Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tim Eriksen, Yankee Fiddler

I love it when I stumble onto someone new who is so good. I love his singing. I love his fiddling style. Powerful in it's simplicity. Elegance.
Here are some selections of his playing for your edification and amusement. Folks often assume that your talking the Appalachians or the Ozarks when you talk fiddling but as many of you know, there is a northern fiddling tradition as found in New England and Canada.
Mr. Eriksen is a fine example of our Yankee bretheren. I was not aware of him but he has been around and that significantly. Played on the "Cold Mountain" soundtrack and with many famous musicians. Where have I been?!
He rates one of my exceptions for being non-Ozarkian/Missourian/Akansawyer and is going on my links list as well as favorites list. His fiddling combined with his singing is fantastic.
He is a great example of how the fiddle and that kind of singing is a kind of "wayback" machine for me. It sends me to another place long past.
I think I have previously mentioned Nickolai Fox did a wonderful documentary on a group of New England fiddlers called "Music for the Sky" (caveat here is the musicians were playing southern style)
On his YouTube page, he mentions Doc Watson influenced him. Nothing wrong with that!

This tune below, is a New England tune

You can find Tim on YouTube or on his website.

Walking in the garden

When I was a child in Illinois and attending Lutheran Church services and watching tv on Sundays, I would hear what became a favorite hymn. In the Garden is still my favorite.
If you know the song you will understand me when I share that I had one of those golden moments this morning when in warms rays of fall sunshine I yet again felt the loving presence of a loving God who walks with me and he talks to me and he tells me I am his own.
When I was young there were many unfortunate voices warning of God's wrath and judgment and of dark destinies of hell and damnation.
Now I know God is far more loving and forgiving than all that and my fears relieved.
I said this to explain, that as I was searching YouTube for "In the Garden" I fell upon this clip which I liked and lot and wanted to share with you my friends.
God bless you all today and please enjoy this tune.

The fiddler is Tim Eriksen. Perhaps more on him later. Maybe today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

John Hartford toward the end

Here is John Hartford playing "Squirrel Hunters". He has his band with him, of really great musicians. Chris Sharp on the guitar dressed like Lester Flatt in the forties, Mike Compton, on the Mandolin, Mark Schatz on the Bass.

This was in 1998. John lived a couple/three more years but you can see that the disease had been taking it's toll on him. Most folks would have hit the couch and stayed there but music was his genuine passion and he loved to play for people. I believe he felt he was doing something important in keeping the fire burning. I agree that it was. And is.

Are you keeping the fire burning my friend? Is the fire in you and it has to come out? I believe John knew just how delicate the old music is, in hanging on in a culture like ours.

Music is a lot like Church. It really is. And like Church, there is a kind of succession of Bishops that really seems to matter. (Google that term if your not sure what it means)
John learned it from the old Missouri fiddlers and Banjo players. They were the real deal. In time so was he. They passed it on to him and it stuck. He was playing his heart out to pass it on to us. Will it stick?

I was late coming to the John Hartford appreciation society but the impression was made deep. Like a brand on my heart.

Bill Crahan once told me that he was not sure yet if I was a "musical person" while I was taking a lesson from him. I was a little shook over that. I knew I was not a "natural" by any means and if he decided I was not such a one, I thought he might give up on me like my first instructor did. (who's name is not worthy to mention)

I may not be a "Musical person" like Bill was looking for. I am not sure. I do know I love the music and I enjoy playing it but my laziness is holding me back from doing that well. I do know one thing. The fire is in me. That's why I write this blog. It's why I want you to know about the wonderful musicians I discover. It's why I hope you stick with that instrument your trying to play so you too might become a fine musician someday.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reflections on Mike Seeger and playing

Just a thought here but I think you will appreciate this. There is a point when a person along his musical journey to discover this Old Time music, that you become more than an imitator. You become the real deal. You become the authentic. Your the one who is now channeling that thing you found in the old timers from the back woods. Now it's you.

Look at Mike Seeger when he was playing. He went from being a city boy in search of the real deal to becoming the real deal. The very embodiment. A musical incarnation.

It will happen to you too if you keep at it long enough. Someday someone will drive four hours to sit in a jam your playing at and will talk about it to others later. Imagine that!?

Simeon Magby

Simeon Magby is a North Arkansas fiddler who some years ago put out a CD. On that performance he had a Banjo player (woman). She was GOOOOOD. Anyone know her name?

Please tell me! Someone!?

The Cuckoo

I got fired up watching Mike Seeger and am posted this one of them playing "The Cuckoo". I love that song.

And I love me some Doc and Seeger.


Clawhammer Banjo is my favorite

I picked out the following clips to illustrate my favorite banjo style. Call it "Clawhammer" or "Frailing" or any one of similar descriptive names, it's the quintessential banjo style for Old Time.

I won't go into the history of the banjo or of the Bluegrass three finger style championed by Earl Scruggs or Reno.

Suffice it to say, there are many styles of banjo playing and "clawhammer" is what your going to hear in Old Time jams and festivals.

For me, this style speaks to me in the same way a fiddle played in the old Ozark way does. It plucks a chord within me not touched by anything else and it leaves me wanting more.

Bill Monroe used to talk about those "ancient tones". This is what I am speaking about too. Or to get more high falutin, and recall my Jungian framework, "Primal Archetypes". These things are often hard to put your finger on but when you encounter them YOU KNOW.

Clawhammer makes me have one of those YOU KNOW moments as does the Ozark Fiddle.
It's like you've heard it before in the way you remember hearing your Mother call "Supper time!" when you were a kid. It's a call home ET moment. You feel like your being called home but you can't really say you've been there before.

Jung calls this a phenomena of Archetypes that fit those deep places within in that are magically filled by these expressions.
I think this is why so many of us respond to a most non-commercial musical expression. We don't care that the vast crowds are not hearkening to this sound. It's irrelevant to us. We just HAVE to have it. So much so, that most of us will take up an instrument and try to learn to play just to scratch that itch within us. Many or most will never really get good at it either but we won't mind so much. We just HAVE to do it.

For me, it started when I first heard Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. I soon bought my first album and I was hooked.

Then came others.

And the more I learned, the more I gravitated to Old Time. As Bluegrass got more commercial and "Pop", I went in the other direction and went to Old Time and more specifically, Ozark Old Time. I have of course expanded that in recent years.

I kind of got off the track on the idea of this post which was how much I like Clawhammer banjo. enjoy these clips. No specific connection to Kansas or Missouri. Just good playing I found.



God, I miss Mike Seeger. The more I go on the more I am pulled towards his work. I just miss him terrible and wish I had the chance to meet him. Maybe I will get to later on down the path. Who knows what that great end will really be like but I can hope.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Playing and injuries update

Some of you know that I have been out of regular work for two years now. Because of that I do not have health insurance. I only go to the Doctor when I think I might die or nearly so. I have had to depend on my abilities as a former Army Medic to nurse myself along.

I injured my arm this spring pulling at a board in an attempt to remove it from a rotten roof. I seriously sprained/strained it and after a week off for recovery, resumed the project. I probably tore my tendon. I have gotten by pretty well with it over the months and doing my share of heavy lifting with no problem.

Along the way it became clear that playing for extended periods, like at a jam was not feasible as my arm would become sore and weak. In fact, my arm has been bothering me more as I play so I find myself playing for short periods.

Oddly, I keep experiencing the phenomena of playing well when I return to play in spite of less frequency of practice. This does not make sense to me as high levels of practice "should" result in better playing. Usually it does but for me, not always. You would think less practice would mean less skill in your playing but it seems not to be always so.

Still, consistent practice seems to be best over the long haul. It's just getting harder with this injury. I hate getting old for the creaky aches and pains and loss of resiliency.

You really have to be careful when you try to play with an injury. You never want to stress the injured part. Ever. This will only hinder the healing. All this talk about pushing past the pain only applies to Navy Seals. Not you and me.

Over the years I have read some good advice. One is keep your hands relaxed. I have tried to incorporate that more and more and that seems to help. Locking your arm and hands in muscular tension hinders your ability to move smoothly and stresses your muscles in a negative way.

I have often wondered how I would handle an injury that eliminated my ability to play this guitar. That would be a devastating blow to me, even if I can't play all that well. I do have enough moments of playing well in my practice periods that I find myself pleased as punch that I have stuck with this.

If you have been fortunate enough to avoid an injury that affects your ability to play, then count your blessings and hope that you never have it befall you. My resolutions to woodshed just get frustrated with the reality of my injury and it's demands on me.

I failed to mention that this is my right arm which is injured. IMHO, the right arm/hand is the real battleground in your learning experience in the quest to play well.

It's frustrating. I really need to have this seen but I am waiting for a bureaucrat to approve me for benefits. Yeah, gotta love the bureaucrats.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Jam session worth sharing

I got this from "Fiddlin Arkansas"'s Facebook page and youtube. The fiddler is Matt Hartz, the guitar players are Joey McKinzie and Junior Marriot.
This is well done fiddlin. Don't miss watching this one.

This was down in Oklahoma at the fiddling championships there. Thanks to "Fiddlin Arkansas" for the clip.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What Makes Kansas Unique in OT

I am not a purist when it comes to Old Time. Most are not. In Kansas, Old Time music can include this strain of the pioneer era and is just as valid as other tunes and types we all think of in Old Time.

I have really been remiss in posting about this kind of Old Time. I have always meant to include it. It's part of the flavor of Old Time in Kansas. Well established OT bands such as The Alferd Packerd Memorial String Band plays on this tradition successfully.

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in "Cowboy" music and one notable Bluegrass Band, "Bluestem" converted to that genre. (all bands being mentioned are local/Lawrence bands)

This blends in with Appalachian/Ozark music very well. It's what makes Kansas different

Here are some nice selections of that Kansas music. "Home on the Range" was written in a dug out/sod house in north central Kansas. You can still visit the spot. The song is really pretty nice and makes a good campfire or front porch tune around early evening when the coffee and apple pie are finished.

We don't have the big hills of the Ozarks nor the Mountains of the Appalacians. We have the big sky of the prairie with endless vistas of green in the spring and it's not all flat. We do have the Gyp hills of south central Kansas or the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas and don't forget the Smokey Hills of northern Kansas. They all move you to marvel at their beauty.

When your there, you just feel natural to sing and play a song like "Home on the Range". And it is my home. I may have to reside in the Big City but I can escape from time to time and soak up that old range.

Here is a real nice song by Dan Reeder with a nice video to watch along with. Call's it, "The Cowboy Song"

Jimmy Driftwood wrote a really good Cowboy song that does not get enough play these days. Please give it a listen. You would think it was an authentic old tune. He captured the time well.

Kansas is perhaps about as authentically "Cowboy" as it gets. The real cowboys still ply their trade here and the history of the trail head towns are where the legend came into it's own. Dodge City, Abilene, are two well known names that conjure up primal images of rowdy young lads strutting the mud streets in search of liquor, lust and fun.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Art of the Irish Fiddle concert

This event news via Missouri Valley Folklife Society.

The Missouri Valley Folklife Society and the Irish Museum and Cultural Center would like to invite you to join us for an evening of true entertainment. Deemed "a rare beast, a master of both the fiddle and the guitar" by the Cork Examiner of Ireland, Randal Bays accompanied by Davey Mathias will surely not disappoint.

Randal Bays and Davey Mathias The Art of the Irish Fiddle
Friday, October 22

Irish Museum and Cultural Center
Union Station, lower level, west wing
Free Parking (we will stamp your ticket)

Tickets are:
$20 for the general public
$15 for MVFS members
$10 for members of the Irish music community of the KC area.

for tickets and more information call 913-205-8798 or contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

I know a couple of you that will be interested. If I am flush I might just go myself.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Shenandoah by Connie Dover

Shenandoah clearly qualifies as "Old Timey". Just not a fiddle tune. But old. It's one of my favorite tunes. One of the first I could play on the guitar and I still love to play it simple.
The song moves me like few others and I can't explain it. I get tearful hearing it sometimes and I don't know why. My heart is just moved by those ancient tones that seems to cause it to tremble and my eyes water. I just don't understand it's power over me that way but then I quit over analyzing long ago.

This version is from Connie Dover who is a wonder and a jewel from KC. I think she still lives here but I am not certain. She sings like an angel and I need to see her live someday soon.

Go visit her website and learn more. In the meanwhile, enjoy this traditional song done superbly. Don't be surprised if it tears you up...but maybe it's just me...