Tuesday, February 28, 2012

studio Twang: Currituck Sound -- electric guitar and mountain dulcimer

This mesmerizing groove began life as an instrumental bit for electric guitar that Joel invented. We often use it live as a lead in for another piece called "Escape" (from the Devil's Stomping Ground album), which you'll actually hear a bit of at the end of this track as a kind of nod to that other tune.

The dulcimer here is tuned GCC; though it would normally be used for C-mixolydian, I'm operating is some mishmash of D-aeolian/G-dorian here (all three of these modes use the same notes, albeit from different roots). It's a lot of fun to use a dulcimer as a kind of lead improvisational instrument in this way, especially against the fascinating rhythms that Troy is laying down on the drums.

We often joke that this song and its live partner, "Escape," are our pirate-rock tunes. This one, especially, feels like waves lapping against the side of a boat. Given that pirates used the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a kind of haven, the title fits both the feel and the history of the tune.

This one is on our cd The Sound of Secret Names.

Friday, February 24, 2012

studio Twang: Her Secret Name -- flute rock!

Choose between alternative versions:

Listening to this original piece from our cd The Sound of Secret Names, you might think that I've listened to a lot of Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull, and, if so, you'd be hitting the nail on the head. Though most people know one or two Tull pieces from classic rock format radio, their catalog is huge, varied, and, most importantly, ongoing. Ian Anderson ("Jethro Tull" is just the name of his band, folks), in particular, has been a huge influence on my musical aspirations, in terms of seeking to cross both instruments and genre.

I wrote this one specifically to play live with Twang Darkly, but it has evolved in a way that makes it rather difficult for a trio to play live. In particular, the bass and the multiple guitars add so much to the sonic palette of this one that I'm not sure I'll ever be satisfied doing it live with just guitar, flute, and drums — it always sounds thin compared to how I want to hear it -- rich, as in this new studio version. So, for the moment, this one may likely stay in the "catalog" without seeing a lot of gig action.

But I routinely change my mind about such things, so who knows?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

studio Twang -- The Spirit Defenders of Nikwasi

This song is from our cd The Sound of Secret Names.

So ever since I used it in a solo show back in December, I've been keen to use my High Spirits Native American double flute in a proper recording. Finally, as Troy added some percussive touches to some work that Joel and I did some time ago, I heard my opportunity knocking.


Yeah. Nikwasi! My brain is always hearing and seeing North Carolina connections, so the native flute in this song juxtaposed against the mountain dulcimer suggests Cherokee for a true Appalachian fusion. It so happens I've recently been reading the 19th century ethnography Myths of the Cherokee, and the striking story of how the immortal Nunnehi emerged from Nikwasi Mound to defend the Cherokee from marauders clicked in my mind as soon as we'd finished recording this.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

studio Twang: Broken Moon

Oddly, the title to this piece is taken from an image in the opening sequence of... wait for it... Thundarr the Barbarian! You see, back in 2008, I was primarily recording material pretty late at night on the weekends, usually after sipping some beer and watching some pointless TV. It so happened that on the night that I first recorded the dulcimer part for this song, I'd come across Thundarr on cable. It was a post-apocalyptic cartoon I watched as a kid, so it caught my attention.

that moon is definitely broken

The background plates on this show kick ass! The foreground action... well, yes, for the demon dogs, I guess.

Anyway, Thundarr's got jack to do with this song, but it is called "Broken Moon" nonetheless.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

studio Twang: The Beautiful Years Roll

This one came together kind of accidentally, but we ended up being glad that I happened to have hit the record button. A very simple piece, but this kind of groove is a great conduit for feeling. This is the closing track on our cd The Sound of Secret Names.

The dulcimer is tuned DGD.

See also: an acoustic performance of this song, live on the radio