Working out our songs is actually quite a long process. I usually like to group songs by a theme. I dig up ballads that have variants in several geographic areas and that tell a compelling story. I then look for the same storyline in myths, legends and folktales to get a wider picture of how the story has developed and morphed while traveling through time and over continents.
In our show for May 29 for AMP Concerts at the Outpost Performance Space we will perform ballads from several such groups of songs. One set are from our new recording project The Mountain King, which we are recording with John Wall at Wall of Sound Studio. It is a Scandinavian legend that parallels the Greek myth of Persephone. (Read more about it here)
We also have a brand new group of songs that tells about a fellow who is rescued from jail by his lady. I have so far found this ballad in variants from the UK and the US (Geordie) and from Scandinavia (Riddar Malkolm). In most of the UK/US versions the lady tries to pay off the king to free her dearie. In the Scandinavian versions she instead gathers a bunch of thugs and frees him with sword in hand.
When it comes to the musical arrangements I like to start from written notation, and just learn the very basic melody. There are often a large amount of melody variants to choose from as these songs were sung in different regions and mostly handed down through oral tradition. I choose a melody that speaks to both Scott and I. Scott then works out an arrangement on guitar and I often work with a live sound-on-sound looper recorder to work out vocal harmonies and flute parts.
The ballad melodies range in style from medieval Scandinavian or European all the way to traditional North American and even Asian melodies which make for very interesting combinations.
If we have a larger show we like to invite other musicians to perform with us. This is a wonderful way to get even more input from musicians with different musical backgrounds.
For our show on May 29 we have Larry Otis on guitar and bass. Larry is a virtuoso guitarist and has joined us for shows ever since we moved here to Albuquerque in 2001. He added a wonderful depth to Sweet William at our last Outpost Show as seen in the video above.
We also have the honor of being joined by well known, amazing Irish singer/songwriter Liz Madden. She was introduced to us by Matthew Finch Musical Director at KUNM, who noticed that there were a number of artists performing traditional music in New Mexico with European ties. Liz has a long background as a recording artist and has performed all around the world, so we are extremely happy that she has agreed to join us. She kindly invited us to join her at her concert at Apple Mountain Music on May 8 which was a real treat for us.
We have Dr. Tej Bhavsar on sitar. Tej is a medical doctor but is also an excellent sitar player, having studied with masters in India for many years. With Tej we are exploring a couple of songs that I learned while studying dance in Chennai, India. These so called padams are usually telling about a young girl who is in love with a God or a king. We will perform a medley of these songs as improvisations of the theme.
Alicia Ultan will join us on viola. We have been friends with Alicia for many years and are really excited to finally get to play together. Apart from being an amazing viola player she is also a wonderful singer songwriter and recently released a CD with her duo BéBé La La.
We will have Frank Bramlitt on percussion. We first saw Frank playing with Middle Eastern group Sadaqah and recently with his duo The Khans with Eric Teixeira a month ago, and were blown away by his fiery and skillful playing, and not the least his very funny jokes.
This was at a concert organized by AMP Concerts. I think AMP Concerts and Neal Copperman are such a great asset to our town. Not only does he bring in amazing musical acts from around the globe to inspire us all, AMP Concerts are also supporting local musicians in a wonderful way by giving us opportunities to perform AND thereby also let us discover other local groups and make connections that lead to collaborations that might not have happened otherwise.
Billboard Magazine voted the Outpost Performance Space "One of the top 10 venues to perform in the United States" in 2014. We are still amazed when many people in New Mexico are still not aware of it! Tom Guralnick founded it in 1988 as a non-profit that continues to bring world class musicians to our neighborhood. Very intimate, it is a joy to attend shows here. And the sound is great. (Many thanks to Chad Sheer, the Sound Guy!)
A show doesn't happen without people knowing about it. Quick thank you to those 'people of the pen' who have confidence in us to tell you all about it! KUNM Radio has featured us since 2001. Special mention to the showcases from Carol Boss and Matthew Finch. Albuquerque Journal's David Steinberg has kindly given us full photo coverage and interviews over the years. Mel Minter of Musically Speaking and Albuquerque the Magazine has lyrically written about our work in print and blog. Independent of him, Albuquerque the Magazine chose this May 29 Show for their "TOP PICKS IN MAY". Sal Treppiedi of ABQ Free Press also featured us in the current issue.
OK, better get back to rehearsal now.
If you are in Albuquerque and read this before May 29 2015 Please come to the show!