Arise & Go’s debut EP
In January 2017 we ventured into the studio to record our first album. The liner notes below give background on each of the tunes on the recording. For audio samples, please visit our media page.
Arise & Go EP Liner Notes
- Sheepskin & Beeswax/Le Voyageur/Roddy McDonald’s Fancy
The album opens with a driving reel of murky origins. Most Irish musicians I know call Sheepskin & Beeswax a Québécois tune, but there are many Québécois sources that name it Le Reel Irlandaise. The title refers to a recipe for homemade wound care:
Sheepskin and beeswax,
It makes a mighty plaster,
The more you try to get it off, The more it stuck t’ faster.
The reference to a ‘plaster’ (band-aid), a common word in Irish vernacular, could be used to make a case for country of origin, but as far as we’re concerned the tune is one of countless examples of tune sharing across borders and cultures. Le Voyageur is more obviously a French-Canadian tune, although not widely recorded. Ellie’s version here is one of only a small handful I could find while writing these notes. I first heard Roddy McDonald’s Fancy on ‘The Best of the Tannahill Weavers 1979-1989’, billed there as Roddie MacDonald’s Favourite. The recording blew me away as a young piper, and still remains in my regular playlist.
2. Kitty Lie Over/My Former Wife/Winnie Hayes’
I came up with this set of jigs when Ellie and I first started playing together. We both loved Mick O’Brien and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s album Kitty Lie Over and it inspired us to start playing the tune for which it was named.
I learned the second tune from the opening track of Liam O’Flynn’s self titled 1988 solo record. My Former Wife is an old tune that proved popular with pipers on both sides of the Atlantic. Piper James Early (c.1840-1914) from County Leitrim became good friends with Capt. Francis O’Neill once in America, and it’s thought that Early (heard playing a
three part version of the tune here) is the reason for its inclusion in O’Neill’s famous Dance Music of Ireland. My Former Wife even made its way onto the vaudeville stage. The O’Donnell Brothers, Edward and Cornelius, included the tune in their act after getting it from fellow vaudevillian piper John Marron (see image). Besides its musical merit, I’m sure the title lent itself to some good comedic dialogue.Many thanks to Nick Whitmer for these images and information on the O’Donnell Brothers.
For more information visit Nick’s archive here.
3. Danse du Sauvage & Reel du Pendu
Danse du Sauvage is a dance in 6/4 meant to accompany a comic pantomime popular in French Canada and Franco-American New England. In their book Danse Ce Soir! (Mel Bay Publications, 2001) Laurie Hart and Greg Sandell write that “in one variation of the pantomime , a step-dancing hunter armed with a broom-handle gun pursues, kills, and guts a bear, moose or caribou, played by another person who lopes out. Children play the role of hunting dogs. In another variation, a step-dancing barber begins by shaving a client’s beard and ends by eviscerating him. An ‘Indian’ is sometimes cast in the role of barber or client. In either variation, a closing scene is sometimes added where a new character, often a woman, revives the victim.”
Reel du Pendu is a traditional showpiece for fiddlers. Our version is based on a version Ellie learned in Saint John that is less about flashy variations and more the driving melody. The name, Hanged Man’s Reel, refers to the story of a man sentenced to swing from the gallows who was given a second chance at freedom if only he could play a tune on a mistuned fiddle.
4. The Eagle’s Whistle/Tamarack ‘er Down/The Four Courts/Jenny Dang the Weaver
The track opens with an abbreviated version of an ‘improvisation’ on smallpipes. This little air was quite freeform the first few times I played it, but eventually it began to solidify. Maybe someday I’ll give it a name.
The Eagle’s Whistle is a well known Irish march. The simplicity of the melody gives the pipes, fiddle, and guitar a chance to really sing together. This march quickly picks up speed in the wonderfully obscure Cape Breton tune, Tamarack ‘er Down, composed by Donald Angus Beaton of Mabou. The rolling melody and somewhat crooked meter of this tune are meant to call to mind the freshly cut tamarack trees rolling down the river to the mill. As far as we can tell, this is one of only a small handful of times this tune has been recorded.
The Four Courts is, aptly, a four part Irish reel usually played in D, but played here in A to accommodate the pipes. The title refers to Ireland’s main judiciary building in Inns Quay, Dublin. The building houses the Supreme Court, the High Court, the Dublin Circuit Court, and until 2010 the Central Criminal Court.
We close out with a staple Scottish reel, Jenny Dang the Weaver, written by Reverend Alexander Garden (1688–1778) of Birse, Aberdeenshire. The tune first appeared in print in the Orpheus Caledonius Collection of 1733. The Reverend Garden was an accomplished amateur musician. One day, during a break from writing the upcoming Sunday sermon, Garden picked up his fiddle and began playing a tune he’d recently composed. While playing, he looked out the window into the yard and observed Mrs. Garden speaking with the local weaver whom they’d hired as a hand on their farm. Mrs. Garden told the weaver to shine up the minister’s boots, and when he declined, she proceeded to give him a severe beating over the head hoping it would change his mind. It did. Finding the whole scene so amusing, Reverend Garden named the tune Jenny Dang the Weaver.
Liner notes by Michael, February 2017