HOME ROUTES HOUSE CONCERT – Sweet Alibi

Saturday April 8, 2017, 7:30pm – SWEET ALIBI at 5768 Haha Creek Road, Wardner. This is the last concert of this season’s Home Routes House Concerts.

It seems that Winnipeg is possibly the geographical center of Canada and at the same time it is the center of Canada’s musical universe. Maybe it is the cold winters that drives everybody indoors to play and appreciate music. Over the years the quality of musicians that have  come out of this city has proven to be exceptional. For this last concert, the trio Sweet Alibi –  Amber Rose – vocals, guitar, ukulele and a little percussion on the side; Michelle Anderson – vocals, banjo and guitar; Jess Rae Ayre – vocals, guitar, harmonica and a little percussion on the side has once again demonstrated that musicians from Winnipeg are top draw. Most of the music presented was original material written by the trio with an  occasional cover of lesser known songs such as Bob Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody (it was a new song to me but it maybe better known by everybody else)

Gotta Serve Somebody

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage

You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage

You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
 They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief
 
etc…………………………..
Also there was Khari Wendell McClelland’s Song of the Agitator. It is a song that remembers the Underground Railway of African Americans fleeing from the USA in the mid 1800s.  It is a song that, with the current Moslem immigrants illegally crossing the border into Manitoba had some sense of deju vu . “Every thing changes but some things seem to just stay the same”. As per their website – ” The appeal of Sweet Alibi’s sound hinges on their ability to mix elements of folk, roots, and country, then present it in the context of a tightly-structured pop song.” I think that is true. Their vocal harmonies are strong and their spartan accompaniments take the music way outside the narrow confines of current pop/rock music. The mix of the banjo and the heavy vibrato of the electric guitar provides a unique background to their songs and takes them even further away from run of the mill pop music. Three songs that had great appeal where Dark Train, Walking in the Dark and Bodacious (a famous rodeo bull forced to retire because he was way to dangerous for cowboys to try and ride). Here are some images from the evening:

Amber Rose

Jess Rae Ayre           Jess Rae Ayre                                           Michelle Anderson

       

So ends the marvelous musical series for this past winter. The musicians and the venues were were exceptional and the weather, at times, was a little bit of a challenge but that comes with living in the back blocks of Canada. I wish to thank the hosts, Van, Shelagh, Patricia and Gordon for opening their homes for these wonderfully intimate musical concerts and for providing the wine and treats. I am looking forward to next winter and, hopefully, another Home Routes Concert Series.

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YouTube Pick (#12) – The Brasil Duo

Certain musicians, or groups of musicians, often have “a lock” on a genre or a particular musical approach. For instance Blue grass and old timey musicians own banjo music. After all they virtually invented the instrument and the appropriate styles so it only stands to reason that they should “own” banjo music. Similarly, for a multitude of reasons that I could bore you to death with, “Classical Guitarists” have a lock on Guitar Duets, Trio and Quartets. “The Brazilian guitar duo João Luiz and Douglas Lora are one of the most exciting and recent chamber groups to emerge on the music scene. These two talented young guitarists combine energy and technique with a dazzling musicality………. the duo shows maturity, talent and perfect technique in their interpretations and executions of intricate Brazilian rhythms……. Their sonority is exceptional, robust and varied and their whole repertoire is played with verve and enthusiasm, with stylistic balance and sensitivity …….. Excepts from Wikipedia  –  Amen to all of that.

Classical music, and classical guitar may have a reputation for being stuffy, “uncool” and uninteresting. I think this piece, Bata Coxa, by the Brazilian composer Marco Pereira (born 1950) played by this very energetic duo should dispel some of those notions. CDs by the duo are expensive and hard to come by…… thank God for YouTube for giving me a chance to experience their music.

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Studio 64 Spring Concert Series – Sultans of String

Spellbinding!!! Yep, that’s the word for the musicians and the performance. This is The Sultans of String third tour of the East Kootenays and their second performance at Centre 64. On their last trip to the area in February 2014 they performed with the Symphony of the Kootenays. Prior to that in January 2009 they performed here in Kimberley at Centre 64. They are currently on their 10th anniversary tour. Of course things do change and the musical configuration known as The Sultans of String has changed and evolved over the years. Having said that Drew Birston on electric bass and Chris McKool on 5 string violin are the constants in the ensemble. Back in 2009 the guitarist Eddie Paton was a member and somewhere along the way the ensemble enlisted the aid of Kevin Laliberte and his flamenco/rhumba guitar in developing the signature sound of The Sultans. The current core of ensemble includes Drew Birston, Chris McKhool and Kevin Laliberte. Depending on the tour and circumstances the core ensemble is augmented with the addition of Cuban percussion, Oud (the Arabian ancestor of all guitar like instruments), Ney (Middle Eastern end blown flute) and for this tour Anwar Khurshid on Sitar and Jeff Faragher on Cello. The signature sound of the ensemble is a genre-hopping mixture of Celtic reels, flamenco, Gypsy-jazz, Arabic, Cuban, and South Asian rhythms all played with their trademark brand of virtuosity.

They kicked off the evening’s music with their original tune Enter the Gate with  its wonderful melodic mix of violin and Sitar backed with a flamenco flavored guitar rhythm and bass line. Neil Gow’s Lament for the Death of his Second Wife is a well known Scottish lament written by the master Scottish fiddler Neil Gow way back at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was nicely paired with the Rakes of Marlow. There is some dispute about this second tune. Normally it is considered a standard Celtic tune but Anwar insists that he was taught the tune way back in his youth as a traditional Indian melody. Most of the Sultan’s music is instrumental but there was room for for the likes of Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind and Neil Young’s Heart of Gold. Throughout the evening they also played Luna the Whale, Hills of Green, Josie, Stomping at the Rex (a swing tune) and a sitar tune about snake charmers, an original about Nova Scotia’s Sable Island and my favorite Road to Kfarmishki. I felt that this was some sort of Turkish tune in an odd time signature (11/8, 12/8 , 14/8 or something like that) but the bass player Drew informs me that it a 4/4 tune with repeated two bar phrases. Oh well, I am not often right so I guess I am wrong again. Never-the-less it is a wonderful hypnotic tune that I really like. Here are some more images from a night of spellbinding music.

                   

The patrons and the musicians would like to thank the Stone Fired Pizza for the food, A B&B AT 228 for the accommodations, Ray for the sound and all the organizers and volunteers that make the concert series possible.

Some Musical Notes:

  • Drew Birston plays a 1978 Fender Precision Bass.
  • Chris McKhool (no he is not Scottish) plays a five string violin tuned C G D A E (low to high) with an installed pickup and effect pedals. It is slightly larger than a conventional violin and allows the musician to cover the full sonic range of both the traditional violin and viola.
  • Kevin Laliberte plays a carbon fiber Blackbird guitar with a somewhat unconventional shape. From their web site: The Blackbird Rider Nylon’s one-piece, carbon fiber construction with hollow head, neck and body allows the entire guitar to resonate—–enhancing loudness, bass and sustain. You will never again face humidity or durability issues with the Rider carbon fiber nylon string guitar. With the optional Neck-up guitar accessory, your Rider is securely anchored– no footstool required! Plug it in and the optional MiSi or RMC individual string pickups accurately amplify your dynamic acoustic tone. BUILD TIME EIGHT WEEKS.
  • Anwar Khurshid plays a traditional Indian Sitar with installed pickups. Anwar tells me the instrument was built in 1479.I don’t know if I believe him. If it is true then it is in remarkable condition.
  • Jeff Faragher plays a standard symphonic cello with installed pickups and effect pedals.

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YouTube Pick (#11) – The Doors

I’m not a child of the Classic Rock Era. The sound track of my youth tended to be Jazz, Folk and later Celtic music. Having said that it would have been hard to ignore the revolution that took place in Pop music in the mid 1960s. I was in my mid twenties and although I was listening to the likes of Miles Davis and The Modern Jazz Quartet the electric guitar ruled the pop world and singer / song writers were shuffling the crooners and Tin-Pan Alley composers off into the sunset. Sure I knew the new rock sounds were there but I didn’t pay much attention to them. My rule of thumb was “if they are any good I will get to hear them eventually”. The Doors fit into that category. They were a little different from the run of the mill rockers and eventually they caught my attention. Although they had a rock persona and image they were not over the top. Essentially they were a bunch of minimalists that came came together in Los Angeles in 1965  with Jim Morrison as the vocalist and writer for the band; Ray Manzarek on keyboards; Robby Krieger on Guitar and drummer John Densmore. For recording purposes they would call upon highly skilled studio musicians to play bass and fill out the sound. The band got its name, at Morrison’s suggestion, from the title of  Aldous Huxley’s book “The Doors of Perception” .  They were unique and among the most controversial and influential rock acts of the 1960s, mostly because of Morrison’s lyrics and charismatic but unpredictable stage persona. After Morrison’s death in 1971 at age 27, the remaining members continued as a trio until disbanding in 1973. The Doors released eight albums between 1967 and 1971. When you stop and think about it they were not really on the scene for very long and yet they have persisted and ended up selling over 100 million records over the years. Recently the keyboard player Ray Manzarek has released a number of videos on YouTube that give some insight into band and how they worked. This is the first one with that wonderful Rhodes Keyboard sound.

To put in in context here is the Doors doing the song:

Here are other YouTube videos by Ray Manzarek.

All the videos are an interesting peek behind the scenes of one of the most influential rock bands of all times.

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Post script 2017/04/21 – I have just come across this really cool version of RIDERS OF THE STORM

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Postscript May 24, 2017 – Another marvelous solo acoustic guitar version

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Octave Mandolin or Irish Bouzouki?

Recently I had some discussions with friends about Octave Mandolins and Irish Bouzoukis. Here are some points that were kicked around.

Octave Mandolin or Irish Bouzouki?

They are very similar but in reality with either instrument you end up with a different sound. If you are a fiddle player or mandolin player you might lean in the direction of an Octave Mandolin. As the name implies the Octave Mandolin is tuned like a mandolin (G D A E  low to high unison strings) but an octave lower. The neck length (scale length) is way shorter (maybe around 22″ depending on the builder) than the Irish Bouzouki and that gives the instrument the tight punchy sound of a mandolin. Now, possibly, with strings you have two options on the Octave Mandolin. Mandolins, Mandolas and Banjos tend to use loop end strings that are in my opinion  (1) are fiddly and a pain in the ass when changing strings and (2) loop ends limit options in the choice of strings you may want to use. So if you can find an Octave Mandolin that uses ball end strings like a steel string guitar that would be a wiser choice. I would avoid loop end strings like poison. Ball end strings gives you a greater choice in the availability and variety of strings you may want to use.  Of course there are other considerations with custom instruments that are dependent  on how much you actually want to spend. Do you want a flat top or carved top? what tone woods are you looking for, etc?. You are more likely to find an off the shelf Octave Mandolin than an Irish Bouzouki. Octave Mandolins have some favor with bluegrass musicians so in North America you may have a better chance of finding one.

Irish Bouzouki

There are lots of options for Irish Bouzoukis as well. The scale length is usually around the 24-25″ but again that depends on the builder. The longer scale length tends to give a “looser” sound that an octave mandolin. A really long scale length adds a significant amount of sustain to the sound. There are more tuning options that can be used (eg. GDAE, GDAD, ADAD low to high).  The bouzouki can be strung in unison like the mandolin or the bass strings can be tuned in octaves like a 12 string guitar. That is just personal choice. With the octave strings (my preference) you can get a nice droning effect that is particularly suited to Celtic tunes. The disadvantage with octave strings is a compensated bridge to take into account the different gauges of strings  is pretty well a must to achieve good intonation. Particularly when using a capo. Of course ball end strings is the way to go. Also do you want flat top? carved top? and what tone woods would you want to select?

The Greek Bouzouki is in a completely different bag with wildly different construction methods,  tuning, playing style etc. Still there are some Celtic musicians, Alec Fin comes to mind,  who uses the Greek instrument.

Although I play an arch top Fylde from Britain you don’t have to go all that way to get a good bouzouki. Lawrence Nyberg on Hornby Island builds superb instruments that he ships all over the world. His instruments will cost significant dollars (around $4000 +) but it is the old story – you get what you pay for. http://www.nyberginstruments.com/    check out his excellent web site for images, options and sound bites. I can recommend Lawrence without any reservations. He is very professional in his approach and his products are top class. I had him build me a five string Cittern (tuned DGDAD) with a Headway bridge pickup installed (in retrospect I would stick with K&K contact pickups). After some initial discussions about the specifications I wanted I placed a deposit in August of the year. He contacted me in February the following year for some additional funds and I paid it out at the end of May and the instrument it was in my hands in early June. A couple of years later I had a problem with the bridge and after very brief discussions with Lawrence I had a luthier up in the Crows Nest pass build me a new bridge and invoice Lawrence for the cost of the replacement. There  was no hassle or problems. The job was done and Lawrence absorbed the cost. If I had the funds I would get Lawrence to build me an Irish Bouzouki with octave bass strings. It was a pleasure to deal with some one who was so thoroughly professional and I would do it again in a heart beat.

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Studio 64 Spring Concert Series: The Silver Screen Scoundrels

THE SILVER SCREEN SCOUNDRELS at Centre 64, Saturday March 18, 2017, 8pm

There is a long tradition of comedy duos in the cinema that have included the likes of  Laurel & Hardy; Abbot & Costello; Bing Crosby & Bob Hope; Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. These performers have all been a feature of the cinematic landscape from way back since the beginning of film making. In this day and age there are probably other personalities out there that still  fit that bill but have escaped my awareness. Also in the silent film days it was not unusual for musicians to play accompaniments to the action on the screen. So, The Silver Screen Scoundrels are part of a legacy, albeit, with a bit of a twist. They not only do the comedy bit and play the music they are also the actors, producers and directors of the silent films that are interspersed throughout the evening. The two featured scoundrels are Keith Picot  singing and playing a very beat up 1947 Kay upright bass. Although the introduction of the electric bass guitar largely replaced the acoustic upright bass in the 1960s, in their day Kay basses were the “goto” bass. The other member of the duo is Brandon Isaak (aka Yukon Slim) on vocals, drums, harmonica, acoustic and slide guitar.  The music the scoundrels perform is mostly blues based swing that is a good fit for the slapstick black and white videos up thrown up on the screen during the evening. Brandon plays wonderful “four on floor” rhythm guitar interspersed with great single string jazz solos. Keith is the raconteur of the duo. With only one the exception, a train song,  all of the tunes and songs performed were originals by Brandon Isaak.  The songs and tunes have such an old texture they end up coming across as very fresh and new. There is no modern pop music here. It is music you don’t really remember having heard before but in actual fact you have because it is buried deep in our cultural memory. The duo just bring it back to the front of our brains. Some of the original tunes included Back to New Orleans, Up and at Them (an old Twisters song) and Time on my Hands. Keith  is a masterful bass player and natural raconteur and the result is a relaxed verbal and musical conversation between  two fine performers. The show comes across with an amazing degree of humour and spontaneity and just plain old fashion fun. I think every member of the audience came away from the evening with a huge smile on their face. It was a night of great music and wonderful entertainment.Oh, before I forget, there is one unsung performer of the evening. Mostly she is off to the side and largely out of the spot light.  That is the duo’s female pal Cup Cake Betty.  I hate to break it to Keith and Isaak but I don’t think she has been entirely faithful. She seems to have been somewhat promiscuous and is known far and wide as Muffin Mary. Read into that what you will.

Here are some images from the evening:

                    

Thank you Mr. Marty Musser for bringing this duo to the attention of the organizing committee . Thanks to Nancy at the Burrito Grill for feeding the musicians and “A B&B at 228″ for providing the accommodation.Thanks to Randy and  Al for the lights and , projection. The musicians also offer a special thanks to ” Raymond, the patron saint of pain in the ass musicians” (their words) on sound.

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Don’t forget the next concert in the series, THE SULTANS OF STRING who will be performing on Wednesday April 5, 2017, 8pm. This is a return engagement for this very special group.

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BREAKWATER – The New Edition

Cello player Jeff Faragher does not need an introduction. He is probably the best known professional musician in the Kootenays. He is the musical director and conductor of the Symphony of the Kootenays. He is a classical cello soloist and teacher of the first order as well as a performer in number of classical  chamber music configurations. And, if that is not enough he the driving force behind a “celtic mish-mash” called Breakwater. This group plays in a somewhat  Celtic style but, in Jeff’s own words, it is “a mish-mash” of everything from traditional fiddle music, classical, jazz, pop, film music and pretty well anything musical that comes to hand. Over the past two years the group has toured the region extensively. First in a configuration that included Aurora Smith on violin; Jeff Faragher on cello; Ben Johnson on drums and percussion and Rob Fahie on double bass. This was a tight, exciting and well balanced performing unit.  That was last year and, of course, as always, things move on. Aurora moved to Victoria; rehearsal travel became an issue for Ben (he lives on the remote east shore of Kootenay Lake); Jeff is now splitting  his time between Nelson and Calgary, and Rob, although still available, has a number of other projects on the go. To keep the “mish-mash” mix bubbling Jeff has enlisted the aid of two top flight Calgary  musicians. James Desautels has taken over the fiddle chair. James is a full time professional musician and teacher with many, many  years experience in a multitude of circumstances and geographical locations including residency in Austin, Texas. Similarly, Rob Maciak is also a full time professional musicians and is best known as a percussionist and teacher. He is currently on the faculty of Mount Royal College in Calgary. Although, in Breakwater Rob plays drums and percussion, he is also an outstanding classical performer on tuned percussion (tympani, chimes, marimba and the like). He performs as a marimba soloist in classical symphony orchestras. He will be the featured soloist with the Symphony of Kootenays this fall performing Neg Rosaaro’s Concerto #1 for Marimba and Strings.

There is an old notion that classical musicians cannot play outside the box. That may have been true sixty or more years ago but now that is no longer the case. Often a sound formal music education is a basis to move onto the exploration of a whole plethora of musical options. A quick research of the resume any number of of top flight musicians will reveal an extra ordinary number who have formal academic and performance  credentials out the ying-yang. All musicians in this ensemble would fall into that category. This new incarnation of Breakwater is different from the first edition. For a starter it is a trio rather than a quartet and while it does not have the mellow polish of the first edition it does have more of an edge and a higher entertainment quotient. The current repertoire draws from the same arrangements and sources but with a few more entertainment  motifs thrown in for good measure. The “mish-mash” of Bach’s Jesu of Man’s Desire overlaid on top of the the old classical soprano tear jerker  Ave Marie is still there to give new life to a couple of classical staples as  the trio seamlessly slides into the old fiddle tune The Ash Plant. Other songs and tunes  during the evening included Jeff Faragher’s version of the maritime ballad  Song of the Mira coupled with the fiddle tune Stolen Apples; Jeff’s version of this ballad is probably one of the best around. James Desautels did more than justice to the old American fiddle show pieces The Orange Blossom Special, The Arkansas Traveler and  The Soldiers Joy  and a series of waltzes that included the Tennessee Waltz and the Shannon Waltz. As promised, the evening’s “mish-mash” contained a little bit of everything from Beethoven through some fiddle tunes in 7/8; Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind and Running Through Tall Grass; Natalie McMaster’s Volcanic Jig; the traditional Southern Song There is more Love and my all time favorite fiddle tune The Pelican Reel. It was quite a night of good food, good cheer and great entertainment and one that I hope will be repeated at some time in the not too distant future. Here are some images from the night.

  

Heidi Khani – road manager

              

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Read any good books lately? (#7) – War Stories

I have always considered myself a lucky person. I was born in the right place at the right time. I have never had to experience war, famine, pestilence, unemployment  or significant economic depression. My parents generation were not so lucky. They lived through the dirty thirties, World War II and the Korean war. I am part of a large extended family (my mum was one of fourteen children  and dad was one of three – that adds up to a lot of relatives) and what is remarkable is that not one of my many relatives were killed or physically maimed in WWII.. My dad did not go off to war but two of my uncles fought against the Japanese in New guinea. My Uncle Bill and Uncle Hector were young farm boys not even out of their teens when they were shipped off to war. I often think about that – at nineteen years of age what was I doing? Would I have been up to the challenge? Like many ex-soldiers my uncles had many demons  to deal with after the war. For years after being demobbed my Uncle Bill slept with a loaded  revolver under his pillow and often woke up screaming from horrendous night mares. That is one of the many tragedies of war. My Uncle Bill’s story is worth telling and at some future date I will do just that.The thing that is so striking is the youth of my uncles going off to war and that is a consistent theme in the following books. Namely it is the youth, some times extreme youth of the soldiers that fought and continue to fight in wars that are basically  the legacy of older inept leaders, politicians and diplomats. I know that often the intentions of the leadership are noble  but the fact remains that it is the young that fight and die and pay the price of going to war. The very act of going to war is an admission of failure of normal civilized processes. I am not particularly a military or war story story buff but I think the following books are well worth reading –

Of course, for the USA the Vietnam War was the pivotal armed conflict of the 20th Century. It put an end to the notion that America had never lost a war (they forget about the war of 1812) and has had a profound effect on political and military thinking ever since that American defeat. I am sure that, like WWII, there have been many books written about the conflict and the experiences of the soldiers and politicians who were involved in the war. Here are two books I can recommend without reservations.

CHICKEN HAWK by ROBERT MASON   More than half a million copies of Chickenhawk have been sold since it was first published in 1983. I first stumbled on this book in the Cranbrook Library and years later I found a cheap second hand copy in a used book store in Australia. Over the years I have  picked up this book and re-read it many times. Prior to reading this book I thought that helicopters and their crews were way above the fray with capabilities of getting out of trouble in an instant. I was way wrong on that score. Here is an Amazon.ca review of the book .

“Robert Mason uses a clear, conversational, fast-paced narrative to describe his experiences as an army helicopter pilot from 1965-1967, including a tour of Vietnam.
Mason always wanted to fly. Leaving college early, joining the army and becoming a helicopter pilot seemed like the way to do it. After successfully graduating from flight school, he comes to learn that the army has devised a new way to use helicopters in warfare — and Mason is drawn into the army air cavalry. Mason describes enough of how to fly a huey so you feel that you are right there with him. You experience the fatigue of war. You read as well, the senselessness and brutality of it — his gunner kills “human shields” in order to get a VC machine gunner, a platoon murders 12 prisoners as revenge for the torture and death of their comrades, a pilot is shot through the helmet yet miraculously survives, a fully laden huey lands in a minefield, and everywhere bodies are piling up faster than the army can take care of. Mason also describes his post-traumatic stress disorder, his panic attacks that start to haunt him towards the end of his tour, and his bouts with alcoholism.

There is much in Mason and his fellow soldiers that is admirable. Mason’s narrative presents a convincing portrait of the Vietnam war from a soldier’s point of view — a war Mason and many of his fellow soldiers didn’t entirely believe in, a war that didn’t match the descriptions in the press, or the pronouncements from the generals and the President.”

As an after thought, I remember a conversation I had with blues musician Mighty Joe Oliver when he was living here in Cranbrook. Although he was a Canadian, Joe volunteered and fought in Vietnam and he can remember flying in helicopters and sitting on his metal helmet to obtain at least a sliver of protection from bullets coming up though the floor of the aircraft.

THE TRASH HAULERS by Richard Herman

This is part three of the ONLY THE BRAVE TRILOGY (THE WAR BIRDS / THE FORCE OF EAGLES /  THE TRASH HAULERS). Of the three THE TRASH HAULERS  is the best. The first two are about fictitious military confrontations with Iran and, while military air craft fans will probably  enjoy the operational minutiae  embedded in the stories I think  it is the last story TRASH HAULERS that takes the prize. It is easy to believe that the author was at least a  witness to the events. ” Over an action packed 24 hours in Vietnam on January 31, 1968, three lives collide amidst war and violence.  Captain Mark Warren and his crew are trash haulers, airlifting supplies and personnel on their C-130 Hercules, the workhorse of tactical airlift. At the same time Wilson Tanner is a Dust Off pilot who risks all by flying a Huey on a rescue mission. In the jungles below at Se Pang, Colonel Tran Sang Quan comes into conflict with inept superiors as they initiate the People’s Army of Vietnam’s long-planned General Offensive and Uprising. This is the beginning of the Tet Offensive.  Both sides face more than the enemy as superior officers manouver for political advantage, and where cowardice, prejudice and treachery infiltrate the ranks – on both sides. In the air and on the land, raw courage, tenacity, and honor are the marks of humanity that deal with the wreckage of war”. The novel reeks with authenticity and is well worth the read.

Wikipedia: This is an image of one version of the C-130 Hercules. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medevac, and cargo transport aircraft. The versatile air frame   has found uses in a variety of other roles, including as a gunship for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance,aerial refueling, marine patrol, and aerial firefighting.  It is now the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. Over forty variants and versions of the Hercules, including a civilian one marketed as the Lockheed L-100,  operate in more than 60 nations. At over 60 years the  C-130 Hercules is the longest continuously produced military aircraft currently in service.

The Bell UH-1 Iroquois known as Huey. This is the machine that changed the face of war.

YOMPERS WITH THE 45 COMMANDOS IN THE FALKLAND WAR,, by Ian R. Gardiner

The Vietnam war was about winning hearts and minds and in its least toxic manifestation it was about politics. At its most toxic the Americans were an invading occupying force and, like any occupying force, they eventually had to go home. The North Vietnamese knew that and that was their ace in the hole. They only had to hang on and keep up the pressure and eventually the Americans would have to leave. It had worked with the French and in the end it worked with the Americans. Although the Americans are reluctant to admit it they lost the war and have had had to live with scars and consequences of that defeat.

The Falkland Island War is a different story in many ways. It was very much about territory. “Hearts and minds” were not a problem. The Falkland Islanders were British and the British Army was the home team. And back at home the war was popular and literally saved the government of Margaret Thatcher from possible political defeat. It was also a very short war with a major naval component and on land the British contingent was composed of professional soldiers. Not conscripts. The lines of communication were lengthy and the terrain was vastly different to the jungles of Vietnam. It was fought in cold and foggy conditions on mostly treeless moors very akin to the highlands of Scotland. The Argentinians severely under estimated Britain’s willingness to fight for the islands. Also their timing was off. Britain had been considering disbanding their amphibious assault forces and a couple of months delay by the Argentinians could have resulted in a very different outcome. In essence this was an old fashion war fought by professional soldiers on the ground without massive tactical air support.

WIKIPEDIA: The Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas), also known as the Falklands Conflict, Falklands Crisis, and the Guerra del Atlántico Sur (Spanish for “South Atlantic War“), was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two  British overseas territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands  and South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. It began on Friday, 2 April 1982, when Argentina invaded  and occupied the Falkland Islands  (and, the following day, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands) in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it claimed over them.  On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

From the Amazon review:

“Called to action on 2 April 1982, the men of 45 Commando Royal Marines assembled from around the world to sail 8,000 miles to recover the Falkland Islands from Argentine invasion. Lacking helicopters and short of food, they ‘yomped’ in appalling weather carrying overloaded rucksacks, across the roughest terrain. Yet for a month in mid-winter, they remained a cohesive fighting-fit body of men. They then fought and won the highly successful and fierce night battle for Two Sisters, a 1,000 foot high mountain which was the key to the defensive positions around Stanley.

This is a first hand story of that epic feat, but it is much more than that. The first to be written by a company commander in the Falklands War, the book gives a compelling, vivid description of the ‘yomp’ and infantry fighting, and it also offers penetrating insights into the realities of war at higher levels. It is a unique combination of descriptive writing about front-line fighting and wider reflections on the Falklands War, and conflict in general. Gritty and moving; sophisticated, reflective and funny, this book offers an abundance of timeless truths about war.

Postscript: ‘Yomping’ was the word used by the Commandos for carrying heavy loads on long marches. It caught the public’s imagination during this short but bitter campaign and epitomized the grim determination and professionalism of our troops.”

The last book is about the war of current generation It is about Afghanistan.

OUTLAW PLATOON: HEROES, RENEGADES, INFIDELS, AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR IN AFGHANISTAN  by Sean Parnell

From Amazon .ca

At twenty-four years of age, U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell was named commander of a forty-man elite infantry platoon, the 10th Mountain Division—a unit that came to be known as the Outlaws. Tasked with rooting out Pakistan-based insurgents from a valley in the Hindu Kush, Parnell assumed they would be facing a ragtag bunch of civilians until, in May 2006, a routine patrol turned into a brutal ambush. Through sixteen months of combat, the platoon became Parnell’s family. The cost of battle was high for these men. Not all of them made it home, but for those who did, it was the love and faith they found in one another that ultimately kept them alive.

The Review “The range of emotions that Sean Parnell summons in Outlaw Platoon is stunning. A nuanced, compelling memoir . . . Parnell shows he’s a gifted, brave storyteller.” (Pittsburgh Tribune)^“Outlaw Platoon put me back on the battlefield again. It’s a heartfelt story that shows how very different people can be thrown together in combat and find a way to make it work. Parnell and the soldiers who fought beside him are all courageous heroes—real bad asses.” (Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper).Two of the most intense tales of courage under fire I own are Black Hawk Down and Lone Survivor. I now have a third, Outlaw Platoon. It’s an absolutely gripping, edge-of-your-seat ride.” (Brad Thor, author of Full Black)^“Outlaw Platoon is an utterly gripping account of what our soldiers endure on the front lines—the frustrations, the fear, the loneliness. . . Here, in these pages, are the on-the-ground realities of a war we so rarely witness on news broadcasts” (Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried) Outlaw Platoon is an exceptional look into the mind of a platoon leader in Afghanistan; Captain Parnell shares his experiences of leadership, loss, and aggressive military tactics. You can really feel the bonds forged between these brothers in arms as the battle plays out” (Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor). At times, I forgot I was reading about a war as I was drawn up in the drama the same way you are when reading Krakauer’s Into Thin Air . . . This is a book of probing honesty, wrenching drama and courage.” (Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers) a  soulful story of men at war . . . Outlaw Platoon shows us that the love and brotherhood forged in the fires of combat are the most formidable quaities a unit can possess.” (Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire). Outlaw Platoon is expertly told by a man who braved the heat of battle time and time again. An epic story as exacting as it is suspenseful, it reveals the bravery and dedication of our armed service men and women around the world.” (Clive Cussler). This book is more than just a rip-roaring combat narrative: it is a profoundly moving exploration into the nature and evolution of the warrior bond forged in desperate, against-all-odds battles. A significant book, not to be missed.” (Jack Coughlin, author of Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper). Outlaw Platoon is the real deal. It’s a terrific tale of combat leadership that deserves to be studied by all small-unit leaders. The narrative goes beyond the battlefield to depict the maddening nature of the war and the grit of those who selflessly protect us.” (Bing West, author of No True Glory). Sean Parnell reaches past the band-of-brothers theme to a place of brutal self-awareness . . . he never flinches from a fight, nor the hard questions of a messy war.” (Kevin Sites, author of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars)”

For me the most telling element in the book is the incredible youth of the soldiers in this action. Why so young? and to what purpose? A foreign war in a foreign land that in reality has nothing to do with the preservation of the America’s home security. In some ways there are still echoes of that lost war in Vietnam of so many years ago. They seem to be fighting the same battles for same wrong reasons.

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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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