Monday, January 30, 2012

studio Twang: Perry's Theme

We do many styles of music, but this piece quite typifies our "Appalachian rock" mode (no pun intended).

This tune actually dates back to around 1991 -- around the same time as I saw Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King. Though this tune isn't especially like the music in that movie, nor was it intended to be, the stirring sense of longing evoked by the movement of these chords reminded me of Parry's quest in the film.

I never realized until writing this entry, however, that the character was known as "Parry" and not "Perry." It's rather more clever, the "Parry" spelling, I suppose, since the character fends off many difficulties, including, primarily, his past. But, whatever: I'm going to stick with the "e" spelling for the song title. Who knows? You might have a different Perry in mind when you hear this.

This is the opening track on our 2012 cd The Sound of Secret Names.

Some Notes for the Dulcimer Enthusiasts

The dulcimer is tuned GDD. Like DAA, essentially, but with lighter gauge strings tuned higher.

Musically, this is an interesting mishmash of supposedly different dulcimer approaches. I'm playing "guitar-like" chords through verses and the bridge of the song. This approach is sometimes considered a "non-traditional" use of the instrument. On the other hand, the repeated intro motif, the chorus, and the outro solo are all essentially modal parts played against a G drone. For the intro motif, this amounts to a G-Ionian as you might expect, but in the chorus and extended jam, I'm playing against chords moving in Em (the tonality is centered by the other instruments -- and by the progression of the the entire song -- not the dulcimer). In these latter cases, then, the G drone is playing minor third to the E root and is reinforcing the minor modality -- essentially, it's in E Aeolian. A subtle distinction to be sure, since they both involve the exact same notes, but there it is.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

studio Twang: Desert Red

"Desert Red" has a cinematic vibe, so I've "enhanced" the new Twang Darkly version with some fun footage from Hercules Unchained. A favorite target of MST3K, Hercules Unchained is a classic sword and sandal Italian enterprise in which Hercules drinks the Waters of Forgetfulness and becomes Queen Omphale's love toy. And hangs with Oedipus. And has battles and stuff. Just like in our song. Crazy!

Anyway, be sure to check out the original solo version for some nice footage I shot in Red Rock Canyon outside of Vegas. The live version I've attached features the oil can guitar.

You can get this track as part of our 2012 cd The Sound of Secret Names.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

studio Twang: One for Seven

Watch alternative versions:

One for Seven, from our 2012 album The Sound of Secret Names, is a mainstay of our live show and a piece we all enjoy playing. This studio version is a bit more on the crunchy rocker side than our usual more twangy live rendition. It's all about which pedals I stomp. Apparently I was feeling distorted at this recording session (back on January 1, 2012).

This instrumental has its origins in a vocal piece I used to do called "Seventh Day Blues." I like the instrumental version better. The present title is a bit of an inside joke between my wife and I.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

studio Twang: From Flatlands Starlings Rise

So, I really like waltzes. I particularly like this one, which is remarkably pretty for a Twang Darkly song. It's featured on our 2012 cd The Sound of Secret Names.

I wrote this simple tune on a Saturday evening, played it once for the Joel and Troy at our Sunday session, and then we pressed record on the next run-through. This is actually the first take.

My original title for it was "117 South," which references a highway that runs from Warsaw down to Wilmington, NC. Quite independently, Michelle suggested that the tune evoked images of "Flatlands." Thinking over those two, I started remembering the huge flocks of starlings you'd see wheeling the sky as we drove through those eastern NC flatlands.

The guitar is tuned open-G (the "taro patch" slack-key tuning), for those of you who care about such things.


Both the guitar and the banjo are recorded through a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI, which is a new addition to my kit. I'm pretty pleased with it as it opens up acoustic sounds for us without the complications of more microphones in our live sound.

For these sessions at least, we're doing our first layers live, and following on with overdubs, but doing nearly all of it through studio monitors as opposed to headphones. Seems to be working well so far, and it's a more natural way to play and record.