Studio 64 Spring Concerts – The Jason Buie Band

The Jason Buie Band at Studio 64, Saturday May 13, 2017, 8pm

This band is a “Power Trio”  of lead guitar, bass and drums to accompany mostly blues/rock vocals. In Jason Buie’s words the trio plays “West Coast Rockin’ Blues”. The concept of the “power trio” evolved in the 1960s out of the Chicago Blues tradition of the likes of Muddy waters. The invention of electricity and the expanding virtuosity of musicians made the concept of a high volume, powerful trio viable. Prior to the electrification of the guitar the instrument was too quiet to make its presence really felt in most ensembles and situations. Electricity changed all that. With the vast increase in volume and the availability of numerous effect pedals the guitar trio came into its own in the 1960s. Now, here was a configuration that could hold its own in the largest of venues and circumstances. The concept went onto fame and fortune in the music of The Jimmy Hendrix Experience, Eric Clapton in Cream, and later on in the music of Motorhead, ZZ Top, The Police, Nirvana, Rush, the John Mayer Trio and many, many others. In the economically stressful times of today a three man unit is much more employable than larger bands and I think that is a contributing factor in the longevity of the format.

Jason Buie (guitar and vocals) resides in the capital, believe it or not, of West Coast Blues, Victoria B.C. Bass player Murf Martin is a local freelance musician who performs in many situations. I am not sure where the drummer Jimmy James calls home. Collectively they are a tight group performing mostly blues/rock material that dips deep into the huge repertoire of the genre. They kicked off the evening with an instrumental and followed through with a number of well known tunes and songs that included Randy Newman’s classic Louisiana and its unforgettable refrain “six feet of water in the streets of Angeline”. Considering the current flood situation all across North America this would seem to be a very appropriate song for the day. The evening featured a few originals (Drifting Hard) and lots of well known tunes such as Big Joe Turner’s 1955 hit Flip, Flop and Fly (“a tune to get you out of your seat and onto your feet”); Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic; Prince’s Purple Rain; Eric Clapton’s cover of Big Bill Broonzy’s I’ve got the Key to the Highway; The Band’s The Weight; Muddy Water’s I’ve Got My Mojo Working and a marvelous version of Carlos Santana’s melodic masterpiece Black Magic Woman. To sum it up my buddy Bill St Amand described the music as “Two O’clock in the morning music” and given our age it is not music we get to hear very often so the evening of loud free wheeling music was real treat for us old folks.

          

This was the last performance in the Stage 64 Spring Concert Series and the first one on the newly installed stage. As always the concert was a screaming success with another sold out crowd. The organizing committee would like to thank the Columbia Basin Trust, Telus and various organizations that made funds available for the installation of the stage. Thanks also to the Burrito Grill and B&B at 228 for the musicians food and accommodations and also the organizing committee and volunteers who have made this season another great success.

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YouTube Pick (#13) – The Blackie O’Connell Set

Basically I prefer instrumental music. Singer / Song writer music is fine but it is instrumental music that, for me, is a distillation of the real magic and mystery of music. I particularly like jazz and at every jazz performance I come away wondering “how did they do that” and the answer always escapes me. Its magic.There are also classical performances that amaze me with their perfection. Glen Gould’s recordings of The Goldberg Variations I have listened to more times than I could possibly count and it still sounds as fresh as the first time I heard it. Instrumental Celtic music falls into that realm of magic and mystery where one forgets the beginning and the end and gets lost somewhere in the middle. A perfect example of what I am talking about is this performance by The Blackie O’Connell Band featuring Cyril O’Donoghue on Irish Bouzouki; Meabh O’Hare on Fiddle; Blackie O’Connell on Uillean Pipes and, off camera, Eamon Cotter on Flute. Why do Celtic performances, and this one in particular, appeal to me?

Well here are some of my observations:

  • I like the tunes. Even some Irish citizens disparage the music as “diddly i-di-di music” and prefer more modern genres. I can see why some audiences, including my daughter in law, think that all the tunes sound the same. To begin with, to appreciate the tunes one needs to be able to hear the differences between the various dance forms – reels, jigs, slip jigs, mazurkas, hornpipes, marches, Strathspeys, highlands, slides, polkas, etc, and that requires a lot of exposure to the music over a long period of time. Being born into the tradition helps.
  • I like the repetition of the tunes and the repetition within the tunes. Celtic instrumental music is dance music and dancers demand and expect predictable repetition. The basic format of a dance tune is an eight bar segment, Part A, that sometimes has a repeated four bar portion within the eight bars. The A part is usually repeated in total before moving onto the second B part that may, or may not be, similar to the A part. The B part is usually repeated and this can be followed by a C part  with repeats or even a D part with repeats, depending on how many parts there are in the particular tune. So, the basic format of the tune is  AA BB played two, three, or more times depending on the whim of the lead musician. If there are extra parts to the tune the format can be seen as AA BB CC DD etc also played as many times as the circumstance permits. The tunes in this example are in the AA BB format.
  • I like the way musicians can string together a batch of similar or dissimilar tunes to create an extended performance  into what can be heard as a seamless composition. For me the more tunes strung together and the longer the performance the better I like it. The idea is to create a musical grove. In this instances the tunes are The Mullingar Races , The Mountain Top and Lady Gordon. In this YouTube example the band kicks off with the first tune and plays the usual AA BB form of the tune until the Piper, Blackie O’Connell, gives a subtle nod to switch to the second tune. The Bouzouki player deftly slides the capo up to the fifth fret without missing a beat. I suspect that, for whatever reason, he wanted to keep playing a D chordal pattern as the band changed up to the Key of G and the way to do that was to slide the capo up the neck to the appropriate fret.  On making the switch to the second tune the fiddle player gives Blackie a sly wink and a smile as she hits the tune in lock step with the other performers. And so the performance goes on until Blackie looks across to the flute player and the fiddle player and gives the nod for the change up to third tune. The Bouzouki player slides the capo back down the neck as every body makes a seamless switch to the new tune.  The piper finally gives the  nod for the end repeat and the run down to the finale.
  • I like the lack of false theatrics. There are no flashing lights, fireworks, fog generators and gymnastic leaps around the stage. The musicians just play the music. Anything else is just unnecessary distractions.
  • I like the fact that instrumental Celtic music is not guitar based. The guitar can have a place in the music but it is essentially in a secondary role. The predominant instruments tend to be strong melodic instruments like the fiddle, flute, accordion, harmonica, mandolin and Uillean pipes. This gives the music a sonority that is very different from the run  of the mill pop music. In this performance I particularly like the “wailing” sound that comes with the blend of pipes, flute and fiddle. The guitar as a rhythm instrument is not present on this performance and has been replaced by the Irish Bouzouki. In other performances the Irish frame drum, the Bodhran, can add punch to the rhythm.
  • In a jazz or classical music sense instrumental Celtic music may not sound as harmonically advanced. Although, that may be because the music is based on modal melodies and concepts and perhaps we just don’t hear what is happening in a conventional harmonic way. Any harmonic elements present are usually very simple. Bouzouki players, guitarists and piano players may enhance harmonic sensibilities by playing complementary bass lines and counter melodies and unison playing behind the featured melodic instruments.
  • Melody is a prime component in this style of music and the melodies tend to have a flowing line with few gaps and significant spaces in the music. The exception to this generalization would be slow airs. Most Celtic melodies, but not all,  do not readily lend themselves to improvised solo treatments and that may be the reason that when Bluegrass musicians play these melodies that just don’t sound Celtic. Bluegrass musicians just love to solo and that concept is largely foreign to Celtic music. Wide variations in the melody are not usual. There is a tendency to just play the melody as it is “written”. Having said that it must be understood that “written” versions of a tune may not reflect the actual way a tune exists in a particular performance. “Written” versions are just the scaffold of the tune on which to hang the performance and musicians will interpret the melody as they see fit.
  • Rhythmically, depending on ones point of view, Celtic music is more varied. Most Jazz, Bluegrass and pop music is 4/4 in nature. Every now and then a waltz or a 12/8 blues shuffle will sneak in but the 1-2-3-4 beat is the rhythmic underpinning of most of our familiar music. Variety is provided by the use of “swing” and syncopation. Celtic music, like most ethnic based folkloric cultures seems to rely on eighth rhythms and triplets  rather than standard four rhythms. 6/8, 7/8, 9/8 and various “dotted” rhythm syncopation co-exist along with the familiar 2/4 and 4/4 rhythms.

Having said all of the above. Nothing is cast in stone and like all rules they are there to be broken. In one form or another Celtic music has existed for hundreds of years and the reason it continues to exist is that each generation of performers literally re-invents the music. As the traditional fiddle player Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh of the Celtic band Altan has often mentioned in interviews “When I play a traditional tune I don’t play it the way my father played it. That would not be possible. I have been exposed to too many other musical  influences to be able to do that”. That is why the music keeps evolving.

I hope you enjoy this YouTube clip.

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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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YouTube 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

RECORDING ENGINEER RUDY VAN GELDER DIES AT THE AGE OF 92.

Rudy van Gelder- in 1988

Only a non-jazz fan would ask “Rudy who?”. Rudy was a renowned recording engineer and the principle sonic architect of the “Blue Note Sound”. A specific sound that is associated with the classic recordings of the golden jazz era of the last 50 years. He worked with many recording companies but is best known for his work with Alfred Lyon’s Blue Note Recording company. He recorded  all the jazz greats, including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and just about every other major jazz artist of the past 50 years.

He wasn’t always a sound engineer. He trained as an optometrist and that was his “day job”. He went off to work in the morning to his optometry practice to earn his “daily bread” and after hours he spent his time recording jazz. At first in his parent’s living room, then in the iconic studio he designed and built at Engelwood Cliffs in Hackensack, New Jersey. He eventually ditched his day job and became a full time recording engineer.

Here is a Wikipedia quote: “When I first started, I was interested in improving the quality of the playback equipment I had,” Van Gelder commented in 2005; “I never was really happy with what I heard. I always assumed the records made by the big companies sounded better than what I could reproduce. So that’s how I got interested in the process. I acquired everything I could to play back audio: speakers, turntables, amplifiers”. One of Van Gelder’s friends, the baritone saxophonist Gil Melle introduced him to Alfred Lyon, a producer for Blue Note Records, in 1953. Within a few years Van Gelder was in demand by many other independent labels based around New York,  such as Prestige Records, Impulse and Savoy. Bob Weinstock, owner of Prestige, recalled in 1999, “Rudy was very much an asset. His rates were fair and he didn’t waste time. When you arrived at his studio he was prepared. His equipment was always ahead of its time and he was a genius when it came to recording”. According to a JazzTimes  article in August 2016, “jazz lore has formed the brands into a yin and yang of sorts: The Blue Note albums involved more original music, with rehearsal and the stringent, consistent oversight of Alfred Lion; Weinstock was more nonchalant, organizing what were essentially blowing sessions for some of the best musicians in jazz history”. Van Gelder said in 2012, “Alfred was rigid about how he wanted Blue Note records to sound. But Bob Weinstock of Prestige was more easygoing, so I’d experiment on his dates and use what I learned on the Blue Note sessions”. He also worked for Savoy Records in this period, among others. “To accommodate everyone, I assigned different days of the week to different labels”. Rudy was also a  pioneer in the development of live “on site” jazz recordings. In the 1950s Van Gelder also performed engineering and mastering for the classical label Vox Records. Thelonious Monk composed and recorded a tribute to Van Gelder entitled “Hackensack”.

Here is quote that I am  sure will raise the ire of fans of vinyl recordings. From 1999 on, he re-mastered the analog Blue Note recordings, that he had made several decades earlier, into 24-bit digital recordings for the Blue Note’s RVG Edition series and also a similar series of re-masters for the current owners, Concord Records, of some of the Prestige albums he had previously recorded.  He was positive about the switch from analog to digital technology. He told Audio magazine in 1995: “The biggest distorter is the LP itself. I’ve made thousands of LP masters. I used to make 17 a day, with two lathes going simultaneously, and I’m glad to see the LP go. As far as I’m concerned, good riddance. It was a constant battle to try to make that music sound the way it should. It was never any good. And if people don’t like what they hear in digital, they should blame the engineer who did it. Blame the mastering house. Blame the mixing engineer. That’s why some digital recordings sound terrible, and I’m not denying that they do, but don’t blame the medium.”

Van Gelder resided in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey where he died at his home on August 25, 2016.

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Three more music legends pass away……….

Ralph Stanley

“Ralph Edmund Stanley (February 25, 1927 – June 23, 2016), also known as Dr. Ralph Stanley, was an American   bluegrass artist, known for his distinctive singing and banjo playing. Stanley began playing music in 1946, originally with his brother Carter as part of  The Stanley Brothers,  and most often as the leader of his band, The Clinch Mountain Boys. He was part of the first generation of bluegrass and was inducted into both the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honour and The Grande Ole Opry.” – Wikipedia. To the general public he was probably best known for the sound track of the film O Brother Where Art Thou  in which he sings the Appalachian dirge O Death. At the age of 88, following a musical career that spanned 70 year Stanley died on June 13, 2016  as a result of skin cancer.

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Guy-Clark

Guy Charles Clark (November 6, 1941 – May 17, 2016) was an American Texas country and folk singer, musician, songwriter, recording artist, and performer. He released more than twenty albums, and his songs have been recorded by other artists including Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Lyle Lovett, Ricky Scaggs, Steve Wariner and Rodney Crowell. He won the 2004 Grammy Award for the Best Folk Album My Favorite Picture of you. Clark was born in Monahans, Texas, and eventually settled in Nashville  where he helped create the progressive country and outlaw country genres. His songs L.A. Freeway and Desparados Waiting for  a Train that helped launch his career were covered by numerous performers. The New York Times described him as “a king of the Texas troubadours”, declaring his body of work “was as indelible as that of anyone working in the Americana idiom in the last decades of the 20th century”  … Wikipedia

At the age of 74  Clark died in Nashville on May 17, 2016, following a lengthy battle with lymphoma.

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Alirio Díaz - fotos (1)

Alirio Díaz (12 November 1923 – 5 July 2016) was a Venezuelan classical guitarist and composer and one of the most prominent composer-guitarists of his country. A guitar competition named Concurso Internacional de Guitarra Alirio Díaz has been held in his honor in Caracas and other cities in Venezuela (the April 2006 contest was held in Carora). Many compositions have been dedicated to Díaz including Spanish composer  Joaquin Rodrigo’s  Invocación y Danza…. Wikipedia.

That short paragraph hardly does justice to the magnitude of his status in the classical guitar world. Prior to him emerging on the scene Andre Segovia was “the man”. Alirio Diaz, John Williams, Julian Bream  and others that followed Segovia and were part of the changing of guard in the classical guitar world. Segovia was the bench mark of an “old world” approach to the music. His recordings and performances exhibited a mellow, stately approach that demonstrated that guitar music deserved to be taken seriously. Segovia toured and recorded relentlessly throughout the 20th century and that certainly opened doors for the guitarists that followed. He invented the genre of classical guitar and paved the way for guitarists like Alirio Diaz that allowed them to gain an audience and, ultimately, perform in a different way with an expanded repertoire. Diaz’s sound and technique were way more dramatic than the Segovia school and on the standard pieces like Fernando Sor’s Variations on a Theme by Mozart (“The Magic Flute”) he virtually reinvented the music. I was most fortunate in my youth to attend concert performances by Segovia, Julian Bream, John Williams and Alirio Diaz and the one that left the most lasting impression was Alirio Diaz. At about that same time I acquired a LP called Guitarra De Venezuela that included the following tracks:  Recuerdos de la Alhambra /  Dos Valses Venezolanos / Guaso / Canción /  Quirpa / Asturias / Dos Canciones Populares Catalanas / Minuet / Pavana y Folia / Sonata / Gavota / Fuga / Variaciones Sobre un Tema de Mozart. Here we are a half century later, the recording is still in the catalogue (complete with the original cheesy cover) and is still probably the finest recording of classical guitar music out there. One of his most notable achievements was the introduction of the music of Antonio Lauro (a fellow countryman) to a wider audience. The Valses Venezolanos are part of the modern day standard repertoire. You may have a perception of waltzes as being some what stately affairs, that will change once you hear the Venezuelan waltzes of Antonio Laurio.

Alirio Diaz at the age of 92 died on July 5, 2016

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“It’s only an opinion, but……….”

“The War on Drugs” was (is) a stupid approach for handling drug use. Prohibition on alcohol in the 1920s didn’t work and the legal / illegal frameworks of the current era have completely failed. Drug use, particularly cannabis, is endemic. At last the “light bulb” has gone on and the beginning of a legalization process has begun. The concept of a legal, taxable, and controlled distribution has taken root and the government revenue agencies are frothing at the bit to get their hands on an untapped revenue stream. Enforcement agencies have better things to do and are looking forward washing their hands of the petty enforcement rituals they inflict on mostly law abiding citizens. The application of the laws as they now stand is impossible. A law that can’t be enforced is no longer the law. So there is really no choice but to create a legal frame work for drug use.

The following thoughts have come to mind while paying attention to the dialogue surrounding the legalization of Pot. It seems we haven’t learned much from the “Tobacco Debates” of recent years.

  • Number one: The inhalation of foreign substances into one’s lungs is probably not a good thing. It took us a couple of hundred years with tobacco smoke to come to that conclusion and yet as an issue there seems to be little thought or discussion of the ill effects of just inhaling noxious substances, psychoactive or otherwise
  • Number 2: The issue of second hand smoke – It is a given that pot is detrimental to brain development in youth and the very young so it would stand to reason that second hand smoke may end up being a far bigger issue in the Pot debates than in the recent Tobacco issue. Should children, or any one else for that matter, be subject to the ill effects of second hand pot smoke or vapour. I am looking forward to that becoming part of the debate. If you are a parent with young children there is a very strong possibility that your drug use will have a significant impact on your child’s mental development.
  • Number 3: Will there be an issue similar to the fetal-alcohol syndrome if pregnant women smoke up? It took us more than a few years to determine the links between alcohol consumption by pregnant women and its detrimental effects.
  • Number 4: The links between Pot use and Mental illness are out there but they don’t seem to be attracting too much interest. After all Cannabis use alters one’s brain chemistry and is that necessarily a good thing?
  • Number 5: In Colorado it has been noted that legalization has created a surge in the use of “edible” cannabis products and that is creating a whole new variety of problems all the way from the control of product strength to how do we keep “doped” candy bars out of the hands of children?
  • Number 6: How is Vancouver going to control or ban the annual “smoke-in” ? Technically the drug is still illegal, as is smoking in a public place, but the authorities have chosen to not enforce the law and the result is the mass misbehavoir of a large crowd who have no truck with societal norms. Will the city have to resort to using riot police?

Pot has to be made legal, controlled and taxed. The world is full of idiots and we can’t prevent people from acting in idiotic ways but at least we can generate tax revenues to do some good and get it out of hands of criminals. I suspect when it is legal Pot smokers are not going to be happy. The end result will not be what they wanted or expected. With the corporate interests of a new huge commercial industry to be protected along with the government protecting its new found revenue stream I suspect “home grown” operations will be strictly controlled if not eliminated. After all, in the world of booze how many individuals have a moonshine operation in their basement?

Pot has the reputation of being “a harmless recreational drug” and I suspect that is largely a myth. Here is a link to some information that may be useful in the ongoing discussions National Institute on Drug Abuse

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While I am at it here are a couple of my more outlandish opinions and rants.

  • Performance enhancing drugs in sport. Why do we bother banning these drugs? If an athlete chooses the drug enhancement route why should we care? The negative effects are self inflicted and as individuals they will bear the final cost. The standard answer is that drug use creates an uneven playing field. But once again why should we care? The list of drugs keeps growing and the testing protocols are always a step behind. The current policy has not eliminated use and  has only succeeded is creating a huge expensive bureaucracy of testing and enforcement. What a waste of time, money and energy. Don’t we have better things to do rather than catering to a bunch of overgrown adolescents indulging in less than meaningful activities? To paraphrase John Lennon “who cares who is the greatest Bass Player / Tennis Play / Weight lifter, etc. in the state of Israel?”
  • Sport and Pop Music both of these activities are meant to be recreational and if we relegate the activities to a cadre of professionals we are defeating the intent of the activities. Couch potatoes may be recreating but not in a meaningful way. Apart from coaches, trainers and educators I suggest that there should be no such thing as a “Professional Sportsman” or a “Professional Musician”. The top echelon in both of those categories reap millions of dollars for what are essentially non-productive activities. There is something basically wrong when we pay these people millions of dollars and yet quibble about the cost of welfare and paying productive workers  meaningful wages.

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The Home Grown Coffee House

The Home Grown Coffee House, October 24, 2015; Centre 64 – The first of the season.

312. Jim MarshallOnce again the Home Grown Coffee House Society with the aid of MC Bill St. Amand, has plundered the human resources of the community to present another marvelous evening of music. The cross section of the community was ably represented by the older cadre of musicians – Jim Marshall (and his one man band); The Blarney Pilgrims (Wally Smith and Rod Wilson on percussion, button accordion and cittern). The Blarney Pilgrims played a selection of Celtic tunes (Malchy’s Set, The Mudgee Waltz / Bucks Camp Down at Monroe) and also a little splash of Eastern European influences (The Sarajevo Set) thrown in for good measure. The young were out in force with Nick Skibsted on piano with a selection of instrumentals that included the ragtime masterpiece The Entertainer; Mac Watson with some original material  on vocals and guitar; Maddie Keiver and Kyle Albright also on vocals and guitar. The ladies of the town were well represented by the vocal harmonies of Wild Honey (Laura Cain – fiddle, Shelby Knutson – guitar and Jessica Neidermeyer on vocals). Newcomers to the community were represented by Tamara Sonntag (vocals and guitar) and Robin Periera and his sidekick Curtis. All in all the evening once again demonstrated the musical depth of this community. Here are images from the night

.208. Nick Skibsted   250. Wild Honey246. Laura Cain  212. Nick Skibsted   300. Jim Marshall  258. Jessica Neidermeyer244. Shelby Knutson   248. Laura Cain   252a. Shelby Knutson  306. Jim Marshall  272. Laura Cain  274. Shelby Knutson and Laura Cain352. Tamara Sonntag  402. Mac Watson  420. Kyle Albright  432. Maddie Keiver360. Tamara Sonntag  362. Tamara Sonntag  372. Tamara Sonntag
406. Mac Watson
448. Maddie Keiver   500. Robin Pereira   520. Curtis 510. Curtis and Robin Pereira

So that’s it for this show. The next Home Grown Coffee House will be November 24, 2015.

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A new toy for guitarists

For a larger view click on the image and for an even larger view click on the (+) sign.

GODIN SYNTH GUITAR

The above is reprint of the review in the March 2015 edition of DOWNBEAT and below is a Youtube demo –

The cost appears to be around $2600 list. I see on Amazon it is around $2,147. To use the Midi function you will need access to a PC as in the demo.

and more info from the company Godin Guitars

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The Next Canadian Celtic Super Group – Coig

We all know the names; Spirit of the West, Ryan’s Fancy, Great Big Sea, The Rankins, Leahy and The Barra MacNeils. These are just some of the names that have become familiar over the years. Spirit of the West came out of Vancouver and were more Rock than Celtic;  Ryan’s Fancy, a group of transplanted Irishmen living in Newfoundland; Great Big sea was a Pop/Rock/Celtic band from Newfoundland who dominated the Maritime music scene for more years than one could dare or care to count; Similarly, The Rankins with their signature vocals also had a grip on the scene for many years; Leahy and the Barra MacNeils  have always had a significant niche in the Maritime Celtic scene. With the exception of Ryan’s Fancy all of these bands have performed in Cranbrook. Although they haven’t performed in Cranbrook (yet) I think we can safely add Coig to list. Their website (www.coig.ca ) describes them as  “Còig ( “Ko-ig”. Scottish Gaelic for ‘five’) as an electrifying line-up of 5 solo acts. Originally formed as a promotional band for the Celtic Colours International Festival, these five award winning performers decided to continue to play as the Còig ensemble whenever possible!

WINNER of the 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year
WINNER of the 2014 Music Nova Scotia Award for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year.
The band consists of Colin Grant – fiddle; Darren McMullen – guitar, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, whistles, vocals; Rachel Davis – fiddle, vocals; Chrissy Crowley – fiddle and Jason Roach – piano

Fiddler Chrissy Crowley, from Margaree, Cape Breton has an impressive list of awards, nominations, and international appearances. Chrissy embraces her Celtic roots and makes them her own, through original compositions coupled with contemporary arrangements of traditional tunes.

Darren McMullen, from Hardwood Lands, NS, is a highly sought after multi-instrumentalist. Easily switching between guitar, mandolin, whistle and banjo with Còig, this “Swiss-army knife” keeps the rhythm sound diverse, and is sure to impress with his lead playing of his various “on-stage weapons”.

Rachel Davis from Baddeck, Cape Breton spends her time switching from international festival stages to small local dances at home. In a genre that sees many performers pushing the envelope and testing new waters, her style of playing traditional tunes in a traditional way is a refreshing reminder of why the Cape Breton fiddle style drives so hard, and is so sought after.

Colin Grant from Sydney, Cape Breton has been touring steadily as a solo performer, as well as with Sprag Session. His respect for traditional style, combined with his drive to take the Celtic fiddle to new places results in an exciting sound that is as much Buddy MacMaster as it is Ashley MacIsaac

Jason Roach, from Chéticamp, Cape Breton is one of the most impressive piano players you will ever hear. With a style all his own, and an unparalleled intensity on the keys, you’ll have to remind yourself that there’s other players on the stage.

With a combined total of over 30 nominations and awards, each of Còig’s talented musicians have released their own successful solo albums, and have toured both at home and abroad before coming together as this exciting super group. Their much anticipated debut album “Five” was released in June, 2014 to rave reviews, and has earned the band the 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year, and the Music Nova Scotia award for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year”.

The band is a little different from Canadian Celtic bands of recent years. Coig is essentially an instrumental band of musicians steeped in the instrumental traditions of Cape Breton. Their does not seem to be any attempt or intent at crossing over into the Pop/Celtic mainstream. Here is a taste of Coig, and remember that in Cranbrook you heard it here first.

I would like to thank Angus MacDonald for bringing these sounds back to us from his recent visit to Prince Edward Island.

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