Music, Technology

Greengrass, Vol. 4

Greengrass, Vol. 4

Listen to Greengrass, Vol. 4 on Spotify

This one is bookended by “MacCrimmon’s Lament”. This is a tune I used to work into Scottish-inspired sets when I played church music in Malibu. The first version is by award-winning fiddler Alasdair Fraser.

“Paddy Fahy’s”, etc. (Tim O’Brien) – Great tunes. Tim O’Brien’s take on them are slightly different (I wouldn’t pick the same harmonic structure, for example). I like the medium mellowness of his arrangement. Sometimes it’s difficult to slow down when you’re playing a jig.

“The Kid on the Mountain”, etc. (Planxty) – In case you didn’t know, a jig is in 6/8 time, a double-jig is in 12/8, and a slip jig is in 9/8. With three triplets, it’s like compounding the jiggy-ness.

“Sabra Girl” (Nickel Creek) – This tune was also recorded by Planxty (before any of the members of Nickel Creek were even born), so it seems especially appropriate to include it in this series. Maybe I’ll use Planxty’s version another time. Thile’s mandolin licks add a distinctly bluegrass flavor to it.

“The Doon Reel”, etc. (Kevin Burke & Cal Scott) – This is from a newer album by Kevin Burke and friends. Burke and Scott are currently on a St. Patrick’s Day tour, with a number of shows in Oregon over the next week, including a concert at the Aladdin in Portland on Friday night which is sure to be a treat.

“Jessamyn’s Reel” (Chris Thile) – A great solo mandolin piece from Thile’s album Deceiver.

“Touching Cloth” (Dervish) – Dervish is a great band from Sligo. This album won “Folk Album of the Year” in Ireland’s Hot Press in 1996. As I encountered them through my musical journeys, I remember noticing the presence of the bouzouki a lot more than I’ve noticed it in other bands, which I think is great.

“Tommy Peoples'”, etc. (Altan) – This is a great set from Altan’s 10th studio album, strongly rooted in Donegal tradition. When the bodhran kicks in for the last reel of the set you can’t help but tap your feet.

“Bubbles” (Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer) – Though Fleck and Meyer are bluegrass artists, they could more appropriately be described as crossover artists, as they collaborate with all kinds of musicians, from world music to classical. This track is picked because it’s awesome.

“Swallows Tail” (Dervish) – With the loops the production on this tune is a little more progressive than in our previous Dervish selection, but soon the tunes come to the forefront and relegate the rest of it to undertone. It certainly is a rocking track.

“Picking Up Sticks”, etc. (Eliza Carthy) – Eliza Carthy is a great fiddler and crossover artists from Britain. She blends new material with traditional tunes and instruments, and she’s been doing this for years. What really commends her to me is her collaboration with Billy Bragg, one of my favorite artists. I haven’t made my way through all of her recordings yet, but I have found a few idiosyncrasies in her music that show something similar to a lack of polish, though there’s nothing wrong with a lack of polish when you’re doing traditional tunes. It’s more of a lack of a feel. For example, a musician might insert an extra beat in an interlude. Some do this intentionally, others do it because they can’t feel the beat properly, and there’s a difference between these two kinds of musicians. I can’t quite put a finger on it. So sometimes I’ll add one of her tunes to a playlist and end up removing it after a while because of this. This track is a great one and doesn’t suffer from any of the issues I’ve had with her music.

Our closing version of “MacCrimmon’s Lament” is from a song cycle by Scottish music prodigy Martyn Bennett, who died way before his time. I hope to include more of his work in the future. For now, you will enjoy reading about him on Wikipedia and searching for his body of work on Spotify.

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