A Big Fancy Celebration:
The Impossible Solo CD
Since the inception of this column I’ve been reporting on many of the old-time happenings in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Old-Time Social has been instrumental in bringing out musicians from all around and exposing Los Angeles locals to their fantastic sounds, stories and art. I’m so lucky and honored to be the workshop coordinator of this festival. About a year or so ago, I decided to kick my musical contributions up a notch, by bringing out musicians from around the country to record, teach and perform via the Old-Time Tiki Parlour. The result, as many readers know, has been a website, a recording/production company, concerts, workshops and a series of releases featuring some of the greatest living masters of old-time music. This is something going on year round now. This coming year, 2016, we’ll be delivering many more releases including Bruce Molsky, Spencer & Rains, Joe Fontenot and others! I put together a fun trailer that captures a fraction of what I’ve been doing.
In the midst of all of this, I attempted something that was psychologically difficult, technically challenging and a personal triumph. Family, students and friends have egged me on to record a solo CD for years now. Truthfully, my heart is in teaching and playing in the “now.” I also love recording great musicians, both for posterity and for my own musical education. However, in the middle of a heavy workload of teaching, traveling, filming and editing, I decided to take on a solo effort. I think I suffered 3 mid-life crises in the process! Recording yourself is quite a different experience than recording others. It was like starting from the ground up. When there’s nobody to tell you “that’s a take, let’s move on to the next,” you can overthink your progress and obsess and re-record and obsess and give up and start all over, etc etc. That’s what I did and then some! It’s also difficult being your own engineer. Running back and forth, ducking under boom stands, tripping over cables, checking your tuning again, catching your breath, recording, listening back and starting all over. Then, I questioned everything. Intonation, microphone placement, tempo, variations, bow choices, etc.
I spent a week alone recording. I felt crashed and burned, so I deleted everything. I hopped on a plane to teach at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes which ended up being one of the most musically inspiring weeks of my life. I was immersed in great music, teaching all week, playing with some of my favorite musicians, sharing stories/tunes and introducing my young girls to a world of traditional music and community. I came back full of passion and encouragement, so I hammered out the CD in a few weeks of intermittent recording. This time I constantly reflected on the recording session I did with Dan Gellert. He lives in the now when he records. One take of everything. I reminded myself of this whenever I could. It really helped. Thank you Dan!
Big Fancy, named after a beautifully crooked and archaic-sounding Edden Hammons tune, is a collection of 21 tracks drawn from many sources. There are rare tunes and classics. The instrumentation varies with the help of three very talented musicians, Christopher Berry, Susan Platz and Timothy Riley on accompaniment. Fiddle is the primary instrument, but there is also banjo, fiddle seconding, Scottish pipes and a pump organ. The booklet is full of information: history, anecdotes, tunings, artwork of Angelina Elise and photography. To date, this is my greatest personal triumph and I somehow survived it, after many aborted attempts over the last few years. The official release date is February 19th, 2016, however you can order it now directly through The Old-Time Tiki Parlour instead of waiting.
We just celebrated the release with a great Tiki Parlour “Big Fancy” Release concert at Timewarp Records. Joe Fontenot’s Cajun Trio, Sausage Grinder and Spencer & Rains played the event. We had a great jam session too. Old-time musicians Susan Platz, Nick Bachman, Ben Townsend, Cyndy Richardson, Chris Berry, Kelly Martin, Steve Lewis and Ben Guzman led the jam with many friends, students and musicians participating! It couldn’t have been better!
In celebration, I’m sharing (or re-sharing) two fiddle lesson videos I made. Alonzo Janes and Davy are two of the featured tunes from the CD. Also, I’ve made available some beautiful old-time music-themed, desktop wallpaper that I commissioned Angelina Elise to draw for me when I started the Old-time Tiki Parlour. Check it out HERE and grab it for yourself! It’s free. Enjoy!
Here are the relevant video links:
Tiki Parlour Trailer
Fiddle Lesson “Davy Come On Back And Act Like You Ought To”
Fiddle Lesson “Alonzo Janes” in two parts:
Fiddle Lesson “Alonzo Janes” part 1
Fiddle Lesson “Alonzo Janes” part 2
David Bragger is a Los Angeles-based instructor and player of old time fiddle and banjo music. He also photographs, films, and collects the lore of traditional artists, from puppeteers in Myanmar to fiddlers of Appalachia The Old Time Tiki Parlour