I am a part-time, stay-at-home dad of three young children (ages two to six) and a part-time math professor at a local college. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a collection of mostly used but playable instruments (mandolin, accordions, lap dulcimer, djembe, etc.) and, thanks to modern advances in technology, have put together a simple, PC-based recording studio in my home.
In the mid-nineties, I became interested in Irish traditional music and so began making 6-holed “penny whistles” out of CPVC plumbing pipe in my basement. After two years of off-and-on recording, my first CD of some of my favorite songs (by Rich Mullins, Derek Webb, and others) and a few originals is nearing completion. My other musical outlets consist of playing keys and guitar and singing in church and playing whistle and bodhran at a monthly local Irish traditional music session.
In tenth grade, a friend let me borrow the newly released cassette of Bruce’s “The Way It Is”. It took me a while, but I finally gave it back to him and got my own. “The River Runs Low” remains one of my favorites to this day.
I bought “Scenes from the Southside” the week it was released on vinyl. I saw Bruce for the first time at the Palace Theater in 1990 (Cowboy Junkies opened). In 1993/1994 I started and manually maintained a Bruce fan email mailing list when I noticed that there were no Bruce newsgroups on the fledgling internet. Mike Witt kindly absorbed that list into what I think was the first Bruce fan Usenet newsgroup in September 1994. Why all this Bruce: great piano, singing and songwriting, story songs that transport you.
“Pastures of Plenty” has always captured my imagination with its Irish-sounding intro, evocative poetic imagery, Bruce & Jerry’s incredibly melodic solos and the way the song captures that universal human longing for something that will bring joy, peace and wholeness. The intro is practically a jig, and given my recent interest in The Pogues, I decided to approach the song as if Shane and the boys were doing it. I added a couple of phrases to Bruce’s jig to make it conform a bit more to typical jig form and so it wouldn’t all fly by too fast. I wrote an extra “bridge” to stretch things out to a respectable song length.
I attempted to remain true to a traditional Irish/Folk sound, so I avoided piano, drum kits, electric guitar and electric bass, and finally I even scrapped my acoustic guitar track in favor of the lap dulcimer track. I played a $100 Michael Vignoles starter bodhran (which is a nice little starter Irish drum), a penny whistle (key of D) made by yours truly from half inch CPVC pipe, a couple of “sticks” made from three-quarter inch CPVC pipe that I clicked together for the jig, a carefully repaired J. R. Stone lap dulcimer made in May 1971 ($35 at an Akron flea market), a 48-bass button Morelli piano accordion (eBay $250 new, can’t beat it for the price), Remo 14 inch djembe (~$200), “chicken shake” handled egg shaker (~$1.50), home-made barely tunable hammered dulcimer, and a Korg X3 synth for acoustic bass and kick drum sounds. I hope you enjoy this low-budget production.