Lord Randal

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Transcription available

Level: Intermediate     Tuning: Drop D

Lord Randal is one of the most well-known of the English murder ballads. It is the story of a young man who has lunch with either his girlfriend or, in the version I sing, his stepmother. He returns home not feeling well and through a series of probing questions from his mother realizes he has been poisoned. It’s sort of like CSI 1700’s style.

My arrangement is an adaptation of Martin Carthy’s version from his 1972 album Shearwater. Carthy was one of my guitar idols in the early ’70s. I loved both his unique guitar style and his approach to interpreting traditional songs. On Lord Randal he used a dulcimer as the main accompaniment instrument and I was drawn to how it drove the story along. While note trying to emulate a dulicmer, I did try to capture the energy of that accompaniment part in my guitar arrangement arranged.

Originally, back in 1973, I arranged and played this using Carthy’s tuning of DADEAE. However, these days I don’t use open tunings that often. So I have adjusted the guitar part to be played out of Drop D tuning.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Transcription available

Level: Int/Adv     Tuning: Standard

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Yikes! We’re already half way through December. I figure I better get this out before I slide right through the holiday season into the new year.

Lyrically, Santa Claus is Coming to Town has to be one of the creepiest tunes in the Christmas song catalogue. Sung to a beguilingly cheerful tune, the lyrics are an Orwellian view of Christmas, where Santa is a punitive Big Brother. He monitors everything you do and judges you accordingly. He knows all about you: when you’re happy, sad, good, bad, awake, asleep … everything! He is watching YOU.

Phew! Listen to this song a couple of times and it won’t be the anticipation of presents on Christmas morning that makes it difficult for you to get to sleep at night.

Fortunately, this is an instrumental version of the song. You don’t have to be worried about a seasonally induced dose of paranoia while listening to this arrangment.

Silent Night – Be vewy, vewy quiet

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Level: Intermediate     Tuning: Standard

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If ever there was a Christmas carol that should be played on the guitar, it would be Silent Night. After all, according to numerous recountings of the songs humble origin, it was first performed at the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, 1818, with the musical accompaniment coming not from the church’s organ, per standard operating procedure, but from Fr. Mohr’s guitar. In the almost 200 years since its creation, it has become a central piece in the Christmas canon.

Stories abound about the reason the organ wasn’t functioning: mice had chewed the bellows, the organ had broken down and there was no organ technician who lived close by to repair it, and so on. But the role of the guitar in its composition and first performance remains consistent.

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Gruber’s original autographed manuscript of the song with guitar accompaniment appears to the right.

This is my humble arrangement of the tune. You’ll find it is a relatively straightforward arrangement, although it does shift positions up and down the neck.

CAAS 2010 and Artisan Guitars Chet Atkins Tribute Show

The 2010 Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) Convention has come and gone for another year. This was my tenth year to have had the good fortune to perform at it. Ten years? Yikes, where does the time go?

Kicking the week off on the night before CAAS began, Tuesday (July 6), Artisan Guitars held their annual Chet Atkins Tribute evening in Franklin, TN. Over the past five years this show has developed in to a pre-convention tradition. I was honoured to be asked once again to perform as part of that evening, sharing the stage with Muriel Anderson, John Knowles, Thom Bresh, Tommy Emmanuel, Sean Weaver, Andy Walberg and Earl Klugh. Whew! That’s an evening of pretty heady company.

There are so many great players every year at CAAS that you can’t possibly take them all in in one year. So every year I’m making “new” discoveries of players I’m hearing for the first time, even though they may have been there before. The highlights of the “new guys” for me year would include Adam Palma from Poland via Britain playing some terrific fingerstyle funk; the duo of Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb played some stunningly great guitar duets; and Bobby Cochran who displayed a most tasteful and discrete use of a looper pedal to play some fine rockin’ guitar.

If you’re a lover of the guitar, be sure to put CAAS on your list of to-dos. Four days of great guitar music and company. It’s held each July in Nashville. Full details can be found at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society website

At Last, My Name in Lights!!!

All performers dream of their name in lights. My turn has finally come.

True. It’s not outside Carnegie Hall. But it is on an 80′ billboard on a major US interstate highway – the I65 heading south out of Nashville, to be exact. And I’m so proud to say it’s not related to some exhaustive FBI manhunt. What more could I ask for?

This is a digital billboard advertising next week’s (July 6, 2010) Chet Atkins Tribute concert presented by Artisan Guitars in Franklin, TN. While this picture shows “Featuring – Bob Evans”, if you stand there for a few minutes you’d also see the following fellow featured artists mentioned: Sean Weaver, John Knowles, Muriel Anderson, Thom Bresh and Tommy Emmanuel. It’s going to be a great show.

If you’re in the area (Franklin, TN), come on down. Tickets for the show are available through Artisan Guitars .

And even if you can’t make it to the show, be sure to drop by Artisan Guitars next time you’re in Franklin, or visit them online. This is one of the best “little” acoustic guitar stores around

Be there or be square.