Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lil Rev's 2016 CD release: Claw & Hammer Liner Notes

Notes On The Making of My New Claw & Hammer CD

The Idea:
In the early winter months of 2016, after an nearly unbearable 2015, i decided i'd focus my 
mind on something positive whilst my daughter and i whiled away the cold, 
dark winter months that proceded Carol's passing. 

To that end, i determined that a new recording project might be 
just the ticket! 

Having endured a treacherous year of illness, depression, and 
near death myself (stung by a black wasp and went into Anaphylaxis shock), 
i needed this project to be light, fun and easy.  

Given this, I pulled out a list of tunes i'd been compiling over the last couple of years; 
mostly early country, folk and pre-bluegrass type stuff that i aimed to record 
with a claw-hammer bent to them. 

About My Claw-Hammer Roots: 

My love of banjo playing was mostly inspired by backing up my longtime
music pal John Nicholson of Frogwater. John is an incredible player and
over the years i grew to love old time banjo mostly thru backing him up.

I was asked to teach a folk instruments class for educators and music majors
at The University of WI-Milwaukee many years ago and it was during this time
that i taught myself the claw-hammer banjo.

The late Gail Heil of Spring Grove, MN was also a huge help along the way, when
one summer day she took the time to teach me the actual claw-hammer stroke.

I practiced it for about 4 weeks before i really started getting comfortable with it.

Over the years i came to love banjo music and listened intently to: Doc Boggs, Stephen Wade,
Hobart Smith, Uncle Dave, Grandpa Jones, Riley Baugus, Walt Kokenen, Steve Rosen,
Jim Eyman, Cathy Fink, Howard Bursen, Peter Thornquist, Ken Perlman, Clarence Ashley,
and 100's of others, all of whom informed and inspired me.

As the years wore on, i discovered that i enjoyed playing the claw-hammer stroke alot more on the ukulele than i did on the actual banjo and a repertoire of tunes began to take shape.

About The Album: 

I recorded the record in Milwaukee, WI at Surround in Sound Studios under the steady hand of Jonathan Leubner (where i've done many a project).

The Musicians i included are some of the best around!

Session #1 was a solo session. I recorded:
Old No. 7 and original instrumental piece
Epiphany in Gm another solo instrumental piece also...
Ragged But Right, Skillet Good N Greasy,

Session #2: Was an incredible experience, once again i leaned hard on
a few of my favorite harmony singers: Jim Eannelli, Robin Pluer, John & Mike Sieger
and Peter Roller (to overdub) a handful of tunes including: No Mo' Cane On The Brazos,
Gonna See The King, Green Grows The Laurel and

Session #3:
Bob Bovee and Lynn Chirps Smith came in for a session of old time fiddle tunes
and these two guys have both been my hero's for years. They know old time music
and together we recorded: Cotton Eyed Joe, Possum On A Rail, Dandy Lusk and
Spider Bit The Baby with Bob on guitar and mouth harp and Chirps on Fiddle.
I was going for an old time string-band sound and decided for my part to employ
the banjo-ukulele which was rhythmically the driving force behind many great string
bands in the 20's and 30's including The Fiddling Powers Family, Al Hopkin's Buckle
Busters and Da Costa Wolz's Southern Broadcasters.

The Last Session (#4) included local guitar hero Jason Klagstad whose 6 string ukulele work
brought new life to the old Hank Garland tune: Sugar Foot Rag.

John Nicholson played rhythm ukulele on this session (as well the Angeline The Baker Duet) and Guy Fiorentini added upright bass on a bevy of tunes from Sugar Foot Rag and Snow Drop to Walking Boss.

Also in the mix was my dear old pals Will Branch (Guitar) and Dave Fox (Fiddle) who came in to record Liza Jane an old fiddle tune i'd learned from Dave and Jim Eyman's playing on an old cassette tape.

About The Tunes: 

Cotton Eyed Joe- I learned this from Kenny Hall. I play a gold-tone banjo ukulele on this.
Epiphany in Gm- I wrote this in Tampa, FL in 2014.
Gonna See The King- Learned this from an old Washington Phillips Record.
Keep My Skillet Good N Greasy-An Uncle Dave Macon Tune.
Old No. 7- I wrote this after a Krav Maga Class. No. 7 is one of 7 defensive elbow strikes.
Possum On A Rail-I was turned onto this tune by John Nicholson, whom i credit with inspiring me
to learn many great fiddle tunes.
Morning Blues- Another Uncle Dave Macon Tune
Old Joe Clark-A Stringband there anyone who hasn't heard this tune?
Don't Say Goodbye: Blue Sky Boys Tune i have always loved.
Angeline The Baker: Stephen Foster Classic piece
Walking Boss- Clarence Ashley was my source
Spider Bit The Baby-Dave Para and Cathy Barton were my source for this Kenny Baker Tune
Portland County Jail- Art Thieme was my source for this Carl Sandburg American Songbag Tune
Green Grows The Laurel-Don Edwards was my source for this beautiful old broken hearted love song
Snow Drop-Sam and Kirk McGhee was the roots, Ken Middleton and Cathy Fink were the catalysts
Dick Norman- Loman Cansler of Folkways records collected tons of great tunes in Missouri
Fiddling Dave's Liza Jane-Dave Fox was my source
Ragged But Right- Riley Puckett was my source for this Tin Pan Alley-Esq tune
Dandy Lusk- Spencer and Raines are two of my favorite young fogies and they were my source for this cool 1 chord tune.
Ain't No More Cane- I have always loved this one, to be found in the Lomax collection: Folk Songs of North America.
Sugar foot Rag-Hank Garland is the only source for this!
Ginny's Gone Away; The hidden track i learned from Joe Hickerson, former head of The Library of Congress Folk Archive

Sugar Babe Blues in Wall, SD

This summer i am traveling with my daughter Mariela Rose and my

girlfriend Jenna Lynn on a summer tour of the west coast.

We are stopping in: WA, OR, CA to teach and perform ukulele.

The route west will take us thru Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming,

Montana and finally Washington. This western experience is at the heart

of what i love about being on the road....big open sky, horses, cattle,

rusted cars, broken fences, tiny ma and pop cafes, black coffee, bonding

time with family and friends, and lots of jamming and practicing time

as we traverse from town to town.

While in Wall, South Dakota the following video was shot:

Morning Coffee, Just Picking some tunes, rehearsing for my tour.

There's a whole slew of tunes i never perform on stage, just things i like

to play when i am at home on the porch. That's what i was doing

playing Sugar Babe, when Jenna turned on the video and caught me

rocking out.

I first heard this played by Mance Lipscomb of Texas, via an old Arhoolie


Lots of old time banjo players seemed to love this song and i speculate

it was a standard piece that was shared by alot of different folks around

the country from the 1930's thru ?

I am no stickler for perfection, i am guessing and i could sing and pick this

tune much better if i recorded it over and over again like most folks do prior to posting

a video.. but this was just a magic moment caught in the morning

while i wasn't in need of anything that even remotely resembled perfection...

these are the moments when we are plugged into that intangible something

and the heart knows only now...when our senses are wide open and free will

courses thru our blood. Ah! The magic of the road. Enjoy Sugar Babe.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Triumphant Return of Lil Rev To The Festival Circuit

Hello Dear Friends,

This weekend marked a turning point for me as i headed out to teach and perform
at The Traverse City Ukulele Festival in Michigan.

2015 was the lowest point in my my family and I suffered with the loss of
 our dear Carol to lung cancer.

We fought valiantly for 10 months and tried everything.
In the end, carol decided home hospice was the best option, so....

I cancelled the vast majority of my work (and it was a stellar year for bookings) and
it was only thru the good grace of my fans, family and local community that we kept
afloat all those months. God Bless all of you....Thank you! Thank you for all your
help. We will always be grateful to you.

While my 2016 show will recount some of these painful moments....mostly my daughter
and I will celebrate life as we always have. For we must go on, pick up the pieces of a
shattered life and begin to make it whole once again.

I am especially proud of my daughter Mariela, she has been defiant in keeping her mom's
memory burning brightly in our home each day. She has weathered a terrible turn
that no kid should have to live thru and somehow, with grace and strength come
out on the other side resolute in her conviction that momma is now in a better place.
This kid is tough, she is a deep souled little trouper whose love and affection knows
no end. She has been my inspiration thru this dark, forbidding period in our life.
She looks to me each day for guidance, but someday when she is grown i will remind
her how she got up each morning and found the strength to go to school even as
her mom was gasping for each breath and starving to get calories in her.

Grief is the oddest of bedfellows and i did more than my share of sleeping with it.

In the end, i decided that my dear Carol was right..." love is the highest vibration"

I had, had enough crying, mourning, and being depressed. It was time, for my daughter's
sake and my own health's sake to pull it together and start breathing in the nectar of life
once again.

For me, this means a full palate of play with my daughter, Hapkido, Skateboarding, gigs,
work on a new ukulele album and getting my waylaid biz rolling again.

To honor Carol we have planned a summer tour of the west coast titled: Scatter The
Ashes Tour. Carol expressed to me a few days before she passed, that "those were the
happiest days of her life, when all three of us where on the road together and Mariela was
but a wee beansprout and we'd make our south  by southwest...west coast run each
winter for 3 months.  We made alot of friends, saw some beautiful country and had
alot of great times together. So to honor her wishes, Mariela, Jenna Lynn and I will embark
on a whirlwind 6 week tour of WA, OR and CA before returning home.

Both prior to the summer tour and after, this year is shaping up nicely.

I am booked at the following ukulele festivals and Music Camps this year....and man am i looking forward to getting back out on the i intend to be there!

Traverse City Ukulele Festival-April 16th in MI

Wheatland Traditional Arts Weekend -May 27th, 28th and 29th Remus, MI

Great MN Ukulele Gathering - June 3rd, 4th and 5th 

Midwest Ukulele Camp- June 24th, 25th and 26th  Olivette, MI

Scatter The Ashes Summer Tour of The West Coast - July 8th thru August 4th

Strathmore Ukulele & Guitar Summit- August 13th thru the 17th
North Bethesda, MD

Midwest Ukulele Festival-August 20th and 21st  Woodburn, IN

Milwaukee Ukulele Festival- Saturday October 1st -Milwaukee, WI


Lil Rev

silly faces circa 2015