|Expanded CD Notes|
Gator Clubbin' Society
CD Liner Notes (Expanded Version)
Thanks again for buying this CD, and in a more important sense giving me a chance to earn your enterainment dollar. There are a gozillion choices out there and I'm honored that you'd pick my CD over all the others.
This project represents a couple of huge steps for me:
What I wanted this project to be...
In some senses, I'm a traditionalist. I enjoy the historic aspects of the instruments I play and love to hear old, familiar songs done in many different ways. So, I was very dilberate about having some strickly traditional songs on Gator Clubbin' Society. In addition, it was important to me to have some original songs. As it turned out, three of the four original songs are tunes that express my angst these days. Gator Clubbin', Uh Oh! and Happy Place all deal with a feeling that I very often have to teetering between two extremes.
One side is Bruce the victorious do-everything guy who is the go-to fellow for everything and everyone.
The other is Bruce, who is so overwhelmed at times that I fight the urge to throw up my hands and quit. In my case, I rarely succome to this temptation, but I sure hear it calling me!
We live in a society that encourages busyness to our detriment. Being a small business owner doesn't help. I am a business of one, so if anything gets done, it's me that does it. Something about knowing where the buck stops can be disconcerting at times, liberating at others.
So, I wanted this project to be an outlet for these feelings.
Lastly, I wanted the project to be fun for YOU to listen to. I've been listening to CD for years trying to assess what makes some "sound" fun and others not-so fun. My ideas about fun are embeded in this CD.
I wanted this project to be an example of the verstility and power of dulcimers. I play more mountain dulcimer than hammered dulcimer. I'm not sure how it worked out that way, but that's the reality. I love them both equally. So it was important to showcase these wonderful instruments.
We recorded this CD with that in mind. While, I'd brought my guitar, mandolin and every other instrument I own to the recording studio, when the week of recording was done, the guitars and mandolins had never left their cases. This wasn't intentional. Simply put, we accomplished everything we wanted to do musically with dulcimers, percussion and some bass (though we got some very nice bass licks using a bass dulcimer). I prefer a full sound, and it was actually quite easy to get that rich full sound I was after using dulcimers. Simply put, this project caused me to be an even stronger dulcumer advocate.
What I Did NOT Want This Project to Be
Before I address individual tracks, let me talk a little about the recording of this project.
I elected to record with Dan Landrum at his studio in Signal Mountain, TN. It was definitely the right choice. Dan is an energetic innovator. Soon after he bought Dulcimer Player News, I reached out to him. Within a moment or two of conversation, it was clear he thinks from an abundance mentality. I own and operate EverythingDulcimer.com, the largest dulcimer website on the Internet, and Dan and I immediately began to come up with ideas for EverythingDulcimer.com and Dulcimer Players News to work together to the benefit of the larger dulcimer community. You know, it just works better when we work together. DPN and EverythingDulcimer.com hosted the Chattanooga Dulcimer Festival in June of '08 which was a huge success. It also gave me a chance to get to know Dan better.
Dan turned out to be just as I expected...someone who would bring ideas and energy to the project. When percussion made sense, he knew just what to try. As an engineer, Dan was relentless in getting the sound as perfect as possible. In short, Dan was tireless in his pursuit of excellence. It's easy to recommend that anyone considering a CD project give Dan a call.
For studio back-up, I was fortunate to score Steve Seifert. It was a fortuitous turn of events that he was available. Steve make improv look easy, and his ability to find just the right phrase or chord to fit the mood of a song is legend. Watching Steve work not only makes me jealous, but inspires me to work harder and continue to improve my skills. Steve, like Dan, brought his "A" game to the studio and I appreciate it.
Let's talk about individual tracks.
Club the Gator - This song originated from an article that I wrote to my EverythingDulcimer.com newsletter list (about 5000 folks). In the June '08 newsletter, I opined about an old saying that I used to hear. It went like this:
Someone might ask, "Hi Bruce, how's it going?"
And I would answer, "I'm just clubbin' the gator closest to the canoe", meaning, I'm dealing with issues as they happen. The newsletter article talked about fitting in practice time depite our busy lives.
I recieved tons of return email from folks who enjoyed and could identify with the humorous analogy of "clubbing the gator closest to the canoe." It almost demanded to have a song written about it. This track also gave me the album title. In a very real sense, we are all members of a universal "Gator Clubbin Society." After all, we have our gators to club. It might be bosses to satisfy, clients to please, or a honey-do list that just won't quit! But, we all have them. So, stand up, grab an oar and start swinging!
Uh Oh! - This is an example of a song that was easy to write, but harder to record. It's about those days when it just feels like the hits are going to keep on coming. But, at the same time there is hope!The first half of the song has a tense feel to it that resolves to offer a hopeful feel late in the song.
My voice is well...mellow, I'm told, so Dan had to encourage me to put an edge to my voice for the early portion of the song. To me it was almost like yelling, but it worked and we got the sound we were after.
Happy Place - This was a surprise track of the bunch for me. Early in the process of this song, Steve suggested that we pick up the tempo. Dan brought in some great percussion and voila! the fun sound I was after was there. With the new feel, it was a cinch to sing and it's probably my favorite song on the project.
Can't Give Up On You - I'm a sucker for heartfelt ballads. In addition, I enjoy the dancable feel of waltzes. It made sense to blend the two ideas. The phrase of the song where the lyrics are "Will you stay with me, Honey?" was with me for weeks before I wrote the song. It demanded to be written. The couple that stars in the song is fictional, but could be a couple we all know. To me, there is no greater demonstration of human love, nothing more romantic than life-long mates. That wonderful idea is what this song captures. I hope to be married to my wife, Jennifer for the rest of my life and there will never be enough time to spend with her, but I want us to share every possible day we can together. Then, our time together will end.
Leaving on a Jet Plane - Speaking of my wife, I recorded this song for her. I've been singing and playing it for about a year and she's liked it from the beginning. For us, our "jet plane" was an aircraft carrier. I spent only 49 days of my 20th and final year in the Navy at home. So, the last verse of the song where it says "Just dream about the days to come, when I won't have to leave you alone..." is about us. Since retiring from the Navy in 2005, I haven't had many days away from home, and it's been wonderful!
Wonderful World - What a great song. In this season of division in this country, I thought it was important to realize how good things really can be if we just acknowledge and embrace what we have, and the people around us.
After Steve put down the great dulcimer lead part, I was fairly nervous about the vocals. With such a quality lead dulcimer track, the vocals just had to be right. It all worked out okay, but it started out a little rough. Initially, my concern about messing it up was coming through as vocal tension. Eventually, I settled down and relaxed and stopped trying so hard...then it just happened. Turns out, it might be the better vocal track on the CD.
A Boat Like Gideon Brown - A Canadian group called Great Big Sea performed this tune and I fell in love with it the first time I heard it. I didn't really consider singing it until later. While I do it much differently than Great Big Sea, it worked out great. It's an uplifting tune about a father's love for his son, wanting his son to have what he couldn't. Steve put down a great whistle track for this song.
Mes Parents/Boatman - This is a duet peice with Steve and myself. I have been playing these songs as a linked set for awhile because I love the way they go together. Specifically, I like the jumpy rhythm of these songs. Steve and I worked on the order, and exchanged ideas for an hour or so, then recorded. What a fun set of tunes!
Possum Up a Gum Stump - At my gigs, I'm fond of setting up this song with "Here is a classical piece called..." That always gets a chuckle. My home dulcimer club (River City Dulcimers and Friends of Jacksonville, FL) thought this song was way too hard when I introduced it. But, the tune is so infectious and fun that it's a club favorite. A jam doesn't go by that someone doesn't call "Possum!". It was too much fun to leave off this project.
Willie Has Gone To The War - This is a little known Stephen Foster tune that is beautiful fingerpicked. It's not a happy song to me, just as it's not happy when any young person goes into harm's way. Dan had the idea of adding a snare drum to give it that military reality sound. It worked to blend the adventerous excitement that comes with facing the ultimate adventure, then the true reality of war.
Flow Gently, Sweet Afton - I've been enjoying this lovely waltz for years. I first heard it from a Rosamond Campbell CD. It's one of those waltzes that just has a lot of heart, and I'm a sucker for a great waltz. I picture a roomful of folks dressed in colonial Sunday best dancing as I'm playing.
Johnny Sands - This song is a live favorite. This is because it's tailor made for hamming it up and it always gets laughs. There is something heavenly hilarious about this devilish song. It was written in 1842 by John Sinclair. It offers a rare window into what was funny in 1842. What's funny in this song is a terrible husband-wife relationship and its...resolution.
What you probably don't know is that about 12 years after this song, John Sinclair published a sequel to this one called Betty Sands and in it, you find out that it all works out for the Sands'. The last line of the sequel says "this was the cold water cure of John and Betty Sands." Maybe Betty Sand will find its way to another CD.
So what's next...
This process of recording has energized me toward improving, performing, and hopefully entertaining enough folks to put out another CD. I think it will happen. I've always wanted to do a CD of gospel songs. I'll keep writing songs, of course. I can hardly wait to undertake these projects. Stay tuned.
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this project and I thank you for purchasing it. That small act allows me and others to continue what we do. It's a lot like a vote, and I'm thrilled and humbled to have earned yours.
So, I'll keep you posted. The best way to keep up with me is to subscribe to the EverythingDulcimer.com newsletter. Click here to sign up.
Keep clubbin' those gators!
Copyright © 2008 - Bruce W. Ford