Dedicated to the memory of sarodiya Stephen James.
Welcome to my favorite kind of house party - great musicians throw down styles from all over the world, stir it up and serve it hot. Bring Your Own Banjo.
The musicians on this album are a few of my muses, gurus, and favorite people.
Every song has a story:
Track 1 - "Two Guitars" - recorded live at my Cafe concert at Swallow Hill Music Association, Denver, CO. It's a traditional Russian piece I learned the playing of 'gypsy violinist' Mary Ann Harbar.
Track 2 - "Tamlin Swing" - recorded live at the "Oregon Trail Wagon Train Festival" (say that three times fast!) in Bayard, Nebraska. Sandy Reay on bass, Armando Zuppa on banjo. Contains Django Reinhardt's 'minor swing' and the Irish tune 'tamlin.' Royalties paid to Henry Mancini for the song most requested in Mexico "La Pantera Rosa" (you'll get it when you hear it).
Track 3 - "Crested Hen" - recorded with Owl Morrison near Austin, TX. It appears on her new album, "Playing with Matches," where she stars on viola and invites a different fiddler for every track.
Track 4 - "Salzedo Tango" - my parts recorded in my living room, for Sarah Marie Mullen's new album "Harper's Bizarre." Liliana Wosko also added her cello parts in my living room, and I take full credit for the creaky chair.
Track 5 -"Angelina Baker" - recorded in the studio at Swallow Hill Music Association in Denver, CO. Julie Gussaroff and I played all over Colorado, Arizona, and Mexico, and this is what came out.
Track 6 -"Minor Swing" - recorded in Phoenix, AZ. At that time I played in a group called "Gypsy Waltz" with the owner of Gypsy's Music Shop, Walt Kuhlman, and Phoenix Symphony's mandolinist, Kevin Huang.
Track 7 -"Bring It On Down" - where my pal Julie Gussaroff shows off her fantastic pipes and her love of Bob Wills. With a nod to Blind Willie McTell, who originally wrote the tune as "Fetch it On Down."
Track 8- "La Reina" - composed by Walt Kuhlman, inspired by experiences in Peace Corps - Latin America. The busses of the line "La Reina," to hear him tell it, would race each other down steep ravines on narrow roads to see who could get to the pothole first. One time his bus lost, and he had to stand on the side of the road and wait. I imagine he might have written the song then, staring down the ravine.
Track 9 - "Working On A Building" - in which Armando saves us from being kicked out of Nebraska. See, we had come as "DjypsyGrass," combining eastern european tunes with the bluegrass - but it became apparent that the audience wanted to hear something they knew. So Armando says "let me sing one." And it was good.
Track 10 - "Carousel Waltz" - One of my favorites from "Harper's Bizarre." Sarah wrote it, and Lili plays cello.
Track 11 - "Spherical Duck" - The wierdest track from "Harper's Bizarre." J Bradley Collier sat on my couch and picked guitar, and I traded four's with the fiddle. But that isn't why it's wierd. You'll just have to give a listen.
Track 12 - "If I Was A Blackbird" - traditional celtic tune, sung by dear Kathleen Mullaly Masino of Three Pints Gone. I get to play a little cello under my fiddle on this one.
Track 13 - "Whiskey & Cigarettes" - another show with DjypsyGrass, this time with Sandy Reay on bass and Gary Michaels on guitar. Gary is one of the very few guitarists who can keep up with me and the crazy chords on this tune. "Whiskey" is the irish tune "Whiskey Before Breakfast" - "Cigarettes" is the Russian tune "Papirossen," also collected by Mary Ann Harbar. The title is an apt description of what you need after playing it.
Track 14 - "Blue Butterfly" - originally the Irish tune "Red Admiral Butterfly." I've been jazzing this tune up for years, and Sandy Reay invented a cool bass line for it. She taught it to "The Muses" when they came to Denver for their "LIVE" CD.
Track 15, 16, 17 - tangos by Astor Piazzolla, with Emric Montaño on guitar. At the time of this writing, there are some intense videos on youtube of Piazzolla's band playing these, and other versions with dancers. Look them up.
Track 18 - "Train Songs" - another cigarette-worthy Djypsygrass invention - it's the "Orange Blossom Special" and the "Romanian Train Song." Sandy Reay on bass, Armando Zuppa on banjo. I think Nebraska might have liked this one. They had real trains.
Track 19 - "Train Songs remix" - I asked Jon Baade of Water Street Bridge to do his magic to make this song 'industrial.' He used 'sounds you could find in a trainyard' to make something possibly called 'industrial organic' or 'steampunk.' It's called "Steamtrunk" on his album "Oh Death," and it does not obey speed limits.
Track 20 - "Grace Raga" - an experiment at Fiddler's Dream Coffeehouse in Phoenix, AZ. Stephen James, who was teaching me Indian violin at the time, had this idea to turn "Amazing Grace" into a raga at the end of my show. Daniel Hirtz on tabla and Bruno Bruzzese on violin are musical empaths.
The journey began like Basho's -
"Everything about me was bewitched by the travel gods, and my thoughts were no longer mine to control.
The spirits of the road beckoned, and I could do no work at all."
-Matsuo Basho, translated by Donald Keene
A musician is alone everywhere she goes -
I never tire in my search for solitude;
I wander aimlessly along out-of-the-way trails,
Where I have never been before,
The more I change direction,
The wilder the road becomes.
- Chao Yi (1727-1814)
And finally, the journey is home -
My home’s in the
My joy is purest reflection
in a rush hut by a blue grotto,
at the end of a crazy winding path.
At noon I take a simple meal
and when I’m full
I take my staff
and wander to the
mountain top and gaze.
- Yun-K’an Tzu