Don’t Worry About the Moon …
This is truly a solo project, from building the studio computer to recording, mixing, and mastering. The living and dining rooms of this old farmhouse are really a recording studio, full of instruments, microphones, wires, and electronics.
For a while I pondered the right approach – solo performances or multi-track arrangements. I love performing solo and also love to create bigger arrangements of my tunes. I settled on a compromise. Nine tracks are solo banjo or banjo and vocal. On the others, I play two or more instruments, sometimes any more. It is the Big Otter Orchestra. For now, I am the only member.
I play several banjos on the CD, a vintage Weymann, a modern Nechville Phantom, and a cello banjo with a Gold Tone pot and a beautifully crafted 5-string neck by Wyatt Fawley. Other instruments include guitars, hammered dulcimer, piano, and a variety of percussion instruments.
I had some fun making this music.
NOTES ON THE SONGS
The producer, Mr Freeman, wanted the little line from the title song at the beginning of the CD. I was playing around with a new banjo lick. This is what I came up with. I reserve the right to use the riff elsewhere.
2. Roller Snake
Soon after recording a version of the mid-nineteenth century tune Pateroller for a project with Sam Morgan, I found one of the marauding neighborhood blacksnakes in the living room while making this tune on my banjo.
3. Crossing Sandy
The first tune I wrote with my new cello banjo in hand. Maybe more of a 6/8 march than a jig. Little Sandy Creek is a short walk through meadows and woods from my back door. The small-time strip mines are not so raw looking now, some reclaimed by beavers.
4. Tunisian Radio
Once upon a time during my wasted youth I played banjo on live radio in Tunis. It was a double bill – Hickory Wind and The Tunisian Radio Orchestra. Many years later I was playing outdoor sets on a record hot day in the Ohio Valley. Retreating to a cool room, I picked up a banjo that was busy being sold and bought – a big Orpheum I think – and the theme of this tune just fell out. Two friends picked it up and others just looked at us like we were nuts. When I got home I started fooling around with the scale. This is what eventually happened but I still like to play it as a banjo solo.
5. The Aerie Edge
One name for tuning the banjo to an Asus4 chord (aEADE) is sawmill tuning, a standard tuning for Cluck Old Hen, Cold Frosty Morning, etc. . Guitarist do the same thing in D and call it DADGAD. I just think of it as a banjo with a low drone. Yes, it is four dulcimer tracks on the second part, all played with fairly heavy felt hammers.
6. Shank’s Favorite
My friend Jenny Allinder writes wonderful tunes on her fiddle. I learned this one on the dulcimer and performed it with Jenny (and Linda Scutt and Jonathan Wood) at the Vandalia Gathering in Charleston. I soon started learning it on the banjo. For a while it was “Jenny’s G Tune”. I pressed for a name and, well, she named it.
7. The Glue Won’t Dry
Mike Furbee is one of my favorite fiddlers and tune writers. His tunes have become standards in Northern West Virginia circles. He likes to play this one faster than is possible. You can find Mike’s wonderful CD, “The Artery Project” right here on CD Baby.
8. Song with an Eye in the Middle
It was songs on the radio (or Pandora or Spotify or …), an americana type program. The word “I” caught my attention. It was used throughout many of the lyrics. I did this. I thought that, I was hurt by this, I felt that. You get the idea. My idea was to look a bit afield and write a song with an Eye right smack dab in the middle and see if it could C anything.
9. Dream Dance
Joe Morley, master banjoist and composer, wrote this in about 1910. He published more than 200 pieces for 5-string banjo all written out in standard notation with tiny dots and numbers to add how / where hints for the left and right hand. The classic banjo tradition is alive and well – albeit thinly scattered. If you are interested you can buy a new reprint of Dream Dance with both notes and tablature from Clifford Essex Publications in England. I am flattered that they asked to use my version as an example of this delightful piece.
10. Three-Wheel Hannah
Another Jenny Allinder tune that I learned first on the dulcimer when I played on Jenny’s album. Here it is as a trio – banjo, dulcimer, and guitar.
11. Billy Caleb’s March / Hymn for Ruthie
Billy Caleb’s March had twin inspirations. a song from the Sunday mornings of my childhood and an energetic dog named Billy Caleb. Ruthie played the song on Sunday on a slightly out-of-tune piano with great enthusiasm. We sang right out loud.
I don’t remember…
13. Suite: Codger Rock
An escarpment, not a dance. The first part of this was written for the theme of a WVPBS series. I sampled Ringo for the drum part but they would not let me use it. Someday I’ll record this with a full rhythm section.
14. Don’t Worry About the Moon
… Just dance
15. Sweet Sue
Just you …