Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Breeze & Wilson

Last summer Toby Wilson of Breeze & Wilson asked me if I would like to record a track for their latest project. Now, I've done session work before, but this would be a first. It's a trans-Atlantic project. They're in Staffordshire Moorlands - that's somewhere in England. Google it.

If you're not familiar with Breeze and Wilson, you need to check them out.

I had the honors of playing on they're cut Old Zoey. It's on their latest release, "Oh, Nova Scotia".

Be sure to visit their homepage Breeze and Wilson and you might as well check out their Myspace too.

Be sure to tell 'em Wild Jimbo sent you!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Caution: Funny Signs Ahead

There are signs along the side of the road that make you chuckle. Sometimes you just wish you'd have brought your camera. Wouldn't it have made it a lot easier to explain it to your friends if you would have had a picture? Yes, it would. I know. Some things are just funnier when you're there. If you can't be there, then a picture is the next best thing.

Luckily for us Mark Sedenquist and Megan Edwards made it a point to start collecting pictures of signs. You can see a bunch of those signs at Roadtrip America. Prepare to spend some time there, because you can't just look at one sign and move on. If you're like me, you'll "just one more" your way through the entire online collection. While you're looking through there you might just find a couple of mine.

Yes, that's right, I took a few pictures that Mark and Megan found amusing, and they've graciously included them on Roadtrip America. Awesome, eh? You can see one of them here. Go ahead, click it. It's funny.

Guess what. Oh, c'mon, guess. They've published a book! You can get it at Amazon. It's not going to break the bank either; it's only $11.95. Buy one. Buy a couple. Give them to your friends. No friends? Give them to the mailman and the guy that reads the water meter.

Oh, when you get your copy turn to page 58. I took that one. Oh, turn to page 128. I took that one too. I have pictures in a book. I'm happy about it; giddy even. Well, maybe not giddy, but hey, it's not a bad feeling.

So go visit Roadtrip America and check out the signs and other great resources there. It's an awesome website. While you're at it, grab a book, or two. :)


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Soccer: the Brutality!

Samuel played soccer again this year. His team was the team to beat in the 8-9 year old age group. Unfortunately, for the other teams, no one even came close. His team played hard, and consistently kept the other teams' defense busy and mostly confused. They racked up a total of 64 goals in an undefeated season with only 3 goals scored against them.

Coach Kevin Johnson and assistant coaches Cesar Chavez, Sergio Pulido and Tyler Johnson deserve a lot of credit too. Their expert guidance and assistance made a huge difference and the score card shows it! Also thanks to the Murray County Parks & Recreation for continuing their Soccer program.

It was a great year and all the other kids on the team were great and very supportive of Samuel and each other.

See you next year on the field!


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Audio for Clawhammer Banjo Tunes Book

As you probably remember I finished up a couple of Tab Books back in June. I've finally scratched together some sound files for the Clawhammer book. I apologize for the delay. However, for those that have already purchased the book I hope by now you've worked through the tabs and your getting your fingers around some of the licks and tunes. If you've not purchased a book yet feel free to download these tunes - if you would like a tab of any of them, they're in the book. I've a limited number left, so don't put it off too long if you want one.

I hope these audio files serve as a reference for you. Remember what I said in class. "It's easier to make one alike than two alike." That still applies. I tried to play the tunes exactly as I have them tabbed in the book - and I realize you expect that. However, I know from my own experience that each time I play something I take a different path - no matter how hard I try. I think that I got "close enough" on most of these to give you an idea of the feel and tune of the song. After all it's the song that matters - not just playing what I have in the book. I sincerely hope that none of you are spending your time memorizing these things note for note.

Here's a couple more disclaimers before I post links. These files were created sitting here in front of my computer using an inexpensive computer mic and Audacity. Audacity is great, the mic isn't. It does, however, serve the purpose of getting the tunes in a format that I can easily share. The tunes may also vary a bit in tuning. Sorry about that. I discovered that after everything was recorded. I suppose I could have gone back and fixed those errant tracks, but they're not that far off, and I'm guessing you may drop these files into some sort of software that allows you to slow things down. (Audacity does this, as does Best Practice - both are free.) I played some of the tunes at a slower pace than normal, and others I just played them at a regular speed.

So, without further excuses or stalling here are the tunes:

Zip File of the Tunes

Thanks again for buying my book!


Friday, August 15, 2008

Learning from DVDs

Jack Baker posed a question on the Banjo Hangout recently. He asked. "Can you learn from DVDs?" It's a good question. Is an instructional DVD or Youtube video instruction enough, or does one, at some point, really need to seek out an instructor?

I pondered a bit. Here's my response:

Thinking back to the way I learned...

In some respect I learned without any teachers - at least ones I paid. My parents got me the Earl Scruggs Instruction Record - no book, just the record - and I learned Cripple Creek and everything else I could put to quick use off that record. Then I daily spent hours on end with LPs trying to figure out what the banjo player was doing. I picked up some of it... made up what I couldn't figure out by using the things I learned off the Earl Scruggs Record. I also had a book by Lee Elliot that was very helpful in mapping out how to put things together.

I spent about 8 months or so playing along with records before I ever encountered any real players. However, by that time the woodshedding really paid off and I could actually participate in some jams. I was able to finally watch other players and get new ideas. Seeing the lick wasn't as important to me as hearing the idea in context. I knew at that point that playing with others was a great way to get new tunes, licks and ideas.

So, as I consider how I learned, in many ways I envy those starting today. The volume material available is almost unfathomable. DVD's should be incredibly helpful. I've encouraged my students to play along with records and not worry about messing up because those guys on the recording really don't care; they'll play that song again and gladly stop for you in the middle and let you take your break over and over until you get it right. :) Same applies with the DVD instructor. True, he/she can't tell you what you're doing wrong, but they can show you the right way as many times as you need it - and they never tire of doing it.

I realize the DVD or even Book methods of learning aren't for everyone, but for the observant and non-self-delusional student they can be a suitable substitute for a live teacher.

So, do I think I'd have progressed more quickly with an instructor? Maybe. I'd have perhaps learned more tunes, techniques and licks in a shorter amount of time, but would I have gained the sort of confidence to just go ahead and figure stuff out without having to be shown? Not sure. I'm pretty stubborn, and I like to figure out things my own way... so maybe so. But I also know that I'm pretty lazy, and if I can find a shortcut I'll often take it - and that lack of virtue on my part might have held me back.

Regrets? None. I still think the way I learned was the most beneficial in the long run - at least for me.

Can I learn from DVD's? Yes, but it probably took getting to where I am now first.

So, how do you feel about the current state of instruction material available?


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp

Wow... did I say wow? Yeah, well, wow.

Acoustic Kamp was an incredible experience. Teaching banjo is something I enjoy, but teaching banjo to players that have enough interest to travel across the country and pay for a week long session is incredible!

I had 2 classes - beginner and intermediate/advanced. I spent 2 hours a day with each group, and we covered everything from the very basic stroke to the ever elusive cluck. And while I covered a lot of material I think I learned as much or more than my students. There's probably nothing better for me than to have a student or students that ask tough questions that make me think.

Remember, I'm that guy that just plays. I've never really analyzed everything that I do; I just do it. So this Kamp was not just motivation for me to take a closer look at how I approach the banjo, but it forced me to look at how to explain those things that I "just do." There's a silly little quote that came to mind while I was teaching: "It is easier to make one alike than two alike." Meaning that I often find it difficult to do things exactly the same way twice.

I met a lot of great folks - students and teachers alike. I made some friends, reunited with old friends and I look forward to seeing them/you all again. Laura Boosinger was my other teammate for Clawhammer banjo, and it was a real treat working with her.

Evening concerts...

Each night instructors at the Kamp provided entertainment. I was not excluded. I call Roy Curry and pleaded with him to come and accompany me for my section. Roy, being the champion he is, showed up and we ran through my setlist and all was ready. Our set went without any significant problems - at least nothing that couldn't be handled with humor. We had a good time, and I think everyone enjoyed that show. No one threw anything at us, so we count that as a positive.

One afternoon a few of us were standing around and someone asks if I had a yo-yo handy. I happened to have one in my banjo case, so I did the obligatory couple of tricks when Barbara Lamb spotted me. She had just been in Chico and bought a yo-yo at the museum, so she was excited to meet someone that she could mooch a yo-yo lesson off of. We talked a bit and I helped her get her started with just the basics.

(In bluegrass & old-time music the fiddle and the banjo represent a very common duet. It wasn't uncommon for just the pair to perform without other instruments.)

So, she gets the huge grin and tells me that I'd be yo-yoing on her portion of the concert. Her portion wasn't until Thursday of that week, so each time we saw each other we chuckled about the concept of a Fiddle/Yo-Yo duet. Yeah, it's one of those things where you'd have had to be there, but we chuckled. We did. Really.

There were a couple of evenings that I got to participate in the "Open Mic." One time I just soloed alone with my "Early Banjo". The next evening I got to play with "Just Us" as a guest along with Gary Davis. It was a blast!

The pictures you're seeing here (with the exception of the group photos) were taken by R. Brian Porter. His shots are great. Makes me wish I had a better camera, but I'm not so silly to think that a camera will make the difference for me. He's spent as much time behind the lens as I have behind a banjo. It's obvious from his shots that he's spent a lifetime honing his craft. I'm glad he was so willing to share these photos with me - and allowing me to share them with you.

There are a couple of folks I really look forward to seeing again. Hopefully sooner than later. Tony McManus - you know what you did - I'll always remember it. Mark McCluney - not only did you touch my heart, I saw you do the same with others.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

New TAB Books from Wild Jimbo!

Clawhammer Banjo Tunes

18 Tunes and Chord Charts for G Modal, Double C, and F Tuning.

Includes the following tunes: Barlow Knife, Buttons and Bows, Cluck Old Hen, Cripple Creek, Last Chance, Leather Britches, Mississippi Sawyer, Old Molly Hare, Old Joe Clark, Rock the Cradle Joe (2 variations), Sally Ann, Shortening Bread, Sleepy Eyed John, Soldiers Joy, Sandy River Belle ( 2 Variations), Sugar Hill, Wave the Ocean, and Way Lazy Hop.

46 Pages Coil Binding

PDF copy for $8.99

Three Finger Banjo Tunes
Thirty Two tunes in TAB for 3 finger Banjo. Tunes include: Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow, Banjo Lounge Theme, Banjo Lounge, Breakdown, Banjo Signal, Barlow Knife, Bob the Builder, Bonanza Theme, Buffalo Brain, Can't Help Falling in Love, Coo Coo's Nest, Cora is Gone, Cotton Eyed Joe, Cripple Creek, El Cumbenchero, Footprints in the Snow, Frosty the Snowman , Heffalumps and Woozles, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, I'll Fly Away, Jerusalem Ridge, Last Chance, Life's Railway to Heaven, Little Sadie, Okie Dokie #5, Rabbit in a Log (Key of G), Rabbit in a Log (Key of D), Red Haired Boy, Rose Connely, Sunny Side of the Mountain, Up On the Housetop, Watching Scotty Grow, You Win Again, and The Zipper

Currently only available as a PDF

PDF copy for $8.99

Please visit my Sellfy Store to purchase these and others.



Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Bike to Work

I ride a bike. No, I'm not a Lance Armstrong wannabe, but I do enjoy pedaling to work. It's relaxing, it's a bit of exercise, and it's a good stress relief on the way home. I'm generally in my work clothes (business casual), so I'm not doing anything to get really hot or sweaty in the mornings, but in the afternoon I make it a point to sprint home as quickly as possible.

There are a couple of small hills, and I try each day to get up and over them quicker than the day before. This means I'm probably moving quicker than you might guess. No, I'm not setting any speed records, but 25 mph isn't out of the question, and hey, that's the speed limit on these city streets anyway.

Between work and home I have 3 stops signs that I deal with. The rest of the trip I have a clear shot on one street with no stop signs, but there are total of 11 cross streets for my trip. I'm leery of the cross streets - in the years I've lived in this neighborhood I'm very aware that people in cars just don't stop at the cross streets. Even before I was riding my bike to work there were many instances where some knucklehead would run the stop signs and almost hit me.

It's a bigger issue now on a bike. At least in the car I felt I had some protection, but on a bike my only protection from these irresponsible drivers is my own awareness and common sense.

This past week there were two instances where I encountered someone that didn't feel it necessary to yield any sort of right of way or obey the stop signs. In both cases I made eye contact with these individuals before they decided to cross directly in front of me. Each time they recognized me, and I assumed they were going to allow me to go by. Each time I was partially in the intersection when these licensed drivers decided to go. Both times required me to stop way more quickly than I like. Fortunately, both times I was expecting such behavior from the drivers, but gee whiz -- it's one thing to just be unaware that I'm on the road, it's another to look me directly in the eyes, and then decide that since you're in a car that I will just have to stop where I'm not required to allow you to give in to your impatience and self-importance.

Look, I'm moving pretty quickly. Frankly, I'm going just as fast as I would be even if I were in a car. You would have waited for me if I were in a car. You can wait on me if I'm on my bike. For that matter, you're supposed to wait. I'm following the traffic rules -- and not just because I'm just being a goody-two-shoes, but I follow the rules for my own safety. If I can make the effort to follow the rules, you should too.

It's a shame that there are drivers out there that just don't care about bicyclists. It makes it tough to encourage other people to ride their bikes to work. They know that these idiots are out there and they're just too afraid of getting run down by people that don't care or just aren't paying attention.

Share the road.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm Allergic to Cats

As far as I know, I've always been allergic to cats. I sneeze. I cough. My nose runs. My eyes water, itch and turn a beautiful color of pink. It's a miserable thing. That said, I've always been fascinated with kittens and cats. They're bright, funny, amusing and , for the most part, self reliant.

A few weeks ago a cute, pink nosed, female, stray cat showed up. She acted hungry, so Tina fed her thereby making her ours. She's a good cat for the most part - jumps too much, but she's nice. I keep my distance and I don't handle her much. If I do, I wash my hands immediately before I goof up and touch my face. So far I've kept the allergy under control without any medication. We've been calling her Miss Kitty. Clever, eh?

Fast forward to this past Saturday. I needed a 10mm wrench, so we stopped at Sears at Walnut Square Mall in Dalton, Georgia. Found a wrench, paid for it, and we decided to walk through the mall. We usually just cruise from one end to the other and look at the people and occasionally stop in the stores.

First store we spotted was the Pet Store. We usually stop there and check out the puppies, fish, reptiles and the assortment of rodents. There's the occasional ferret, chinchillas, guinea pigs and sometimes rabbits. This day they had a cage with kittens. They were a cute lot too. $25 later we're the proud owner of a kitten.

Meet Phantom... he's a cute one. He's a bundle of kitten ready to pounce, run, climb, jump, play, and sleep. He's a good kitten, doesn't scratch too hard, doesn't bite too hard, and is more content with a paper wad than a store bought cat toy.

The first morning (that was Sunday) he woke me up wanting to play "paper wad". He was beside the bed meowing. I called him, and he climbed up on the bed with his paper wad - cute.

Today may have been a bit stressful for him; Tina spotted a couple fleas. So he got a very gentle flea treatment (according to instructions from the vet), and two baths. I'm sure he was stressed out for the better part of the afternoon, but as of this moment, he's quite rambunctious, playing with Samuel and a ping pong ball -- the afternoon is ancient history.

One positive for him today was his encounter with Miss Kitty. So far they're not friends. I think sworn enemies may be the current state, but today they both got a good sniff of each other before the hissing started. After the confrontation he went back to playing with Samuel, and she ate quickly and immediately went back outside. Though that may sound fairly serious it's an improvement in the diplomatic relations.

Technically Phantom is my first cat. Tina and I had a cat when we were first married, but she was our cat. Phantom is all mine. Of course, Samuel and Tina like him too. But when it's time to sleep or just crash, he tracks me down.

My allergies? Well, honestly I've not had it so bad. I have taken a couple of loratadine tablets, but for the most part I've endured without the itchy watery eyes.

Oh, almost forgot - his name came by a suggestion by a Banjo Lounge regular and friend - Karyn. Thanks Karyn. It's a great name, has multiple meanings, and it just suits him.

I think it's time to go play with the kitten.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Awana Grand Prix

Our church's Awana program had their first Awana Grand Prix today. It's a Pinewood Derby race, much like the Cub Scouts.

Samuel, Tina and I had been preparing some cars for the race, and today was the day we found out how they would run. We've been sanding, painting, adjusting... our living room has been looking like a wood shop for the past month. I know Tina is glad to have her living room back.

For this pinewood event we had each decided to build a car. We actually wound up building four cars (they're just fun to build). So that gave us an extra car to experiment with. When we found out that we'd have access to the track the day before we gave Samuel the option of choosing the fastest of the four we had built.

One thing we did discover during the time we had access to the track was that one lane (the red lane / lane #1) had a tendency to allow the car to jump track. It was also consistently producing slower times than the other three lanes. Lane two (the blue lane) was also proving to be the fastest lane.

Lanes are assigned at registration, and being "lucky" Samuel was assigned the Red lane! Grrr... not a happy moment, but we knew his car was fast - hopefully fast enough to overcome a lane disadvantage. But my bigger fear was that if it did come off the track it might be damaged.

Races were run four cars at a time, and the best four times from each division raced for their final placings - the winner advancing to the final event where they race the cars from the other divisions.

On to the first race!

First time down the track... Samuel's car derails! Rats!!!! Sure, if a car derails they re-run the race, but it's hard on the nerves. Second time down the track Samuel's car turns a 2.66 second run and wins that race qualifying for the finals. My heartrate slows, Samuel is stoked.

Race 2

This time we've got lane 3 (green lane). It's not a bad lane, but up to this point we hadn't seen anyone jump track there. Samuel's car easily wins this race guaranteeing him a spot in the Final Event.

Final Race

Samuel gets the green lane again. The other two cars he's up against have been quick, both getting times in the high 2.6s. The cars come down at blinding speeds and it's close - really close. Times posted: 2.664, 2.675, and 2.683 - just hundredths of seconds between them. Samuel wins! He's excited, we all were - parents, grandparents, friends.

Samuel also got 3rd place in design, so he brought home three trophies!

The part you've been waiting for...

So I know, you're wondering. What happened with your car and Tina's car? Remember we had access to the track so we had opportunity to see how it was all going to turn out. Her car was faster every time we ran it. Oh, it wasn't a lot faster - just faster. I think if I'd have been able to run in the blue lane I might have had a better chance, but she beat me. I'll have to live with that for the rest of the year.

It was a fun day. Samuel's win helped, but honestly, there's just something fun about building these little cars and letting the run down the track that makes for a lot of good feelings. If you have a child that's 3 years old through the 5th grade and you and there's an Awana program near you - get involved, regardless of if they do the Grand Prix or not.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Timara String Drops

Thanks to Tim Wallis over at the Timara Custom Shop I'm sporting a couple of his String Drops on the Phantom today. Now, mind you I'm still getting used to them, but so far I'm happy with the results.

I saw a video of Tim a couple months back, and was excited about his device. It looked simple enough, but most importantly it looked like it would be just the trick for the Phantom. Installation was a breeze, and I had them up and running in minutes.

Check out this video:

So, do you have a banjo with a different peghead shape that just wouldn't work right or look right with the other tuners on the market? If so, think about these. Be sure to check them out at Oh, and tell Tim I sent you!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp

I'll be teaching Old-Time Banjo this year at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp. This is my first time teaching at the Kamp, and I'm really looking forward to working with everyone that signs up.

I do admit some apprehension about it, but I'm sure it's just "pre-camp jitters." I have some ideas and concepts I hope to share, but I admit that many of the things I do I just do... does that even make sense? I'm sure after you see some of these things first hand it will make more sense. Anyway, I think you'll find my teaching style more hands-on and less paper work, and I hope to give everyone plenty of opportunity to test drive some tunes and techniques.

Oh yeah, I'll be there June 8-15. Hope to see you there!


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Pinewood Derby 2008

Pinewood Derby has come and gone in a flash. Samuel picked a pirate theme this year, and the car was a blast to make, and race.

This year we didn't have the benefit of computer timing, so we ran eliminations. That allowed everyone to race a lot more than before. Because of that this years event was a lot more fun. I'm getting ahead of myself...

After deciding on his design Samuel traced out a "sloop" pattern and we cut out the car. He picked out black for the color, and we added all the other details in white. Everything was hand painted, so it's not "perfect," but we thought it looked really neat!

We also decorated the bottom for a nice touch too. No one really got to see that bit, but we knew it was there. I wound up adding the flag the day before.

Race day... we weighed in at 4.9 oz, and could have added .1 oz, but opted not to. We figured it was "close enough." We didn't place this year in the show, but there were some really nice looking cars this year. We did have the best looking boat though. :)

Samuel won all but two of his races - pretty good I think. Though we both wish we'd have won, we'll try not to complain much about getting 3rd.

I think I could have perhaps made some better wheel adjustments, but everything at this point is mere conjecture. It would sure be nice to have a track that we could practice with, so if anyone out there has one they'd like to unload, I'd be glad to talk to you about it!

I think everyone had a good time. I learned some stuff, and got ideas for next year. I also got some ideas for the upcoming Awana Grand Prix. I'll keep you posted on that too!