1. The Robbin’s Beek / Angeline the Baker
I wrote The Robbin’s Beek for my dear friends Will Robbins and Alethea Beeker as a wedding gift, and then recruited Will to play mandolin on the recording. Angeline is a classic old-time tune that to me, sounds exactly like friends having a grand time together. Which is quite true, in this case!
Sarah Wilfong, fiddle; Frances Cunningham, Irish bouzouki; Al Goll, dobro; Will Robbins, mandolin
2. Creaky Pine
This tune was inspired by a cross country skiing excursion with my friend Isaac Alderson, during which we were convinced there were monsters in the woods about to eat us because of the horrible creaking and moaning sounds that followed us everywhere we went. I was both relieved and disappointed to learn it was just the trees. Mustang Sally breathed new life into this tune with an outstanding arrangement, and I am delighted that they joined me in the studio for this one.
Sarah Wilfong, fiddle; Mandy Holbert, electric bass; Lisa Romeo, drums; Rachel Solomon, piano and accordion; Jake Taylor, electric guitar; Brenda Zitzman, acoustic guitar
My sister Erica recently married a handsome German fellow, moved to Heidelberg, and had a beautiful baby girl named Emma. I borrowed the Polish dance form of the Mazurka for this tune, and arranged it in the 1930’s French Musette (cafe music) style. Clearly a German-American baby needs a French Mazurka. Right…?
Sarah Wilfong, violin; Wes Langlois, guitar; Chris Miller, bass; Will Robbins, mandolin; Rachel Solomon, accordion; Erin Turner, clarinet
4. Premonition / The Old Blackthorn Stick / Planxty Burton, or Burton’s Bounce
Premonition is for Rob Middleton, who shares my love of slow sad tunes. The Old Blackthorn Stick is a traditional tune that is typically played faster, but I love how it rambles when it’s just a little slower. Burton’s Bounce was written for my lifelong friend Sara, when she married her high school sweetheart and became Mrs. Burton.
Sarah Wilfong, fiddle; Frances Cunningham, Irish bouzouki; Joe Giotta, bodhran
5. Limple Twiddles
One night Kristin and I had a little too much Scotch, and began discussing the merits of simple, lilting, twin fiddles. “Simple, lilting, twin fiddles” rapidly became “limple twiddles”, which was a title just begging for a tune. Happily, we were able to deliver. (Matt Glaser, this one’s for you!)
Sarah Wilfong, violin; Kristin Weber, violin; Joe Giotta, drums; Wes Langlois acoustic guitar; Chris Miller upright bass
6. Patchwork Heart
My sister Adrienne wrote this beautiful piano piece, and didn’t mind at all when I wanted to add a violin part. I think the result is quite lovely.
Sarah Wilfong, violin; Adrienne Wilfong, piano
7. Annabelle Greene
On Halloween night, 2011, I woke up around 3 in the morning, grabbed some paper, and wrote down the song that I had been dreaming. When I looked at it later that day, it actually made sense and seemed interesting, if a bit dark. I instantly thought of Kristin’s voice for its haunting ethereal quality, and Joe upped the cool factor of this song by playing a bicycle wheel in lieu of a cymbal.
Kristin Weber, lead vocals; Sarah Wilfong, fiddle and harmony vocals; Joe Giotta, drums; Wes Langlois acoustic guitar; Chris Miller upright bass
8. Palmer’s Gate/ Boys of Mallin / The Eggplant
I learned Palmer’s Gate from my Boston fiddle buddy Cara Frankowicz, and bonded with Frances over love of this tune. Boys of Mallin is a popular session tune, and I wrote The Eggplant in honor of a particularly fine eggplant casserole my violin teacher Enid Cleary made one night.
Sarah Wilfong, fiddle; Frances Cunningham, Irish bouzouki
9. Martin Wynne’s
In the grand tradition of classical composers everywhere (Dvorak? Copland, anyone?), I took an Irish tune and expanded upon it. The result is a fiddle-ish string quartet, with plenty of room for everyone’s unique voices.
Sarah Wilfong, violin; Kristin Weber, violin; Brittany Haas, 5-string violin; Emily Nelson, cello
10. Sketchbook Waltz
This piece was written for Vanderbilt University’s original production, Juggleville III: Catch-a-Sketch. My mom insisted that I put it on this album, so I did a little rearranging (including roping my dad into playing trombone!) and away we went. I consider this to be composed in the widely recognized Creepy Circus style.
Sarah Wilfong, violin and viola; Joe Giotta, drums; Wes Langlois acoustic guitar; Chris Miller upright bass; George Pierce, mandolin; Rachel Solomon, accordion and keyboard; W. David Wilfong, trombone
11. The Devil’s Fruit Stand
So the Devil went down to Georgia, and Johnny kicked his butt. The Devil goes back to Hell, only to find he is now the laughing stock of the the underworld. So he does the only thing he can think to do: open a roadside fruit stand, selling really scary looking and worse smelling fruit. So the next time you see a little old man at a fruit stand, be careful! Because you never know…
Sarah Wilfong, fiddle; Mandy Holbert, electric bass; Lisa Romeo, drums; Rachel Solomon, piano; Jake Taylor, acoustic guitar; Brenda Zitzman, acoustic guitar
12. Angeline the Baker, reprise
I was driving home from teaching one evening, and between one breath and the next I had a stunning vision: dozens of fiddlers- students and professionals- all playing Angeline the Baker together in a Fiddle Mob. Once the vision hit, I knew this had to happen. And so my friends- both professionals and students- gathered at the recording studio, and we made magic. Seriously, this is what music is all about.
Fiddle Mob: Sarah Wilfong, Simon Lowen, Laurel McKay, Wesley Smail, Isla Tarleton, Bill Verdier, Kristin Weber Frances Cunningham, Irish bouzouki
Bait and Tackle Studio
My friend, Larry Jefferies, has a beautiful studio in Whites Creek, TN. Whenever I record there, I have a wonderful sense of serenity and connection with nature. Probably something about the huge picture window by the recording console, and the lush landscape beyond the window! I am so thankful I had the chance to kick off the recording process for Facets there!
One of my favorite moments from the four tunes we recorded the first day was Joe (the drummer) recording some suitable “tink” sounds for Sketchbook Waltz. He dumped out a bag that contained pot lids, a hubcap, and some crazy contraption he built from an old pipe. I think his car keys made an appearance as well. Funny thing is, I ended up using all of those sounds in the final version!
The Cash Cabin
The Cash Cabin recording studio is legendary. Johnny Cash built it on his property just outside Nashville, TN, and his family and friends continue to use it to record beautiful records. Little did I know when I first met Chuck Turner, my esteemed engineer, that a) he is a Grammy winning engineer, and b) that he records regularly at the Cash Cabin. I was surprised and very honored when he extended me the invitation to record there! (One of these, “Are you sure you called the right person? You know you are talking to Sarah Wilfong, right…?” He assured me he hadn’t misdialed.)
On the day of the recording session, I arrived just as the piano tuner was finishing up tuning the antique Steinway upright. Everywhere I looked, pieces of music history were hanging on the walls. Fortunately I had asked my photographer friend, Ben Grimes, to come with and document the day for me so I wouldn’t forget any details.
I knocked out seven tunes (including some viola parts recorded on Laura Cash’s viola!!) with the help of my talented friends. And at the end of my 13 hour day, I was asked to sign the mantle, squeezing my name alongside some of country music’s greatest players.
Back to Bait and Tackle
I finished up the album overdubs at Bait and Tackle, and then came the moment I had been waiting for: The Fiddle Mob!
We started with my students Simon Lowen, Laurel McKay, Wesley Smail, and Isla Tarleton. Everyone had headphones, and their job was to play Angeline the Baker to the existing accompaniment track. When I first proposed the idea of the fiddle mob to Chuck and Larry, they agreed that it was neat but cautioned me that kids in the studio usually meant a lot of extra time and energy. To my delight (but not my surprise), my students were completely focused and rose to the challenge like pros. We had a keeper track inside of 20 minutes!
Then it was time for the big kids. Kristin Weber, Bill Verdier, and I made some triple fiddle magic, and just like that, we were done!
Or were we?
Shu-man Studio and Dykhuis Studios
You see, when I was arranging Sketchbook Waltz, I had this wild idea that trombone would be really really awesome on it. Cue my dad, who happens to play awesome trombone. Handy, right? My parents live in Chicago, which was not so handy for recording. Likewise for Austin-based Will Robbins, who I had tapped to play mandolin. Fortunately David Bragman and Marvin Dykhuis (of Shu-man Studio and Dykhuis Studios respectively) were up the the challenge of remote recording. Ah, the wonders of modern technology!
And so, twelve tracks and four studios later, I have an album. Some people find being in the studio difficult or intimidating. I’ve found it that way myself, at certain times. This, however, was not one of those times. Every person who contributed their talent to this project brought their A game musically, and we had such fun during the recording process! The wheels in my head are already turning for my next project, because I can’t wait to ride that exhilarating wave all over again.
Until next time!