Category Archives: those that from a long way off look like flies

Lean with it, rock with it

Here’s a scratch recording that I made for Edward Burch to practice along with, to get the Run-DMC-style vocal interpolations I want to do with him on the first verse of “Drunk Bus”
(click here to download the mp3)

“Drunk Bus” is a song by Macomb, Illinois-based rapper Tre-P, and it falls into my favorite category of songs: namely, songs about the details of local public transportation, particularly buses.* In this case, that bus is the eponymous free shuttle that would take Western Illinois Universities from the clubs back to their dorm late at night. Here’s Tre-P, in full flash animation:

Watch for the secret interpolated shot at 1:46.

* Cf. The Viper and His Famous Orchestra, “Ich Bin Berlin” (on the Champaign, Illinois MTD bus route up North Prospect to the Meijer grocery store, “where parking’s the only sound”) and “Ukulele Rhythm” (about riding on the Blue bus–the 4W bus–that went from my place on Hill St. in Champaign to the International Cafe on Wright St. in Urbana where the orchestra and I would sometimes play of a Friday afternoon in the late 1990s).

The Other Hanlon Girl

Here’s a little piece I wrote a couple days ago that I’m calling “The Other Hanlon Girl.”

to download scratch track

Like most things I write, this came about as a consequence of trying to learn how to play something else. That something else in this case was “Ham Beats All Meat,” an old time song concerned with class warfare and how to eat it. Nothing should be read into the thought process that brought me from the existing song to this newly composed tribute to my lovely wife, Ann, and her sisters Katie and Mary.

Play along!


D / | / / | G / | / / |
D / | / / | A7 / | / / |
D / | / / | G / | / / |
D / | A7 / | D / | / / |

D / | / / | C / | G / |
D / | / / | G / | A7 / |
D / | / / | C / | G / |
D / A7 / | D / | / / |

Hanukkah with the Viper pt. 8

And finally, after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 nights of Viper-style gelt, let’s close out the 8th night of Hanukkah with the freshest of all the latkes I have to offer. This is a recording of just the vocal section of “Heyse Latke Kalte Latke” so you can really sing along with the lyrics (and see the posting from December 22 for those).

download mp3

What you’re hearing is me with my five-dollar nylon string guitar, bought at the same estate sale in Riverdale, Maryland at which my wife and I found a Lyndon B. Johnson dart board (well pock-marked with use) and a oil-painted self-portrait of someone named Bertha Myrna in a jester’s outfit who we assume was at one time the owner of both the aforementioned items.

I’m recording this on a single mic through the Line 6 TonePort UX2, with the Gear Box on one of the guitar amp settings (I like the effect of that, as you can also hear here).

And thus ends 8 pre-programmed nights of Hanukkah. As it turns out, I wrote all of these posts on the weekend of December 20-21 right before I left Maryland. In fact, packing up this computer will be the last thing I do after I get back from closing out our bank accounts and dropping some clothing off at Value Village. I like the thought of these posts lining up and jumping out at their pre-arranged time as I’m driving through or by Frederick, Breezewood, Akron, Toledo, South Bend, Hammond, Waukegan, and Kenosha before I finally get to Milwaukee where I’ll give my wife and daughter a big hug and kiss and unpack the car for good after this ridiculous semester of living 792 miles away from them. So happy Hanukkah, and wherever this may find you, give someone you love a smooch from me.


Testing out my new Line6 TonePort UX2 recording interface, recorded using Audacity. The mic is recorded using the Line6 GearBox “Classic Vocal Front” setting. The song is by Andy Razaf and Thomas “Fats” Waller.

for download

And here’s a five-minute’s worth attempt at multi-tracking a chorus of “Milwaukee Here I Come” by Lee Fikes. First track is vocals and ukulele together, second track is just cümbüş. I can’t remember the GearBox setting, but I think it was “rhapsody” or something like that.

for download

I know why the caged bird yodels

Last week I got the idea that the Paint Branch Ramblers should have an opening song to bookend what we’ve been closing with, the “Last Call Waltz.” This is the song, most recently recorded by Tangleweed, but orginally written as “Blue Fishin'” by Kip Rainey, Edward Burch, and me as part of the incidental music we were writing for what was to be a show about fishing in the U.S. for export to Norwegian television. Don’t ask. Wait: do.

In any case, I had an idea for a title, the “First Round Polka,” and all I needed was a song to go with it. The only stipulations I set myself were that the song a) should follow the basic polka chord changes (i.e., “Tiger Rag” or “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”), b) should modulate into the key of the relative 5th for a trio section, and c) should be wordless except for a yodeled melody, and that melody should make some reference to the similarly wordless yodeled melody in the “Last Call Waltz.”

So this past Wednesday, I fooled around on the mandolin until the instrumental parts came together, and this afternoon I wrote the yodel. Here’s basically what it’s going to sound like.


The chords are:

F F F C7
C7 C7 C7 F
F F F Bb
E7 F C F

With the coda:

Gm E7 F D7
G7 C7 F

Now to write out the rest of it for practice on Monday.