Courage – Live Recordings

The last two weekends have been a flurry of action as the workshop production of Couragewas underway, first at Chief Ike’s Mambo Room in Adam’s Morgan and then in the blackbox at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.

It was a trippy way to reenter the performance scene, and I had a blast working with the band, jamming and letting go (kinda) of my inhibitions about playing in front of a crowd. My mandolin enjoyed her time in the spotlight.

Want to listen to recordings from the final performance? Click here to visit the dog & pony dc Courageblog with all the sound files. In addition to playing in the band, I sang on “Home.” Two of the four performances I managed to stay on beat through the whole song. Sadly, this is not one of them. Sorry, Milo.

We’re going to do a studio recording in a few weeks. If I’m allowed to post those songs, I will.

Baking Something New

Hey all,

So I dropped off the face of the blogging earth, huh? Sorry to those who were checking this page out with any regularity. But it makes me laugh a little when I look at the date of my last post — October 29, 2008 — because just a week later I learned I had already embarked on my most ambitious baking project yet. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Me and the Mister are gonna have a kiddo, you see! So I’m hoping you forgive my multi-month absence, as well as what is likely to continue to be a lazy updating schedule.

You know what’s weird? With every week that goes by, my mandolin moves just a little further away from me. 🙂 The kiddo seems to enjoy the music, though. Speaking of…I’ve been given a really cool opportunity to play and sing in an upcoming workshop production of Courage — a take on Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht. I’ll be one of the minstrel rabble and we’re performing all original music…very gypsy punk stuff. Way out of my comfort zone (but then again, what isn’t at this point?) but so much fun to fiddle with. Lots of minor chords and trills going on…much stretching of the fingers.

It’ll go up early May and is being put on by Dog & Pony DC, a DC theater company run by three terrifically creative ladies. You can keep up with how Courage unfolds on their blog. And I’ll probably be babbling about it here, too.

Cheers, for now!

Echoes

It’s been a billion years since I last posted, and so for all six of you paying attention, I apologize.

I feel I have a good excuse, though: We’re buying a house. I have been advised it is not all like giving birth. You do not forget the agony of delivery the moment your eyes rest upon its shuttered windows. Rather, you enter a special kind of plain where HGTV is the only station your TV picks up and you discover a hereto unexplored fascination with gutter guards. I hate HGTV. Gutters are ok.

But that’s not what I’ve come to bother you about. I’ve crawled out from under paperwork and packing boxes to marvel at the fantastic acoustics of our empty little rental house!

Oh my word…the exhilaration…the exultation of pounding the mess out of my mandolin and singing for all my might! Overused hardwood floors, barren white walls, cat fur dust bunnies tumbling along the baseboards–it’s the best stage I’ve ever performed on. Empty and full of echoes. Rain coming down on this rotting roof and soaking the air, making the notes all the sweeter and easier to hold. Callouses sliding across the strings like pressing the whetstone to the knife…

I am so glad I took the week off to pack. It gives me this glorious goodbye to my love/hate home of three years. You know that “old Irish blessing” about the wind at your back? I’ve come up with a new one: “May your house always know music and your acoustics be complementary.” You can quote me on that one. 😉

Graves Mounatin Breakdown

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage at Graves Mountain, May 31.

I turn to my friend in the lawn chair beside me, give him a blissed-out smile that is equal parts sunburn and warm wine, and with my generally dormant mountain accent turned up to thick and dripping, sigh, “Lord, I love the smell of honeysuckle on the night air.”

And, in agreement, the band on stage at Graves Mountain Festival of Music sings back to me across the packed lawn that they, too, know there’s nothing quite like honeysuckle on a summer night.

Simpatico.

That about sums up my experience at my first bluegrass festival. One big, musical call-and-response of affirmation and peacefulness.

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Play in May

Sincerest apologies for the absence of posts in April. I assure you, I spent the time well. My husband and I finally made good on our Christmas presents to each other and signed up for CrossFit Boot Camp with Primal Fitness. More significantly, we completed Boot Camp. I tapped out having done 13 rounds of “Cindy” and ended with a “Fight Gone Bad” score of 162 (read: lotsa heavy lifting of both my own body and additional weights).

All this acquiring of “grrrr” left me little time to practice ye olde mando. I spent the month trading calloused fingertips for calloused palms. This month, I intend to find a bit more balance in my life, or at least in my hands.

Therefore, I hereby declare that May shall be a month of play. Playing mandolin and playing at Primal; getting both my music and my musculature in shape. By the end of May, my goal is twofold:

1) Play “Jolene” and maybe a few other tunes during an open mic at some lovely and forgiving coffee house, and;

2) Complete 14 rounds of  “Cindy” (5 pull-ups/10 push-ups/15 squats x 14 in 20 minutes)

I promise more on-topic posts in the future. I just needed this one to get back on track. Thanks for the indulgent read.

Sometimes all you gotta do is ask.

In my quest to learn the mandolin, I’ve been playing my favorite bluegrassy, folksy, old-school country bands on the stereo, and trying to ferret out the chords along with the music.

Johnny Cash (of course), Hackensaw Boys (my home-mountain band), Nickel Creek, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Dixie Chicks, Greg Brown, Gram Parsons and my newest addiction: The Fox Hunt. One particular song by The Fox Hunt, “Lord, We Get High,” is the ultimate closing song…swaying and familiar and warm, a little drunk and a lotta heart. Naturally, I wanted to play it.

So for a good six-hour stretch one night, I figured out enough chords to almost get there. (Before you ask me why I didn’t Google the tabs, I did. They don’t exist for the band yet.) On my own, I was marginally successful. But one crucial chord alluded me. Something between the D and A. But before the G…and maybe it was D again, or some kind of 7th chord I didn’t know yet…or the A again and ARG!

At wits end and now unnaturally obsessed with the song, I did the unthinkable. I e-mailed the band and asked for help.

Imagine my shock when I actually got a reply:

the main progression of that song is d, a, b minor, g. that’ll take care of the intro, verses, and ending refrain. the only different part is the chorus, which is a, b minor, g. hope this helps, and have fun playing along!

Now I ask you, how awesome is that?! I got the missing chord (the B minor) AND I was reaffirmed in my belief that The Fox Hunt is one of the coolest new bluegrass bands around.

Check ’em out! “Lord, We Get High” isn’t on their site, but “Murder In My Heart” is, and it’s excellent.

P.S. Thanks Matt K!

Mando-Madness

After several months of learning on my $30 eBay special which has served me well as an intro instrument, I took the plunge: I bought myself a shiny new mandolin:

It’s an Ibanez M510. Low on price in the grand scheme of things, but good parts and better for the sum of them.

I would like to say I purchased it after careful research and respected recommendations (of which I had many from a very talented musician-friend). But the truth of the matter is that I walked into a music store that sold a few mandos, picked them all up, played my go-to chords (C, D and G) and chose the one that sounded the prettiest. Not particularly methodical–which caused me no end of distress for the first 24 hours after the purchase. There was much second-guessing and doubt. But then I would pick her up (it’s a “her” though she hasn’t yet told me her name) and she would reassure me in clear tones that sang out: You done good, sweetheart. I spent most of Sunday playing her, finding her particular buzzes and tweaks, adjusting them where I could, but mostly embracing her personality. I think we’re going to get on just fine.

And apropos of nothing, but worth a mention: The soundtrack to The Waitress has an excellent cover of Howard Jones’ “No One Is To Blame” by Emile Millar that I have listened to 23 times since downloading it last week, according to iTunes. The movie is stunning in its simplicity; the song complements.

G, C and D

About 13 years ago, I plunked out “Desperado” by The Eagles on my mom’s piano until I could play it straight through with no stops, starts and obvious gaffs. And that’s where my musical instrumentation career ended.

Singing? Sure. That was no problem…been doing that since I was old enough to gather I was any good at it. But actually showing some talent beyond the manipulation of my voice? That was another matter entirely.

So it’s kind of a surprise to everyone including myself that at 29…and now 30…I should decide to take up the mandolin. My primary reasons: 1) when people who play it quite well do so, it sounds lovely, and 2) it’s portable. Unlike the piano on which I could only really play one song by an aging hipster band in my parents’ living room.

I’ve had three lessons and can reliably play three chords (thus, reiterating my firm belief in the ‘rule of threes”).

Chords I’ve gotten the hang of without much stopping, starting or obvious gaffs:

Stay tuned for more interesting (I promise) musings on music, MP3s of my mandolin skilzzz, playlists of songs I’m groovin’ to at the moment, and more.