Sunday, June 28, 2020

Ruby and Gold

Ruby and Gold (mp3) (pdf)

Several months ago, before the plague, I received a commission from my good mandolin friend, Barbara Conrad. She was looking for a waltz to help celebrate two special anniversaries in her life, one a 40th and one a 50th. Today's tune was the eventual result.

I finished the tune in late March and sent Barbara a recording and the sheet music. Something about the original recording (I still can't put my finger on it) bothered me so I finally got around to re-recording it yesterday.

The "pdf" link above takes you to a package of three pages; one for the melody with chord symbols, one with a harmony part and the third with an "accompaniment" part that is meant to be a second part when played by two mandolins when no chordal instrument is involved. Of course you can feel free to use any part in any way you choose. In fact I chose to play the harmony part down an octave last night because I decided to play the melody on guitar the first time through, instead of on mandolin.

In any event I hope you enjoy listening and/or playing the tune. You don't need to wait for an anniversary.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Fine Times on Fess

Fine Times on Fess (mp3) (pdf)

In January of 1972 I moved for the first time to Bloomington, Indiana and took up residence in an apartment in a house in the 500 block of N. Fess Avenue, just a couple of blocks north of the IU student union and Dunn Meadow. I shared the space with Tony and Malcolm, one old friend and one more recent. We have remained great friends over the decades despite often being out of touch with each other for years at a time. Father's Day last weekend reminded me how strange it is that each of us have now become fathers ourselves.

Recently a couple of photos emerged from that time and place and I was delighted when those photos gave me the idea for the title for this tune. "Fine Times at Our House" is a classic old-time fiddle tune and this tune bears no resemblance to it but I love the title.

The photo above was taken a few days ago while walking in Decorah's Palisades Park. Just a painted rock and a stick on a picnic table but a beautiful reminder that it's never too late to be kind.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Saturday Social

Saturday Social (mp3) (pdf) (pdf harmony)

The enormous tragedy surrounding the COVID19 pandemic puts something like this blog into a new perspective. I haven't been sharing music online as often since March but I've been playing and writing quite of bit. Today's tune is one example.

I played my last public gig, with Erik Sessions, on March 11 at Toppling Goliath Brewery here in Decorah. We knew we were pushing the envelope and that we might not get to play in public again for a long time. We had a great turnout and, as far as we know, no one passed any virus on to anyone that night.

Exactly two months later, on May 11, Erik and I played in our local bookstore (Dragonfly Books, a first rate shop) to an audience of two who were recording us for Bookstock 2020, a fund raising event to benefit small, local bookstores, and musicians, around the country. This time Erik and I stood 6 feet apart and wore masks. Playing six feet apart from someone who normally stands right next to you was harder than you might think. Further complicating that gig was the fact that I was suffering from a hearing issue that had only recently cropped up, I had been to local ENT that afternoon.

The Bookstock event  was streamed/broadcast the weekend of  May 15-17. You can view our set (warts and all), broadcast on Sunday morning, here. We had the unexpected honor of being grouped in the same "Act" with the phenomenal Rushad Eggleston. His one minute performance is not to be missed.

"Saturday Social" is the result of another online gig. Tapestry Folkdance Center is an amazing place for dancing in Minneapolis and I have played there regularly (most often with our band Contratopia) over the last 20 years. Dancing at Tapestry temporarily came to a halt in March but the resilient contra dance regulars at Tapestry have instituted a Saturday Social Hour using Zoom as a tool to allow people to get together and socialize on Saturday nights when they would normally be dancing together.

Each Saturday one (or more) of the many musicians who play for dances at Tapestry are invited to play a 15 minute live set as part of the fun. I was honored to be invited to add some music to the May 9th social and I wrote this tune to play in my set.

The vast majority of time I write a tune and then spend a long time trying to think of a title that fits. This was a rare case of me having the title first and writing the tune to fit the occasion. I finally got around to writing a harmony part and recording the tune yesterday. I hope you enjoy it.

The photo was taken near the end of May during a walk along the Upper Iowa River.
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