YouTube Picks (#10) – Another Way to Play Guitar

The Blues as a musical influence has been around for well over 100 years.It is the basic ingredient of Ragtime, Early Jazz, Country Blues, Bluegrass, Swing, Bebop, Modern Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Soul and Classic Rock and just about any contemporary music genre you may care to mention. The internet is flush with blues based performers and performances and “how to ” videos. In the academic world of universities and Colleges, out side the specifically Classical realm, the programs are are dominated by Jazz and pop based curriculums with strong blues components. This has been going on for so long and it is so ingrained in our musical psyche that we often forget there are other musical genres and ways of playing music. Guitarists are not immune to this way of thinking. Every guitar player wants to be a “rock star”. Yet, in the vein of the old saying, “There are more than one way to skin a cat” one could also say “there are more than one way to play guitar”. Here is another way.

While the western pop/rock world was going on its particular musical way during the post WWII era there were things happening in “darkest Africa”. Particularly in the Congo. “The guitar rich pop music of the Congo in Central Africa has had more impact around the continent than any other Afro-pop genre. Beginning in the late 1940s, bands in Brazzaville and Kinshasa – cities that face each other across the Congo River – began fusing Cuban music with local sounds ” (Banning Eyre). It is kind of ironic in a way. African music had a profound influence on the music of Cuba in the development of Son montuno (Son) , Salsa etc. Cuba has returned the favor by heavily influencing musicians of the Congo in the development of Soukous, kwassa-kwassa and Rumba Rock. The Three-Two Clave Rhythm from Cuba is central to the understanding of the pop music of the Congo.  Once established as a style the music of the Congo has had no problem in crossing ethnic and national boundaries with its powerful dance rhythms and before too long in 1970s and 1980s  Soukous  became the disco music of Africa.

To get the ball rolling here is Don Keller doing a cover of a popular Kanda Bongo Man / Diblo Dibala tune (Sai) that clearly demonstrates the driving repetitive rhythm of the Soukous  guitar style. Don is playing the lead over a pre-recorded rhythm section.

The thing that I immediately notice is the “up feeling” of the music. Blues at its heart is victims music and as a result there is a certain “downer” sentiment and feel in the music. Soukous is not “cry in your beer”  music. It is telling you to get up there and dance.

So how does it work? Here is a short demo video that shows just how two guitars in lock step can play poly rhythmic patterns and end up sounding like three or more guitars at once. The music is simple three chord stuff that sounds amazingly complex with an unbelievable grove. The demonstration video  is in the key of A major and the chord progressions are simple I – IV – I – V ( A major – D major – A major – E major).

So when you add bass guitar, drums, percussion, horn section and vocals you get something like this recording of Amilo, Amilo by the African super star Rocherleau Tabu Ley.

From time to time between the vocal verses there are freewheeling guitar sections called Sebene that features the cascading interplay between the guitars. As I said the mood is infectious and the groove is unmatched in any other genre of music.

For those interested in the style there is a mountain of material on YouTube. I can also recommend Banning Eyre’s publication Africa – Your Passport to a New World of Music. It is published by Alfred Music in their Guitar Atlas Series. In it Banning explores a number of African guitar styles including Palm Wine Pickers, Highlife and JuJu, Soukous, music of the Griots, Malian Blues, South African Zulu and Mbaqanga, Zimbabwe Rhumba and Mbira and the Music of Madagascar. This slim volume also includes lots of musical examples both in print and on the enclosed CD.

For those with a more academic frame of mind there is the hard cover volume Rhumba on the River – A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos   by Gary Stewart. Equatorial Africa was a center for the slave trade in earlier times and towards the end of the nineteenth century a scene of massive genocidal mayhem. The Congas have a tortured history and if one is interested in the historical background of the region I can also recommend Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost and of course Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

I would like to thank Shayne Rodrigues for the conversation we had last Monday at the Stemwinder Bar and Grill. Although the conversation was mostly about a Blues Cruise that he embarked on recently the conversation also meandered into the realms of Paul Simon’s Graceland and of African music in general.

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Studio 64 Spring Concert Series – Don Alder

Studio 64 Spring Concert Series – Don Alder Saturday February 11, 2017, 8pm.

Don Alder is an acoustic guitar player who performs in a style I describe as “”two fisted percussive”. The great Canadian acoustic guitarist Don Ross would probably describe it  as “Heavy Wood”. It is  a funky, take no prisoners style of music that owes much to rock and roll sensibilities albeit with more highly developed guitar technique and musicality. The style has developed over the past thirty years and has virtually stood conventional guitar technique on it head. Rather than restricting the left hand to fretting the notes and the right hand to strumming or picking there is a new role for the right hand for fretting and tapping the fret board for the desired notes and adding percussive effects by tapping the body of the guitar. The first time I came across this approach was in the playing of Stanley Jordan in the mid -1980s.   Stanley was a jazz guitarist who played electric guitar  by using both hands to tap the frets to get the required musical notes. It was a style more akin to a keyboard instrument than a guitar. He tuned his guitar in fourths (E A D G C F) and developed an harmonic approach based on that tuning. Although there were some percussive elements in his playing the whole thing was more pianistic than percussive.

The percussive elements in acoustic guitar playing have been around for a long time. In Flamenco guitar playing guitar  body slaps and taps have been an integral  part of that style of music for many, many years. Percussive guitar playing is nothing new for flamenco guitarists.  Modern acoustic guitarists such as Don Ross, Tommy Emmanuel and Don Alder have developed a percussive language that takes it to a whole new level. It is best explained by Tommy Emmanuel in a TED TALK (click on the link at the bottom of this blog). Essentially the acoustic guitarist now tries to  emulates a drum kit by tapping on various parts of the guitar body to create the sound of the snare and bass drums. To this he will add bass runs on the strings to emulate a regular bass and, of course he adds the melody on top to create a full band effect. To expand melodic possibilities modern acoustic guitarists have taken to tapping the fret board  (a la Stanley Jordan) to sound specific notes and create melodic runs that would be difficult or nigh on impossible to obtain using conventional techniques. They have expanded the role of artificial harmonics in their musical landscape to create ringing bell like cascades of notes.  (The production of artificial harmonics is a technique of touching the guitar string in a specific way, generally with the right hand,  to produce notes that are an octave or more above the usual fretted note – the overall effect is a series of bell like sounds that adds interest to the music).

Don Alder is originally from Williams Lake and is a master of this style of acoustic guitar playing. As near as I can tell Don, like Tommy Emmanuel, is a self taught musician who has arrived at his style of playing though diligent exploration, experimentation and practice.  Tommy Emmanuel tends to favor the reinterpretation of popular well known songs and tunes. Don, on the other hand plays mostly original compositions that have evolved out of his personal experiences, memories and musical explorations. On Saturday night at Stage 64 he took us on a tour of these memories and experiences with such evocative tunes as The Wall (based on his experiences with Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion tour), Dancing With the Spin Doctors (reflections on the recent elections in the USA), Not a Planet  ( Pluto’s decline in status), Wok the Dog (where upon Don learned that the Wok is not a Chinese invention or even a Chinese word), Going Rogue, Haunting Me, Armed and Dangerous (an excursion into the rhythmic realms of 6/8 time), Sophrosyme (a tribute to his grand mother), and Arrows will Fly. These  last two compositions  he played on the Brunner  Baritone Guitar. This is a lovely mellow instrument and on Arrows will Fly there were some lovely pizzicato effects . Another very lyrical piece was Marshall’s Lanai  (memories of a friend).

Don’s instrument of choice is a Yamaha AC-3R. The instrument he plays is a stock model straight off the shelf with an additional magnetic pickup in the sound hole. He also plays a Brunner travel guitar. This Swiss made instrument is fairly unique in that it has a detachable neck that allows the instrument to be folded down to fit in a small suitcase suitable for overhead storage in air lines. He has it set up in a baritone tuning.  Like his fellow Canadian guitarist Don Ross, Don seems to favor glue-on acrylic nails but unlike the other Don he does not use a thumb pick.

As always this Studio 64 concert was a stunning success. More so because of the Yamaha FG800 guitar  given away as a door prize. The lucky winner was Sonya Parker (I am sorry to tell you John your wife has nor intention of passing the guitar on to you).

         

The Studio 64 organizing committee would like to thank Nancy of the Burrito Grill for feeding Don, thanks also go to Keith and Kate Nicholas for providing Don’s accommodation  and Ray of Ray’s Music for providing the sound and organizing the guitar give-away door prize.

Here is that Ted Talk Bonus link

And if you have never heard Stanley Jordan then here is a treat for you –

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YouTube Picks (#9) – BALKAN BENEFITS

I believe it was Jelly Roll Morton who first coined the phrase “the Spanish Tinge” to describe the Cuban and Caribbean influences in early New Orleans jazz. It didn’t stop there. All through the last century  “The Spanish Tinge” has been in Jazz in spades. Duke Ellington made full use of it in a number of classic compositions including Juan Tizol’s masterpiece Caravan. Dizzy Gillespie, along with the Cuban Conga player Chano Pozo used the “Spanish Tinge” to virtually invent a whole genre of jazz called Afro-Cuban Jazz. His tunes Tin Tin Deo, Manteca and A Night in Tunisia are staple tunes in the Jazz repertoire. Cuban and Porto Rican musicians invented Salsa and Latin Jazz and  that has gone onto to infiltrate and influence the rock music of Carlos Santana. Even Mexican Mariachi now and again pops up as an ingredient in pop and rock music. “The Spanish Tinge” has even filtered back to the black continent to become a major influence in West African music.

“The Spanish Tinge” crops up every where except possibly in Celtic music. Because there are no cultural connections between the Caribbean and Ireland it is no surprise that “The Spanish Tinge” is largely absent from Irish music.  However, a case could be made for a Spanish influence in Galician Celtic music. Galicia is a province of Spain so that is probably a special case. All of this does not mean to say that Celtic musicians  are immune to outside influences. It is just that they have looked in different directions.  They look to the music of the Balkans (Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Serbia, etc) for that little bit of extra musical spice to lift their traditional music into another space. It may seem to be an odd connection, but keep in mind that Romany and Gypsies (The Travelling People) have always had a significant presence in Ireland and as a group they have cultural connections that go all the way back to Eastern Europe. So it is not surprising  that Irish musicians have developed an interest in the music of the Balkans. The modern renaissance in Irish Celtic music of the early 1960s was well under way when a number of Irish musicians started wandering around Eastern Europe picking up tunes and instruments from  that part of the world, bringing them back to Ireland, modifying and blending them into the Irish Celtic fabric. There are strong instrumental and dance components both in Balkan and Celtic music so the fit was pretty natural. Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny and others  explored the potential of the Greek Bouzouki in Irish music and in a short period of time they developed a flat back version called the Irish Bouzouki. This instrument has become a “traditional” Irish and has a significant presence in many bands – Planxty, De Dannan, Altan and The Bothy Band, to just mention a few. Along with  the bouzouki came tunes in odd meters (7/8, 9/8, 11/8, 14/8, etc), with odd changes of keys mid-tune and distinctly Balkan flavored melodies. These started showing up in the repertoire and recordings of bands like Planxty. Over the next forty years the Balkan influence has not abated and as Uilleann Pipers, fiddlers, guitarists, bouzouki  and flute players became embroiled in the mix and improved their fluency  it is sometimes hard to separate mainstream Celtic from Balkan influenced tunes. So here are some YouTube picks that demonstrate Balkan Benefits in Celtic music.

The first out the gate is Paul Brady and Andy Irvine’s elaboration on the familiar Irish theme of domestic “Bliss”. It is the traditional ballad Wearing the Britches“. It is followed by a Balkan tune written by Paul Brady called “Out the Door and Over the Wall”. This was recorded in 1976 and that must have been in the early days of the  Bouzouki’s foray into Irish music. Both Andy’s and Paul’s Bouzoukis feature the elaborate inlaid tops that are traditionally Greek . I suspect the instruments are in a  Balkan or Greek tuning rather than  GDAD that has become the standard Irish tuning. I have seen several manuscript versions of this tune but the most accessible one appears to start out in D major in a variety of meters that switch between 11/8, 7/8, 9/8, 8/8 etc. Mid tune there is a key change to E minor.

Next is a recording of Suleiman’s Kopanitsa from 2012. Note that Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine are now playing  the more familiar standard Irish version of the bouzouki that is probably tuned GDAD. Note how Paddy Glackin’s pipes blend seamlessly into the musical mix. The  Uilleann pipes actually sound more  Eastern European than western. This tune appears to have a mixed heritage as it is described as a  tune with both Bulgarian and Lebanese elements. The transcriptions I have seen are in D major with a G major section. It is in a straight forward uncomplicated (if that is at all possible) 11/8 meter

Below is Michael McGoldrick’s playing his Balkan inspired Waterman’s. This is a fairly straight forward 7/8 Irish  tune in G. The rhythm is a straight  7/8 counted 1 2   1 2  123 . Just listen to the bodhran and the guitar just nailing the rhythm. Once you get the feel there is no need to count. As for the flute playing look out Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull). You aren’t the only flute player who really rocks……….

and now as a special treat in a more traditional Irish mode here is more from Michael McGoldrick. I believe the tunes are Jenny’s Picking Cockles and The Earl’s Chair.

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For those who are more technically inclined here are some manuscripts for a few of the tunes. They are not actual transcriptions of the above performances  rather they are tools to learn the bare bones of the tunes.

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Click on the following link – THE SESSION IS A USEFUL DATABASE OF IRISH TUNES .A significant number of Swedish, Norwegian, Balkan and other odd traditional tunes can also be found on this site. When looking for the manuscript of a traditional tune this is a good place to start

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Pardon my language ……….

First they came …” is a statement and poem written by Pastor  Martin Niemoller (1892- 1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazi’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Many variations and adaptations in the spirit of the original have been published in the English language. It deals with themes of persecution, guilt and responsibility. …..   Wikipedia.

The above image, a response to Donald Trump’s targeting of Muslims is enough to make us wonder is history about to repeat itself. Let’s hope not.

FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT…… BECAUSE I AM NOT A SOCIALIST.

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE TRADE UNIONISTS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT…….. BECAUSE I WAS NOT A TRADE UNIONIST.

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE JEWS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT…………… BECAUSE I WAS NOT A JEW.

THEN THEY CAME FOR ME —– AND THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO SPEAK FOR ME.

This image was sent to me by my son who lives with his family in California  –  “Rather tumultuous weekend here in the US. Scary to see how quickly things can devolve, but also how quickly they can be resisted by an engaged populace. I am heartened to think that the left might be getting its shit together to resist Trump and his cronies.”

You Tube Pick (#8) – “It’s more than a bag of air”

The recent performance of the Irish Celtic Band Lunasa At the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook should have been an eye (ear) opener for local audiences. I am sure it is the first time that a Uilleann Piper has graced a local stage. Cillian Vallely playing that curious collection of Irish plumbing certainly gave Lunasa a very distinctive sound and his solo piece was, for me, the highlight of the evening. This is a uniquely Irish instrument that as a Celtic mood instrument  has replaced the highland bagpipes. It is not unusual in movies these days when the story line involves the highlands it is the Irish Uilleann that you will hear on the sound track providing the appropriate mystical mood. So it would seem appropriate to have a look at tutorial video to get some idea of how the instrument works.

Also here are also some performances on an instrument that has since the early 60s has gone from strength to strength. I remember in the mid 60s pipers traveling to Ireland to literally sleep on the floor to study at the feet of the great masters who were still alive. Here are some more recent performances. First off there is the Scotsman Fred Morrison who is also a master Highland piper, whistle, small pipes, etc, etc. .

Catherine Ashcroft playing a slow tune that only bagpipes can bring us to a high emotional state. She follows the slow piece with a tour de force on the KING OF THE PIPERS. What I find fascinating is how full the sound can be with all the drones going and various registers that can be heard when Catherine drops her wrist onto the registers. Also Maurice Dickson percussion and guitar accompaniments are more than note wothy. Celtic guitarists seem to have a lock on how to play rhythm guitar.

Just in case it is thought that only traditional Irish Music can be played on Uilleann pipes  here is a classical piece by Handel.

and of course Cillian Vallely of Lunasa fame playing the popular LARK IN THE MORNING

YouTube Pick (#7) – Two Hands, Four Mallets

I say it way too often but I figure it needs to be said. “There’s more to music than three guitars and a back beat”.  Just a cursory review of the current “music business” reveals that the majority of music performed today conforms to that criteria of “three guitars and a back beat”. It is what is popular and that’s what people and the industry want, so what? I just think it is a shame because there is so much more out there. One of the beauties of the Internet and YouTube in particular has been the creation of a platform for musicians and artists who are completely outside the current popular commercial paradigm. Sure there are a lot of performances on YouTube that conform to the commercial norm but it doesn’t take too many “accidental” clicks to come upon some really odd ball and interesting performances. Musicians busking on folk instruments on the streets of Istanbul; ethnic performances from all over the world; modern classical composers; jazz performances and esoteric mixes of just about anything. My case in point at the moment is marimba music.

From the pages of Wikipedia – “The marimba is a percussion instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars struck with mallets to produce musical tones. Resonators suspended underneath the bars amplify their sound. The bars are arranged like the keys of a piano, with the groups of 2 and 3  accidentals raised vertically, overlapping the natural bars to aid the performer both visually and physically. This instrument is a type of  Idiophone, but with a more resonant and lower-pitched tessitura than the xylophone.

The marimba was developed in Central America by African slaves, and descended from its ancestral African Balafon, which was also built by African slaves. Marimba is now the national instrument of Guatemala.

Modern uses of the marimba include solo performances, woodwind and brass ensembles, marimba concertos, jazz ensembles, etc. Contemporary composers have used the unique sound of the marimba more and more in recent years.

A player of the Marimba can be called a Marimbist or a Marimba Player.”

Marimbas are not really portable instruments. They tend to  be large and cumbersome. They are not instruments that you can sling into a backpack and carry around on a subway. There are more portable versions around but they do not have the quality and caliber of the traditional marimba . For instance, the Vibraphone in Jazz circles is a similar instrument that is played in much the same fashion as a marimba but has a completely different vibe (pun intended) . In a cursory exploration of Marimba performances on YouTube I have found some enlightening and entertaining performances. Here are a couple of selections:

Performed by Kevin Hanrahan
http://www.HanrahanPercussion.com/

It is as good a place as any to start an exploration of Marimba music. It is a well known Classical piece that most people will instantly recognize. The performer looks like he should still be in high school. What I find fascinating is his use of four mallets and the dexterity required to play the constantly changing chordal voicings.

It is a bit of leap to the next, rather long selection, of a composition by the modern Classical Mimimalist composer Steve Reich. Sure it is repetitious, and that is the nature of the music, but within the monotony there is a lot happening. A friend of mine described it as a form of Chinese Water Torture. Of course I disagree. It is one of my all time favorite pieces of music.

On a much grander scale is Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. To listen to this music one requires an attention span of more that three minutes and one really needs to recover the lost art of really listening to what is actually going on.

I know, I know, enough is enough. Time to move on.

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And now for some humour ……

I could be wrong but I think that the TV series CORNER GAS it is a work of pure genius.  To prove the point here is an insert from the box set of the six seasons of the TV show that could only have come out of Canada.

YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN SASKATCHEWAN WHEN…….

  • Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor and combine crew on the highway.
  • “Going South” means driving to Montana.
  • Winnipeg is “back east”.
  • You often reply: “you bet!” or “hell yes”.
  • All the festivals across the province are named after fruits, vegetables, grain or testicles.
  • You’ve gotten a “To Go” drink from the local bar.
  • You’ve stopped by the local bar to cash a cheque.
  • You actually have enough ball caps to match every shirt you own, although you still insist on wearing only one so the others don’t get dirty.
  • The bank teller asks to see some proof of identification and you point to the arm patch on your slow-pitch jacket.
  • You know what “Cow Tipping”, “Garden Raiding” and “Snipe Hunting” is.
  • You design your kids Halloween costume to fit over a snow suit.
  • You’ve gone to the grocery store on a snowmobile.
  • Driving in winter is better because the potholes are filled with snow.
  • Driving in winter is often simply a matter of staying between the fence posts.
  • You’ve attempted to set new land speed records on Saskatchewan highways.
  • You carry a roll of toilet paper in the glove box in case you have to stop and go by the road.
  • You find yourself driving over the longest bridge over the shortest body of water.
  • You discover there are more grasshoppers than people in town.
  • Your radio antenna is an old cloths hanger or a piece of bailing wire.
  • You know what a Prairie Oyster is and how to cook them.
  • You know someone who has accidentally shot himself.
  • losing the sight of the horizon, for even a few seconds, leaves you with that icky feeling of disorientation for the rest of the day.
  • You rent off-season storage space for your snowmobile on a week-by-week basis.
  • You sort your laundry into three loads: greens, whites and green-and-whites.
  • Every birthday you receive exactly the present you most desperately need: a new curling broom.
  • You catch yourself “getting down” to the radio jingles for post-emergent broad-leaf weed control.

Ron Petrie – Saskatchewan Leader Post

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And just in case that isn’t enough here is Rick Mercer’s classic comment on the weather….

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HOME ROUTES HOUSE CONCERT – The Bombadils

HOME ROUTES HOUSE CONCERT – THE BOMBADILS  Wednesday November 23, 2016, 7:30 pm at 8163 Gibbons Road Mayook

In a nutshell this was a concert of brilliant music.

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 Without a doubt one of my favourite recordings is The Lonesome Touch (Green Linnet GLCD 1181) featuring that marvellous Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes and his stellar accompanist Dennis Cahill on guitar. The recording has great sound, great atmosphere, great tunes and as a duo they are absolutely rock solid. Dennis Cahill’s accompaniments are a model of how it should be done. I never thought I would ever have the opportunity to attend a concert and hear music of that caliber. I was wrong. The Home Routes House Concert of the Bombadils was more than a step above that particular recording. As a duo Sarah Frank (5 string fiddle, clawhammer banjo and vocals) and Luke Fraser (guitar, mandolin and vocals) are also absolutely rock solid. Sarah started on violin at age 4 and with Luke graduated from the McGill University Music Program. Sarah majored in classical violin where she shared classes with Cranbrook’s Sarah Aleem.  Luke majored in Classical guitar. The program for the evening was a mixture of  traditional and original Canadian songs and tunes with great vocal harmonies, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and banjo accompaniments. They kicked off the evening with one of Sarah’s original tunes called Hazeldean. This was followed by Luke’s Train in the Night. Other tunes and songs included The Fountain, The Feel Good Times Set, the Newfoundland Sea Shanty Heave Away, Doc Watson’s The Long Journey, and an original song written by Caroline Spence called  Mint Condition. The final tune in the first set was called Squirrels Rule the Day and Racoons Rule the Night and it featured some marvelous instrumental interplay between both musicians that had them slipping in and out of spectacular unison playing. Playing in unison is, in theory, a simple musical exercise but when played up to tempo between some freewheeling solo excursions it is exciting and impressive.

For the second set, in response to some sheet music from the audience, they sight read the Swedish tune  Homage Till En Spelman that they then morphed into one of their regular Norwegian tunes. The performance was flawless. Through out the rest of the evening they played more of the same style of songs and tunes. When they played Black is the Color of My True Loves Hair there was some lively banter in the audience over it’s origins. Was it Scottish or Irish? As it turns out it was neither. It was composed by the American John Jacob Niles in the early days of the twentieth century.

Cranbrook audiences over the last little while have had the opportunity to experience some of the very best musicians that the Celtic world has to offer.  Performances have included the Cape Breton group Coig, Ireland’s Lunasa, both at the Key City Theatre, Blackthorn, Breakwater, Lizzy Hoyt, Jocelyn Pettit Band and now, on this particular evening, in this wonderfully intimate setting Montreal’s The Bombadils. It was a unique opportunity to hear the dynamics and tonal nuances of these two superb musicians. Thanks Glenn and Patricia for hosting this wonderful concert. Here are some more images from the evening.

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A small technical Note: Both musicians play superb instruments. Sarah plays a five string fiddle tuned CGDAE (from the bass to the treble side). Effectively it allows Sarah to cover the full range of the violin and the viola on a single instrument. Luke plays a Collings Dreadought guitar and a Michael Heiden mandolin. Michael, who is one of the world’s great luthiers, has a work shop just down the road from here in Creston. Here is the manuscript for Homage Till En Spelman that was thrown into the arena by a member of the audience:homage-till-en-spelman

Now, as I said it was a brilliant concert and you had to be there but if you couldn’t make it here is a taste of what you missed:

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STUDIO 64 JAZZ AND BLUES SERIES – THE 6L62

STUDIO 64 JAZZ AND BLUES CONCERT SERIES –  THE 6L6S  Saturday November19, 2016, 8pm

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Studio 64 has done it again!. They concluded the fall Jazz and Blues Concert series with a crack-a-jack blues outfit – The 6L6S featuring Mike Watson – guitars and vocals; Tommy Knowles – Bass Guitar; and Kent MacRae Drums). This band came out of Calgary to especially warm up this frosty night in Kimberley. They are a full on LOUD electric band with obvious affection for the roots of the music and featured many songs from deep within the acoustic blues traditions of the 20s, 30s, and 40s. They included their special interpretations of songs by Leadbelly, Blind Blake, Robert Johnson, Elmore James (Dust My Broom) Willie Dixon (Diddy Wha Diddy) Cripple Clarence Lofton  (Strut that Thing), Little Walter / Muddy Waters (My Babe) and a couple of early rock and roll classics including Maybe Baby and a tune by Link Wray. It was a boisterous night with Studio 64 patrons adding an appropriate touch by “dancing in the isles”. It was a fitting conclusion to another very successful concert series. For now we just have to hang tight until spring rolls around with another Studio 64 Concert Series. Here are some images from the night:

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In memory of Leonard Cohen – Paul Zollo

Leonard Cohen-1September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016

Leonard was 82 years old when he died

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was ten and learning how to play guitar. In front of me were the lyrics and chords for his song “Suzanne.” I remember thinking, “How does someone write something this beautiful?” It seemed like a miracle to me.

Still does.

So when I got the supreme privilege of sitting down with him myself to talk about songwriting, I told him exactly that. That since I was just a kid, I have been pondering the mystery of “Suzanne” and other miracle songs he wrote. He smiled that warm, gentle Leonard smile when I said this, and did not demur.

“It is a miracle,” he answered. “If I knew where the good songs came from, I would go there more often.”

And in that one answer is the crystallization of this man’s greatness. With just a few words, he gives us humility, humor, reverence, mystery and dedication. Dedication to the mystery itself, to the realm into which all songwriters reach to find their songs.

He spoke in parables. Unlike most humans who rarely finish entire sentences, he spoke in perfect paragraphs, with language at once beat and biblical, ancient and modern. Never was this more evident than when I asked him what he thought about the current quality of popular song, and the widespread conviction of many from previous generations that meaningful songs are no longer written.

“There are always meaningful songs for somebody,” he said. “People are doing their courting, people are finding their wives, people are making babies, people are washing their dishes, people are getting through the day, with songs that we may find insignificant. But their significance is affirmed by others. There’s always someone affirming the significance of a song by taking a woman into his arms or by getting through the night. That’s what dignifies the song. Songs don’t dignify human activity. Human activity dignifies the song.”

One time I interviewed Anjali, the singer-musician who loved and lived with him for years, and did a whole album of his words with her music. We met at a café in mid-L.A. and the great man himself, Leonard, accompanied her. Of course, being him he knew right away I would be unable to conduct a meaningful interview with him sitting there. So he immediately assured us that he would sit elsewhere while we spoke.

We did the interview, and afterwards I made an admission to Anjali. Which was that it was hard to fathom actually living a regular life with Leonard. I did know he was a man, after all, as I told her. But to songwriters, I said, he is a God.

She laughed heartily when I said that, and answered, “Oh trust me, he’s a man! He is definitely a man.”

Now with his mortal life complete, it seems she must have been right. But there are very few men I have ever known who did what he did. Even when the industry as he knew it essentially collapsed, never did he waver from the thing that mattered most: the work. If it took him seven years to perfect a song, even to the extent of writing forty or more verse, he would take seven years. There was no rush. Nothing mattered more. When he would be up at Mt. Baldy, serving time as a Buddhist monk, he would be working on songs in his head. During his last year, when he was in severe pain and immobilized, he worked on songs. The work never stopped. Songwriting was for him, as miracle songs like “Hallelujah” made so clear, more than a job. It was a calling. His highest calling. And he built a beautiful and indestructible tower of song, brick by brick, day by day, year by year. Like all of his songs, it has been built to last.

“It begins with an appetite,” he said, describing the way he started a song, “to discover my self-respect. To redeem the day. So the day does not go down in debt.“

Songwriting, he explained, did not come easy. It was work, and he felt artists were wrong to ever consider otherwise. “But why shouldn’t my work be hard?” he asked. “One is distracted by this notion that there is such a thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. Some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work hard as any stiff, to come up with the payload.”

Asked to explain just what this work entails, he basically answered anything. Whatever is required. “Anything that I can bring to it, he said. “Thought, meditation, drinking, disillusion, insomnia, vacations. Because once the song enters the mill, it’s worked on by everything that I can summon. And I need everything. I try everything. I try to ignore it, try to repress it, try to get high, try to get intoxicated, try to get sober, all the versions of myself that I can summon are summoned to participate in this project, this work force. I try everything. I’ll do anything. By any means possible.”

So, I asked, do any of these things work better than others?

“No,” he said with a smile. “Nothing works. Nothing works.”

Nothing but pure dedication to this art and craft so impacted by his own work. “Dylan blew everyone’s mind when he started,” said the poet Allen Ginsberg. “Everyone except Leonard Cohen.” It’s true. Leonard was on his own path from the start. Never did he sway from the conviction that the only true mission was finding a way to get there, to reach that realm from which the great songs come. It’s where he is now.

“It’s much like the life of a Catholic nun,” he said. “You’re married to a mystery.”

In Memory of Leonard Cohen – Written By   Paul Zollo –  November 11, 2016

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PAUL ZOLLO is the author of eight books, including several on the craft of   song writing. His book Songwriters On Songwriting has been expanded three times and features in-depth interviews with many of the world’s greatest songwriters, including Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Laura Nyro, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Frank Zappa. It has been called “the ultimate book about songwriting” and “the songwriter’s bible,” and is used as a textbook in songwriting courses in many universities.

On October 18, 2016, the sequel to Songwriters On Songwriting was published, More Songwriters On Songwriting featuring all new interviews with a vast range of legendary songwriters, including Leiber & Stoller, James Taylor, Loretta Lynn, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Brian Wilson, Matisyahu, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and many more.

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Special thanks to Doug Mitchell for sending this to me.

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