August 10, 2014 by Nils
In my self-imposed exile in Ithaca, Antarctica (as my good friend John Batte of Old Folk, New Folk, and the Mountain Muse would say), I recently decided to play around with multi-track recording on one of my favorite “new” fiddle tunes–John Arcand’s Metis-style tune, “Grey Owl.” I was first exposed to “Grey Owl” on Bruce Molsky’s fantastic album, “Contented Must Be” (and unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t seem to include a video of him playing it!), where he paired it with “Victor’s No. 39.” The tune had always sort of rattled around in my head, and it was one of my more favorite tracks of Bruce’s to play on my radio program. The second time it came to my ears was on Darol Anger’s latest offering, “E-and-‘a,” and it was at this point that I really forced myself to learn the tune, and discover its originator, the Canadian fiddler John Arcand. There aren’t many recorded versions out there as far as I can tell–YouTube offerings are slim, but the ones that are there are quite good. Here are three, and all take the tune in different ways:
So here you have my rendition, done in four hours while waiting for the air conditioner installation guy to come put in my window unit (could have done it myself, but since I rent from the university, it has to be done by one of the facilities’ guys). I wrote out the arrangement myself (there aren’t any out there to my knowledge if you’re not good at learning by ear) using MuseScore (which is a dang handy and user-friendly music notation software), and recorded it using a Samson Q1U dynamic USB mic and Audacity, with parts on fiddle, mandolin, and tenor banjo. Had I used my digital recorder (Zoom H4), the audio quality might have been better, but I think the high gain coming from my soundcard and the ambient background noise give this one a sort of old-timey ring. I need to keep messing around with it, perhaps with better recording (and a click-track to keep myself in time!), but nonetheless, it was a fun exercise with a great fiddle tune.
If you’re interested in a copy of my arrangement, feel free to contact me here by leaving a comment or sending me a message!