I was so excited by the band on the live album, "Paintin' the Canvas," I booked us into the recording studio at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI with the same engineer that worked on "Sound of Fish Dreaming" and all of the "Live at the Cafe Carpe" albums. On January 19-20, 1995 I gathered up Clyde Stubblefield, Dane Richeson, Jeff Eckels, Dan Kleiman, and Jim Ouska for two days of playing together live all in the same room. We had a gig at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee on the 21st so there was an additional feature to our session that essentially gave us two days of rehearsal before that show, a highly unusual opportunity for me. I was somewhat limited for time and money then so we didn't mix it right away. The idea was to let it simmer and listen carefully to it then take our time mixing it instead of the usual two day rush I was accustomed to on my other projects. Well it simmered. Then it simmered some more. I would listen to it from time to time and think how much I liked it and how I should really finish it up. I had concluded that it should have something different done to it like maybe overdubbing some horns. I thought about hiring an arranger to write some charts. Yes - I thought about it. And thought about it. And did nothing. I was busy. I was spending money on different things. But it kept gnawing at me. And it kept simmering.
Finally! I decided to take action! Instead of hiring an arranger, I would write (or improvise as the case may be) extra violin parts and overdub them myself. We had originally recorded on 24 track digital tape on ADAT machines - three machines with eight channels per tape. I had a one channel mix made of the rhythm section and one track of the original violin on a single ADAT tape. That left me with six open tracks to experiment with and finalize the parts at my leisure in my home studio.
As I was working on this a sound started to develop that was part western swing, part three horn be-bop, part fiddle, part blues rock ala the Allman Brothers, part George Martin/Beatles, and part orchestral. I had unwittingly assimilated the multiple string ideas I had heard from years of playing in the orchestra, listening to Asleep at the Wheel, the Beatles' string arrangements (Eleanor Rigby, etc), the twin guitars of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts or Dickey Betts with Vassar Clements, a great record by fiddlers Buddy Spicher and Calvin Vollrath, and my work with Corky Siegel and his Chamber Blues string quartet.
I finally had the parts written out and with some money I inherited from my mother, I went back to the same studio in Appleton to finish it up June 18-20, 2007 twelve years later! I overdubbed the violin parts one day, Dane Richeson recorded a short marimba excerpt, Matt Turner laid down a couple of cello tracks, and I re-did a couple of acoustic guitar rhythm tracks. Then Larry and I spent two more days mixing. It was so easy - why did it take me so many years???? All good things in all good time, I guess. By the end of the year (just in time for Christmas!) "Rhythm and Bows" was unleashed upon the world.
"Money From a Stranger" - I wrote this on my Fender Jaguar electric guitar. I was thinking of the Motown classic "Gimme Some Lovin'" and the Robert Parker tune "Barefootin'" with a little James Brown thrown in for good measure.
"Cozy's Beat" - a twelve bar blues by Chicago R&B saxophonist C. J. "Cozy" Eggleston.
"Infra Rae" - a real cooker by saxophonist Hank Mobley. I learned this from an Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers album. Check out the two choruses of violin solo in three part harmony. And Dan Kleiman's piano solo.
"Stella Blue" - I am heavily influenced by the music of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. This is a very evocative melody even without the lyrics.
"All the years combine and melt into a dream..." Robert Hunter
"Downhill From Diddley Squat" - I titled this original tune after something my youngest stepson, Oliver, uttered one day. He and I had spent the whole day together one summer when he was about three or four years old. We went to a museum to see a fishing exhibit, we visited his grandfather, we went out for lunch, and we had ice cream, etc. We ended up at his mother's espresso bar, Backroads Coffee and Tea in Hayward for a sip of something and he asked me what we were going to do next.
"Well, Oliver, I think we've pretty much done it. It's all downhill from here."
In a dry, droll, and somewhat disgusted tone he replied, "Yeah. Downhill from diddley squat." We've laughed about it ever since and it has become part of the family lexicon.
The sad footnote to this is Oliver passed away peacefully in his sleep in Madison July 9, 2009. He was just shy of his 21st birthday. Luckily, I had finished this project with the tune he "titled" before he died. The last time I saw him was at the Isthmus Jazz Festival in Madison a few weeks earlier. He and my son Ryland were selling CDs for me while my band was performing one of our first shows with the triple fiddle lineup to promote the new record. It's all been uphill since then.
"Clyde-o-scope" - I named this funky little number in honor of the Funky Drummer - my friend and esteemed colleague - the one - the only - Clyde Stubblefield.
"New Speedway Boogie" - another groovy tune from the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter songbook. This is kind of a one chord blues shuffle and I use some distortion for a harmonica sound and add a special effect that Garcia used often on his guitar. We go into a space jam at the end and morph into the next tune. This technique I learned from attending music seminars at the University of the Grateful Dead coast to coast mobile classroom.
"Nature Boy" - I learned this Eden Ahbez tune from a piece of worn out and faded sheet music I discovered in my grandmother's organ bench. I was in sixth grade or so and I was attracted to the photo on the cover that looked pretty much like a hippy as far as I could tell. With the copyright date long before the 1960's I was curious what this strange music was doing in my grandmother's possession and eager to hear what it sounded like. Without realizing it I had learned my first jazz standard and I've been playing it ever since- sometimes solo, sometimes with a full symphony, and sometimes just like you hear it here.
"Cliffs of Dover" - I liked this instrumental as soon as I heard it played by its composer guitarist Eric Johnson. It struck my ears as a hot rod fiddle tune and I arranged it more in that form. We often close our shows with it.
"Whispering Pines" - I am a huge fan of The Band. I got to see them play once at the Greek Theatre in LA the summer of 1976. Leon Redbone opened the show. I bought front row tickets two hours before the show just by walking up to the box office in the park. Sometimes a guy gets lucky. This lovely tune from their second album has haunted me for years. I used to play it as a piano instrumental to amuse myself. We often play this as an encore. It creates a very mellow mood for the end of an album or a concert and the listener can float away feeling refreshed.
"Standing by the well, wishing for the rains
Reaching for the clouds, for nothing else remains
Drifting in a daze, when evening will be done
Try looking through a haze
At an empty house, in the cold, cold sun
I will wait until it all goes round
With you in sight, the lost are found"
Richard Manuel/Robbie Robertson
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