Sunday, March 25, 2018

No Show Snow

No Show Snow (mp3) (pdf)

The photo above tells the tale. Going to sleep on Friday evening we were under a Winter Storm Warning and we expected to see anywhere from 3 to 10 inches of fresh snow, depending on the wind and temperature changes.

Saturday morning showed us no snow. Fifty miles to the west, Osage, Iowa received up to 16 inches. New Hampton, just 35 miles southwest of here saw 11 inches. Here we didn't see even a flurry.

I have been the owner of a beautiful Flatiron Octave Mandolin (or octave mandola, if you prefer) since around 1981. I believe I am the original owner. In recent years, however, I have played it less and less, primarily due to the long scale length of the instrument and the toll it takes on my aging hands. When I do play it (heard on several tunes from this blog last year) I have been using a capo to shorten the scale length but I haven't been pleased with the results.

I read about the new MDO-305 Octave Mandolins now being produced by Eastman Guitars for a modest price and decided to give one a try. They are shorter scale (21") instruments. I received mine a couple of weeks ago and, so far, I have enjoyed it quite a bit.

Today's tune was written yesterday on the new octave mandolin and recorded using it along with a fine old Gibson mandolin. I imagined that the snow had fallen and I was finished with the shoveling, looking out my window at the fresh powder.

Even though I sound disappointed about the No Show Snow, I am perfectly fine with waiting until next winter to see any more.

I've enjoyed taking a couple of months off from feeding this blog but rest assured that I've been writing tunes all along. I hope you enjoy today's piece.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Grandview Ridge

Grandview Ridge (mp3) (pdf)

This first post of a new year presents one of the oldest tunes that I can remember writing. After 10-15 years of writing songs I figured out sometime in the mid-70s that I really enjoyed just writing music more.

I first recorded an early version of this tune on a TEAC A-1340 reel to reel tape deck that I then mixed down to a cassette. I'm estimating that this was sometime around 1979-1980. I remember going to the bank to take out a loan to buy the TEAC, it was my first chance to record sound-on-sound outside of a recording studio. I recently came across a digitized version of a cassette that included this tune a couple of weeks ago.

I may have written the music during one of the summers that I spent at the old CYO Camp Christina in southeastern Brown County, Indiana. The camp was just off of Grandview Ridge road. I have great memories of the two summers I lived there, sometimes helping out with the chores and sometimes washing dishes in Nashville at Rudy's Country Kitchen.

I know that there is a lead sheet somewhere that I used for that original recording but after an hour or so of searching I figured it would be easier to just transcribe my own playing from the shaky cassette evidence. I made a few small changes and re-recorded it here yesterday.

I found the photo above thanks to my old Clarksville friend Tim Buckman. Apparently my dear Mother spotted him wrestling with the unusual snowfall and came out on our front porch to capture it on film. This was decades ago of course. I had never seen this picture until Tim posted it on FB and I'm very grateful for this glimpse of winter in southern Indiana.

This was our family home on the corner of Carter Ave. and Fairbanks in Clarksville. If I didn't write today's tune in Brown County I may well have written it in the upstairs of this house. It was all a long time ago.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Afternoon

Christmas Afternoon (mp3) (pdf)

Back on January 8 of this year I posted a recording and music for a new tune "Waltz for the New Year, 2017" and I noted that "with a new year comes new resolve." That phrase was a signal to myself that I had been thinking of trying to compose and record a new piece of music every week in 2017. I didn't mention that thought to anyone else for a long time but here I am today posting tune number fifty-two.

The great majority of the tunes I have posted this year were written in the early part of each week and recorded toward the end of the week. As the year wore on I sometimes worked a little ahead of that schedule. Today's tune was mostly written last Monday, Christmas Day. I tinkered a little with it and recorded it on Thursday.

My plan, at this point, is to not try and write and record a new tune every week in 2018. Instead, as I enter the 12th year of this blog, I'll return to the less structured approach of recording and posting music when I feel like it.

I've been very pleased, honored even, by the number of people who have listened to, liked, shared, and commented on these tunes in the last year. Especially since I started linking to them using Facebook. Thanks to all of you for including some of this music in your busy lives.

On January 8th I mentioned that the temperature had dipped to -4 degrees (Fahrenheit) the night before and we were expecting a high of 17 above during the afternoon. Last night I believe we were down to around -10 and it was still -8 when I took the dog out this morning. Right now (3:00 p.m.) we have climbed to 1 degree above zero but it is a beautiful, sunny day with a fresh dusting of snow. In a world of relentless change some things are more reliable than others.

I hope that your 2018 will be one of the best years ever.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Snow Train

Snow Train (mp3) (pdf)

It's Christmas Eve here in lovely Decorah. We even had a light dusting of snow this morning to brighten things up a little.

Today's tune (no. 51 this year) was partially written while watching a fun video of a Norwegian train slowly climbing into the snow covered mountains outside of Bergen. I hope you enjoy the music.

If you are in the Decorah area I will be playing solo mandolin at Java John's from 7 to 9 on Dec. 26 (Boxing Day). Stop in for something warm to drink if that sounds like a good way to relax after the holiday fun. I'll certainly play today's tune at some point, along with a number of other recent tunes from this blog.

Enjoy your holiday!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Advent Star

The Advent Star (mp3) (pdf)

Yesterday here in Decorah I was privileged to once again take part in the annual community holiday concert known, for the last few years, as Burning Bright. This is always a wonderful event and most years Erik Sessions and I are called to contribute an instrumental tune to the mix of choral and small group performances. Usually we write something new for the event.

Today's tune, The Advent Star, was written for this year's concert and Erik and I performed it at both the 4:00 and 7:00 shows. We also played it at the indoor farmers market yesterday morning. We had a great time playing the tune and the Burning Bright audiences were generous with their applause.

The recording presented here, however, is just me playing guitar and mandolin, recorded on Friday last week.

I have to admit that when I chose the title (which has personal significance) I was unaware that Advent Stars are a thing. I knew nothing about the connection with the Moravian Church or J.S. Bach's Thomaskirche in Leipzig or modern holiday decorating practices. I just like the title.

In any event, I hope you enjoy the tune.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

River Mist Tree Line

River Mist Tree Line (mp3) (pdf)
Deer Track, December 4, 2017 (mp3) (pdf)

We have a twofer today. First a "regular" tune, a jig in Gm, and then a short, new member of my Deer Tracks collection.

I couldn't produce any photos of a misty river but the photo above is the Upper Iowa River near our home after the mist has burned off.

I hope you enjoy the tunes.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Waltz for the Squires

Waltz for the Squires (mp3) (pdf)

Last week's tune provoked some entertaining comments from old friends back in southern Indiana. One remark brought back fond memories of the first band I was ever invited to join, Sir James and the Squires.

I'm pretty sure that it was the fall of 1965, my freshman year in high school, when I became a Squire. I played bass guitar (an old Supro with a Magnatone amp), badly, but I was quick to learn. Soon I could help rather than hinder the group as we played the then standard repertoire: "Pipeline", "You Can't Sit Down", "Last Kiss", "House of the Rising Sun", "We Gotta Get Out of this Place", "Wooly Bully", and many hits by the Kingsmen. These were great times and full of the joy of making loud noises in praise of life. I've tried to keep that attitude and it was nice to be reminded of it last week.

So, this week's tune, while musically pretty unrelated to the Squires' world, is dedicated to that memory and my first bandmates.

This entry in number 48 for 2017, forty-eight consecutive weeks with a new tune. No one is more surprised than me. I've got something I'm working on for next week too. We'll see how the rest of the year goes.
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