Wednesday, February 02, 2011

"In My Girlish Days"

Hey y'all,
Happy new year. We are back on tour in the UK. Here's a great special moment with Betse singing a great old Memphis Minnie tune. This is the first time in 15+ years that we've had a a clarinet onstage with us. enjoy...

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Has Anybody Seen My Gal?.m4v

This is what happens when you are two weeks into a tour,
bored out of your mind, and arrive so early that screwing
around is actually encouraged by everyone. It was a classic
moment that I was glad to catch.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Big John"

We started doing this old tune from the 1960's several years
ago. Never a regular in our sets, its a tune that sort of makes
itself known when it needs to be played. This night, we were
playing a private show in Scotland. It was a good crowd-
really close to us, but we were burned out after two solid
weeks on the road. I can't say its the best we've ever played it,
but it has a certain feeling that I think translates something
beyond what Jimmy Dean originally got across in his version...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Honky Tonk Blues

A very loose and lusty take on Hank Williams' classic
"Honky Tonk Blues" at Ystradgynlais Welfare Hall in
Ystradgynlais, Wales UK on May 13th, 2010.

Buck Creek Girls

Betse and I perform "Buck Creek Girls'" at Ystradgynlais Welfare Hall
in Ystradgynlais, Wales UK on May 13th, 2010. "Buck Creek Girls'"
is public domain, but we got it from The New Lost City Ramblers.

New on YouTube "Hey Little Darlin'"

Here's the first video from the UK tour.
Here we perform "Hey Little Darlin'" at Ystradgynlais Welfare Hall
in Ystradgynlais, Wales UK on May 13th, 2010. More to come...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Latest...

I'm sitting in the bow of a Stenaline ferry to Dublin, Ireland watching with detached interest the activities of the excited and noisy Irish schoolchildren that surround me. Its Monday- a travel day, and we've just finished the Wales portion of our May tour in the United Kingdom. So far, its been quite a ride for a band that hasn't seen much action thus far this year. With the exception of a few midwestern dates in January, and the Seattle, Washington Wintergrass Festival in February, we've basically been off for the entire first quarter.

Each Wilder has his or her own way of marking the time between tours. There are now two parents in the band, and time off with our families has been precious to all of us. There's also the matter of money, which without Wilders gigs, necessitates other creative solutions to making ends meet. Now that we are back on the road (or in today's case, back on the water), I find that despite the lengthy break, we fallen back to chugging away like we've always done.

But this is shaping up to be a very strange year for the band. Just before Christmas, we began basic tracking for a new album which will be released early in 2011. Why so long? Well there are several reasons: In the past, we've always been in such a rush to record. Although our sessions with Dirk Powell at his studio in Louisiana resulted in two of our finest recordings (2006's "Throw Down" and "2008's "Someone's Got to Pay"), recording with Dirk necessitated that we either live with the recordings we got while we were there ("Throw Down"), or bring the basic tracks to KC to finish them ("Someones's Got to Pay"). Both options had inherent problems. There were compromises made on "Throw Down" that were totally avoidable if we had just had a couple more days to finish. And we also ran into problems when we took the basic recordings for "Somenone's Got to Pay" and tried to add on additional tracks in a new studio with different sonic characteristics, different microphones, etc. So this time, we decided to eliminate these limitations by recording at home in KC, without a time deadline, in a familiar studio with our old friend and great engineer, Chad Meise. As of May 1st, we've completed about 90% of the recording and will return from this UK tour to finish it up. If all goes as planned, our new cd will be released on February 15, 2011.

But without a new recording, it is basically pointless to tour in the US. So, this year we've only chosen to do a few large American festivals and will be spending the rest of our time out of the country. And as I sit here typing with the clatter of tiny voices swirling around me, I know that we are already deeply into it. Before we flew across for this tour for example, we knocked the rust off our live performance with two days of shows at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC. Our current tour takes us to Wales, Northern Ireland, The Irish Republic and England, and will eat up the entire month of May. Then, in July we'll do a quick Canadian fly-in for our first visit to The Winnipeg Folk Festival. We'll return to The Grey Fox Festival the following weekend in upstate NY, then its back across the pond for another 3 weeks in Scotland. September brings us back home to Winfield, then its another flight across the Atlantic- this time for our first visit to Denmark followed by two more weeks in Germany. By the end of October, we will have been across the Atlantic for a combined total of just over two-and-a-half months. We will most likely take the rest of the year off, conserving our energy until the new record comes out.

For those Americans who are missing our presence, we've videotaped all of our shows in the UK. Look for a whole slew of new video from the tour to appear on youTube in a few weeks as soon as I've dug through all the footage. I'm pretty sure I can post video links to the blog, so stay tuned! You'll get a chance to hear us working out much of the material that will be on the new cd. Cheers from the Irish Sea!

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Wilders 7" CLICK HERE NOW!

Hey everybody! Just wanted to let you know that we have a limited edition 7" vinyl 45 rpm single now available on our web site. The vinyl comes in pink/red or gold/yellow swirls and, like our 10" EP, will have a free mp3 download form included with each copy purchased. On the A side is a great original fiddle tune by Betse called, "Bull Shoals". On the B side is another original song, written by Ike called "God Made Me (a Little Crazy)". Free Dirt has only manufactured 300 copies, so get your's soon ok? Just click on the title of this post to go directly to our website.

Happy holidays all y'all...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Remembering Mike Seeger...

It has now been a week since I learned of the death of one of my all-time musical heroes, Mike Seeger. Mr. Seeger succumbed to cancer in his home in Lexington, Virginia on August 7th, 2009. I needn't bother with a biography of the man. Others, who knew him well, have done a much better job of eulogizing him than I ever could.

But still, I'm compelled to add a few words in observance of his passing. I first saw Mike play back in 1995, in Winfield, KS at the Walnut Valley Festival. It was my second year at the festival, and being, at the time, a complete lunatic of enthusiasm for all things bluegrass and old time, I took in every workshop I could get my hands on. I attended Mike's "Odd Instrument" workshop accompanied by a young Winfield first-timer named Betse Ellis. I remember thinking, even then, that Mike was something special. Of course, the Seeger name was legendary. But Mike was more than his famous name suggested. He had a quietness, and a regality in his demeanor that spoke volumes about him. I remember how funny he was. While Kansas fiddler/guitarist Kelly Werts demonstrated how to play the spoons, Mike, who sat next to him offered his elbows for Kelly to clack upon. This was the nature of Mike Seeger, I think. He was always willing to do what needed to be done, in order to further the music. I can't remember if Betse and I went over to meet Mike after the workshop or not. At the time, it wouldn't have been out of character whatsoever for Betse to gush all over Mike. But one thing I do know, I walked away from that workshop a huge fan, and I vowed to find out as much as I could about this interesting little man with such a huge presence.

Over the next few years, I listened to a lot of Mike's recordings- both solo, and with his old time band, The New Lost City Ramblers. I learned how to play my own instruments with no little help from Mike's instructional materials for banjo, mandolin and guitar. And I fell in love with Mike's field recordings- made available to me via a two-cd Folkways collection, "Close to Home". The more I learned about Mike Seeger, the more I wanted to meet him.

I finally got my chance in May of 2008 when Mike Seeger AND The Wilders were scheduled to appear on the "Song of the Mountain" television show in Marion, Virginia. We arrived early in the afternoon, and as we were loading in, I saw Mike carrying an armload of instruments from his car parked in a solitary bit of shade outside the theater. Out of respect, (and out of being a little bit star-struck), I avoided talking to him backstage. There were a lot of other bands on the bill, and there was a rigorous schedule in effect. So I bided my time, and hoped a more casual opportunity to talk to him would present itself. Mike appeared first on the program, and I sat transfixed in the balcony while he quietly performed his set with a calm, self confident air. He demonstrated banjo styles, sang unaccompanied, and played a tune on the quills (a type of pan pipes traditional in some areas of the African-American south). Unfortunately, I had to leave the balcony before Mike was finished in order to put on my stupid suit- our own set was now just a few minutes away... Upstairs in the dressing room, as I finished tying my tie, I saw Mike coming up the stairs carrying a gourd banjo, an old parlor guitar and a small suitcase under his arm. I opened the door for him and ask if I might help. "No," he said with a grin, "I've got it...Boy there sure are a LOT of stairs." He lugged his load into the small room that served as his dressing room, and began putting the instruments away in their cases. I thought to myself, "this is your chance", but then chickened out- rationalizing that the man should be left in peace to stow his gear.

Soon after, we were onstage making our usual racket, and I caught Mike in the corner of my eye, watching from the stage left wings. I don't know how long he was there, but I remember being a little freaked out- worried that he might not like what we were doing to "his" music.

After the show, both Mike and I were busy with our respective cd tables, and by the time I had finished packing everything up, and had changed back into my street clothes, Mike was gone. Betse called my cell phone, and asked if I wanted to grab something to eat. Since I was starving, I agreed. As we walked up the street, I saw Mike heading into a pizza restaurant with two members of a bluegrass band that had also appeared on the TV show that night. There really wasn't much else open at that hour, and the possibility that I might actually get to pay my respects to Mr. Seeger was too tempting, so we followed him inside, and selected a booth just behind where Mike and the bluegrass guys were sitting. Then Ike and Nate called, wondering where we had gone to. Betse gave them directions. The walls of the booth were quite high, and with Ike and Nate now adding to the volume, I wasn't able to hear what was being said in the booth behind. I imagined the pearls of wisdom that Mike was bestowing to his captive audience in the booth- the history, the music, the stories... Ok, I'll admit it, I was jealous. I wanted to switch booths so badly, but ultimately, I was too cowardly to make a move.

Food was served, and eaten, and we were informed that soon, the restaurant would be closing. I could hear Mike and the bluegrass guys settling their bill with the waitress, and hurried to pay ours as well. This was to be my only chance, and I didn't want to miss it. Betse and I followed Mike outside the restaurant, and I made my decisive move. "Mr. Seeger," I said as he walked down the stairs. He turned and gave me a friendly grin. Then it began, "I just wanted to tell you how much your music has always meant to me, " I blurted out. "I don't think I would be playing this music if it hadn't been for you." The embarrassing gush continued, "I just wanted you to know how much it meant to me for us to share the stage tonight." By the way Mike looked at me, you would have thought that I had just spoken to him in Swahili. His eyes darted away. He turned toward Betse and he said, "I like some of them fiddle tunes you played tonight!" Betse was taken aback. "What was the name of that one...something about a mule jumping?" And just as soon as it started, it was over. Mike was no more interested in my praise than he would have been in a tin of moldering tobacco. It was all about the music to him. And I felt bad about it too- immediately. There was so much more I could have said. I wanted to ask him about "Buck Creek Girls"- an old tune his band had recorded back in the mid 60's. I wanted to ask him about Sara and Mother Maybelle Carter. I wanted to know what it was like to hear Roscoe Holcomb singing in the same room as him. These were things I had wanted to ask him for years. I would not get another chance. As we stood on that sidewalk watching Mike walk back to his hotel, Betse tried to console me, "That was nice what you said." But it was too late. I had blown it and I knew it.

But now that Mike Seeger is gone, I don't feel quite so stupid for gushing. In my own silly way, I was able to tell him that his music was important to me, regardless of whether he really felt like listening at the time. I take consolation that I at least I took the initiative to say what I said, and that I meant it too- with all my heart.

So cheers to the life of Mike Seeger. In a time where words like "Maverick" are hurled about by politicians like so much loose change, I contend that he was a mountain of a man. His impact on me remains, and I will miss him greatly.