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GRASSROOTS

After 30 years, some selections from my very first album from 1977.

Oaxacan Breakdown (mp3 at 64 kbps)
Yes, that is me playing fast bluegrass banjo. I had a Gibson RB250, and a good head of steam. Frank Wakefield is on mandolin, Frank Youngman on bass, and Joe Fitzpatrick on rhythm guitar.  This is one of my own compositions, featuring melodic style licks over a Phrygian mode with a nod to Earl in the bridge.

Mississippi Waltz (mp3 at 64 kbps)
This is one of my early original songs with a country flavor.  And that is my 23-year-old tenor voice. I play my old Martin D-21 guitar, with steel fingerpicks here

Ragtime Annie (mp3 at 64 kbps)
This is me on the mandolin, with a different tuning -- the first pair of strings are split to D&B, as I recall. Frank Youngman plays bass, and it is either Joe Fitzpatrick or Brian Bishop on rhythm guitar.

Golden Slippers / Arkansas Traveller (mp3 at 64 kbps)
Here's a museum piece.  This is a mandolin duet with Frank Wakefield. I play the lead mandolin on the left. Frank is on the right with harmony in Golden Slippers, then plays a Monroe-like break. I play the lead on Arkansas Traveller, and then Frank comes in with harmony. The triplet ending was Frank's invention.  Rhythm section as above. 

Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy (mp3 at 64 kbps)
Another original, that I hoped had commercial potential. But alas...
I sing all parts, and play guitar.  Joe Fitzpatrick plays the tasty lead fills on guitar in the right channel. Frank Youngman on bass. 

Forked Deer / Liberty (mp3 at 64 kbps)
Turning Brian Bishop loose on these flatpick numbers in this guitar duet.  Brian plays first, and is in the left channel throughout.  I am on the right.  All the harmony parts are Brian's

About the album:

In 1977, I recorded my first album for a fledgling label based in East Lansing, Michigan: Grand River Records.  This was a label owned by my friend David MacPherson. Of course it was recorded on analog tape in an independent studio (in Potterville, MI). And, of course it was released on glorious vinyl. 

Being my first record, it was a bit of a calling card, showing off various aspects of my talents -- or at least my interests.  At the time I was working both as a solo and as part of a bluegrass/swing band, The Native Sons.  Two of my bandmates appear on this record: Brian Bishop and Joe Fitzpatrick. My old friend, Frank Youngman played bass.  And the guest artist here was mandolin legend, Frank Wakefield. 

Wakefield did some work with The Native Sons in this time period. More accurately, we served as his band for a handful of Michigan gigs in 1977. I met him at a music conference in February of '77 in San Antonio. Bad weather cancelled his flight home and he was invited to fly to East Lansing by Dave MacPherson, where we hung out together and played music. 

An easy-going, if somewhat eccentric character, Frank and I struck up a friendship, and agreed to play on my first album.  We spent several weeks together that spring and summer.  His Lloyd Loar F-5 mandolin was painted red in those days, but sounded great. There are a couple of photos of Frank and me from that period on my photo page.

The album, entitled "Grassroots" came out in late '77 or early 1978, as I recall, and went through a couple of pressings.  MacPherson was the producer -- I made most of the musical decisions. A great learning experience for both of us. The record label went on to release a few other nice LPs of bluegrass and reggae music.  The label is now long gone, and the vinyl discs have scattered to the four corners.

A fan of my music, Peter Tietjen, took a fairly pristine copy of the first pressing and digitized Grassroots for me a couple years back.  So thanks to him I can offer a few selections from this early album. Yes, if you listen closely you can hear the old familiar grind of needle in vinyl in the quiet spots, but I think Peter did a great job of transferring the music from fossilized vinyl to digitized bits.  Thanks, Peter.

And thanks to Dave MacPherson for believing in me way back then, and for trying new endeavors. Thanks too, to all my music pals both on the record and off, who were my compadres and teachers in those salad days. 

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2008 Joel Mabus