July-August 2009

For singers and musicians old friendships are renewed and previously only dreamed-of combinations become a reality. For the television viewer – the only audience – Transatlantic Sessions provide an absorbing and uniquely intimate insight, leavened by a strong element of beautifully complementary scenic photography, into the sheer joy of making music.

This time around, the cast and crew chose the area right around Aberfeldy, where I live, as their venue. The good news is that they stayed just a stone’s throw away from my house, and Phil Cunningham actually came to the session I take part in every Friday night. The bad news…it all happened while I was visiting America in February, so I missed everything.

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Really Awful Song Lyrics… Ok…my personal nominee in this category is Neil Diamond, singing “I am I said, to no-one there, and no-one heard at all, not even the chair…” Does furniture usually listen to Neil? Even more scary, does it answer him? Anyway, here are a few other nominees I gleaned from an internet search:

Bob Dylan (Ballad of a Thin Man) - You have many contacts / Among the lumberjacks / To get you facts / When someone attacks your imagination

U2 (All Because of You) - I like the sound of my own voice / I didn't give anyone else a choice / An intellectual tortoise.

Elton John / Bernie Taupin (Your Song) – If I was a sculptor / but then again, no.

Des’ree (Life) - I don't want to see a ghost / It's the sight that I fear most/ I'd rather have a piece of toast / Watch the evening news.

Paul McCartney (My Love) – Wo-wo-wo-wo / Wo-wo-wo-wo / My love does it good. (I’m not sure which part of this one is worse… the fact that he couldn’t come up with a lyric for the wo-wo part, or the appalling grammar in the last line!)

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Q: What do a banjo and a lawsuit have in common?

A: Everyone’s happy when the case is closed

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I usually try to mention in this column the passing of any local Los Angeles folk musicians.   This one is a bit different—and a bit difficult, because this time the one we’ve lost was not only a beloved member of the Celtic music community, he was also my brother-in-law.

Tony Young grew up in central Scotland, went to sea as a young man, and ended up in Los Angeles. Somewhere along the way, he learned to play the spoons like no one I’ve ever heard before or since. It wasn’t just that he was the most technically gifted player; it was the absolute joy that he got from playing and sharing his music. He sat in with just about every Irish or Scottish band in California at one time or another, and was a fixture at the local festivals. Lots of folks never even knew his name… they just called him “Spoonman.”

Tony wasn’t able to play his spoons for the last few years of his life, but I’ll bet he’s playing them somewhere now.

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It’s a small block, after all. Three violin manufactures have all done business for years on the same block in the small town of Cremona, Italy. After years of a peaceful co-existence, the Amati shop decided to put a sign in the window saying: “We make the best violins in Italy.” The Guarneri shop soon followed suit, and put a sign in their window proclaiming: “We make the best violins in the world.” Finally, the Stradivarius family put a sign out at their shop saying: “We make the best violins on the block.”

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Inscription on a blues man's tombstone: “Didn't wake up this morning... Didn’t feel to bad... Last night was probably the BEST I ever had!"

How many traditional folk musicians does it take to change a light bulb? Six...One to change the bulb, and five to complain that it is ELECTRIC and bitch about how much mellower a candle would be!

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More about Festivals:  In my March column, I gave you some information about traditional music festivals in Scotland, and promised to give you more in subsequent columns. Since then, the TMSA (Traditional Music and Song Association) has issued its annual calendar of events. It’s a brilliant resource, and it can now be found online. So, if you’re planning a visit to Scotland, click on this link: www.tmsa.org.uk/pdfs/eventcalendar2009.pdf to download a pdf version of the entire brochure.

An American now living in Scotland, Linda Dewar is a singer and a player of various instruments with strings and keys. She can be found performing Scottish and American folk music at gatherings on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as singing In the Aberfeldy and District Gaelic Choir. Visit her web site at www.lindadewar.com.

  

All Columns by Linda Dewar