Tag Archives: Featured

Hark! It’s Harold’s Angels! Oh Joy

Transcription available

Level: Int/Adv     Tuning: Drop D

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Includes Transcription + MP3

I‘m just sitting here today looking at the scene outside my window: a blanket of snow on the trees and ground all wrapped in a crisp temperature of -27C temperature (-39C wind chill). As I look out I think to myself, “Could there be anything more delightfully Christmassy than this?”.

OF COURSE THERE COULD! I’m not an idiot. There are many, many nicer things to conjure up thoughts of Christmas. But these are the cards I’ve been dealt with today, so I’m trying to make lemonade out of the frozen lemons I’ve been handed.

When I was much younger we used go carolling at this time of the year. But even in spite of our youthful invincibility, I’m pretty sure we didn’t do it when it was this cold. That was a different time when a band of 20 or so teenagers showing up at night on the front lawn of a house laughing and falling all over each other didn’t elicit a defensive response of hitting 911 on the speed dial by the residents within the house. People would often open their door, and some actually stand out on the front step, to listen as we worked our way through a brief recital of a few of the seasonal chestnuts; stumbling over the lesser known verses (eternally grateful for the sing along sheets the Leader-Post provided each year) but usually delivering the melodies in a more or less recognizable form.

“Hark! It’s Harold’s Angels! Oh Joy” is a medley of two of the carols we would sing. Of course, they’re more commonly known as Hark The Herald Angels and Joy to the World. The titles are slightly twisted because I like doing slightly tongue-in-cheek arrangements and they’re usually instrumentals because it’s easier than trying to sing with your tongue in your cheek.

For the guitaristically inclined, there is a transcription available that you can tackle whilst procrastinating getting the Christmas shopping done, decorating the tree, or just writing those pesky Christmas cards.

The Noodle Kitchen

Transcription available

Level: Int/Adv     Tuning: Standard Tuning

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Includes Transcription + MP3

From the album
The Voice in the Grain

The Voice in the Grain

The Noodle Kitchen is an original composition that grew out of … well … some noodling on the guitar. I was playing around with a combination of a steady 8th note bass line – perhaps while goofing around with Every Breath You Take – and playing some sliding 5ths over top of it. It eventually evolved into this piece.

2012 Home of the Legends Contemporary Thumbpicking Champion

This past weekend (Sept. 29, 2012) my wife and I travelled down to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, for the Home of the Legends Thumbpicking Weekend. We had a wonderful trip seeing some beautiful scenery, meeting great people (inlcuding some fellow Canucks who had come down from Toronto) and hearing some fine guitar music. I also entered the thumbpicking competition that was part of the festivities and had the good fortune to place 1st in the Contemporary category and 3rd in the Traditional category.

The start to the weekend

I first heard about this event back in 2000 and ever since I have had it on my to-do list. But you know how entwined to-do lists and the passage of years are. Suddenly twelve years had slipped by. So this summer I decided it was finally time to buckle down and take in the event.

“Muhlenberg County?”, I hear you muse, “Didn’t John Prine sing a song about that?”. Indeed he did, a song about the region’s coal mining activity destroying his childhood memories of the area.

But the area is also well-known for it’s music and a style of guitar playing known as thumbpicking, or sometimes West Kentucky choke-style, which is strongly identified with the region. Merle Travis is the most well known and influential of a number of guitarists from the area that also include Mose Rager, Ike Everly, Kennedy Jones amongst others. This weekend honours their legacy, as well as promoting the current practiioners of this particular guitar style.

Bob competing in Muhlenberg County, KY

In the heat of the battle … competing in Muhlenberg County, KY

The Home of the Legends Thumbpicking Weekend is held each year during the last weekend of September in Powderly, Kentucky. Housed in the Merle Travis Music Centre (a very nice concert facility) it comprises a ceremony and concert on Friday night to add new inductees to the National Thumbpicking Hall of Fame, several thumb picking guitar competitions through the day on Saturday and a Saturday night concert featuring a number of fine fingerstyle guitarists. Sunday features an outdoor picking party next door in Paradise Park, which also houses several historic buildings including Merle Travis’ childhood house.

In the competitions Scott Taylor won the Traditional category, and as previously mentioned, I placed 1st in the Contemporary category. In the tradition of the competition, the winners of these two categories face off in a sudden death round for the Grand Champion title. You’ll notice I didn’t mention “Grand Champion” in my opening paragraph – so you’ve probably already guessed Scott won that round, including the gorgeous Grestch Country Gentleman that went with the title. Scott played great.

Scott Taylor and Bob Evans

Hanging with Scott Taylor

These competitions are always nerve wracking, but also exhilarating. The coolest thing about the ones I have entered is the backstage camaraderie amongst the competitors and the “bonding” that comes from sharing such a nerve wracking experience. I wasn’t disappointed at the Home of the Legends. I got to meet another roomful of great pickers – some of them as old as myself (athough I’m finding myself rapidly becoming the oldest in the room, Gack!), but also about half of the group being … uh … let me do the math … yeah .. half my age (and they weren’t teenagers – ouch!), which doesn’t bode well for me but is a great thing for carrying the style forward.

Mose Rager monument in Drakesboro, KY – one of the pioneers of Kentucky thumb picking.

On Sunday we made our way down the road to Drakesboro, home of Mose Rager. We also tried to find our way to Ebenezer to see Merle Travis’ monument, but somehow got lost – yes, people from the area will scratch their heads – but we were tourists – come on, cut us some slack.

Drakseboro streets are peppered with the names of thumb pickin’ guitarists

As an aside from the music, we wrapped up the weekend taking in Mammoth Cave National Park, located about and hour and a half east of Powderly. No musical comments, but a fascinating site featuring the world’s longest known cave. Being three hundred feet underground is a great place to be when it’s raining outside. 🙂

Bottom line. A terrific weekend of guitar music, with great hospitality. Check out this event sometime if you get the chance.