Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bluegrass Fever

On stage at the Minden CVIC building, Minden, NV, Andrew D. Barron©3/9/13 [Hipstamatic 261;; iphone 4s]
I’ve been a photographic hiatus for a month or so. But not really, mostly a scanning and making blogs hiatus. There are loads of Impossible films I put through my SX-70 and Spectra cameras. Soon I will be seeking out some new photography locations and such. I am still adjusting to the new reality I have found myself in.

Look at this. Life is good!
Townes Van Zandt reissue 180g vinyl, Andrew D. Barron©3/21/13 [645 Pro; iphone 4s]

I have been doing lots of little things, like rebuilding old computers. This seems to be a recurring theme in my life. I recycled up parts and put together my old home theater PC in an older Silverstone LC19 case. It runs on a mobile processor (a core duo T2500) and allows for a tiny form factor. The whole computer is smaller than an average DVD player. The cpu fan included with the AOpen motherboard is irritatingly loud. When I built it 6 years ago, I ran a Celeron 1.4GHz cpu and left the fan unplugged. Not sure what to do about the noise, but it is kind of important that your music player be silent sitting there between the speakers.

The other computer I restored is an ancient Dell Dimension 4600 I picked up when I moved to Reno in 2002, ‘to get me through my PhD.’ It runs windows 7 off the hard drive salvaged from my dead VAIO laptop. This morning I put in a slightly faster 3.0GHz Prescott cpu. These two machines effectively replace two machines that died in Gold Beach. I swear there is something funny about the power in that electric company in Curry County.

I fixed a floor lamp that has been broken for six years with the circular base from my first microphone stand I bought at Radio Shack in 1993. The base was originally a concrete filled plastic thing that split and broke; it was a lot like those DP free-weights from the 80’s. Random. It was always a nice lamp.
Out in the parking lot, Reno, NV, Andrew D. Barron©3/20/13 [645 Pro; iphone 4s]
A cold one, Reno, NV, Andrew D. Barron©3/22/13 [645 Pro; iphone 4s]
I have been playing lots of mandolin and singing some too. After many years of absorption, I am finding the feel for late-era Monroe instrumentals. I am still very much interested in bluegrass music. It has been ten years since I started to play mandolin. That first year wasn’t too productive with the exception of loading up on listening, primarily to Bill Monroe. I moved to Kentucky in a bluegrass frenzy in 2007, only four years on the instrument. Between 2008 and now, well, it has been a time of figuring out where I wanted to go with music in general. Here are the tunes that have made their way into my repertoire this year. There are some very beginner tunes that I had not really worked out before in addition to the Monroe instrumentals I like most of all.

Back Up And Push
Cripple Creek
Cumberland Gap
Down Yonder
Kentucky Mandolin
Methodist Preacher
New Camptown Races
Old Dangerfield
Road To Columbus
Shenandoah Breakdown
Tombstone Junction
Whiskey Before Breakfast

A ‘bluegrass boy’ is someone who played in Bill Monroe’s band and there are hundreds of them. There is a great resource I often use here made by Stewart Evans. So anyway, there are great bluegrass albums out there that I have not discovered. I started to look for out of print vinyl ones, but haven’t decided on any. But as an mp3 download, I picked up the amazing gem by former bluegrass boy Butch Robin’s Grounded. Centered. Focused. It has been one of the most enjoyable listens for me in a long time. Somehow, in a weekend, I became a huge Butch Robins fan. The other mp3 download I picked is by bluegrass boy Jimmy Campbell called Young Opry Fiddler. Both of these have either Bill Monroe himself, or interesting very late tunes from Monroe. These are:
Old Ebenezer Scrooge
Old Tanyards
The Old Mountaineer
My Father’s Footsteps
Old Lonesome Waltz

I don’t know what is with Monroe putting the word ‘old’ in the title of nearly all of his late-era tunes. These albums were recorded in the early ‘90’s and have my flatpickin’ hero David Grier, and another mandolin hero, Mike Compton, playing on them. I was lucky to meet both of those guys hang out with some during in my time in KY/TN.

My first exposure to bluegrass that I can truly recall was a concert called Master’s of the Banjo. It featured many types of music. For the bluegrass section the vocalists were Laurie Lewis and Dudley Connell. Mr. Connell sings on Butch’s album I mentioned, from that same period. There are some fantastic vocal performances there, particularly the end of Doin’ My Time. This last summer I was lucky to meet Dudley back stage at Grass Valley and we talked briefly about that concert some twenty years earlier. It took until about 1998 before I started to have an interest in bluegrass. I was into songwriter songs and would bring close-but-not-quite songs to the few bluegrass jams I attended. Anyway, I met a mandolin player that tried to straighten me out. He had recently been to Bill Monroe’s funeral, so I guess he was pretty legit. I didn’t really do much bluegrass until moving to Reno in ‘02. I always thought I would be a flatpicking guitarist, and indeed, do think I handle bluegrass rhythm and singing adequately. But not the soloing stuff; I just could never get with it. There is some of that in an older video with my buddy Jim Denoncourt a few years back. You can see what I mean about my shoddy flatpickin’, especially next to Jim.
Tiny spring flowers, Reno, NV, Andrew D. Barron©3/23/13 [645 Pro; iphone 4s]

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