I plugged in my fiddle for a terrific gig with the Zen Consultants last night. The ZCs are a once-in-a-blue-moon folky rock group whose core consists of Larry Mediate on rhythm guitar, lead vocals, and overall leadership; Ron Goad on drums; and Bernie Muller-Tyme on lead guitar. Larry asked me to join on fiddle and Lucian Kowalski on bass for this gig at Bangkok Blues.
The restaurant has great Thai food and some American items too, like cheeseburgers and steaks. We were the first band of the night, playing for a bit over two hours. I say “folky” because most of this material could translate straight off to acoustic instruments no trouble. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the Beatles’s “Across The Universe,” Neil Young’s “Powder Finger,” Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho And Lefty.”
Bernie does a great version of Nick Lowe’s “Peace Love & Understanding” where he stretches it out in a groove with dramatic dynamic shifts, and an extended improv talk in the middle. Bernie was in the a cappella group Da Vinci’s Notebook for ten years–a fabulous group who performed in a free improv mode. The man plays lead guitar in the same mind space, just plays and let’s the guitar talk. Not overpowering on the lead either–it’s a treat to hear a Telecaster just blending in. His playing reminds me of a good mandolin in a tight bluegrass circle.
Same goes for Ron and Lucian. Both guys are solid and just play. Lots of good blend with these guys, they follow Larry, and it really is easy to play with them. Not a lot of tight tricky parts for me. I just played fills and leads, tried my best to blend with my bluegrass mind.
My electric setup is a new deal for me. I put a Headway Band pickup around my #1 fiddle. The instrument is terribly dark in tone, which works great in Feel The Wag since we don’t have a bass player. The blend with hammered dulcimer feels really good with those guys, but I wasn’t sure if the dark tone would work plugged in. I plugged the fiddle into my little Vox 5w busking amp, put on a touch of chorus and went for a semi-cello warm tone. To me, the best-sounding electric violin tone is often more of a viola or cello mellowness, almost doing the role of a B3. I wasn’t going for the more squawky vocal electric fiddle tone like Richard Greene with SeaTrin. Richard was the lead in that group, but I’m just playing fills and warming up the soup a bit. It seemed to work pretty good last night. Folks said it was a bit tough to hear the fiddle for the first part of our set, but the sound guy turned it up a bit and folks could hear it.
We got a lot of compliments, some requests that we could fill and others we couldn’t. It was flattering to have some other excellent musicians there to hear us, including Dulci Taylor and Jim Clark. Bernie and I each took a ten-minute solo spot, playing guitar and singing, to give the other guys a break, and that worked well to keep the music going for the audience. I sold a few CDs, signed an autograph, got some folks to sign up for my email list, and met lots of really fun and sweet folks. I hope we get a chance to do this again soon.