When I moved to the Hayward area it felt like I'd gone to the edge of the wilderness. I did not expect to find a community of kindred musicians. Most of my band members lived in cities south of me - Madison, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, etc. and I viewed my log cabin in the woods as a retreat from civilization where I could recuperate from the traffic and the crowds and get ready to launch another trip. I was surprised to learn of another fiddler in the neighborhood and it was inevitable that we would meet and play music together. Kevin McMullin, another Illinois transplant like me, lives in Sarona thirty minutes away from my place via some back roads and leads a string band called "Duck for the Oyster." We were performing separately on a benefit variety show for our community radio station WOJB and I performed a humorous song about a nearby village named Trego. I thought I was clever. Then Kevin sang a song he wrote about Sarona that was way more clever than my song about Trego. I think it was Kevin who brought up the subject of having me play on one of his records and I think it was me who suggested we just do the project together as partners and this is the result. Some fiddling, some silliness, and some seriousness. But most of all we just had a really good time.
"Orion" - I wrote this in the car probably in the early 80s as I was driving around the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin as you cross the St. Croix River on I-94. It was extremely cold - maybe 20 below - and the stars were crystal clear and Orion was hanging in the middle of my windshield. It's my "road" song except it's not about how wretched it is to be a traveling musician but how satisfying it feels to be alone in my car heading down the highway to the next destination. Like being in orbit in outer space.
"Washburn County" - after a little space jam and some wooden flute we crank up this fiddle tune that eventually morphs into an Irish jig. I wrote this on mandolin and named it for the county that Shell Lake is located in and in honor of my grandmother, Clara, who was half Irish. I now live in Washburn County and this tune has been arranged for string orchestra.
"Sarona" - Kevin's classic reinvention of this tiny town on Highway 53. Before he moved there he thought it sounded like an Italian fishing village. He wrote about not the Sarona of today, but the Sarona of yesteryear or maybe the Sarona of the future or... our inner Sarona.
"Cold Wind" - the only thing more intense than listening to Kevin sing his song about the misery of the northwoods winter is to watch his face blow up beet red when you see him live on stage. He releases twenty years of repressed whining.
"Cap a Cup of Dreams" - when I first met my wife, Janie Wise, she was operating her own coffee business in Hayward so naturally our early dating centered around the bean and the beverage. Before I even met Kevin he had written this love song. How did he know?????? Prudence Johnson adds some outstanding vocals to this. Highlight of the album.
"A Little Time" - another love song by Kevin with two different grooves - Very Busy and Fireflies.
"Neighbor Jones" - a traditional folk tune sung by Kevin accapella.
"Whiskey Before Breakfast/The Frost is All Over/Old French" - a medley of traditional fiddle tunes. Who needs guitar, bass, or mandolin when you've got two fiddles?
"Trego" - I wrote this tribute to a little town sitting at the intersection of Highways 53 and 63. It changes so fast half the verses were irrelevant by the time we recorded it. I can't keep up!
"Wisconsin State Drinking Song" - Kevin created a German beer hall atmosphere for his tribute to the dairy industry.
"Sweet Potato Pie" - I wrote this in Boston trying to play guitar in the style of David Bromberg. There was a joint called the Rainbow Rib Room near the dorm at Berklee where I was going to school at the time and they served sweet potato pie. Bingo - song subject and title!
"Cobblers Reel/Wood Choppers Reel" - dueling fiddles again - for reel!
"The Mosquito Waltz" - Kevin's beautiful melody that accompanies someone dressed up as a huge mosquito in a musical he wrote called "Balance and Swing." I have not written a musical.
"Paradise Lost" - a haunting finishing statement bringing us back where we started with "Orion." This is from Kevin's second musical "The Adventures of Al." I still have not written a musical but if I do, I will start with my third. So there, Kevin!
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