Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Touring into Spring

(Park Sparrows, D.C., photo by Cene Ketcham)

In about a week we will all be converging on Ted and Lynn's place in Takoma Park for our first visit to the D.C. area in nearly 2 years. We have been making these trips, responding to the siren call of the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park, for nearly a decade. This has prompted a little nostalgia on my part.

In November-December, 2000 Contratopia took a chance and recorded our Hands Four CD with the expert assistance of Matthew Zimmerman at his Wild Sound studio in Minneapolis. Most readers of this blog probably have a copy of this CD somewhere in their collection. However, before we recorded that CD we recorded a trial version of some of our tunes at our friend Jody Koenig's basement studio in Decorah. I think this was probably sometime in the summer of 2000, although I'm not sure exactly when. I seem to remember it was a Saturday afternoon and maybe we were playing a dance that night.

Anyway, I recently came across a CD of the mixes from that demo session and I have permission from the band to share them here. To my ears they sound like we had a lot of energy that day and I think that Jody did a great job of capturing that. One negative aspect is that Patrice had to use her electric keyboard instead of a real piano. So while her playing is great, as usual, her sound isn't quite what any of us would prefer. You can compare a couple of these versions to the ones that appear on Hands Four and see what I mean.

So here are the tracks we recorded that day at Jody's:

1. Revelry Reel / French Sneakers / Maggie in the Rain (mp3)
2. The National Road (mp3)
3. Sandy River Belles / Liza Jane (mp3)
4. Sweet Music / Christmas Past / Fairbanks (mp3)

I'll also post these on our Contratopia free downloads page for future reference.


A week from tomorrow we'll be playing the Thursday Night Contra in Glenside, PA; one of our favorite places to play. The last time we visited there I was very excited to buy a copy of the SPUDS tunebook, Tuneadelphia. It's a great book full of good tunes and I highly recommend it.

I remember having a nice chat with Sarah Gowan, the editor, and she suggested that some of our Contratopia tunes might have been an influence on some of her own compositions. So I thought it would be fun if we would learn a Gowan tune and play it next week.

Last Friday at the great Winter Stomp in Northfield we tried out a new set that begins with Sarah's tune "Nancy in a Shirttail" followed by a recent tune of mine called "Lawn Chair Night" and closing with an old favorite of Erik's, "Splinters on the Bannister." Erik's tune had fallen off of our setlist so this is a great way to bring it back. If you are at the dance in Philly next week be on the lookout for this new set.

We hope to see many of you in Glenside (March 4), Shepherdstown (March 6th) or at Glen Echo on either Friday night (5th) or Sunday afternoon and/or evening (7th). It's our only big trip this season so we are really looking forward to getting to play several nights in a row. Hope to see you there.


When I posted this entry late last night I had no idea that Philadelphia was going to see another 8-12 inches of snow today. I see that this week's dance has been canceled. I fully expect that spring will be in bloom next Thursday when we arrive and that folks will be ready to dance.

(Just to put the weather in some perspective, it was 5 below zero here last night and we have had a foot or more of snow on the ground since mid-December.)


Robert said...

Hoping that the weather gods treat you well on your travel east. Looking forward to dancing with all of you.

Sarah G said...

Thanks for a very fun dance in Glenside last night - it was great dancing to your wicked good tunes and Ted's fabulous calling. I have to admit that I haven't gotten so cool that I don't get all giddy hearing one of my tunes played by great musicians. Nancy in a Shirttail never sounded better! Sometime we'll have to share our version of Too Many Goats (and hope you still like us after that.)

Hope the rest of your tour goes well and safe journeys home!


John said...

Hi Sarah,

I just ready your comment to the band and Ted and you made our morning! We got in a little after 3:00 and we're just getting started on the day. Thanks for writing such a good tune and putting together that fine tunebook.

Hope to see you all again before too long.