I saw and danced to the super Tinariwen last night with the sister of my old comrade Professor Hill-Church. Tinariwen is a band of robed Saharan men playing great desert blues on electric guitars and electric bass with a single dude playing a single drum and yet somehow laying down the beats for fantastic dance music.
After that I ran into the Brattle sisters (a cute pair in black jackets) at The Throttles show at the Plough and Stars in Cambridge. As Dan Parker of the Rank Strangers says of watching Throttles guitarist Greg Burgess, “It’s like watcing a giant tarantula climbing up and down the guitar neck.” The Throttles always rock—last night was no exception. Drummer Matt McLaren’s philosophy on sound is, Play quieter and it makes it sound bigger. Jack Hanlon’s joy at playing and muscular mugging remind me to enjoy my life.
To bed at 3am, up at 7:30am to get to the Sheldon St Baptist Church to play some electric guitar with the gospel choir at 10am. Among the preludes pianist Natalie Markward and I played: Old Ship of Zion, His Eye is on the Sparrow, I’ll Fly Away ( a necessary musical evil of my life) and Amazing Grace—a song, as Matt McLaren puts it, by a slave-ship captain who felt bad about it later. The special choir number was the great People Get Ready. There’s not a melody more fun to play on the electric guitar.
Next up in my day was Erica J.’s first-ever tenor ukulele lesson. Also my first-ever tenor ukulele lesson. We worked on the old-time tune Twin Sisters. Erica is taking Brown U’s Old-Time music class now taught by the great Rory McLeod and Sandol Astrausky. Those Brown students and the other members of the folk/old-time community who go to play at that class are really lucky to have Rory and Sandol! Sandol is really great old-time fiddler and Rory (who is a master on the upright bass) plays guitar for the class and really makes old-time guitar interesting with a lot of great, driving, walking bass-lines. Rory is the only person who can back up the great Paul Geremia—a very idiosyncratic country-blues guitarist.
After Erica’s lesson I was off to the Small Axe Café. I stopped on the way to rip open my right front tire and replace it with that little donut in my trunk. At the Small Axe I got to play a few tunes with my friend Tom Duksta. Then Jake Haller joined me for an hour and a half of music. In addition to many Killdevils classics, we played for the first time on two guitars Upterrlainarluta and Violence. Jake seems to hate it and love it when I throw songs at him that he does not know. We hit some Jake Haller chestnuts too: Lady Luck, Jennie and Frank; and some good old blues: San Francisco Bay Blues, Baby Please Don’t Go and Bright Lights, Big City. We finished the set with a sprightly, a capella Workin on a Building with some guitar-body percussion.
I ate a really nice beet walnut gorgonzola radicchio salad courtesy of the Small Axe Café and then hit 1 North to 112 North to 138 west to get to Wyoming, Rhode Island’s Wood River Inn for 5-ish to set up for the Rank Strangers gig. I started off the night playing solo. I was fiddling with my harps, trying to figure out what I should play when Dan Parker started singing The Cuckoo. Hmmm, I thought, I bet I can remember enough verses of the Cuckoo to get through it. I started it off playing the fiddle melody as a single note line on the guitar. Immediately, a table of young women, perhaps for the first time in the history of young women, got all sorts of excited to hear The Cuckoo. Those mysterious young women left before I had a chance to interview them during the set-break. I kept up the bird and guitar-melody themes with Cluck-Old-Hen which I’ve been working on for the puppet show with B Shur (called The Yankee Peddler—more on that later).
I played the baritone uke on a couple of numbers including The Tennessee Waltz and I Truly Understand and then the Rank Strangers helped me finish out my set with a great and raucus Stealin’ and well as my tune Oh My Love, which always sounds good with those boys. We finished up with Chicken Shack—long and shaggy and a pretty good rendition if I may say so.
I scribble now in my notebook during the Rank Stranger’s first set, downing iced-tea, glass after cold glass. I’ll join the band for their second set in half and hour. Good night for now. Thanks for reading.
10/19/12 The Smilemakers and the Killdevils at Sandywoods, Tiverton, 7pm
Chris Monti Solo, BebeRequin, and The Killdevils at Nick-a-Nees 8:30pm
75 South St, PVD