Bug Parade (2001)
I’ve had a whole slew of guitar tunes flying around in my head for a few years now. They were beginning to get very rambunctious in there and were starting to hold me hostage – I couldn’t seem to work on any new material until I did something with them. What better way to release these vicious little tunes than to put them out on CD? March them right out into public where they can no longer hide and send them on their way. A Bug Parade for anyone who might be interested.
I’ve been obsessed with fingerstyle guitar since I was attending Berklee College of Music in Boston in the early 90’s. I had a teacher there who was tyrannical about Chet Atkins and wouldn’t let me leave the room until I could play the pre-1950 “Chet Tune of the Week”. Needless to say it had a lasting impression, along with the music of Mississippi John Hurt, Leo Kottke, John Fahey, Joseph Spence, Ry Cooder and Lenny Breau. Lately, my ears have turned to the great Hawaiian guitarists of the 20’s and 30’s; Sol Hoopii, Benny Nawahi and Roy Smeck. Their styles were so over the top and daring that I haven’t found a way to subtly intertwine their influence into my own music. (The observant listener will find a tribute to Benny Nawahi after the last track on Bug Parade – my version of “Honolulu Bound” stuck out like a sore thumb in the context of the other tunes, so I had it expelled from the CD. It snuck back on there one night while I wasn’t looking.)
For some reason, the songs that appeal to me the most tend to be ones about death, destruction and dismemberment. I’m really not a gloomy person and I have a pretty weak stomach for those sorts of things in movies and real life, but there’s something glorious in songs about such horrid subjects. Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Hangman’s Blues” and Hayes Sheppards’ “Peddlar and his Wife” are two of my morbid faves from my 78 collection that found their way into this parade as well.
Although written for and usually performed as solo pieces, I decided that I’d like to add a dash of spice to these tunes. I brought in some friends to add some sonic tastiness; Elliot Polsky and Jean Martin on percussion, Andre Lachance on standup bass, and Jesse Zubot, my long-time musical co-conspirator from Zubot and Dawson, who plays a mean fiddle on one track. I restrained myself and only used my 3 favorite guitars on this project – a National Tricone (the lovely metal beast on the cover), a Weissenborn style Hawaiian guitar, and my huge Larivee acoustic.
Most of the music I’ve written and recorded in the past was conceived for a group. Having no one to lurk behind or to count on for making something sound really exciting is a very revealing process. I wanted to wait until I felt there was a good balance of slow & fast, lopey & nasty, joyful and morose music before I put an album out. One that was appealing to both kinds of people: those with a constant hankering for offbeat slide and quirky fingerstyle guitar music, and those with more refined tastes. So here it is - Enjoy the Bug Parade!