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September 23, 2022
Hey everyone - I'm gonna go ahead and release "Don't Tread On Me" (feat. Troy Millette) now (see the Live/Watch page), the VPR Safe and Sound premier tomorrow had to be pushed back. I hope you give it a listen. I present it as my recollection of January 6th, 2021. If you really like it, consider purchasing it on one of those platforms - Apple/etc. or stream away on Spotify/YouTube and elsewhere to your heart's content. Give it a share if you are so moved. Spread the word.
As you likely remember, we were still pretty much isolating from one another back when this happened. I wrote the tune only a few days after the Insurrection almost entirely on a long and frigid walk. My own footfalls inspired the Alan Lomax source recording of the prison chain gang that accompanies throughout. I remember my fingers getting numb as I dictated verse after verse into my voice memo app on that walk. By the end of that Friday evening, January 15th 2022, I had the entire song written. I then recorded the fretless banjo part and all of the vocals the next morning. My regular bandmates Cliff Crosby, acoustic guitar, Justin Bedell, fretless electric bass, and Rusty Charpentier, violin all remotely added their parts over the next several weeks. Former student and good friend Ted Crosby added several layers of tenor saxophone and bass clarinet to the mix from his home in Toronto. I toyed around it with for a while in my home studio but was never really happy with either my mix or my lead vocals. I final ended up sending it to André Maquera at West Street Digital for his take on the mix. It came back only a few hours later with a much better sound and a cool dobro part. In a moment of inspiration I wondered what he'd do on the guitar over the final section. I suggested some "screaming, siren, Hendrix-ala Van Halen thing" and it came back about an hour later with the solo it still has.
Troy Millette's day gig has him here at BFA from time to time and it was in the hallway that I asked for his take on the lead vocals. He recorded his part after school one day in my office and even though it immediately clicked neither of us was sure we really wanted to release the track. Like so many people, I was hoping we could just move on as a country and that everything that led up to this event would soon dissipate; that we could finally heal with time and distance. After the many hearings this Summer and all of the rhetoric since we finally both agreed that now was the time to put this out.
I'm not trying to be provocative by releasing this but rather put it out there as an actual account of what happened that day. I saw the speech that led up to the charge, I saw the gallows that had been erected, I saw a flag that once beckoned fledgling young colonists to band together in unity and defend their basic human rights smashing windows and being used as a weapon that day. The irony in that simply couldn't slip my attention and, like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie before me (if I might be so bold as to make that comparison), sometimes it is a guy with a banjo or a guitar that can actually make a difference by simply writing and singing a song.
I have been really busy writing for the Stragglers recently. Since the first of the year I have composed 13 new tunes for a show we will start rehearsing shortly. This is unlike anything any of us have done before and really unlike anything I've seen anyone ever do. Stay tuned for news on that project!
My latest music video is on the Live/Watch page - I set "Walnut Hollow" from my album to videos and stills I took of the snow rollers I found on my walk on March 16th. I'm not sure if they were formed by falling snow, leaves, acorns (there are loads of oaks up there) or just what but they are one of nature's little miracles of beauty. Here today, gone tomorrow. If you watch long enough you'll even see one being created. Enjoy!
The Stragglers are featured in this year's "Virtual Holiday Spectacular" from the Enosburgh Opera House. You'll hear the tail end of my original tune "Tell Me Why Now" (stay tuned for the release of that single) going into an arrangement that I put together of "Wayfaring Stranger." That tune gives Preston a chance to showcase the really cool vibe of his vintage Harmony archtop electric. It also features Rusty Charpentier with his always-tasty fiddle chops. It is the premier of Justin Bedell's newest bass acquisition as well - check out the lovely tone and vibe of that new Gold Tone "Micro Bass!" I can't wait to hear much more of that from him in the future. I fall more in love with my fretless Hartel "Levi Brown" every time I play it, you'll hear it thumping out the rhythm on that track.
Many other musical friends are featured as well - Enjoy!