Friday, January 16, 2009


(Red Sky, Blue Mountains- Painting by Kevin Macneil Brown,
watercolor on paper, 2008)

Here are some notes and comments about the tracks on ACROSS BLUE MOUNTAINS- SONGS AND SOUNDWORKS 2006-2008:

National, Harvest
This piece began as an exploratory improvisation on a borrowed vintage National New Yorker steel guitar. I fell in love immediately with the rough growl of the middle range, and I kept going back for those notes, that sound.
National New Yorker, Fender Blues Junior; mic-ed with a Radio Shack dynamic mic hung over the grille.

Never Run Dry
A simple song for voice and acoustic guitar. Dedicated with love to anybody who is hurting deep inside.
Vocal, Epiphone guitar; mic-ed with MXL-V63M

Eagle Dreams of Open Water
I imagined this piece as a gamelan composition for acoustic steel guitars in layers; but a gamelan sped up: like a bird's metabolism maybe, or spring run-off from mountains.
Epiphone guitar, Silvertone lap steel (John Goss modified); mic-ed with Studio Projects C3. (Thank you, Glenn Howland.)

The Women at Three Mile Bridge Road
My mystery novel HIGHWAY IN THE BLOOD tells the story of a steel player named Buck Hawkins who leaves behind some trouble in Texas only to find more trouble back home in Vermont. In the book, he composes a Dobro tune dedicated to some people and a place at the heart of the story. I thought it would be fun to actually write and record the piece in character as Buck.
1977 Dobro, 1974 Estrada guitar; mic-ed with Studio Projects C3.

Texas Double Eagle Railroad Blues
A strange little rockabilly blues with a touch of Zen, this came to me one fall day as maple leaves fell. In recording and mixing this version, I tried to keep to a 1950s small-studio /southern AM radio /late night vibe: lots of echo and a hot, sticky mix. (You can hear the full band version on the CD RUSTY ROMANCE- ROOTS N" ROLL.)
Vocal, 1974 Estrada , 1990s Mexican Telecaster, Fender Blues Junior; mic-ed with MXL V63M, Radio Shack dynamic.

Red Sky Prayer Across Blue Mountains
I made this piece on a cold, stark, and beautiful November afternoon. It’s made from the collage and reassembly of some pieces from alternate versions of previous compositions— Including “National, Harvest” and “November Path –for Dennis Darrah”.
National New Yorker, Silvertone lap steel, Lexicon jam man; processed with Acid software.

Colors of Dusk, Colors of Dawn- for Thomas Merton
Reading Thomas Merton’s words in the silent mornings and evenings has often been an inspiration to me, as has the experience of changing light and color in the unfolding dawn and dusk.
I spent most of the late winter and early spring of 2008 on this piece. It was my intent to express in sound those liminal colors, moods, and textures. The process began with a long, direct-recorded improvisation on steel guitar (I remember it as being my Melobar SL-6, but my tracking notes say it was the Silvertone.)
The extensive reshaping and sound painting was done in Acid and Cool Edit Pro.