I just got in the mail my copies of "Folk Songs Across Illinois #5". I recorded on this album back in June. Bucky Halker, a music historian who helps run Company of Folk, contacted me in May to ask if I'd want to be a part of this project and it sounded fun. In 2013 I was awarded a Master/Apprentice grant through the Illinois Arts Council, which is what put me in the loop of the Company of Folk. This is the 5th edition of a series that have documented scores of Illinois folk musicians. My understanding is that the music will be available for sale, but the main distribution is with museums, historical societies, libraries, and that sort of thing.
I've really enjoyed listening to the CD. The musicians are all Chicago area musicians who play cultural folk music, and anyone who's been to this area knows how incredibly diverse the cultures of Chicago are. This particular album contains hammered dulcimer, santoor, and cimbalom, as well as a whole bunch of other ethnic instruments from various cultures. For the most part, it sounds like a bunch of world music...the cool part is that they are all Chicago folks. I think my track is one of the most "American" sounding tunes on the whole disc.
I recorded this track in Morton Grove at Steve Yates' Studio. Bucky recorded a guitar track and Al Ehrich played Bass. I was asked to play something folksy, and I'd worked on this medley a bit during my studio-recording study at Waubonsee.
The pieces are a personal favorite, Tomahawk, which I learned from Paul Van Arsdale in 2008, and Cherokee Shuffle, a traditional tune often played on the dulcimer.
For the heck of it, I'm posting two tracks. One is the actual recording, the other was recorded at an earlier date in the recording studio at Waubonsee. I think it's interesting to compare the two sounds.
The recording on the left is track on the CD for Company of Folk, which was recorded in in early June. The guys were used to playing Cherokee Shuffle with an extra B minor in the B part, so that's how we did it. It really messed me up at the time, but I think it sounds kinda cool now. I recorded it on my Dusty Strings D650 with solid wood hammers covered with several layers of masking tape. There was one omni-directional mic positioned above the dulcimer, towards the top. I'm slightly annoyed with a few notes, but this was only our second take and since I'm prone to making mistakes when the pressure's on, we decided to quit a winner. This track was recorded live by the three of us in one take.
The recording on the right is the one I recorded in the studio at the college. My friend Skip Sittig played guitar and bass for me and this is what we based the final recording on. It was recorded in early May on my Bill Robinson dulcimer. This instrument has a floating soundboard and is tuned very differently on the bass bridge. It also has three strings per course, whereas the D650 has 2 strings per course. I used "floppy" hammers made from corset stays, which is how Bill taught me to play. It's always interesting to me...no matter how much I play my newer instruments, I just feel so much more relaxed with my weird "Robinson" tuning and floppy hammers. I used two pencil condenser mics placed near the lower right and upper left regions of the dulcimer. There aren't any overdubs, but I recorded the dulcimer part first with a click-track. Then I recorded Skip on upright bass, and finished by recording him on guitar.
While I have permission to do whatever I want with my cut, the CD isn't yet available to the public. Check out Company of Folk's website to see more about what they do, and for updates on when the entire CD will be available.