Andra Bohnet - Irish flute, whistle, flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, small pipes, Celtic harp
Tom Morley - fiddle, mandolin, octave mandolin, tenor banjo, guitar
Ben Harper - guitar, bass
David Hughes - percussion, harmonium, melodica
So many great things have happened to us since our last CD! We’ve been having a blast playing here and yonder and really enjoyed the chance to return home and work on this project.
1. Sparky at the Wheel
TOM: This Mithril original began during a sound check jam. As Ben played a jiggy rhythm, I improvised a melody that eventually turned into this. It tells the story of our return home with Ben (Sparky) at the wheel in a blinding thunderstorm after many hours on the road. Listen in the intro for the sounds of tires on the wet road, windshield wipers flapping, and truck horns blaring! We did make it home safely, thanks to the highly motivated Sparky.
BEN: This tune also was inspired in part by another sonic portrait about cars, “Helm’s Place,” by my friend and fellow guitarist Billy McLaughlin. The story fits with the home motif of this CD. I was just trying to get home to my wife and kids and wasn’t going to let a little (or a lot) of rain stop me!
DAVID: Thank you Lord for getting us home safely that night! Sparky had fire in his bones.
2. The Little Lady
DAVID: I wrote this in honor of the little lady whom my wife calls Sweet Pea, our daughter Stephanie Lauren. Around the time she was born, I began humming this melody. She is now two and knows this is her song. When she wants to dance with me, she sings the first few notes and extends her hands saying, “Daddy dance!” Of course, I melt and do whatever she asks.
TOM: Wonder how that melting thing will work when she’s 16? We all agree, David wrote a beautiful tune, a present from Daddy that will last a lifetime!
3. The Otter’s Holt/The Star of Munster
ANDRA: This set came from flute legend Noel Rice, whom I had the great fortune to meet and bond with at the Boxwood Flute Festival in 2005. He told me I should always have a tune set at the ready. This is his favorite, although he plays them in the reverse order. So, Noel this one’s for you, backwards in more ways than one, because you’d be playing it on silver flute, and I’m playing it on the Irish one!
BEN: I really like our guitar and percussion groove last time around on “Otter’s Holt.” David and I tried about a hundred different things before we hit on this.
4. The Ale is Dear/The Road to Kerrigoarch/The Boarding House Jig
TOM: This set with two medieval sounding tunes and a jig brings together influences from all over the U.S. We heard “The Ale is Dear” played so deliberately by Colorado-based Colcannon; The Angel Band from New Hampshire featured the Breton tune “Kerrigoarch” on one of their CDs; and “The Boarding House Jig” is a great tune written by Nashville’s Josh Culley and included on the excellent but obscure early 90s album, Homeward Way, by his band, Bards of a Feather.
ANDRA: As a professor of Music History, I really enjoy early music, so as this set evolved into a kind of Renaissance Faire extravaganza, it lent itself to a variety of more primal instruments, including my new set of Scottish small pipes.
5. The Trip to Skye/Brenda Stubbert’s/The Hunter’s Purse/Tommy People’s
ANDRA: It’s a real joy to play the harp on “Trip to Skye” under this beautiful melody on the fiddle and melodica.
TOM: Another set with varied influences – “Skye” was written by box player John Whelan and “Brenda Stubbert’s” is famed Canadian fiddler Jerry Holland’s most popular composition. Two classic reels, “Hunter’s Purse” and “Tommy People’s” end the set. Andra and I still remember hearing “Tommy People’s” for the first time on a CD that was very influential for us, Navan, by one of the finest trad bands to come out of Mississippi, Jackson’s Legacy.
DAVID: In 2006, after performing for some young students, one asked if I had purchased the melodica from a vendor on Sesame Street. I’ll admit it is nothing more than a small, green plastic keyboard you blow into, but there is something plaintive and sweet about the sound of melodica and violin together.
6. The Good Natured Man/The H.O.F.
ANDRA: I learned the first hornpipe from my friend and flutemaker, Skip Healy. It pairs perfectly in mood and sentiment with the second one that I wrote for Tom after some jocular band banter on a road trip. He gets a lot of grief from Ben & David for being Mithril’s elder statesman, and we tried to comfort Tom by assuring him that, although he may be beyond his youth, he was still pretty hip. Use your imagination to figure out this title! The quirky twists in this tune pay homage to Tom’s great jazz violin chops.
DAVID: Andra, thank you for your musical encouragement. I now know you support my efforts to harass the H.O.F.
7. Da Slockit Light/The Jig of Slurs
ANDRA: We first played these tunes together in seisiún with our friends Charlie, Fred & Steve in Pensacola, FL. After hearing the version of “Slockit” for fiddle and cello by Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, it seemed like a perfect vehicle for the bass flute. We’ve since learned that the tune is often played at funerals in the Shetland Islands (composer Tom Anderson’s home), so pairing it with the Scottish “Jig of Slurs” turns a somber reflective mood into one of great exuberance.
8. Dunmore Lasses/Castle Kelly
ANDRA: These are two of the first reels I ever learned. The path to funkiness on “Castle Kelly” began with the version by Chris Norman and the Chatam Baroque.
TOM: Another of our influences on these two classic session tunes was The Poor Clares, New Orleans’ premiere Irish band. The Clares are no longer together, sad to say, but you can still catch singer Betsy McGovern or incredible bouzouki player Beth Patterson at venues throughout the South.
DAVID: This is the only track where I use a djembe. I also pull out the pandeiro for “Castle Kelly,” but don’t expect any amazing Brazilian-style playing, just some simple rhythms.
9. The Cliffs of Moher/Norwegian Wood
TOM: I learned “Cliffs” from the playing of one of my favorite fiddlers, Kevin Burke. It’s certainly fun to play fast, but when I slowed it down, it vaguely reminded me of a tune by The Beatles. See if you don’t agree!
ANDRA: I have always wanted to play “Norwegian Wood,” which has been one of my favorites since I first heard it. I was thrilled when Tom showed me how it hooked up with “Cliffs.”
BEN: I dedicate this tune to my big brother, Andy, who taught me my first Beatles song on guitar.
DAVID: I can’t believe you guys wouldn’t let me play drums on this track.
10. Rachra Polka Set: The Rushy Mountain/The Newmarket/The Cullane
TOM: Rachra (pronounced Rock-rah) is the name of a fine band based near Shannonbridge, County Offaly, Ireland. The guitar player, Harry Gunning, is a good friend of mine and, on our last visit, I had the immense pleasure of sitting in with Rachra at a cozy pub outside of Portumna, where I learned this great set of polkas.
ANDRA: Last summer I acquired a 100-year-old Rudall-Carte piccolo, and this set seemed like the perfect place to try it out.
BEN: This one is a right-arm killer for the guitarist! How do you do it, Harry?
11. Return to Roan Inish: Fiona Explores/The Banks of Lough Gowna/Fergal O’Gara’s
TOM: It’s no news to Mithril fans that one of our favorite movies is The Secret of Roan Inish. We featured a set of tunes from the movie on our Live in Concert CD. The score is so rich with original soundtrack music by Mason Daring and traditional pub tunes that we revisited it and came up with this second medley.
DAVID: As of May 2007, Ben has not seen the movie. Get with the program, Ben! It was released in 1994.
BEN: I’ll see Roan Inish as soon as everyone else in the band sees Spinal Tap!
ANDRA: I hate to break it to you, Ben, but we all saw it a long time ago.
12. Traditional Gaelic Melody
ANDRA: We learned this tune from the playing of Alasdair Fraser, and it’s a beautiful feature for the harp. It gives me goose bumps every time we play it.
13. Dans an Dro/Bartók/Macedonian Tune
ANDRA: This is an exotic set for the band but a narcissistic one for David and me! “Dans an Dro” is a standard Breton tune that we’ve played for a long time, but combining it with the other two tunes is a relatively new idea. The result is reminiscent of Flook, one of our favorite bands, hence the addition of the alto and bass flutes as well as my Chris Abell wood concert flute. When David goes crazy on all those drums toward the end, I get to soar over the top of it all for double the fun.
TOM: We learned “Bartók” and the “Macedonian Tune” from the Cincinnati band, Silver Arm, who found the first melody in a collection of Romanian folk songs that Béla Bartók researched and published in 1913.
DAVID: Drum Fun! I wanted a place for a large frame drum other than the bodhran. The percussion on this track is a 10-inch doumbek, 18-inch frame drum, three toms, and a bass drum.
14. The Poet of Tolstoy Park
TOM: I was inspired to write this tune (and several others) after reading author Sonny Brewer’s novel The Poet of Tolstoy Park. I’m proud to say that it’s a favorite with our fans! Check out Sonny’s website (www.overthetransom.com) to learn more about the real Henry Stuart, the poet from the book title, and his amazing life in Fairhope, Alabama.
ANDRA: Tom’s tune fits the character of Henry Stuart perfectly. Thanks for sharing this tune with us.
DAVID: Tom, I can’t help but smile every time I hear this.
15. Crabs in the Skillet/Dusty Windowsill/The Return Home
ANDRA: “The Dusty Windowsill” and “The Return Home” are two more tunes I learned from Skip Healy, who told me a rather amusing story of how he wrote the latter on returning to his apartment in Basel, Switzerland and having some unexpected lost and found experiences. Many great bands and players have recorded it, and we are honored to include it here. Skip has engaged me several times to teach music theory and arranging at his Wind on the Bay Flute Symposium, so I trust he’ll like the harmonies I put to it! It was Tom’s idea to add “Crabs” to the beginning of the set, and he gets to have some double fun with it.
BEN: I’d like to dedicate this one to Amanda, Billy, and Ruth – wherever you are is home to me.
ALL: Skip, thanks for the CD title!