1. Them Dance Hall Girls (Allan Fraser) RR – vocals, guitar & clarinet; Mary – vocals
This song first appeared on an album by Canadian duo Allan Fraser and Daisy DeBolt in 1971. I learned it in the mid-1970s from Vermont songbird Nancy Harrison Beaven, one of the greatest singers ever.
2. Twa Corbies (words & music traditional) RR – vocals & clarinet; Kristina – guitars, mandola, & percussion
A traditional Scottish ballad that proves once again that the “high lonesome” sound was alive and well hundreds of years before being popularized by the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. A nod to the great Bert Jansch, who recorded a definitive version on his 1973 album “Moonshine.”
3. Morgan Magan/Planxty Constantine Maguire/Lord Inchiquin (Turlough O’Carolan) RR - guitar & whistle
Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738) is practically the “Irving Berlin” of Irish instrumental music – he composed hundreds of catchy melodies for the steel strung harp, including some which remain the most successful fusion ever of Irish traditional music with mainstream European “classical” music. O’Carolan’s work has been rediscovered and performed by hundreds of musicians thanks in part to many recordings made by Paddy Moloney and the Chieftans over the past 40 years. To my ear, a steel string guitar sounds as much like the metal strung harps of O’Carolan’s time as any other instrument commonly played today.
4. Sand & Foam (Donovan Leitch) RR- vocals, guitar, & whistle; Kristina –guitars & synth celeste; Mary – vocals
Donovan’s “Mellow Yelllow” album came out in 1967. “Sand & Foam” has always been my favorite track.
5. Mary Neal (words & music traditional) RR – vocals, hurdy gurdy, clarinet, & whistle
A 19th century broadside ballad of adventure and heartbreak learned from Martin Carthy’s “Sweet Wivelsfield” album. The tune is a variant of “Dives and Lazarus,” a traditional English carol.
6. Esperanza/An Dro de Michel le Cam/ Le Canal En Octobre (Marc Perrone/Michel le Cam/Frederic Paris) RR – melodeon, whistle, & kortholt; Kristina – guitar
Three favorite accordion pieces, the first written as film music by Marc Perrone, one of the 20th century’s great players of “accordion diatonique”; the second a Breton dance tune learned from a series of tutors published by Trad Magazine in France; and the third a composition by Frederic Paris, a fine composer, clarinetist, and box player from the Auvergne.
7. Copshawholme Fair (words & music traditional) RR – vocals, gurdy, & whistle; Mary – vocals; Kristina – mandola
A story song describing a “hiring fair” first documented in 1953 in northern England on a field recording sung by Bob Forrester from Carlisle. The name “Copshawholme” seems to be a variation for the name of a town in the Scottish borders named Castleton (now called Newcastleton), a place that held an annual hiring fair each April until well into the 20th century. Learned from the singing of Maddy Prior on “Folksongs of Old England,” an album recorded with Tim Hart, and also from a later version on “Hark the Village Wait,” an album she made with Steeleye Span.
8. Delahanty’s Hornpipe/Cut the File/The Gold Ring (traditional/Kathleen Tickell/traditional ) RR – whistle; Kristina – guitars
A hornpipe and a double jig both learned from Paddy Moloney and Sean Potts of the Chieftans, with a glorious jig composed by Northumbrian piper Kathleen Tickell in the middle.
9. Boys of Bedlam (words & music traditional) RR – vocals, guitar, concertina, clarinet, melodeon; Mary – vocals; Kristina –mandola & vocals
Versions of this amazing and twisted song describing the inmates of the St. Mary Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane in London have been around since the early 1600s. Apparently the enterprising keepers of the madhouse used to charge admission to the public for the pleasure of observing the lunatics. I learned it from Martin and Maddy about 360 years later, and my life has been better ever since!
10. Hőkpers Waltz/Far Away/ Je Ne Voulais Voir L'Oiseau (Lars Hökpers/Peter Jung/Daniel Thonon) RR – melodeon; Kristina – guitar
I first heard Hökpers performed by Karen Tweed, one of the world’s great piano accordionists – even though the composer is from Sweden, the B part of the tune sounds as if comes directly from Eastern Europe, which is just fine with me. “Far Away” also goes by the name “Up Down and Around.” Thanks to my neighbor Mary Ann Samuels, who taught it to me many years ago. Daniel Thonon is one of my accordion heroes, and seems to have been born with the ability to create luscious waltzes that embody “saudade” and longing.
11. Come A Long Way (Kate McGarrigle) RR - vocals; Mary – guitar & vocals; Kristina – mandola & vocals
Written by the late, great Kate McGarrigle, and learned from the singing of Kate and Anna on their 1977 album “Dancer With Bruised Knees."
12. Dwelling in Beulah Land (Charles Austin Miles) RR – many vocals, guitar, clarinet, concertina, percussion; Mary – vocals; Kristina – vocals, mandola, percussion
Composed in 1911 by Charles Austin Miles, who abandoned a career as a pharmacist in the Philadelphia area at the age of 24 to write gospel songs. “ Beulah Land” refers to a passage in Isaiah 62:4 – “No more will you be called Forsaken, no more will your land be called Desolate, but you will be named Hephzibah , and your land Beulah.” This optimistic Protestant hymn was introduced to the folk community by Vermont musician and songcatcher Helen Bonchek Schneyer, who recorded it on her 1974 album Ballads, Broadsides, and Hymns. From there it was picked up by the seminal English vocal trio Swan Arcade, who taught it to everyone else.
My main guitar is a little 1933 Martin 1-17 with a new top designed and built by Michael Millard of Froggy Bottom Guitars. A Froggy mahogany Model L with an Adirondack spruce top was also used on some of the tracks, courtesy of Professor Millard!
The melodeons on this recording were built by Castagnari in Recanati, Italy.
I began playing the button accordion on the late 1980s (after spending too many years trying to make a piano accordion sound like one), and they are one of the lasting pleasures of my life, leading me inexorably to the exquisite playing of Andy Cutting, Frederic Paris, Marc Perrone, Daniel Thonon, and Yann-Fanch Perroches, and routing new brain passages every time I pick them up.
The whistles played here were created by Pat O’Riordan in Fort Wayne, Indiana and the late Glenn Schultz in Michigan. They are old friends (the whistles and the makers…).
Even though I own a nice wooden clarinet, my “workhorse” instrument is a bright blue plastic Vito Dazzler, gloriously weather- and crack-proof. The clarinet mouthpiece (more important by far than the instrument for making it sound good) is a Wells Chicago that came with my very first clarinet in 1960…little did I know that it would continue for all my life to be the mouthpiece of my dreams.
The anglo concertina played on this recording is a G/D built by Frank Edgley in Windsor, Ontario, and is one of my most recent musical acquisitions. Nothing makes a song sound more English…
My hurdy-gurdy is a historical copy of an instrument similar to one that would have been played in France in the mid-18th century. It was built by Jean-Noël Granchamp in Burgundy in the early 1980s, and I saved it from decades in a closet (with the kind help of Uncle eBay) in 2006.
The kortholt is a renaissance double-reed instrument related to, but not as loud as, the bombarde, a very loud wind instrument that’s often used for “kan ha diskan” (call-and-response) lines in Breton dance music. Thanks to Bill Metcalfe for his generosity.
Thanks to my beloved long-time musical partners Ed Antczak, Marty Morrissey, and Barbara Wager for always being there to play with me, and, whether they admit it or not, for helping me develop my playing style over the past 40 years. To Mary McGinniss, who lavished me with oceans of kindness and support, and whose lovely voice and critical ear are a major part of this recording, and finally to my dear enabler, string and sound magician Kristina Stykos, who spent countless hours trying to make me sound exactly like myself, and who thought up this project in the first place!
Art direction by William S. Harvey, watercolors by Nora Ostrander
Recorded, mixed, masterminded, and engineered by Kristina Stykos at Pepperbox Studios, Chelsea, VT April 2010 – November 2011
Mastered by Oscar Zambrano, Zampolo Productions (NYC)