Acclaimed guitarist Rolly
Brown's first new CD release in 8 years!
$17 postpd in the continental US.
Rolly for Int'l rates.
This new CD, featuring 19 tracks of solo
instrumental acoustic guitar, grew out of Rolly's popular Sunday morning
video series on Youtube and Facebook. It features Rolly's originals,
guitar pieces by Rolly's heroes Steve Mann, Davy Graham, and Bert Jansch,
some jazz standards, and Americana traditional tunes, all highlighted by
the simple beauty of the acoustic guitar sound. Here's the track list:
Got a few minutes? Here's the text from the
CD booklet, explaining the whole story, and telling all about the tunes:
One weekend morning
around December of 2009, I thought I’d just record a short video of guitar
improvisation and put it up on Facebook. I clicked on my Macbook’s camera,
and thereby started a project which is now approaching the end of its
fourth year. It became a normal practice for me to post a guitar video
every Sunday morning; something to listen to while mainlining that first
cup of coffee. Now, about 200 Sundays later, I’m still managing to post a
video every week. Of course, I’ve run through most tunes I know. Some
weeks, I just turn the camera on and improvise something, and sometimes I
later go back to the video, refine the original idea, and have a brand new
instrumental composition. Some weeks, I set myself the goal of learning
some new tune in time for Sunday’s little presentation.
After a while, some of my loyal listeners started
asking, “When will the CD come out?” “Eeek!” I thought, “Now I have to do
a CD??” This meant that, rather than my little informal sketches, I’d be
obliged to record more perfect versions of these tunes...no one (least of
all me) wants to listen to the same errors in the same places time and
time again! So I procrastinated for a long time, all the while looking for
the right situation for recording this sort of project. Finally, I found
it, very close to home, in the form of my old friend Jay Ansill’s “Cheesy
Road Studios”. More than just a studio, I needed a trusted friend who
would give me honest feedback when I was trying to judge which takes were
CD-worthy, and Jay was both a skilled engineer/editor and a trusted set of
So, here it is. Most of the originals were written
during this project. There are some covers included as homage to some of
my favorite influences: Bert Jansch, Steve Mann, Davy Graham. There’s a
tune by my good friend Janet Smith, a very underrated player, composer,
and arranger. And there are tunes from the folk tradition as well.
Now, get yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy
the beautiful tone of the acoustic guitar, recorded as faithfully as
Janny’s Day: Janice actually has more of a birthday month celebration than
a birthday “day”, but I preferred this as a title. This one grew out of an
improv, and eschews virtuosity. It is dedicated to the great love of my
Salvo Y Pepe: Perhaps my most successful improv-turned-composition, it has
been tweaked into a very specific arrangement, which I like a lot. Named
after fictional European detectives Salvo Montalbano (books by Andrea
Camilleri) and Pepe Carvalho (books by Manuel Vasquez Montalban).
Rolly’s Rag: I originally improvised this tune on a Sunday morning, meant
as an homage to the two greatest ragtime blues guitarists, Rev. Gary Davis
(who I was privileged to meet and learn from in my youth) and Blind Blake.
The tune sort of stuck in my head, and I still more or less improvise it,
with many elements that always show up somewhere in the improv.
Beaux Je Pooboo/The Snowman: The former is a Les McCann tune that Steve
Mann suggested. He just liked it, and had messed around with it a bit. I
went back home after listening to him, and started from scratch, using the
McCann recording...so the arrangement is mine, but the idea was Steve’s.
“The Snowman” is a tune I loved from the moment we stumbled upon the PBS
animated feature of the same name decades ago. While working on Beaux Je
Pooboo, I noticed that the last line of the head was the same as the motif
of The Snowman, so the medley was born.
Suki’s Hope: Suki is a rescue dog. I like to describe her as “Half
Australian Cattle Dog, Half Demon Dog From Hell”. Rescue dogs are tricky.
If they have problems, it’s impossible to know whether they’re caused by
genetics, poor early socialization, or genuine abuse. Suki is the sweetest
little cutie pie in the world with Jan, me, most women, and most children.
Put in close proximity to other adult males or strange dogs, she can be
genuinely scary and highly reactive. She’s come a long way in the past 2
years, and still has a long way to go. It’s actually our “hope” in the
song title, not hers, but you get the idea...
Albany Slip: Few of my original compositions can be traced to the
influence of one particular guitarist. This is an exception. In 2003, I
spent a week on staff at a music camp with Australian guitar virtuoso
Tommy Emmanuel, and this tune was a conscious attempt to use some of his
technical licks and elements of his arranging style. The title came from
my friend Erika Brady. “Albany Slip” is a glaze used on ceramics, and
Erika felt the tune, like this glaze, was “dark and shiny”.
Into The Never-Never: “The Never-Never” describes a remote, vast part of
the Australian Outback. This tune is actually an improvisation based on
some of the incidental music from the Australian film “Mad Max Beyond
Thunderdome”. I always found this musical motif, related to the subplot
surrounding a tribe of semi-feral children struggling to return to
post-apocalyptic civilization, to be both musically and narratively
Angie: Davy Graham’s dark, catchy instrumental in A minor became a
hard-driving masterpiece in the hands of a young Bert Jansch. His
definitive version was the model for my recording, which is essentially an
homage. There’s no great reason for recording this. I don’t think any
version could ever top Bert’s. I just wanted to do it, along with Graham’s
“Tristano”, so here it is.
Tristano: Several years after Angie, a more musically evolved Graham wrote
this amazing tune. My standard line has always been, “I don’t know whether
this is a brilliant composition or a cry for help”, but I don’t care. It
is compelling and finely wrought, with nods to Django, Moroccan and
Moorish music, and even Graham’s own “Angie”. I coveted it for many years,
but never attempted to learn it till advances in computer technology made
it possible to slow it down and hear what was going on. I’ve always
thought that these two tunes are an interesting study in one man’s
Piano Mover’s Rag: Janet Smith’s playful, elegant classical guitar rag. I
long ago nominated her for sainthood for the wonderful works she did in
caring for Steve Mann, who was both a brilliant musician and a deeply
troubled soul. While I met her in that role, I soon learned that she was a
fine musician with a long standing reputation, and I fell in love with
this piece. Somehow, in our collaborative process of working through the
tune, she suggested changing the name to “Piano Mover’s Dog”...maybe one
of my recordings had some inadvertent dog collar jingling in the
background...so I think it’s officially known by either name now...
Grooveyard: Written by West Coast jazz pianist Carl Perkins (not to be
confused with the rock-n-roller of the same name). I heard a fine guitar
version from Davy Graham, but re-arranged it in another key.
Holly: Steve Mann was well known for inventive and gutsy blues/jazz guitar
arrangements, but he also penned this beautiful piece. The inspiration,
young Steve’s girlfriend Holly, was, in his words, “the flashiest,
fanciest exotic dancer and everything else imaginable”. The relationship
was fated to end badly, but, fifty years later, this lovely tune lives on.
Wayfaring Stranger: This is one of those simple but beautiful melodies
that just calls out for a guitar arrangement. The same can be said for
Marcy-Cathy: When, after a 30 year “engagement”, my ersatz sister Marcy
Marxer and her sweetheart Cathy Fink were able to marry, I was flattered
to be asked to play at the wedding, in the company of luminaries like Tom
Paxton, Bruce Molsky, Adam Hurt, and a host of others. I wrote this tune
for the occasion.
Shenandoah: As with Wayfaring Stranger, this is the sort of tune that just
calls out for an acoustic guitar rendering. There are hundreds, maybe
thousands, of recordings, with beautiful guitar versions by Tony Rice,
Bill Frisell, and more, but that didn’t stop me...
The Gospel According To Steve Mann: This gifted, influential, and
ultimately ill-fated guitar genius was playing Ray Charles piano styles on
the guitar back when most of the rest of us were struggling through simple
fingerpicking arrangements. This tune is an homage to Steve’s “Amazing
Gospel Tune”, which, in turn, bore great similarity to his version of the
Ray Charles tune “Drown In My Own Tears”. It has plenty of the evocative
bluesy licks for which Steve was known.
Heavens Tibetsy: Yet another dog tune. Nashville master luthier and
musician Marty Lanham had a Tibetan Lhasa Apso named “Tibetsy”, and this
tune, somewhat influenced by Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence and long ago
guitar renderings of the African tune “Guabi Guabi”, bears her name.
And So It Goes: Another Sunday morning offering. I had a cool little
slippery-slidey interval lick, and built the tune around it, with special
attention to the tension/resolution relationship which helps create
Sunday Morning: This one started it all. If there is one thing that has
guided my playing in recent years, it’s the desire to avoid the “Curse Of
Virtuosity”. I’ve tried to put aside the desire to impress other
guitarists, and, instead, to make music that non-musicians will
appreciate. My friend Steve Baughman may have said it best: “Better to
make tears fall than jaws drop.”
There are way too many “thank you”s to actually include here. Big
categories of people I treasure: Everyone involved in the music camps that
have me on staff; my students and my teachers and mentors in the 3 major
disciplines of my life: guitar, Tai Chi, and acupuncture; all the great
folks in my various on-line communities, and the Mac-Pac.
Special thanks to Janice, the love of my life, for being unendingly
supportive and so much more, to dear friends Ann Mintz and Jay Ansill for
their wit, support, and friendship, and to those most constant of
companions, the Australian dogs who’ve kept us laughing, scratching our
heads, and sometimes pulling our hair out, for the last 32 years.
This project is dedicated to Jan and the dogs, and to the memory of Steve
Mann, Bert Jansch, and Davy Graham, whose music so inspired me from very
Produced by Jay Ansill and Rolly Brown
Recorded at Cheesy Road Studios, Doylestown PA, by Jay Ansill
Mastered at Airshow Mastering, Takoma Park MD, by Charlie Pilzer
Front cover photo: Sergio Kurhajek: http://www.sergiokurhajec.com/
Add’l photos: Janice MacKenzie
Rolly Brown plays guitars by Mario Proulx, Ken Miller, Chris Myers, and