Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Just got back from a "bluegrass" session at Plough & Stars. We got in some old-time country, even some Roger Miller. The session was smaller than usual, so there was often a good blend in the group. I sang "River of Jordan", "Deep River Blues", "Maidens Prayer", and would have sung a few more except the order of the circle broke up and it changed to songs being called by whoever didn't listen the most.... ;-)

All of these folks seem to be going to Grass Valley, and by next summer I have to work out some type of transport/camping routine.

I'm making fewer errors incrementally, but I still need to focus more on the melody and less on playing the changes. I got a chance to work banjo rhythms, but need a good number of practice sessions on idiomatic banjo phrases in order to have it click. A little bit of norteno phrasing goes a long way... I can get away with it in that group, but have to be sure not to rely on it too often.

There's something weird about "Blackberry Blossom". For years I've been able to play it solo, but I usually have trouble with it in a session. I think it's because most people play it as a breakdown, at high tempo and without spaces between the notes, going hellbent. I know I've played it at similar tempos, but there's something about the rhythm they usually call that just doesn't click for me. (I usually follow it with the minor version of "Blackberry Blossom" from Kentucky, but I'd be surprised if anyone could follow that... it's a different culture than the straight bluegrass-festival material.)

Booked two more music camps for the summer. I'll start July with a week at Fiddle Tunes in Seattle, then work here for a week, then take a week in Taos with Johnny Gimble, and come back for another week of work. August will start with the Lark in the Morning camp in Mendocino, then I'll fly to Denver for two weeks at Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, and end the month at the Strawberry Music Festival in Yosemite. I'm not sure how I'll get to Mendocino and Yosemite with camping equipment yet.

My Dobro is ready, from Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto. It's tuned in G13, sort of a cross between Dobro, C6 lap steel and E9 pedal steel tuning. Right now I'm thinking I won't be playing it much during the summer, but will start bringing it out in autumn...?

For practice I've been playing a lot of "Sally Gardens" and other wholesome reels, playing it from what I hear in my head rather than what people have written on paper. Also playing gospel tunes "Peace in the Valley" and "Closer Walk With Thee" in that 12/8 shuffle rather than a flat 4/4. There's a funny way that pentatonic ornamentation works in there, I haven't figured it out yet, but a lot of the Irish rolls seem to work in there, played on a five-tone scale instead of a seven-tone scale.

I don't have any playing-with-others scheduled for the next three days, but will go to a potluck in Oakland on Sunday and then tunes at Ireland's on Monday. The weekend after that will be full with the SF Folk Fest.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Tin Pan Alley tune repository: This one seems particularly useful, because it has an auto-playing MIDI right above both verse and chorus. All material seems to be public domain (pre-1923 copyright). On a quick check I was impressed to see the verses to "Avalon", as well as "Are You From Dixie?" which I first heard from Norman Blake. Hey, now all I need is a bouncing ball to follow.... ;-)
Last night went well... first time in many years someone said "come to this place at this date and play", I appreciate that Jeannie & Chuck invited me. I didn't embarrass myself, but didn't particularly distinguish myself either... listening to a tape later it seems I was scared of the microphone and didn't get good tone. At least the box didn't jump out and overpower others. ;-) I came back home and practiced for an hour, then woke up and did three more.

Mostly I'm working on a tune for 15-20 minutes, repeating it over and over, trying to clean it up, make it lively. For songs I concentrate on hard things, like "When You & I Were Young Maggie" or "I Don't Love Nobody", where I have to get the phrasing to make sense to be able to get behind it physically too.