Huey Lewis with a gun.

I have been rehearsing a bit with a band. That’s right…a band.

I haven’t played in such a setting since back when I couldn’t grow much of any facial hair, so that gives you some idea of how long it’s been. The difference this time is that I do have some facial hair, and more importantly I’m not the front person. Tara Watts is. Hooray! Me not be in spotlight!

It’s fun playing with her, and her brother Brendan (on bass), and Chad Howson (he of ASK fame, on drums). It just feels comfortable, all of us together. They’re great people, so it would be fun hanging out even if we didn’t connect musically, but I think we play well off of one another. Anytime you can break into a bit of “Miss You” by the Stones completely randomly between songs just for fun, I think that’s a good sign.

It’s a bit of a switch for me, being the “lead” player and actually playing solos and fiddly bits when most of the time I prefer to kind of fade into the background like a colourful character actor with a stylish hat. But I think I can hack it. Or hock it. Whichever comes first.

Tara’s big CD release show is coming up on Thursday at The Room. Details are on the poster up there. Should be fun. I’m kind of all over that album, playing either keys or six-string banjo on nine of its eleven songs, and singing a bit of third part harmony on one of them.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy macaroni!” And it is right to give the Cosmic Noodle Stuff thanks and praise.

But what I really mean to say is thanks to Tara for letting me be a part of her album. I enjoyed playing on it. A few of my piano parts are pretty low in the mix, and one of them was manipulated after the fact to sound something like a harpsichord (not my choice), but I assure you I’m there, swaying in the breeze like an affluent tree. I think I’m pretty happy with most of what I played, even if some of my ideas are a bit more refined now that I’m rehearsing the songs and not just winging it blindly without having heard half of them before, which was basically what happened at the recording stage. Who knew I could do the session musician thing and wing it and not have the whole thing end in tears? My favourite contribution to the album might be the banjo part I came up with for “Camels in Canada”.

Also, tenor banjos are neat little things. Especially this one.

banjo2

That’s a 1922 Gibson TB. It must have found the banjo equivalent of the fountain of youth, because it doesn’t look even close to eighty-seven.

I wasn’t in any hurry to get any sort of “proper” banjo. I think the six-string does a good job of covering most of my banjo bases, even if I should take it in for a setup one of these days to fix the occasionally dodgy intonation. But Guelph is a dangerous place. Whenever I pick up an instrument and immediately start playing things I’ve never played before, I know there’s something worth pursuing there. An instrument that inspires you within seconds to start forming new song ideas is something special. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also maybe the most comfortable banjo neck I’ve ever played. I’m sure it’ll work its way onto the next album that’s still in-progress.

Old stringed instruments in general are inspiring things. Take this one, for example.

archtop

It’s a very cheap old archtop with copper back and sides. And yet it’s got a funky voice to it that no other guitar I’ve found — certainly not any new guitar — can come close to matching. Any guitar that will tolerate weird-ass tunings and still intonate properly is a friend of mine. It also sounds pretty cool with a slide, as “Centipede Marriage Proposal” on AN ABSENCE OF SWAY will attest to. Pity I didn’t take a better picture of it, but what can you do in these troubled times?

4 comments

  1. that is a stylin-lookin’ banjo, especially considering its age! i find it kind of funny that your banjo came out before the first vibraphone was even made. (because everything must lead back to vibraphones.)

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