Monday, October 31, 2011

What Happens when you Google the words "Celtic Reggae"

As I mentioned the other day, my interest in playing folk music has now spread to the music of the West Indies, specifically Jamaican Mento music which often features a banjo with 4-strings (usually a tenor banjo).  I'm already playing some basic Irish and old-time tenor banjo - sorta traditional versions of reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, waltzes and schottishes. So, why not summon the Mento/Calypso strum and add some Caribbean style songs to my self-playlist?  This got me to thinking about what would happen if you did a mash-up of Mento and Irish trad?  Hence the Googling of the words Celtic Reggae.

Mento is a fairly obscure form of Jamaican folk music, however (ethno-musiologists cover your ears), it's basically just an earlier form of Reggae.  So Googling Celtic Reggae seemed like the obvious thing to do.  I mean, we know Celtic Rock, as crappy as it tends to be, exists, so could Celtic influenced Reggae really be any worse?  There's a strong chance that it could be more appealing.

Paddyrasta - Listen to Your Heart
I basically just wanted to hear how these sounds would sync up, and fortunately a band that mixes these styles well called Paddyrasta came up in my search. Paddyrasta is just like the name conveys - an Afro-Irish group based out of Scotland that blends Jamaican rhythms, beats and bass-grooves with traditional Irish melodies on fiddle, accordion, whistle and more...tying it all together with the universal sounds of the banjo.

I gave Paddyrasta's album Listen to Your Heart a spin on Rhapsody and I think they do a good job taking what could be (and will be) perceived as something cheesy and infusing it with a good-time energy. The mix of instruments is the appealing thing here - how well the Celtic melodies jive with the Reggae rhythm backup.  However, the socially conscious humanitarian lyrics are a little over the top.  Personally I prefer Mento's secular, tongue in cheek topics of sexual innuendo to the quasi-gospel themes of Reggae, but I'm not gonna find anybody doing Irish trad-Mento so this is as close as I'm gonna get for now.

I should mention that Irish music can easily fall into cliches as well - think Riverdance, Celtic Woman, pub songs, too many whistles, pipes, audiences clapping along, and so on.  To their credit, Paddyrasta doesn't play into those stereotypical aspects of Irish music.  At the very least this was simply an inspiring study of how these sounds intersect - perhaps giving me the affirmation I need to pursue this. Yes, this would take me even farther away from a purely traditional style...but I've never had a traditional approach to traditional music anyway. If I'm able to somehow mix elements of Mento and Irish into the music I make at least I'll have something that I enjoy.  As I always say, music self played is happiness self made.

Here's Paddyrasta's video for their song Meditation.

Good craic!  Jah rastafari!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Folk Music and Folk Tales

I  have an increasing interest in folk music and folk tales.  My intent is to take this developing interest and produce musical and written content that resembles folk music and folk tales.


Folk Music
I will create folk music by playing and recording music based on styles including, but not limited to, Irish/Scottish Celtic traditional music, American and Canadian fiddle tunes and folk-lyric songs, and Jamaican mento music.  The common thread among these styles is my chosen musical instrument – the 4-string tenor banjo – which has roots in each of these traditions.

In Irish trad it is very common to hear GDAE tuned tenor banjo playing single-note melodies (jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, mazurkas).  In American culture, the tenor banjo is associated with New Orleans jazz, but its history also dates back to Southern string bands.  Four-string banjo is also a primary instrument in mento – a Jamaican folk music similar to calypso that predates reggae and ska.
Mento Quintet by Richard Blackford
Never heard of mento?  You’re not alone.  I only discovered it recently because of its association with 4-string banjo. Mento is a blend of Caribbean and Latin rhythms; a people’s music historically played on the street on acoustic instruments.  Lyrics are often bawdy, filled with double entendres.  Mento almost died out over the last few decades in the wake of more contemporary Jamaican music, but a few old-timers are keeping it alive by playing for tourists in various incarnations at resort hotels in Jamaica.  Most mento bands feature a banjo player - always with 4-strings -  either on tenor banjo or on a 5-string banjo minus the 5th string.  Awareness of mento has risen a little bit lately thanks to the re-discovery of the band The Jolly Boys (Jamaica's version of the Buena Vista Social Club), who in 2011 released a new album featuring twelve covers of contemporary pop songs done in a modern Mento style, including Amy Winehouse's Rehab.

So...can a person mix Irish, old-time and mento into some kind of roots music gumbo?  I think so, as long as one is not too concerned with authenticity or tradition.  Each of us have an individual speaking voice, even if our accent ties us to a particular place.  So if we all played music, presumably we'd all have our own distinct style.  I intend to find my style via these traditional forms.


Folk Tales
Unlike music, which I only just began learning in my early 30's with no prior experience, I have been reading and writing since kindergarten, like everyone else.  I haven't necessarily been writing stories, but I do write fairly often, sometimes creatively, so the transition to writing folk tales should not be that difficult.  In addition, instead of creating fiction from scratch, I aim to simply collect folk tales and then "cover" or re-purpose them, similar to the way you cover or interpret folk songs in the public domain.  The catch is that I intend to gather folk tales from a variety of regions and cultures but put my own spin on them by having them take place on a fictionalized island of my creation.  
A favorite book of folktales
I'm still developing the idea for this project.  I've assembled books of folk tales from places I've visited in the last few years, including Ireland, Orkney, Iceland and Newfoundland. I also hope to adapt tales from other regions of the world, such as South America, Africa, the Caribbean, New Zealand and other islands.  There are commonalities to all these tales, as well as differences, so my goal is to create a world where my adaptations of these stories can be played out.


Why folk tales?  They are not the work of a single author.  They were the traditional beliefs and legends of many cumulative authors passed on by word of mouth - open to each storyteller's variations and interpretations, additions or subtractions.  Even when written down, it sounds like spoken word.  Characters are not complex - just good or evil. Many don't even have names. Folktales are not connected to a specific time or place.  All of this contributes to making them easy to re-tell without many qualifications besides the motivation to do so.


To help me re-tell these folk tales, I have also gathered books like Manguel and Guadalupi's Dictionary of Imaginary Places, An Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky, Carol Rose's Encyclopedias of Folklore, Legend and Myth, as well as numerous unusual dictionaries containing words from other languages or words that have passed from common usage.  These reference books are just as interesting to me as the tales themselves!


Admittedly I haven't even really begun this work...nor have I read much classic sci fi or fantasy.  Maybe I'm naive but I don't think that will be as much of a hindrance as it might seem.  If successful, the merger of folk tales from around the world assembled in a fictionalized location should be no different than the merger of folk music from different cultures.  Which kinda ties the two divergent projects together.  Since I realized what it is that I'm working on, my everyday experience has taken on the tone of a practice or rehearsal.  Every piece of music I hear - no matter what style - has the potential to be an influence.  In the same way, every story I hear or text I read - from a columnist's article to a bestselling author - is fertile ground toward progressing as a story (re)teller.  


Thanks for reading. Now I need to get to work!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Red Clay Ramblers - Wednesday, 10/26/11 at Modlin Center

Red Clay Ramblers 2010
Back in my VCU days, when The Grateful Dead, Phish, Leftover Salmon and moe. seemed to be in constant rotation, I would often throw on some Red Clay Ramblers into the mix.  This didn't always go over well.  It seems the oldtime dixieland stringband sounds of this North Carolina troop were a bit too foreign for my jamband loving friends and roommates.  My go to CD was 1986's It Ain't Right, a heady amalgam of folk music, complete with horns and jazzy vocals.  It remains one of my favorite albums.  

It Ain't Right album cover
This was the mid to late 90's, and the internet wasn't quite as ubiquitous as it is now, so back then I found out about music from magazines like Relix, No Depression or Dirty Linen, from Flying Fish, Rykodisc or Rhino catalogs, and from a thick print version of the All Music Guide.  Just as music-obsessive then as I continue to be today, I would scour these pages to discover overlooked or undiscovered gems.  One of my best finds, I thought, was the Red Clay Ramblers, found via a tiny paragraph in the All Music Guide.

I suppose I loved the joy and craziness they brought to roots music. (Richmond, VA darlings The Hot Seats have a similar appeal).  I never knew that much about the Red Clay Ramblers, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of information available at the time that I would have been looking, but  I always thought they would be a good band to see live.  Now I'll get the chance as they bring their repertoire of old-time mountain music, bluegrass, New Orleans jazz, gospel and the American musical to the Modlin Center's Camp Concert Hall on Wednesday, October 26th at 7:30pm.  Click here for tickets and info.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Introducing Prypyat, featuring Duncan and Leah!

Prypyat
Prypyat is the harmonic convergence of Leah Gibson, from the NPR-lauded chamber-folk group Lost in the Trees, and Duncan Webster, from the Durham, NC indie-rock powerhouse Hammer No More the Fingers.  This cello/guitar duo merges classical, pop and rock, with a folkie bent for the folkies and a selkie bent for the selkies. (blue text).


The name Prypyat is derived from Prypiat - a ghost town near Chernobyl that was abandoned after the 1986 nuclear disaster.  This "atom city" had a population of 50,000 before the accident. The peeps are all gone but, despite mutations, animals now thrive there.


I got to see Prypyat perform a happy, gooey, golden set at the recent fall 2011 Shakori Hills Grassroots festival.   Now is your chance as they embark on a five-day mini tour from October 21st to 25th with stops in Charlottesville, Shepherdstown, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Chapel Hill.


Shall I use the word Prypyat in a sentence?  OK.  The quietude of my Funyuns® induced reverie was interrupted by the elegiac sounds of Prypyat.


Demos are up on their Bandcamp site and they have a Facebook page.  Lynx below.  Enjoy chill'uns!

http://prypyat.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/prypyatband

Bill Frisell - All We Are Saying...


I find most of guitarist Bill Frisell’s output enjoyable so I’m always curious to see what he’s up to next.  He seems to constantly have a new album out or one in the works.  The most recent Frisell project is a tribute to John Lennon of the Beatles called All We Are Saying.

I must admit that I never really got into the Beatles; never took a direct interest in their music; and only have a casual association with it.  No John Lennon songs have been etched into my mind or held dear to my heart, so I’m not really comparing Frisell’s interpretations to any other standard or reverence.  That cold, agnostic detachment may work to my advantage on All We Are Saying.  Besides the most common songs like “Revolution”, “Come Together” (which are killer by the way!) and “Imagine”, there is only a semblance of recognition for me as I listen to the other tracks – or none at all. Since I don't know the words to most of the songs selected, I'm not cluttered by recalling the lyrics as I hear the instrumentals.

To me All We Are Saying sounds like everything that I’ve come to enjoy from Bill Frisell recordings:  a loose, atmospheric, disregard for genre…the meeting of pop waters, rock n’ roll distortion, and jazz sensibilities…all told under the guise of a roots music narrative.  In this case there’s the added benefit of the material being filtered through underlying melodies that sound somewhat familiar yet, to my ears, very remote. 

With Frisell on guitar, the band is completed by violinist Jenny Scheinman, pedal steel and acoustic guitarist Greg Leisz, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Kenny Wollesen.  A familiar Frisell lineup that provides a rustic canvas for sketching out the essence of these compositions.  Lots of rehearsal was not necessary for these guys to pull this off.  These songs were already there, waiting in the wings, ready to pour out from the recesses of the musical mind…flowing naturally from one note to another as if they were being written on the spot.  Laid-back, dream-like renderings of Lennon’s strains absent any obvious hints of nostalgia. 

Surprisingly, it’s all done quite conservatively.  An unadorned, no-frills, home-base is always in sight as the quintet dances around each tune’s core – ready at any moment to take off but also showing a comforting amount of restraint.  Part rock, part meditation, all Frisell.  This may be a John Lennon tribute, but the Seattle-based guitar guru has his fingerprints all over it.  It’s almost as if, in my case, all they are saying is give The Beatles a chance!

Track List:
01. Across The Universe (5:53)
02. Revolution (3:52)
03. Nowhere Man (5:15)
04. Imagine (4:53)
05. Please, Please Me (2:08)
06. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (5:09)
07. Hold On (3:55)
08. In My Life (4:06)
09. Come Together (5:10)
10. Julia (3:32)
11. Woman (4:21)
12. Number 9 Dreams (3:42)
13. Love (2:18)
14. Beautiful Boy (3:28)
15. Mother (6:54)
16. Give Peace A Chance (3:37)
Duration: 68 minutes, 13 seconds

Friday, October 14, 2011

Grandma Gatewood – Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker

In 1955 at age 67, a woman named Grandma Emma Gatewood hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia by herself on a lark after reading about the trail in National Geographic.  A true minimalist, she wore a pair of Keds sneakers and took only an army blanket, shower curtain (for shelter), a cup, first aid kit, raincoat, and one change of clothes.  She would go on to hike the AT again at ages 72 and 75.  She was the first woman to hike the entire trail solo, and the first person to hike it three times (though her final hike was done in sections).  Grandma Gatewood also walked the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri, to Portland, Oregon, averaging 22 miles a day. 

They say the three most important items when backpacking are your backpack, shelter and sleeping bag/pad.  These items are the biggest, heaviest, and most expensive part of your gear and choosing them wisely can greatly reduce your packed size and carry weight.  A 67 year old woman in the 1950’s in a pair of Keds sneakers seemed to have this concept down.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Birdwatching and Trail-Running at First Landing State Park - VA Beach

Whenever I’m in Virginia Beach I try and work in a hike or run at First Landing State Park.  Located off Shore Drive within the city limits, the 2,888 acre state park is just a few miles from the busy VA Beach boardwalk, but offers visitors an escape from an otherwise bustling environment.
The park’s nine trails total 20 miles and ramble past swamps, Cypress trees, beaches, sand dunes, bays and maritime forests with Spanish moss hanging from the trees – the northernmost point on the East Coast to witness these subtropical plants.  The park is also the northernmost habitat for Live oaks and Blue Jack oaks. 

In addition to attracting trail runners, boaters, bicyclists and beach-side campers, the park is also a haven to shoreline bird and animal watchers hoping to spot egrets, herons, raccoons, possums, and the occasional fox.  Also watch out for water snakes, green snakes and cottonmouths.  I do not think they have alligators this far north, but they would not be out of place here!

My favorite trail at First Landing is Long Creek Trail, a five-mile one-way path that is perfect for the runner looking for a moderately challenging run or the bird-watcher looking for a nice hike.  The trail starts along Long Creek, follows the edge of the bay and passes through a salt marsh.  There is a boardwalk in the salt marsh with a platform for observing shorebirds.  At the top of a tall sand dune there is an amazing view of Broad Bay.  You also pass White Hill Lake with its pure, majestic views of the lake and the open wetlands that surround it.  
At the end of the 5 miles, re-trace your steps or veer off onto one of the adjacent trails to see more of the park.  The flat terrain and unique habitat throughout ensures that you’ll have a pleasant experience wherever the path takes you in First Landing State Park!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Del McCoury Band Releases Bill Monroe Tribute Album

As soon as I read the words “Del McCoury releasing Bill Monroe tribute album” I knew it was going to be good.  The album is called Old Memories: The Songs of Bill Monroe and is a collection of 16 Bill Monroe numbers - from the well-known to the obscure.  (As a young man in the mid 1960’s Del McCoury played guitar and sang in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys).  This album comes fresh on the heels of April’s outstanding American Legacies, a collaboration between the Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band that is one of 2011’s best albums in any style of music.  We can now add Old Memories to that growing list of the year’s best.

On Old Memories, Del has recorded some of his favorite Bill Monroe songs in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Big Mon’s birth.  Standout tracks include “Lonesome Truck Driver’s Blues”, “Girl in the Blue Velvet Band”, “I’m Blue I’m Lonesome”, “Alabama Waltz”, “Heavy Traffic Ahead” and “My Rose of Old Kentucky” – all of which are bolstered by Del’s inspired singing and unusually prominent guitar work.  Now in the twilight of his career and revered by traditionalists and jamgrassers alike, Del was recently inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.  So, perhaps unintentionally, Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe is not just a tribute to the Father of Bluegrass, but also a fitting tribute to the man who has fronted the best bluegrass band of the last two decades and counting – Mr. Del McCoury.

More information, including a full album stream, can be found on Del’s website:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grateful Dead Best Versions Site

Jerry 1990
I happened upon a site a few years ago called The Best Versions Project that lists the best live versions of selected Grateful Dead songs with links to where you can download or stream them on the web.  For example, this site turned me on to a show containing a particularly hot version of Shakedown Street from the underrated year of 1985 (6/30/85 Merriweather Post to be exact).  The vocals on this Shakedown start out a little rough, as is common for this era - it sounds like Jerry's got cotton balls in his mouth - but it soon turns into an inspired jam that does probably place it in the all-time top 10 versions of this song.

The links usually take you to archive.org where you can almost always listen to the rest of the show, if you want.  That's cool because a show containing one of the all-time best versions of a song is often going to be good throughout, as is the case with this Merriweather one.  Of course, part of the fun of listening to Grateful Dead music is developing an appreciation for the duds too...the versions that don't quite jive.  The Japanese have a word for this called wabi-sabi.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Six Must-See Acts at the 2011 Richmond Folk Festival

The Richmond Folk Festival is Friday, October 14 to Sunday, October 16 in the vicinity of Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond, VA.  This free, three-day festival has an estimated annual attendance of 150,000.  A wide-assortment of traditional artists are scheduled to be there, including the following six performers.
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Chatham County Line (North Carolina bluegrass)
Besides the Del McCoury Band, there is no better bluegrass band working today than Chatham County Line.  What makes CCL so good?  They are an exceptionally talented group that transcends this Southern genre:  brilliant songwriting, note-perfect vocals, a natural stage presence, and advanced-level musicianship that hints at modern indie-Americana influences.  Do not miss these guys.
Saturday, 1pm, Altria Stage
Saturday, 4:30pm, Community Foundation Stage
Sunday, 4:30pm, Community Foundation Stage

The Mighty Diamonds (Reggae)
Roots-reggae has proven to be one of the more popular styles in the Richmond Folk Festival’s short history, and that tradition continues this year with legendary Jamaican harmony-trio The Mighty Diamonds.  Hailing from, where else, Trenchtown, these first generation Rastas are still in fine voice.  Their 1976 debut Right Time is a roots reggae classic. 
Friday, 7:30pm, Community Foundation Stage
Saturday, 4:15pm, Dominion Dance Pavilion
Saturday, 9:45pm, Altria Stage


Redd Volkaert Band with Cindy Cashdollar (Telecaster and steel guitar)
Redd Volkaert plays a 1950’s Telecaster with a distinctive twang.  The former lead guitarist for Merle Haggard will be joined by steel guitar wiz Cindy Cashdollar for a double dose of country guitar.  Honky-tonk, jazz, western swing…it’s all on the table.  Get ready for some blazing licks and musical chops.
Friday, 8pm, Altria Stage
Saturday, 2:45pm, Dominion Dance Pavilion
Sunday, 12:15pm, Altria Stage
Sunday, 3:45pm, Dominion Dance Pavilion

Original P featuring members of Parliament-Funkadelic (Funk)
Original P puts the fun back into funk!  Formed by Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins and “Shady” Grady Thomas – Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famers and founding members of Parliament-Funkadelic – Original P’s live shows preserve the legacy and frenetic psychedelia of Parliament-Funkadelic.  The band is filled out by their kids and family, plus members of Funkadelics past and the P-Funk entourage.  Expect there to be twelve+ people gettin’ down on stage and cranking out hits like “Flashlight”, “Tear the Roof off the Sucker” and “Up for the Down Stroke”.  A serious party, no doubt.
Saturday, 5:30pm, Altria Stage
Saturday, 9:45pm, Dominion Dance Pavilion

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys (Cajun)
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys play Cajun music:  a melodic, highly danceable music from Southwestern Louisiana, driven by the accordion and fiddle.  The style can be traced back to its French-Canadian origins in the 1760’s.  The Mamou Playboys date back to the 1980’s.  They sing almost entirely in Cajun French.  Steve Riley is considered one of the world’s best Cajun button-accordion players.
Friday, 9:30pm, Dominion Dance Pavilion
Saturday, 1:30pm, Dominion Dance Pavilion
Saturday, 8:45pm, Altria Stage

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba (Afro-beat)
Bassekou Kouyate comes from a long line of West African oral historians and musicians called “griots”.  For generations, his griot family has played the ngoni – a traditional African lute that is the musical forebear of the banjo.  Kouyate leads an energetic seven-member ensemble from Mali that features four different sized ngoni instruments, two percussionists, and his wife, Amy Sacko, on vocals.  Together, they produce an entirely new sound with a power and groove to rival the best rock bands.
Saturday, 8:15pm, Dominion Dance Pavilion
Sunday, 2:15pm, Altria Stage
Sunday, 5pm, Dominion Dance Pavilion

It goes without saying that there’s lots more to experience than just these artists, including numerous workshops, competitions, dance performances, a folk-arts marketplace, children’s activities, short films, regional and ethnic foods, beer, wine and more.  The Richmond Folk Festival has become the most anticipated annual event in central Virginia!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Newfoundland Artist Elizabeth Burry

On Friday Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism sent out a message announcing that Culture Daysa celebration of cultural producers and artists, was Sept 30 - Oct 2. That reminded me of the Newfoundland artist Elizabeth Burry, whose Artscape paintings were on display in some of the shops and studios in St. John's.  There seemed to be many realist artists in Newfoundland, but Elizabeth Burry's brightly colored depictions of landscapes and seascapes made her my favorite.  Here are a few of her paintings.


Coast of Many Colors
"Coast of Many Colors" was inspired by the town of Trinity East on the Bonavista Peninsula.  


Seas the Day
"Seas the Day" could be any cove in Newfoundland and Labrador.  


Summer Reflections
"Summer Reflections" is based on the bright and colorful township of St. Bernards.


Warm Welcome
"Warm Welcome" is reminiscent of many beautiful villages in the Province. 


You can purchase Elizabeth Burry's art, including framed, signed reproductions of these paintings, online at http://www.elizabethburry.com/servlet/the-ARTSCAPES/Categories

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Top Four Places to Stay in Iceland

A couple years ago Laura and I flew to Iceland, rented a car, and drove around the circumference of the island on the Ring Road.  We stayed in some funky places and some great places.  If I were to go again I would do the same type of self-guided round-trip, but stay in just four different locations for multiple nights.  Here are those four places in counterclockwise order.
Vik
Vik - South Eastern Iceland
-3 hour drive from Keflavik airport.
-Scenic village on Ring Road on south coast of Iceland.
-Sits on famed black sand beach - named one of the ten most beautiful beaches on earth.
-Basalt rock sea stacks lie just offshore.
-Adjacent cliffs are home to many seabirds, including puffins.
-Lies directly beneath the Myrdalsjokull Glacier/Katla volcano.
-Near the posctard perfect Skogafoss waterfall.
-Near Skaftafell National Park.
-Bird watching in Dyrholaey.
-Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
-Horse riding, glacier tours, boat trips, hiking trails and more.
Where to stay in Vik Hotel Lundi ("Puffin Hotel") - Modern hotel in center of village near walking trails and black sand beaches.  Very good on-site restaurant.

Seydisfjordur
Seydisfjordur - Eastfjords of Iceland
-6 hour drive from Vik
-Situated on a fjord 27km off the Ring Road across a mountain pass.
-One of Iceland's oldest and most picturesque towns.
-Known for its architecture - a community of well preserved old wooden buildings.
-Surrounded by mountains 1000 meters high with watefalls.
-Thriving arts and cultural scene.
-Hiking path starts from the center of town and runs along river, passing waterfalls.
-Car ferry from Denmark and the Faroe Islands stops here every week.
-Coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries and a wine shop.
-Skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
-Vestdalur grassy valley at the north of the fjord with beauty and birdlife
-Not too far away is the Legarfljots Worm or Iceland Worm Monster, a Loch Ness Monster type creature thought to inhabit Lagarfljot lake.  
Where to stay in Seydisfjordur - Hafaldan Youth Hostel - clean, friendly, bohemian, inexpensive accomodations with marvellous view.

Husavik
Husavik - North Coast of Iceland
-Tourist friendly village on Skjalfandi Bay with many amenities.
-Whale watching and puffin tours.
-Home to a Penis museum - yes, you read that right.
-Gamli Baukur - great pub and restaurant.
-Near Lake Myvatn, Jokulsargljufur Naitonal Park and Asbyrgi Canyon. 
-Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and Selfoss, another massive waterfall, are not far away.
-Close to Myvatn Nature Baths, an open air, naturally heated lagoon.
-The "Dark Castles", geysers, and mushrooms and berry picking.
-College town of Akureyri nearby.
Where to stay in HusavikKaldbaks Kot Kottages - cozy, private cottages with outdoor hot tubs and impressive vistas of snow-capped mountains across an expanse of water. Kaldbaks Kot Kottages was the best place we stayed in Iceland!

Reykjavik
Reykjavik - Capital of Iceland
-5 and a half hour drive from Husavik. 30-40 minutes from Keflavik airport.
-By far the largest community in Iceland, population of about 200,000.
-60% of Iceland's population lives here.
-Compact, walkable city center situated on harbour.
-Trendy, literate, hip and cosmopolitan culture.
-World class dining, shopping, night life and music scene.
-More pubs than you could possibly ever drink at.
-Modern art museums, sculpture, theater and opera.
-Old churches (Hallgrimskirkja) plus safe, beautiful downtown neighborhoods with lovely houses.
-Day trips to the Golden Circle: Gullfoss waterfall, Thingvellir National Park and Geysir geothermal area.
Where to stay in Reykjavik - You name  it.  There are many options within walking distance of the city center: bed and breakfasts, hotels, hostels and self-catering.  We stayed at Askot Bed and Breakfast, which is in a nice neighborhood about a ten minute walk to downtown.