Sparklers: “Greensleeves” by Jeff Beck

This is the ninth installment of this category featuring recordings of outstanding performances by noteworthy guitarists – or – outstanding guitarists giving noteworthy performances.

Truth – the 1968 debut solo album by Jeff Beck – was an early addition to my record collection.

I listened to it often and enjoyed it so much that when Truth and a handful of other LPs were stolen one day from the back of my parent’s station wagon, I went out as soon as I could and bought another copy, this time on cassette tape. (So that I could listen to it while driving around in that station wagon.)

When I heard the sad news of Jeff Beck’s death earlier this month – January 10, 2023 – I simply had to get that tape out of storage and envelope myself once again in all of the guitar wondrousness of Truth.

I also read as many of the obituaries and tribute articles to Jeff Beck that I could find online. (The best, in my mind, were the ones published in the Boston Globe.) But after all of the stories and the countless well deserved accolades, I noticed that not a single author mentioned my favorite guitar performance on record by Jeff Beck.

“Greensleeves”

Jeff Beck’s solo acoustic fingerstyle guitar arrangement of this traditional English folk song – the tune of which dates back to the late 16th-century – starts off Side 2 of Truth.

It proved to be an incredibly influential performance in my life as both a musician and a guitarist.

I hope you will take a few minutes to listen to it for yourself.

Thank you, Jeff Beck, for this and all of the truly inspirational guitar music you left behind.

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Songs of 2022

These Songs of 2022 are not songs that I wrote this past year.

They are the songs that came back to haunt me; songs that I finally finished; songs that got into my head and fingers for many days at a time and songs that I will always connect to some of the events and moments of the year about to go by.

“Go!” first came to life in May, 2018.

I wanted to see if I could again write a song where every line started with the same word. I’d originally given myself this challenge back in 1989. The resulting song was called “What” and it has been a staple of my repertoire ever since.

In August of this year, I finally fixed the rather pesky third verse and recorded “Go!” with the addition of a harmonica solo as the finishing touch.

On your mark…

           *                             *                             *

The beginnings of “Candles” – my personal “Happy Birthday” song – is a bit of a mystery.

None of the pages in my songwriting book containing the initial drafts of its lyrics are dated. I have a tape of a concert from 1992 where I performed it in a medley with an instrumental version of “Old Folks At Home,” so I guess “early 1990’s” is going to be as close of a date as I can get.

Most years I give it a whirl on or around my birthday, but this summer I also gave the second verse a serious rewrite and recorded the upgraded version around the time I recorded “Go!”

I guess I’ll call this: “Candles (2022).” The chorus still applies.

        *                             *                              *

“Love Like Gold” is the song I wrote for my son’s wedding.

I started writing it in August 2021, not long after he got engaged. I sang it to him and his bride in October of this year as part of the wedding ceremony during their wedding celebration in Tamchen, Mexico.

I hope you enjoy it as much as they did.

     *                             *                              *

There were other songs in 2022, but these three are the ones that first came to mind when I had the idea for this post. I tend to trust first impressions.

Happy New Year!

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Quotations Marked 11

“Music is… the sound life uses to keep the living alive.”

Woody Guthrie

American Musician (1912-1967)

From: Woody Guthrie : songs and art * words and wisdom (2021) by Nora Guthrie & Robert Santelli.

Woody Guthrie’s music certainly keeps the living alive. And to me, the songs he wrote for his children in the 1940’s are among those most brimming with life.

Woody recorded many batches of these songs in 1946 and 1947 over the course of several sessions in the New York City recording studios of Moses Asch. One of my favorites of these wonderfully exuberant and joyful songs is called “Car Song.”

“Car Song” – aka “Riding In My Car” & “Take Me Riding In My Car” – was first released in 1950 by Folkways Records on an album titled: Songs To Grow On, Volume One: Nursery Days.

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Smithsonian/Folkways placed “Car Song” as the second track (right after “This Land Is Your Land”) on their 1997 release: Woody Guthrie – This Land Is Your Land, The Asch Recordings Vol. 1.

Here it is. Get ready to smile!

Two other of Woody’s children’s songs that I highly recommend are “Bling Bling” and “Mail Myself To You.” Check ’em out!

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Quotations Marked 10

“As far as music itself goes, 

the simplest thing to forget is that what music is about…

is creating the kind of things that you think are beautiful.

In other words, when you sit… and you’re creating,

you have to learn to be certain about what you like.

Not what you think sounds good to someone else.

First thing is…

you have to learn your own heart and your own mind about sound.

So whatever you think is beautiful, that’s what’s beautiful,

and you have to pursue that road.

Chick Corea

American Jazz Pianist & Composer (1941-2021)

Chick Corea certainly knew a thing or two about creating beautiful music.

My introduction to his magical creations was through the stunning 1973 ECM album he made with vibraphonist Gary Burton titled Crystal Silence.

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Chick Corea’s composition “Crystal Silence” is the first track on Side 2 of this album. It has remained one of my top-10 favorite pieces of music to both listen to and to play ever since I first heard it way back when.

I wish I could share that recording with you here, but the track from that album is not available on YouTube. The following live performance from September, 2019 featuring Mr. Corea and Mr. Burton is.

It is (almost) equally spectacular.

I highly recommend that you slip on your best headphones and take the time to watch and listen.

You’ll be glad you did!

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Sounds of Swasey

Ambrose Swasey was born in Exeter, NH, on December 19, 1846.

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This Exonian became a mechanical engineer, inventor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He made his fame and fortune with the Warner & Swasey Company, which he founded with his partner, Worcester Warner, in 1880 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Warner & Swasey Company specialized in designing and building astronomical observatories.

Ambrose maintained a home in Exeter and spent many summers there over the course of his life.

In August of 1929, Ambrose presented the town with an offer to provide all the funding needed to turn the town dump, located near downtown and running along the banks of the Squamscott River, into a park. The Olmstead Brothers, landscape architects from Brookline, Massachusetts, were hired to draw up the plans and work was begun in the summer of 1930.

The Exeter Shore Parkway was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 10, 1931. Ambrose was in attendance. The people of Exeter were so pleased with the gift of this beautiful half-mile long jewel that now graced their town and riverfront that they soon decided to rename the park as the Swasey Parkway.

Here’s a photo I took on Swasey Parkway in September, 2020.

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To this day, Swasey Parkway is the highlight of downtown Exeter. It is a wonderful place to take a walk, sit for a spell on one of its many benches and, during the summer months, hear some live music.

The Exeter Parks & Recreation Department has hosted a summer concert series in Swasey Parkway for quite some time. Back in the 1990’s, then-director Doug Dicey frequently invited me to be on the roster and I have many fond memories of singing out across the green lawns of Swasey on a warm July evening with the Squamscott River flowing quietly behind me.

In the late Fall of 2020, I was walking on Water Street in downtown Exeter when I spotted a poster in the window of a coffeeshop. The poster announced the beginning of a local music profile TV show called “Sounds of Swasey.” Any local musician interested in being featured on the show was encouraged to contact Darien Castro at ExeterTV.

Given the way things were going in the Fall of 2020, my mental note to look into “Sounds of Swasey” promptly fell through the cracks.

However, in January of 2022, I received an email from Todd Hearon, my friend, colleague and a fellow songwriter, singer and guitarist. Todd had gotten a spot on “Sounds of Swasey” and said that Darien was looking for folks to be on the next season of the show. Could he send my contact info on to her? I eagerly replied in the affirmative.

Darien contacted me in February and finally, on the afternoon of Monday, June 20, she, videographer Garret Pray and I met on the covered stage in the heart of Swasey Parkway. Singing, playing, conversation and filming soon commenced.

Thanks to the additional extensive efforts and skills of ExeterTV’s executive producer Bob Glowacky, my episode of “Sounds of Swasey” went live on YouTube on August 24.

Here it is for your viewing and listening pleasure.

The songs I performed – all originals – were: “Dancin’ In The Kitchen,” “Cherish These Moments,” “A Little Song,” and “There Are (Songs To Be Sung).”

The original promo video for “Sounds of Swasey” aired on YouTube on January 26, 2021. Darien Castro and the folks at ExeterTV produced a total of 16 episodes, all available on YouTube. They are well worth checking out.

PS: Ambrose Swasey passed away in Exeter on June 15, 1937.

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A Song My Mother Sang

As I recall, the song that my mother – Avis Louise Foss Sinclair (1914-2001) – sang the most often around the house when I was a kid was “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

“Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with you…”

Those lyrics were written by Beth Slater Whitson and the music was composed by Leo Friedman. The song was published in 1910. The first recording was made on February 25, 1911, for the National Phonograph Company in Orange, NJ, and featured vocalist Arthur Clough. It was released on an Edison Record amberol cylinder, #637.

Give a listen!

My guess is that my mother got to know this song from the hit recording of it that Bing Crosby put out on Decca Records in 1934. Mom turned 20 years old that year and was a nursing student at the Exeter Hospital Training School for Nurses in Exeter, NH.

Somewhere along the way, I acquired a copy of the sheet music to “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” The piano/vocal arrangement on my now-very faded copy is in the key of B-flat. It includes chord diagrams  for ukulele (tuned A-D-F#-B, capoed at the first fret and fingered in the key of A).

I made my first attempts at arranging “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” for the guitar sometime in the 1990’s. My Compose Yourself: The Music Nothing Book music notebook has two hand-written transcriptions of the melody of the song’s chorus (the only part my mother sang), one in the key of D and another in the key of C.

This past winter, I tried again. I finally came up with an arrangement in the key of C, but fingered with my guitar partial-capoed at the 4th fret (the 6th string left open) and thus sounding in the key of E.

I recorded this arrangement playing my Epiphone Zephyr Regent archtop electric guitar, running through an original MXR Phase 90 pedal and into my Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue amplifier.

Enjoy!

(For those of you surprised to hear a recording of mine sounding like that, well, I’ve been listening to Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell quite a bit over the past year.)

So, thanks, Mom! This one’s for you, with much love.

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“Summer Solstice Rag” – Take 2

Today’s the day!

Here’s some finger-style acoustic guitar music to get your first-day-of-summer party started: my “Summer Solstice Rag.”

Hope you enjoy it!

And… here’s my guitar TAB transcription if you’re a picker and want to try it out yourself.

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I first posted this on July 23, 2017. How things have changed since then!

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Going To The Zoo

52 years ago, when I bought my first guitar – a mahogany-body Harmony H165 acoustic (aka: the best $50.00 I ever spent)…

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… I also bought my first song book: Ramblin’ Boy and other songs by Tom Paxton.

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That small 1964 Oak Publication became the source of many songs that I spent countless hours carefully studying and slowly trying to pick out on my trusty Harmony. A small handful of those songs I finally mastered and years later they became valued pieces in my performing repertoire.

One of them – from the section in the book titled “Children’s Songs” – is still among the highlights of that list today: “Going To The Zoo.”

I must have sung “Going To The Zoo” a thousand times: to my kids at home; at their (early) birthday parties; at their kindergarten when I’d go in for a visit. We sang it together when we went to York’s Wild Animal Kingdom in York, Maine; to the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Illinois; and when they were teenagers and we went to the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California. I sang it for many years on multiple Sunday afternoons in the Fall to smiling apple-picking families at a couple of local apple orchards.

This past March, I sang it with my grandson when he and I spent a wonderful day together exploring the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, DC.

Then this morning, my daughter texted to tell me that she and my grandson were going to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park today with his kindergarten class… and they’d been singing “Going To The Zoo” together since last night.

I smiled and my heart was warmed.

Tom Paxton first released “Going To The Zoo” in 1962 on a privately produced live album called I’m The Man That Built The Bridges. The song’s major label debut came in 1964 on Tom’s first Elektra Records album: Ramblin’ Boy.

Here’s the track from that LP.

 

I hope you sang along to that! (How could you not?!?)

Well, as I always say: “Good music doesn’t get old.” 

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This Historic Day… My Granddaughter

My granddaughter, Margaret – aka Molly – was born this day, May 25, in 2021.

Though I didn’t get to meet her in-person until about two weeks later, I had this song all ready to serenade her with as I danced her around the kitchen for the first time.

I have had the great pleasure of singing and playing it for Molly many times since.

Hope you enjoy it, too. (The chorus makes for a fun sing-along!)

“A Little Song” – Words, Music, Guitar & Vocals by Eric “Grampa” Sinclair.

Happy 1st Birthday, Molly.

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Sparklers: “Nowhere Man” by Bill Frisell

This is the eighth installment of this category featuring recordings of outstanding performances by noteworthy guitarists – or – outstanding guitarists giving noteworthy performances.

So, ladies and gentlemen! Let me introduce you to…

“Nowhere Man” by Bill Frisell.

Give a listen. (You’ll be glad you did!)

That recording was released in September, 2011 as part of “All We Are Saying…”, Bill Frisell’s tribute album to the music of John Lennon. The album was recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California, in June & July of that year.

The musicians collaborating on that epic performance were..

  • Bill Frisell – Electric Guitar
  • Greg Leisz – Steel Guitar
  • Jenny Scheinman – Violin
  • Tony Scherr – Upright Bass
  • Kenny Wollesen – Drums

I’ve been listening to Bill Frisell quite a bit lately. I find his exquisite tone and especially creative way with a melody to be positively entrancing and completely addictive. I really love the way he keeps the melody of the piece he’s playing – even when he’s playing a simple Folk tune like “Shenandoah” or “Sitting On Top Of The World” (highly recommended recordings, by the way) – constantly recognizable throughout his performance.

William Richard Frisell was born on March 18, 1951, in Baltimore, Maryland, but spent most of his youth living near Denver, Colorado.

While the clarinet was his first instrument, Bill started playing guitar as a teenager. He studied with a number of teachers over the years, beginning with Dale Bruning (in the Denver area) and moving on to Johnny Smith (at the University of Northern Colorado) and Jim Hall (at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts). (That explains his penchant for playing the melody!)

His first solo album – In Line – came out in 1983 on ECM Records.

I certainly hope you enjoyed Bill Frisell & Company’s rendering of “Nowhere Man” as much as I do.

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