My wife Laura and I spent last weekend in a cabin in Spotsylvania County. The idea was just to get away for a couple days and relax, read books and drink beer by the fire. In addition, I thought it would be a good opportunity to play some of our current favorite songs and tunes without the distractions of everyday life getting in the way. I like to periodically document our musical “progress”, so I kept the Olympus LS-14 on record whenever we were playing.
Looking back, there were some definite flubs and missed notes, but we were able to work our way through over 15 tunes and songs, giving them all at least two takes each, and had a lot of fun doing it. It we didn’t quite get it after three attempts, we moved on to something else. The idea, as always, was to capture the sound we currently make, warts and all. I played tenor banjo on all tracks. Laura played baritone ukulele on the majority of them, but can be heard on bodhran on two tunes.
We are calling it Cabin A by Cardinal Puffin…Cardinal Puffin being the made up band name for the music we make together. These are like field recordings. I basically just split up the wav files as soon as I got back home and saved them as individual tracks. No editing or sound engineering was done (quite obviously). You can listen to it by clicking on the player below. Below that is a track by track rundown.
Cardinal Puffin – Cabin A
Recorded November 23 and 24, 2013
Saturday Night Breakdown is a raggy little number in the key of C from the Leake County Revelers, although we got it from Celestial Mountain Music’s All-In-One Oldtime Jam Book/CD.
Good Guys and Bad Guys is a Camper Van Beethoven song. I learned the little melodic bit in a lesson a few years ago, but only recently started playing it.
Johnny Mickey’s is an Irish polka, presumably written by a guy named Johnny Mickey. I learned it from Steve Kaufman’s Four-Hour Celtic Workout, so my version is a bit watered down I’m sure.
Chinquapin Hunting is an oldtime fiddle tune. This is Art Stamper’s version, but I memorized it second-hand from Celestial Mountain Music’s Celestial Slow Jam book/CD. I love how this tune is in D but doesn’t require a D-chord in the B-part.
Brosna Slide is an Irish slide (slides like faster jigs in 12/8 time). I actually just picked this one up by ear through going to sessions – for once the way you’re supposed to learn this music! Laura plays bodhran here.
What Deaner Was Talking About is a song by Ween, one of my all-time favorite bands. We also like to play the Ween song She Wanted To Leave, which I hope to share at a later date.
Coleman’s March is – I assume – an Appalachian tune but I’m not sure. Marches also often have Celtic roots. I kinda learned this one by ear as well. When I look at the music I see notes that I’m not playing, so I prefer to just keep it simple and play it the way I play it.
Caroline is a Caribbean tune from the Etcetera Stringband’s Bonne Humeur CD. A couple months ago I sent all 18 tracks from that album to a music transcriber named Nick Disebastian who put them all in mandolin tab. I’m saving 3 or 4 of my favorite Caribbean/Creole numbers that album for a future project, but thought that Caroline would be a good one to include here.
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a Flaming Lips song. We were pretty heavy into a growler of red ale when we tried recording this, so all 3 takes were botched in some way. Perhaps we should have rehearsed this song instead of trying it on the fly. What you’re hearing is the first take, which ended up being the least butchered of the three.
Cha Bai comes from the Cape Verde islands and is included in John Philip Sousa’s 1890 book National Patriotic and Typical Airs of All Lands. However, we got it from The Rhythmia. Nick Disebastian transcribed this for me, but we had never tried playing Cha Bai together until the day we recorded it! For only having a quick practice, I think it came out pretty good.
My Darling Asleep was one of the first Irish tunes I ever tried to play, but it's taken me years to memorize it and I'll likely forget it again soon. Even though it’s a very simple, repetitive melody, I always forget how it goes. There were other jigs I could have chosen, but this one popped into my head and we actually played it halfway decent on this day.
The Banshee is an Irish reel. I don’t necessarily play reels like “reels”; I just play them however I play them. On the 2nd day in the cabin it was very cold and the wind was howling outside, so it made sense to play The Banshee.
Devil Town is a song by Daniel Johnston. It’s an easy three chorder with just two verses, which makes it the perfect, drunken campfire song. I added some impromptu lyrics from the Phish song Cavern to give it a third verse.
LandN Rag comes from Alex Hood and His Railroad Boys. However, I got interested in trying it after hearing someone playing it on tenor banjo. I’ve been learning quite a few rags lately, and I’m probably not as polished on LandN Rag as I am on some of the others, but LandN Rag it is! In hindsight it might have been better to try Hawkins Rag instead.
Belle Layotte is a short little Caribbean tune in the key of F. It’s another one from that Bonne Humeur album by the Etcetera Stringband. It’s deceptively complex but also very hypnotic if you can get into the groove of it. I’m not sure if we got there but we sure tried. Laura played bodhran here partly because ukulele doesn't really work on this unusual melody.
Let me know what you think of the music!
Let me know what you think of the music!