I’m On My Way

“I’m On My Way” from Rhiannon Giddens’ album ‘There is no Other‘ with Francesco Turrisi.

Music – Subterranean Homesick Blues

I was born the year after the release of the above film (yes film) for the album Bringing it All Back Home.  And yes, I’m giving away my age for free.  Somehow, this song has always hung in my memory and one of the albums I would listen to regularly through the 1980s was the 1967 release, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.  This was my dad’s copy played on the old stereo turntable in the basement and I took it, and several others, with me when I moved away.

A profile photograph of Dylan with a deep blue background

I am not a  consistent fan of Dylan and have little or no interest in some of his music but, when he got it right, it was great.  I recall really rediscovering the Subterranean Homesick Blues in the mid-1980s when it was covered by an oddball supergroup of sorts called Ken Bishop’s Nice Twelve put together for a British television show called the Young Ones.  This was in my young wannabe folk musician phase when I was taking in a lot of influences and drifting around a bit.

Anyway, enjoy this musical interlude.

Eighth of January

The Battle of New Orleans, 8 January 1815 –

“On January 8, 1815, Major General Andrew Jackson led a small, poorly-equipped army to victory against eight thousand British troops at the Battle of New Orleans. The victory made Jackson a national hero. Although the American victory was a big morale boost for the young nation, its military significance was minimal as it occurred after the signing (although before ratification) of the Treaty of Ghent that officially ended the war between the U.S. and Great Britain. The battle was fought before word of the Treaty reached the respective armies in the field. The anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans was widely celebrated with parties and dances during the nineteenth century, especially in the South.” from the Library of Congress website.

Folk musicians of Americana know this day for the wonderful standard performed under various names, generally as 8th of January.  Enjoy!

Here’s a simple tablature found over on the Banjo Hangout.


Wintergatan – ex Machina

Wintergatan Music, Machines and Homemade Music Instruments from Sweden!

I have a fondness for Rube Goldberg machines and clever design.  If it is something that actually makes music as well, then I’m all for it.  After watching this video I felt a need to find out more so exploring I went.  It was a rabbit hole I fell into and am still learning and watching this amazing work.  Have a look and listen to their machine to see what I mean.  It has some genius engineering, is mechanically amazing, and even sounds great too.  This is the culmination of many trials and failures but is ultimately about the music.

Inspired by earlier mechanical musical instruments, especially those in the Speelklok Museum Martin and Wintergatan were determined to make this thing work.  Using CAD and a CNC cutting machine, they created this beautiful human-powered machine that can be “programmed” to play many musical pieces.


I was really fascinated by the way they dealt with time signatures on a program grid (playing triplets vs. 4/4 time for example) and he explains this all very clearly in the many videos.  The following video is just the tip of a very big iceberg but is a great overview of the machine and the work that went into it.

I cannot begin to describe what they have achieved so I suggest, if you have a look at their website (http://www.wintergatan.net/) and check out their videos on YouTube where they show that actual design and construction from prototypes to finished products.

This is truly a case of Deus ex Machina.

WintergatanEnjoy the ride with Martin and Wintergatan.

The Lads O The Fair

I found this video over at the Scotianostra Tumblr so thought I’d add a bit to it.  The Battlefield Band has been part of my life for decades.  I particularly appreciated their sentiment of “Home is where the Van is…”

Happy Birthday local Bairn, Brian McNeill born on April 6th 1950 in Falkirk.

Brian was a founder member of the Battlefield Band, one of our finest Folk Groups. He also joined several other top Scottish Folk musicians including Dick Gaughan in Clan Alba.

Enjoy a little music on this spring day and have a great weekend.

In case you want to know the lyrics, here they are as best as I can tell…

Come, bonnie lass, and lie near me
And let the brandy cheer ye
For the road frae Fife to Falkirk’s lang
And cold and wet an’ weary
My trade, it is the weaving
At the bonnie toon o’ Leven;
An’ we’ll drink to the health o’ the fairmer’s dames
Who’ll buy my claith the morn.

CHORUS after each verse:

For ye can see them a’, the lads o’ the fair
Lads frae the Forth an’ the Carron Water,.
Workin’ lads an’ lads wi’ gear
Lads that’ll sell ye the provost’s daughter
Soldiers back frae the German Wars,.
Peddlers up frae the Border;
An’ lassies wi’ an eye for mair than the kye
At the trysting fair o’ Falkirk

Come, Geordie, lead the pony for the path is steep an’ stony
An’ we’re three lang weeks frae the Isle o’ Skye
An’ the beasts are thin an’ bony
We’ll tak the last o’ the siller
An’ we’ll buy ourselves a gill or two;
An’ we’ll drink tae lads who’ll buy oor kye
In Falkirk in the morn.

I’ll stand here an’ I’ll show ye, there’s the toon below ye,.
But ye’d best bide here in the barn the nicht
For the nichtwatch dinna know ye
Ma brither, he’s a plooman an’ I’m for the feein’ noo, man;
Sae we’ll drink tae the price o’ the harvest corn
In Falkirk in the morn.

O, the wark o’ the weaver’s over, likewise the days o’ the drover
An’ a plowboy sits on a tractor noo; too high tae see the clover,
The workin’s no so steady, but the lads are past the ready
For tae drink a health tae the workin’ man in Falkirk in the morn.

Swallowtail Jig

Since my playing time is very limited I’ve learned to connect with other musicians via the internet.  Having a great selection of “Play Along” tunes lined up on YouTube has really helped me out, especially when trying to keep up or understand variations in a tune.  There are so many great garage artists out there that it’s easy to pick four or five versions of a tune to really learn it inside and out.  I suspect you would have been a lucky itinerant musician to have stumbled across such an assortment in the slower Pre-Industrial days.

Here’s a fine English fiddler performing the Swallowtail Jig.  I’ve been playing along with him recently and I suggest checking out the rest of his videos if this type of music suits you.  He has a nice version of the old classic Old Mother Flanagan I particularly like as well.

More Cigar Box Guitar

Greg, over at Hillbilly Daiku is always posting great stuff.  There is too much good information out there and not enough time to take it all in while still leading a creative and fulfilling life so it takes me a while to catch up.  I was just reading this excellent post about something dear to my heart; handmade music and cigar box guitars (CBGs). I am still a newbie in the low-tech, no-holds-barred world of this iconic American instrument but I am studiously working on my second one now.

DSC_0001 (11)

My first CBG.  Image links to description of the construction.

Not only is Greg a great woodworker and occasional philosopher but is quite gifted as an illustrator and draftsman as well.  I suggest you get to his blog and peruse his fine work, starting with this post about how to build a cigar box guitar.

I don’t remember the first time I saw or heard a cigar box guitar. I’m sure it must have been on YouTube though. Like many of my projects, the seed was planted somewhere along the way and finally broke to the surface. So, what is a cigar box guitar? Well, it is exactly what it […]

via Homemade Music-Part 1 — HILLBILLY DAIKU

N.B. there is a follow-up post and a quick link to the second half of the project HERE.

Monday Morning Music

banjo cowgirl

I can’t find any info on this photo.  I think is says Prairie May at the bottom?

A little cowboy movie music isn’t a bad thing.  Hollywood has produced some good music with the vast resources it has at its disposal.  Here is a link to My Rifle, My Pony, and Me / June Apple from the film Rio Bravo (the hot links will take you to lyrics).

If you know the Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin movie The Three Amigos (a family favorite around here) the first song reminds me of their homage tune Blue Shadows on the Trail.  Take your mind away from work stress, cowboy up, pick up the guitar, and dream of a life on the trails in the Old West.


Classical Time – for the Banjo-ista


If this doesn’t draw in the banjo enthusiasts, I don’t know what will…

I should say it’s Classic Banjo Time.

The modern banjo has ancient roots and shares much with it’s African antecedents.  Its connection to the lute family along with the whole array of drum-headed cousins crossed many lost cultural boundaries in ancient times.  This makes it the perfect candidate for bridging musical genres and styles, from the Sub-Saharan and Arabic music the banjo, with it’s almost ever-present drone string, morphed into creature we know today.  Most non-players only know it from the post-war music known as Bluegrass or maybe even Old-Time Country but there is, and always has been, a broad range of music brought to life on this bright and varied instrument.


Cowboy Singing – Thomas Eakins

I read somewhere long ago the real instrument of the American Cowboy was the banjo due, in part, to the timing and population of the very people who became cowboys.  Forget the 1950s movie stereotype, most cowboys were freed slaves, their offspring, or poor younger sons of Euro-Americans looking for a job and adventure.  Those who were not were likely caballeros from old Mexico or the west in general; they brought most of the guitarras to the scene.


Thomas Eakins, Home Ranch 1888

Where I was going with this ramble was that the humble little banjo can do more than Mumford and Sons or Yonder Mountain String Band patterned rolls.  Nifty and tight as they may be, some of us want to reach beyond and find the real soul in our hands.  Don’t get me wrong, these are fine musicians, but really just one narrow style in a giant spectrum of sound.

Here’s a great example.  What could be better than Bach and banjo?

I suggest checking out more of Mr. Raphaelson’s videos if you want to add a little novelty to your listening lineup.  Whatever your instrument, love it, learn it, and expand upon it.


Since we opened the post with a banjo beauty shot, it seems appropriate to end with one as well.  I love this inlay, by the way.