Raleigh, NC Irish Sessions

Raleigh, NC Irish Sessions

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Mandolins were abundant at these sessions.

This Summer I spent a good deal of time in “the Triangle”, woodshedding some tunes everyone should know and even writing a couple more. Living in Durham, NC for the Summer,  I was missing my musical creative outlets back home in Asheville, so I sought out some local Irish Trad Sessions. This led me to two sessions in Raleigh and one in Morrisville, NC. Luckily, the reputation of being a session player from Asheville only slightly preceded me.

Tir Na Nog –  Raleigh, NC

My first stop of the Summer was to attend the Sunday session at Tir Na Nog in Raleigh. It was a wide open session, with a great deal more of variety than I was used to.  It was also the last session they were to have. It turns out I showed up on the last day of business for Tir Na Nog. Which was a shame really, because it was a lovely place with a wonderful hostess/owner.  The session itself was a little less structured than I’m used to. And there were even some classic rock songs sung with sincerity towards the end. I got to play my favorite Choice Wife/Gallagher’s Frolic set and so it was lots of fun nonetheless.

It was at this session, that I was reminded how reputations can influence expectations for the good or the bad. I showed up early to meet the session leader.  There were a few folks who also showed up early. I brought my octave mandolin with me, which travels in a guitar shaped case. The first expression I got when they saw my guitar shaped case, seemed to say, “Great, another guitar player” as if they had seen their share of sessions with multiple guitarists. (Those of you who have also experienced that, might understand how much of a headache that can be.)

Asheville Reputation!

Then after exchanging names and before I could ask about the standard session

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My travel companions on this trip included my Rozawood Octave Mandolin and my Deering Tenor Banjo.

etiquette here, they asked where I was from.  So I told them.  Then everyone was silent a moment longer than necessary, and someone said, “Oh, you’re from the Jack of the Wood aren’t you?” And I knew exactly what that statement implied.

 

So I had to laugh good naturedly and said, “Yes, I am from the Jack of the Wood session in Asheville.” and with a wink said, “But I also play well with others and would rather have a good time, making friends, than fret over musical purity.” We all laughed out loud and it was then clear we understood each other, and went on to make great music.

The Stag’s Head –  Raleigh, NC

The next session I was able to attend was at the Stag’s Head, also in Raleigh, down the street from Tir Na Nog. This is a glorious session. It’s on a large stage! The stage doesn’t matter, but the amount of room each player has on that stage is fantastic. (Remember, I play at the Jack of the Wood often, where sometimes 18 people try to fit on a stage built for an acoustic singer/songwriter duo.) The players range in skill level, but they all get along nicely and play beautifully.

 

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The Stag’s Head Irish Trad Session in Raliegh, NC

Alan, the accordion, concertina and whistle player can mesmerize you with his tunes. His whistle playing in particular, I could listen to for hours, so sweet and full of the spirit of what I imagine Irish music to be. Every other player too adds a nice touch to the group.  This session is a bit tighter, and I did not experience anything other than Irish music here.  The session at the Stag’s Head occurs on Sunday at 2 PM as of this writing.  It’s worth checking out, and does seem to be an open session. Meaning, there aren’t any obvious restrictions on who can play and who can’t.

Trali – Morrisville, NC

In Morrisville, NC there is an Irish Pub called Trali. I’m assuming this is a chain as I’ve seen them other places and this was the second one I encountered while in “the Triangle”. This session is a semi-closed session.  It seems to be you should probably know someone who already plays in the session, and you should be able to play a lot of tunes, keep a steady tempo, and not try to play when you don’t know the tunes.

Luckily, one of the players, Scott (a fantastic flute player), told me about this session.  He said he’d put in a good word for me with the session leader, whom I then corresponded with electronically. She said I was vouched for, and so welcome to attend, and then she asked if I played with the earlier session or the later session at Jack of the Wood.

This gave me pause.  Some of you who have been to the JOW sessions know there is an interesting culture between the earlier and later sessions. The earlier session is a rocking good time, but sometimes (not often these days) the tempo shifts or we get a brand new player who means well, but derails things a little. The later session is “a full-bore, you better be damned good, or we’ll ask you to leave” kind of a session. That can be intimidating, and not a lot of fun for folks who may be decent at their instrument, want to have a good time, and aren’t expecting to get ignored or told to leave because there is someone better in the audience who wants a seat.

So what was she asking?  Did she think the earlier session was sloppy?  Did she think the later session was too stressful?  Did she wonder if I was laid back like the earlier session?  Was she asking me if I was good enough to play with the later session? Who knows really? Musicians are a peculiar bunch (myself included). Sometimes people hold on to grudges.  Sometimes people maintain high standards at the expense of joyfulness… it goes on…so…

I decided to quit over thinking it and tell her the truth. I said, I personally really enjoy playing with both sessions for different reasons.  I have and can play in both sessions, but to be honest prefer the more laid back approach of the earlier session. That seemed to be the right answer, and so she gave me the time and day to show up.

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A lovely time at Trali in Morrisville, NC

And this session was also glorious. Everyone was friendly, the musicianship was stellar, and there was plenty of room. (Can you tell, I like my space?) We sat around two tables pushed together, the waitress brought us beer, and we went around the circle each picking sets to play as we would. If you get a chance to listen to or be invited to play at the Trali session, I’d highly recommend it.

Conclusion

I was asked to attend a home session in between Stag’s Head and Trali. That was an excellent welcoming group of people made up from all the different sessions I had visited. And overall, my experience of the Irish Trad sessions in Raleigh and Morrisville were fantastic and just what I needed while away from the cool (because it’s hot as hell here!) Mist Covered Mountains of Asheville.

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How to Better Learn Tunes

It’s July 15th, 2017.  Celtic Week at the Swannanoa Gathering is upon us. There are many tunes to play and many more to learn. As someone who knows a few tunes, and has thousands more to learn, and as a teacher, I’ve got a few ideas on how best to learn AND REMEMBER all the tunes you want.

Tune Learning Tip #1 – Learn Tunes You Really Like

Just because your local session plays many tunes you don’t know, don’t make the mistake of trying to learn every tune from their repertoire, just for the sake of being able to play them. There will be plenty of tunes at your session, that when you hear them, you can feel the groove, and the melody moves you. Focus on these tunes. They will be the ones that are the easiest and most joyful to learn. They will stick in your head and in your fingers easier. Then as you get better, it will become easier to learn the other tunes that everyone else plays.  By learning the tunes you like, you more joyfully and easily learn the language of the music in your instrument. That makes it easier to learn other tunes later, that may not stick in your head so easily.

Tune Learning Tip #2 – Talk Yourself Into The Ability to Remember New Tunes

It can be overwhelming to sit down and think about all the tunes you don’t know. This creates a little psychological wobble in your experience. Rather than sitting down and thinking, “Alright, I got these three new tunes I want to learn… this is going to be great!” most people think…”Only three new tunes?  This is going to take me forever. Everyone else seems to know hundreds of other tunes…”

When this happens you’re less likely to learn well.  The more enthused you are and the more you believe in your ability, the better. I’ve experimented with this. For myself, I’ve tried to learn tunes without much psychological prep. It usually took me longer to learn those tunes. I’ve also tried sitting down and intentionally telling myself…”These tunes are easy to learn.  My fingers know just how to play these tunes. This is great! I’m going to be able to play these next week at the session.” Now you really have to get into this.  You have to talk yourself into it until it feels like you mean it. Then learning new tunes eventually seems to become effortless.

Tune Learning Tip #3 – Hang Around Encouraging Musicians

My main focus here, really, is on having an encouraging teacher, a teacher who inspires you to believe in your abilities.  Or at least try, try, try until your abilities match your enthusiasm. I’ve known many excellent (and professional (meaning you’ve probably bought their CD’s (or vinyl if you remember what that is))) musicians who were terrible teachers. Usually they are terrible for one or two reasons.

  1. They had natural talent and can’t relate to folks who don’t naturally know how to pick up an instrument and do what they do.
  2. They make you think you’ll never be able to play as good as you need to. (Be careful of this! It can be extremely subtle.)

We aren’t going to talk about terrible teacher #1. The best you can do with that kind of teacher is simply admire their abilities, and maybe it will click one day. You know what I’m talking about… when you go to a class and the teacher says “Ok…do this…” and he/she flashes through the most amazing chordal accompaniment, stops, looks at the class and says, “Now you do it…”  Instead of breaking down the simple mechanics of it, so you know how to repeat it in any key at any time.  (And that is possible.)

How do you deal with terrible teacher #2?  Well, let’s first figure out how to recognize that kind of teacher.  Usually, they are a fantastic player. They sound great.  They play great, and everyone loves to listen to them. However, when you start learning from them, they always make you feel a little less than. They always make you think, you probably aren’t ready to play in a session, or you can’t really play up to speed.

The only way you learn is by trying, making mistakes and trying again. This is what makes you an awesome player. I recently played a few sessions in Durham, NC. I met a woman who had been playing fiddle for about 2 years. I knew immediately she had a good teacher. How?

Well, there were five of us. I had my octave mandolin. She was on fiddle.  There was a guitarist, a whistle player, and another fiddler. The Stag’s Head was LOUD! It was crowded. We had to all huddle together, and all I could hear was her, and all she could here was me.  And over the roar of the party going on around us we could hear a little of the guitarist beating out chords. She was not intimidated. Even when we got distracted and she got off a little bit… I kept playing as steady as possible… and she got right back on track.  She wasn’t the most fantastic fiddler I ever heard (yet). But she was ballsy, and she stayed to the tunes, and made it all the way through, even if not completely perfect.  And by God, it was a good time! (After, she specifically said, “My teacher says…’No matter what, keep going…don’t stop!'”)

I love seeing new players, getting in there and giving it their best!  I particularly like it if they stay on tempo, but the joy of the playing and trying is awesome.  I have a feeling this fiddler is going to be really fantastic someday soon.  Why?  Because she tries and she has confidence (and she knows how to stay in the time signature).

If you have a teacher that would not encourage that kind of trying, you need a new teacher, because they are going to drag you down.

Even though I spent the most time here discussing point #3, really focus on Tip #1 and Tip #2, because I know, it’s hard to find good teacher’s (unless of course you are at Celtic Week).  Give these a try and let me know how it works. Give yourself at least 8 weeks of really applying these ideas, and notice how much easier you learn new tunes and how much more fun it is!

PS- Sorry, to miss you at Celtic Week this year. Doing some traveling, and won’t be back in time.  But I do hope to see you in 2018!

New Tunes and Mandolin Tab! Loch Gamhna, The Crooked Road, Sonny Brogan’s

Merry Winter to All You Mandolin Enthusiasts:

Last night I made my way back to a special Irish Session Deep in the Woods of West Asheville, to learn some new tunes.

They are Sonny Brogan’s, The Crooked Road to Dublin and Taumgraney Castle.  I took some time today to tab them out.  Here are the .pdfs with sheet music and Mandolin Tablature.

The Crooked Road to Dublin

Taumgraney Castle

Sonny Brogan’s

Since its been a while since I’ve posted anything I thought I should share what I’ve been up to other than playing mandolin or my tenor banjo…

It’s a little like Irish Music, no?

 

Noonday Feast’s Irish Inspired Album – Waves and Tides

Hello all 8-string lovers:

2014 was a sparse year for blog posts, but for good reason.  We’ve been busy.  Our band Noonday Feast has been working weekends on its first album, while also playing gigs to fund the studio!  As of Winter Solstice 2014, it is complete and available.  We call it Waves and Tides.   Here are a few clips from the album.  See the video below.

Although, we are working on new material and will probably go back into the studio soon, to begin work on Noonday Feast II, I intend on posting more of my favorite mandolin tab Irish Tunes, I’ve been working on.  Keep your eyes open.

Enjoy the album.  You can buy it through this link.

Buy “Waves and Tides” by Noonday Feast

All of the tunes are original except for two.  We are far from traditionalists, but see tradition as a foundation for exploration.  You will easily be able to hear my love of Irish Music in these works, but you will also get a taste of folk, and at least one electric guitar solo.

This album is mandolin, octave mandolin, fiddle and bouzouki heavy.

Farewell to Whalley Range

I’ve recently been turned on to a great tune called Farewell to Whalley Range.

See the mandolin tablature and standard notation here:  Farewell to Whalley Range

See the video of the tune being played by its composer below…

We played it during the last session in Marshall this past Tuesday.

Note the photo from the session…Notice Tim…guitarist/bazouki player for the band Noonday Feast (see: http://www.noondayfeast.com).

Tuesday night session in Marshall, NC at Goodstuff.  With Tim Potts of Noonday Feast playing guitar.

Tuesday night session in Marshall, NC at Goodstuff. With Tim Potts of Noonday Feast playing guitar.

Here is a clip of Dónal Lunny & Michael McGoldrick to play along with.

Farewell to Erin & Teampall An Ghleanntain

A new session started up in Marshall, NC.  I think its on every Tuesday.  You might want to call Good Stuff in Marshall to find out.  That is where it’s hosted.

I heard two great tunes my last time out.  Here are the tabs.

Farewell to Erin Mandolin Tablature and Standard Notation.

and another

Teampall An Ghleanntain Mandolin Tablature and Standard Notation.

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Here is the Bothy Band playing Farewell to Erin

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and here is Elly Marshall, David Surette and Owen Marshall starting off a set with Teampall An Ghleanntain.


Jigs and Reels from our Show on Saturday

This past Saturday, I performed a few jigs and reels with the band Noonday Feast, here in Asheville.

The above video is of the tune Attfield’s Lament, which I posted a few months ago.  This tune picked up another name recently.  Farewell to Prince Rhaegar.

Below you will find a great couple of non traditional but well written tunes called, Waves and Tides and Crow Hill.

Plenty of mandolin/bazouki content here.  These are original compositions by Noonday Feast.