hide your head, it's anything goes.

Jae and I are heading to Memphis tomorrow for the International Blues Challenge, supporting our boys in The Smokin' Torpedoes. I plan to do a lot of dulcimer playing on Beale Street - and we'll see what comes of that.

Much going on - stay tuned.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where Did January Go?

Lordy, is it almost February? But, just yesterday, it was New Year's Eve! Who left life in fast-forward?

Dulcimerica: Second Season

The Dulcimerica Video Podcast has come roaring out of the gates for second season with six new episodes so far (and about three more on the way before the month is over.) Currently, the focus in on the 2008 Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, Florida. If you haven't caught this mini-series yet, there's a whole lot of music and appearances/performances by Aaron O'Rourke & Mickey Abraham, Karen Mueller, Doug Felt, Joan & Jack Robertson, Steve Eulberg, John Hawk, David Beede and yours truly. Before we're done, there'll be music from Joel Paul, David Beede, Steve Eulberg, Mary Z. Cox and more!

I've stepped-up the video quality on the podcasts, so the files are larger (oy!) but the images are clearer (yay!) If you're having trouble downloading or viewing these newly beefy files, all episodes are mirrored on my YouTube site. Thanks for watching and subscribing! You know, you can catch every episode using Apple iTunes whether you're using a Mac or a PC! Click here to get The Dulcimerica Video Podcast through Apple iTunes. Don't have Apple iTunes? It's available for both PC and Mac. Plus, it's free!

Download for Mac | Download for Windows

New Performance Dates

There have been some dates added to the performance calendar, which can be found on my website, but due to its extremely friendly and portable nature, I'll post it below as well:

There are some shows in the works for both me and Mohave, so keep checking the calendar for new gigs coming soon!

Top Secret Project

Well, maybe not top, top secret, but secret enough where I'll annoyingly tease it until the official roll-out next month. All I can say is this: it's going to be weekly programming on an international scale, produced in conjunction with a well-known publication. Sounds like fun, right? There'll be more details to come, so stay tuned!

Monday, January 21, 2008

American Folk Music and The African Influence Pt. 1

Hetzler's Fakebook - Stephen Foster Notes
Angeline the Baker (1850) and Hard Times Come Again No More (1854) were written by Stephen Foster for minstrel shows.

Hetzler's Fakebook - Minstrel Show Notes
Minstrel shows evolved from two types of entertainment popular in America before 1830. The impersonation of blacks by white actors between acts of plays and black street musicians who performed with banjo accompaniment...Minstrel shows exploited stereotypes, but helped blacks enter show business after the Civil War. Ironically, early black minstrel troupes corked their faces just like the white minstrel performers.

Unbelievable as it seems today, this was considered wholesome family entertainment in the 1800’s. White and black audiences viewed the blatant racism of the songs and skits as acceptable.

EverythingDulcimer Discussion :: View topic - African-American Dulcimer Players
Treading as delicately as I can here, it's well-documented, the minstrel show traditions of the United States beginning in the 17th century. To put it mildly, much of this burgeoning musical industry was patently racist and some of the music that emerged from that era remains in the lexicon of what we know as Americana or folk music. It's history; literally and figuratively. I'd be interested in hearing views and opinions here among willing forum participants regarding the music of Stephen Foster. I love his tunes, despite their roots in minstrel music. I've come to understand that Foster identified and sympathized with blacks just as I've observed that tunes like "Camptown Races" are comic parodies of the black dialect and experience.

If I did carry a chip on my shoulder about "white man's burden" or what-have-you, tunes of this sort would be seriously offensive to me. But, instead, I take it as part of history and attempt to learn more about the context involving this music and how it has effected the development of American music. Having said that, you probably won't find the more broadly comic Stephen Foster tunes in my repertoire, though I'll play them at a jam. (Come to think of it, I've never really heard many minstrel tunes being performed at jams.) I'd prefer performing "Hard Times", which really speaks more to the Everyman rather than lampooning a certain race or culture, if that makes sense. I don't condemn anyone who performs or enjoys minstrel songs, understand. I'd rather sing and perform authentic Negro spirituals such as "Swing Low Sweet Chariot", "He's Got The Whole World In His Hand", "There Is A Balm In Gilead", "His Eye Is On The Sparrow", etc.

This can be a touchy subject - the spectre of racism is never far from any discussion about the history of America. It was only forty years ago that segregation was still fiercely alive in this country and though current times reflect more of a xenophobia against people of middle eastern descent, just listening to some of the racial bickering surfacing in the ongoing presidential campaigns is enough to prove that the Race Card, especially where African descendants are concerned, is still alive and terribly well.

On this weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday - as a descendant of slaves, as a descendant of Seminole Indians, as an American and as a performer of both original Americana and traditional folk music, I wanted to re-visit this subject. Moving forward is difficult without an eye towards our history.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

TDVP Episode 57 - Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat

Way Up Upon The Suwannee River

Monday morning after a busy and beautiful weekend; I'm lovin' this cast-iron skillet. Took awhile to get it seasoned (a year without a stove, but that's another story) and now that it's been lovingly oiled, it's used just about every day. Bliss is low-fat cooking in an old-fashioned skillet.

Bliss is also making music and meeting new friends, which was at the core of this weekend's 2008 Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat in White Springs, Florida. Just a wonderful time up at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, where the weather was just about perfect and so was the company. I'm currently assembling podcasts out of the video that was shot over the two days, the first of which is heading into the editing bay as I type. Of course, I'll post links to them here with some notes on the peripheral activity.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blessings of the New Year: 2008

YouTube - Dulcimerica - Episode 55 - A Look Back At 2007

And it's flying already; it's the third day of 2008. How utterly wild. And so much has happened in these three days, well, it's the beginning of the the third day, so maybe I'm just being a little dramatic.

Still, so much has happened in these two days, I mean, it's like some kind of cosmic vortex opened up and said "alright, it's 2008, get yer GAME on!"

Roger Zimish and I have been mixing the Manitou album, "In The Garden", which we're aiming to get out by early spring. It's been a real joy to sit back and listen again to the music that was created in August of last year, and from a fresh perspective with the time that has passed. Several other recording projects are just about to begin or continue in the studio, including a record with John Hawk of Native American Flutes and mountain dulcimer. I've got a solo NAF/mountain dulcimer record planned called "Kokopelli Rising", which is kind of my theme for this year. And then there's the follow-up to my 2006 release "Dulcimerica: Volume 1." Although I released "Dulcimer Rock" in November, it's sort of a pre-release, as there are some more tracks that I wanted to mix and add to the list. So, I may dub it "Dulcimer Rock: Reloaded" and offer it free to anyone who purchased a copy of the pre-release. Finally, there will be a new Mohave CD sometime this year and, by request, my first record of Christmas songs. Of course, every year I vow to make a Christmas record, and every year I look up and find that it's December and nothing's been done. Perhaps this is the year where it's all different.

Gearing up for a brand new season of The Dulcimerica Video Podcast which will include a brand-new intro that I wrote and recorded this week along with a surprise outro theme recorded by Butch Ross. The year-end retrospective, episode #55, has been getting very nice reviews, including one from Jean Ritchie and George Pickow. Talk about a sweet blessing - I remember back in 1985, sitting on the porch of the Gold Trails Hotel in Knott's Berry Farm, strumming the dulcimer, looking at the cover of Jean's book and thinking, "man, I'd like to meet her someday." The power of wishes and dreams, right?

I'm humbled and honored by some of the nice things folks have been saying - from Everything Dulcimer to MySpace and Yahoo groups, in e-mails and on my voice mail. Every day, I thank the Great Spirit for the breath of life, the gift of music and the way of song. It's a joy of almost overwhelming intensity, so it's just natural to want to share it, because I'm at the Joy Buffet and I've just about had all I can heap on one plate. Thanks to everyone; the performers, the teachers, the listeners, the readers, the viewers and the doers; you've enriched my life beyond belief and I'm forever grateful.

Mahalo nui loa - onwards!

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