Live Jam Folk (Old Meets New) — Commentary

Featuring Boris Garcia, BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand, and the David Nelson Band

Performances:
BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand: “Sexy When She Comes”
BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand: “She Comes and She Goes” (with Barry Sless)
Boris Garcia: “Shady Grove”
Boris Garcia: “Walking Barefoot”
Boris Garcia: “Point Of Grace”
Boris Garcia: “Song of Love”
David Nelson Band: “Lochinvar”
BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand: “Twilight Swamp” (with Barry Sless)

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This episode explores the convergence of traditional folk, gypsy, bluegrass, and Appalachian country music in a live jam setting. It also provides an example of the influence of ancient Scottish and Celtic folk songs, as reinterpreted by Appalachian country and bluegrass artists, on today’s jam bands.

BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand:
“Sexy When She Comes” (BCBCSB)
“She Comes and She Goes” (BCBCSB) — with Barry Sless on guitar

Performed at the Iron Springs Pub in Fairfax, CA on May 5, 2010 (full concert on the Internet Archive). Recorded by Art Granoff.

This native acoustic West Virginia string band was discovered busking in the streets of Hawaii, jamming with fiddles, banjos, and mandolins on original and traditional folk songs. “Sexy When She Comes” is an original folk-gypsy tune, and Barry Sless (David Nelson Band, Cowboy Jazz, Phil Lesh and Friends, Flying Other Brothers) joins them on acoustic guitar in another original, “She Comes and She Goes”.

I met these guys at the Navarro Amphitheatre in Northern California in June, 2010, opening for the David Nelson Band. They were kind enough to let me join them in a midnight jam on harmonica (along with David Nelson and Pete Sears), performing a wide range of country, bluegrass, and fiddle tunes. They really impressed me with their intricate arrangements and authentic sound. But at one point I had to ask about the name of the band. You know that onomatopaeic imitation of the cheesy guitar riff commonly heard in 1970’s porn movies, commonly heard as “bow chica bow wow”? It’s the punchline of the joke, “What are the two sexiest animals on the farm? Brown chicken brown cow!”

BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand began performing in the spring of 2008 in their native West Virginia. In the Fall of 2008 BCBCSB moved to Maui, Hawaii, produced the album Fruit Goggles (see ReverbNation to download songs), and began performing on the streets of Paia (recorded for the DVD BrownChicken Brown Cow StringBand – Maui Tour). The band’s early momentum landed them the opening spot for the Bill Kreutzmann New Years Eve show 2009 at the Pauwela Cannery, and while touring Maui, the band started writing a second album, Gallop on You. Since then BCBCSB has toured the United States coast to coast non-stop for more 22 months, opening recently for the David Nelson Band in Northern California.

During late evening jams at various back porches and campfires, Xander Hitzig (vocals, fiddle, tenor banjo, Guitar), Justin Morris (guitar, banjo), and Orion Hitzig (mandolin, spoons, claw-hammer banjo) formed this all acoustic string band that delivers a fresh sound with a driving rhythm and sophisticated melodic arrangements. Performing unamplified whenever possible, they blend old time raging fiddle tunes with shades of gypsy, folk, and bluegrass to deliver a sound that engages and excites audiences in musical conversations.

See BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand’s web site. For more live music, visit BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand on the Internet Archive. For videos, check out Brown Chicken Brown Cow String Band Maui 4 on YouTube.

Boris Garcia:
“Shady Grove” (traditional)
“Walking Barefoot” (Boris Garcia)

Performed at the Route 63 Roadhouse in Millers Falls, MA, on Jan. 16, 2010 (full concert on the Internet Archive). Recorded by corey the groundhog.

“Point Of Grace” (Boris Garcia)
“Song of Love” (Boris Garcia)

Performed at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains, PA, on Apr. 4, 2010 (full concert on the Internet Archive). Recorded by Keith Litzenberger.

A little tribute to Jerry Garcia, a little to Bullwinkle, and a lot of serendipity — that’s Boris Garcia. Not a person but a folk-rock jam band. Hailing from my home town of Philadelphia, Boris Garcia kicks out a folk-style jam with hints of bluegrass, as you can hear in this next set of three original songs, “Walking Barefoot”, “Point Of Grace”, and “Song of Love”, starting with the 18th-century folk tune, “Shady Grove”.

Inspired by their predecessors (The Grateful Dead, New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Railroad Earth and Yonder Mountain String Band), the ensemble known as Boris Garcia combines the free-form spirit of a jam band with folk, Celtic, jazz, blues, and bluegrass to forge their own sound called jamgrass, a truly American music style.

I met this band at the Navarro Amphitheatre in Northern California in June, 2010, opening for the David Nelson Band, and was immediately blown away by their fluid, lilting sound.

Jeff Otto (vocals, bass, guitar, ukulele), Bob Stirner (vocals, guitar, bass), Bud Burroughs (mandolin, bouzouki, button accordion, Hammond organ) and Stephen Ferraro (drums, percussion) have been part of the Philadelphia performing music scene for the past 20 years, sharing bandstands — sometimes bands — and falling in and out of studio sessions with each other. Chip Desnoyers (pedal steel guitar, dobro) recently joined and is featured on these tracks.

The band recently opened for The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Little Feat, Railroad Earth, Jackson Browne, Hot Tuna, and David Bromberg. The band’s third CD, Once More Into The Bliss, produced by Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone, features guest appearances from Buddy Cage (New Riders of the Purple Sage) and Donna Jean-Godchaux-MacKay (Grateful Dead).

Boris Garcia’s first album, Family Reunion, and second release, Mother’s Finest, have been influential to other jam bands for their well-crafted songs and superior production.

See Boris Garcia’s web site. For more live music, visit Boris Garcia on the Internet Archive.

About the song: “Shady Grove”

The melody is strikingly similar to that of an old English ballad “Matty Groves”, the 17th century song collected by 19th-century American scholar Francis James Child. The song has been covered hundreds if not thousands of times; some well-known covers include the Jerry Garcia and David Grisman cover on the Shady Grove album, and the electric psychedelic derivative, “Shady Grove” by Quicksilver (see Nicky Hopkins Sessions).

“Shady Grove” (traditional) lyrics:

Peaches in the summertime
Apples in the fall
If I can’t get the girl I love
I don’t want none at all

Chorus:
Shady grove, my little love
Shady grove, I know
Shady grove, my little love
I’m bound for shady grove

Wish I had a banjo string
Made of golden twine
Every tune I’d play on it
I wish that girl were mine

Chorus

Wish I had a needle and thread
Fine as I could sew
I’d sew that pretty girl to my side
And down the road I’d go

Chorus

Some come here to fiddle and dance
Sme come here to tarry
Some come here to fiddle and dance
I come here to marry

Chorus

Every night when I go home
My wife, I try to please her
The more I try, the worse she gets
Damned if I don’t leave her

Chorus

Fly around, my pretty little miss
Fly around, my Daisy
Fly around, my pretty little miss
Nearly drive me crazy

Other lyrics:

Chorus 2:
Shady grove, my true love
Shady grove, my honey
Shady grove, my true love
Bound for shady grove

Wish I had a needle and thread
Fine as I could sew
I’d sew that pretty girl to my side
And down the road I’d go

Chorus 2

When I was a little boy
My mama told me
If I never kissed a girl
My lips would grow all mouldy

Chorus 2

Every night when I go home
(My wife?) I try to please her
The more I try the worse she gets
Damned if I don’t leave her

Chorus 2

When I was a little boy
I wanted a whittlin’ knife
Now I am a great big boy
I want a little wife

Chorus 2

Wish I had a banjo string
Made of golden twine
Every time I play on it
I wish that girl was mine

David Nelson Band:
“Lochinvar” (John Dawson) — with Pete Sears and Tony Bove

Performed by the David Nelson Band at the Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville, CA on 7/3/05. Featuring David Nelson (guitar), Barry Sless (pedal steel guitar), Pete Sears (bass), Charlie Crane (drums), Mookie Siegel (keyboards), and TBone Tony Bove (harmonica). Recording by Dan Ward (house mix Howard Danchik).

A direct descendent of the Scottish ballad, the song “Lochinvar” (written by John Dawson of the New Riders) is related to the “Young Lochinvar” of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poems. This David Nelson Band live performance north of Eureka, CA features “TBone” Tony Bove (yours truly) on guest lead vocals and harmonica, Barry Sless on pedal steel guitar, and Pete Sears on bass guitar.

David Nelson played folk and bluegrass as a member of The Wildwood Boys with Jerry Garcia, worked with the Grateful Dead on the Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty albums, played with Robert Hunter and Garcia in the Thunder Mountain Tub Thumpers, and co-founded the psychedelic country rock band the New Riders of the Purple Sage (NRPS) along with John Dawson.

John “Marmaduke” Dawson’s musical career began in the mid-1960s folk music scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. There he met fellow guitarist David Nelson, and was part of the rotating lineup of Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, a jug band that included Jerry Garcia and several other future members of the Grateful Dead. Dawson was also heavily influenced by the Bakersfield sound genre of country music. With Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, he co-wrote the song “Friend of the Devil”. In 1997, Dawson retired from the music business, moved to Mexico, and became an English teacher. He died in Mexico on July 21, 2009.

Nelson played lead guitar with the New Riders from the late sixties until the early 1980s; the band reformed in 2005. In the mid 1990s Nelson formed his own group, the David Nelson Band (DNB). The lineup for the DNB during this period were Barry Sless (Cowboy Jazz, Phil Lesh and Friends, Kingfish, Flying Other Brothers) on lead and pedal steel guitar, Michael “Mookie” Siegel (Kingfish, Phil Lesh and Friends, Kettle Joe’s Psychedelic Swamp Revue) on keyboards and accordion, Pete Sears (original Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, Rod Stewart) on bass and keyboards, and Jimmy Sanchez (Roy Rogers, Bonnie Raitt, Kingfish, Flying Other Brothers) on drums. DNB had lost its bass player Billy Laymon due to illness, so Pete Sears stepped in to play bass, and Tony Bove (yours truly, Graceful Duck and Flying Other Brothers) played harmonica.

This song “Lochinvar” originally appeared on the New Riders of the Purple Sage album Powerglide.

About the song:

Lochinvar (or Lan Var) is a small loch in Southern Scotland. The name Lochinvar is Scots Gaelic, Loch an barr, and means “Loch on the hilltop”. The ruins of a castle stand on a now submerged islet within the loch, the former stronghold of the Gordon family of Lochinvar. The real “Young Lochinvar” in Sir Walter Scott’s epic Marmion, which includes the poem “Lochinvar”, may have been Laird of Lochinvar, William de Gordon of Kenmure.

“Lochinvar” (John Dawson) lyrics:

Someday soon i’ll come by
Riding from behind the hill I’m
Gonna have a big white horse,
Swear to God I will
Gonna have a big black hat
Gonna have my bedroll packed I’m
Gonna come a riding up and knock upon your door

Chorus:
Oh lady it is such a lovely day
Oh lady well I just dropped by to say
I’d like to take you with me would you like to come
When I go a-riding off into the setting sun

When we both were very small
I asked ya would ya leave it all and
Come and ride away with me
You said wait and see

Well now we’re farther down the line
And dreams should not be left behind, so
Now I’m asking ya one more time
To ride away with me

Chorus

By comparison, here are a few lines from Sir Walter Scott’s “Lochinvar”, which is also about a man arriving by horse to sweet-talk a woman (in this case, a woman about to be married to someone else) into going away with him:

“Lochinvar” (excerpted) by Sir Walter Scott:

O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none.
He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar…

So stately his form, and so lovely her face.
That never a hall such a galliard did grace;
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
And the bride-maidens whisper’d, “Twere better by far
To have match’d our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.’

One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear.
When they reach’d the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
‘She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
Theyll have fleet steeds that follow’, quoth young Lochinvar.

See David Nelson Band’s web site. For more live music, visit David Nelson Band on the Internet Archive.

BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand:
“Twilight Swamp” (BCBCSB) — with Barry Sless on guitar

Performed at the Iron Springs Pub in Fairfax, CA on May 5, 2010 (full concert on the Internet Archive). Recorded by Art Granoff.

We close with the BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand, again with Barry Sless sitting in on acoustic guitar, with an instrumental. “Twilight Swamp” by Moore and Napier and the Dixie Partners (see YouTube video) is often covered by bluegrass musicians. Known as one of classic bluegrass music’s most soulful vocalists, Charlie Moore put together the first version of his Dixie Partners band in 1957. In 1960 Moore and Bill Napier (formerly a member of the Stanley Brothers band) teamed up to form the duo of Moore and Napier, recording nine albums during the 1960s.

See BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand’s web site. For more live music, visit BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand on the Internet Archive. For videos, check out Brown Chicken Brown Cow String Band Maui 4 on YouTube.

 

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