The Stanley Brothers have always been a huge inspiration to me. I’m heard many other musicians, like Gillian Welch, talk about the first time they heard the soulful harmony singing from this country duo. It’s usually a watershed a moment. I’ve seen it happen to friends, in real time. You listen to Angel Band, then you find a best of collection, then you read the Ralph Stanley autobiography, then you find live sets on Youtube, then you start buying old school hats, then you start practicing your high-baritone parts. There is just something about their drive, their conviction, their prolific amount of recordings, their old-time roots mixed with bluegrass aspirations…..some people get hooked on the banjo playing, others on the songwriting.
I routinely go through Stanley Brother phases and I’ve learned a number of their songs through the years. Some are original. Some are not. (They infamously learned Bill Monroe’s Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake and then recorded and released it before Big Mon himself!) A few weeks ago, I was house sitting for a friend and had a quiet afternoon to record some of my favorite songs. It’s a bit weird to record these songs without harmony vocals or even a banjo. But they turned out nicely and I’ve decided to share them with the world. Hope you enjoy
A few months ago my buddy Forrest was flipping through some old vinyls in a thrift shop and picked up one for me. This is Dick Dia, his Mandolin and Orchestra. There’s a lot of really great mandolin work, and the arrangements are pretty interesting as well. This version of Guaglione was my favorite.
Also, the writing on the back cover is ridiculous.
“They say that people are born with two everlasting loves–one for the motherland that nurtures them, the other for the Italy that eventually will lure them. For Italy, like a beautiful woman, boasts not only her physical enticements—her land, her watering places, her people and their passion for living, her food and drink. Italy also boasts great spiritual attractions—painting, sculpture, literature, music and romance—the stuff which these elements help to compound. The simplest ingredients are required to kindle romance. Of course, one must have the lady, and it usually is easy to have one on hand. Then there is the setting, and in Italy almost any place is ideal. Also, a bottle of wine generally helps, and this might be a full-bodied Moscato from the Italian island of Pantelleria, a Malvasia from Sicily, or any of a score of delectable vintages. Finally, there is always music—perhaps an accordion, a guitar, but most often a mandolin, or mandolino, as the Italians say. Somehow the mandolin seems most appropriate, perhaps because of its throbbing rhythm which, they point out in Italy, reminds one of the heartbeat, of moonlight and roses. Specialmente fra le rose nella primavera come bello fa l’amore nella sera, they sing. (Which means, And especially among the roses in the springtime, how sweet to love when twight falls.)”
I think I need to hire a better publicist to write about my music!
Happy Winter Everybody,
Times are changing for me. My latest project Rain City Ramblers is on hiatus for a bit, and while facing the prospect of settling in for another Seattle winter, I decided I might as well settle into a new place for a change. I’m moving to North Carolina!
Seattle is an amazing city and it’s been full of friends and mentors for me. One of these friends, Jimmy Hall, recently interviewed me for his podcast Picking and Grinning
Jimmy and I have been jamming at the Conor Byrne pub and Al’s Tavern for years, and he’s a core supporter/promoter for bluegrass in Seattle. We had a lot of fun talking about why we love bluegrass.
I still have a few shows left in the PNW, including Daniel Ullom’s Bluegrass Throwdown at the Conor Byrne Pub on 12/28. I’ve got a great band backing me and some great friends sharing the bill with me. Hope to see you there!
Some dear friends of mine play in a bluegrass band called the Warren G Hardings. Here’s a new video they did recently
Here’s a video of my latest project playing one of our latest songs. We just finished recording all the tracks for our first album, and we’re set to release it on January 6th 2017. Stay tuned!
About a year ago, this tune floated into my jam circle and refused to leave for a number of months. In my search for different versions, I ended up discovering this awesome performance by Greg Clarke of Portland, Oregon. I can’t tell you much more about him, except that he does have a CD http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=7190297&style=music.
Here’s an interesting video of my friend Carl Chatzky, who was a prominent character in the Seattle bluegrass community. I met Carl in 2010 in Seattle. I was a student in his bluegrass class at the Experimental College at Univeristy of Washington, and I learned a lot of tunes from him. I always enjoyed the way he sang Pretty Polly–he had the high, lonesome voice to sing that song. Besides being a good musician and a funny guy, he was also a passionate activist. Our first conversation started with mandolin, switched to Emma Goldman, and ended with Food Not Bombs. Carl passed away this summer, but he still exists fondly in my memory
“It’s not that you do away with money and replace it with barter. What you do is build a world that runs through love and cooperation rather than exploitation. And that’s the end of my 52 years of living in thought.”