Thursday, January 30, 2014

Locals Playing Locals: Meet the Players

This Sunday, we hit Riverview Studios for our first tracking session for our Iguana Fund Grant recording project. Wait, we got one of those wonderful things? Yes, yes we did and you can read about that here . Before we get started though, I thought it would be nice to get to know the songwriters/musicians who are going to be joining us this Sunday for the first round of tracking.

With all of the messages I got around "I want to record a song" and "if you are looking for any one else..." it was really hard to choose people. I have a lot of incredibly talented friends I wish I could include, but the fact is that we only have so many dollars, which amounts to only so many hours in tracking/mixing/mastering and duplication. I tried to choose a cross section of the "folk scene" if you will. People who I respect as songwriters most importantly, but also folks who have impacted me directly in some way. Made an impact on my own playing, my own songwriting, or someone who I just respect greatly as people and artists.

Hopefully we can do another one of these soon...different faces and voices covering different voices.

Ian Fitzgerald: I have known Ian for less than a year, but the impact that his music and songwriting has had on me is profound. Knowing him as a fellow songwriter and friend challenges me to be a better writer myself. I now often ask myself when I am in the songwriting process "is this just an easy rhyming scheme way out of this verse? Can I do better?" because of listening to his music. He also happens to be one of the funniest, most modest, and kind folks that I know. I am ecstatic that he is on board for this project and know he will add a depth of humble beauty to this recording.

Mark Whitaker: Mark has a few things in common with Ian as well...I only met him in the last year and a half or so (October 2012 at a Tommy Doyles songwriter gig I believe), I am always in awe of his playing/songs and he constantly challenges me to be a better musician by virtue of being around him. I can honestly say, I have the most fun when I get to make music with Mark. Whether its vamping on our own original stuff, or playing traditional fiddle and bluegrass songs I just am happy when we get to play. A killer songwriter, probably the most exciting and innovative musician I know...and another guy I am so happy is joining this project.

Eva Walsh: Jeez, another newish friend. I think I met Eva for the first time when Mark brought her to a gig at the Plough to trade songs and play on each others tunes. I will say this about Eva's fiddle playing, she is the most tasteful musician I have had the pleasure of playing with. She knows exactly what to play, when to play it and never overdoes it. That, on top of the fact that she always has a smile on her face and has managed to make me thoroughly enjoy what she calls "pop-folk". Plus...I mean, she let me beat box on her song once.

Dan Blakeslee: Short story - Dan is the most wonderful human on the planet. Long story, I had seen Dan playing in the subway for a long time, always wondering "who is this guy with the octopus guitar?" I finally shared my first gig with Dan at Precinct in 2008 and immediately we were like old friends. He just has this impact on people that I cannot explain. His joy is infectious and his appreciation for the music and music community is unparalleled. He makes music for the pure joy and love it brings him. Dan Blakeslee IS folk music in Boston.

Ryan Fitzsimmons: Ryan's presence on stage is unmatched. He is an absolute f'ing monster when he digs in to his guitar player, a MONSTER. He is also an incredibly thoughtful and poignant writer. He thinks about his songs, he uses all sorts of different tunings I can't even comprehend to create moods within his writing, he is just a smart, exciting songwriter. I first met Ryan when he gave me a chance as a young songwriter just moving back to town. He let me play his RISA round night in Providence, which was my real first taste of knowing there is more than just "rowdy bar gigs, covering Brown Eyed Girl" to be had.

Ryan is also being joined by Laurence Scudder on viola and Jim Larkin on bass and percussion. I have seen both of these guys around town on so many occasions I cannot even count them. They both seemingly playing with everyone around town and make everyone sound a million times better as a result. I actually think the first time I met and saw both of these guys was playing with Ryan. I remember thinking "holy crap, that fiddle is hooked up to a pedal board"...and then Larry's foot clicked a pedal and I was hooked. Any time I have seen Jim, I just think "this guy is so on point". Another super tasteful player than plays multiple instruments and does so extremely well in many forms.


Chuck Melchin, Michael Spaly, Jess Fox, Jef Charland: Chuck is one of these guys where for the life of me, I cannot understand why he isn't wildly famous. He is an outstanding songwriter, he writes some of the most emotional and heartfelt songs I have ever heard. He is a great player as well and surrounds himself with great players in the Bean Picker's Union. I first met Spaly at a round table session I was hosting where Chuck brought him along and immediately I just loved the guy. He is an
excellent multi-instrumentalist, knows a ton of great music, and has a great voice to boot. I just met Jess in the last few weeks after Sam Reid reached out to ask if I wanted to play bluegrass music with him and Jess...yes, why yes please I would like to. It was one of those moments that you just click while playing with someone. She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to awesome traditional songs, reels and fiddle tunes. Chuck asked if he could bring along a bass player, and when he said it was Jef I was floored. I have seen his band the Blue Ribbons many a night at Toad. These guys are the creme de la creme of great players in town and Jef lays down the low end keeping everyone tight. This is going to be a really fun session to be a part of.

Well, thats it for the first session...there are more musicians coming in in later Feb/early March to record, but I will wait until then to let you know who those wonderful folks are.

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