The Revenge of Myndryll Leavesfall

Riley Broach, bassist for The Viper and His Famous Orchestra, and currently the Orchestra Director at Lake Zurich Middle School North in Illinois, passes along the following.

Just wanted to share the last two concerts of mine. I have a few recordings up on my orchestra website. The first is of the concert last night, December 17, featuring the Atomic Strings performing “Aloha ‘Oe” with me singing.

…and playing the ukulele. Listen especially in “Aloha ‘Oe” for the talking parts, where Riley pesters the audience with “You know this part” and (in apparent Yiddish) “Now you do it, ‘Aloha Oy!'” And on “Rhythm ‘N’ Blues,” we discover that clapping on the 2 and 4 doesn’t necessarily come naturally to the children of Lake Zurich.

The second is of the Halloween concert on October 30th with the Atomic Strings performing an original song, The Quentin Witch Project, with me singing again. It’s the beginning to an epic tale about five viking heroes getting lost on some river off of Lake Zurich.

It is, indeed, epic. Have your lunch and your coffee ready in front of you before you click play, because if you get up in the middle to do this stuff, you’ll miss quite a bit. I’m still not entirely clear on the plot, but Riley does offer helpful meta-commentary throughout. Photos are available here.

We’re in the phone book! We’re in the phone book!

…or at least we’re finally on CD Baby. After much gentle prodding from Tangleweed‘s Kip Rainey (source of many of the most delightful TweedBlog posts), I finally got my act together and sent in the 5 CDs of 2002’s “Everything for Everyone” that the site needs to start enabling self-distribution.

On our CD Baby page, you can hear significant chunks of all the songs, read a description of the band which, hands down, wins for the highest density of compound adjectives of any of the descriptions I’ve seen, and link to other examples of bands in the Avant Garde: Avant-Americana, Folk: Skiffle, and Lo-Fi categories. As you’ll see, we come in as both a top-7 editor’s pick and a top-7 best seller in the Folk:Skiffle category. Largely because there seem to be only 7 records in that category. Feel free to review the CD if you’ve heard it, and feel even freer to buy it!

I held off actually sending things in until I’d at least tried to cross some of the legal t’s and dot some of the copyright i’s that would make it ok for a commercial CD and downloads to include the covers we did on that recording: “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Pennies from Heaven,” Angie Heaton’s “Pretty Is as Pretty Does,” and Liz Phair’s “Dance of the Seven Veils.” It’s somewhat obscene that Gershwin’s 1924 piece is still under copyright, 88 years after publication, and (given that he died in 1937) now exceeding even the life-plus-70 years of protection that authored works are supposed to get.

Good Morning, Irene

“Good Morning, Irene”

As I suppose is obvious, this is an answer song to Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” inverting that eve’s hope-tinged despair for the new morn’s despair-tinged hope. I needed a song to help my three-year-old daughter, Irene, wake up as the mornings got colder and darker. I also needed a song for the Paint Branch Bluegrass Boys to learn that we could call our own. Leadbelly’s song is a waltz; this one is in four.* Written during the week of October 21-27, 2007.


Irene, good morning; good morning, Irene
The sun will soon come creeping through
The day ahead I know will be
A day just for me and for you


I told your mother that you were the one
I loved you with all of my heart
I’d love, honor, cherish, obey
And keep you ’til death did us part

I’ll stop all my rambling and staying out late
I’ll sit by the fireside bright
No rambling, no gambling, no bounding, no rounding
No staying away half the night

I’ll live in the country, I’ll live in the town
I’ll live in a land far away
And if I don’t jump in the river and drown
I’ll live anywhere that you say

I’ll take you to Georgia, I’ll take you to Rome
Far from these hills of Tennessee
I’ll take you to Georgia and we’ll make a home
In the land of the sweet what’s-to-be

I love Irene, the Lord knows it’s true
I love her with all of my might
I’ll pack up my morphine and put it all away
‘Til the day that Irene says goodnight

* The chords follow the Leadbelly changes (I-V-V-I, I7-IV-V-I), and the melody approximates his, though in the first half of each verse/chorus the lines are halved and double-timed (i.e., the same rhythm as the lines in the second half).

Set list for October 26, 2007

Oktoberfest organized by the Department of Entomology, University of Maryland-College Park

Playing jug and banjo uke with the Paint Branch Bluegrass Boys

SET #1

  • “I’ll Never Love Anybody But You”
  • “Long Journey Home”
  • “Banks of the Ohio”
  • “Ocean of Diamonds”
  • “Wildwood Flower”
  • “Blackberry Blossom”
  • “CC Rider”
  • “Kentucky Waltz”
  • “Whiskey before Breakfast”
  • “In the Jailhouse Now”
  • “If I Lose”

SET #2

  • “Jerusalem Ridge”
  • “Skip to My Lou”
  • “Down Yonder”
  • “Old Home Place”
  • “Wagon Wheel”
  • “In the Pines”
  • “I Saw the Light”
  • “You Are My Sunshine”
  • “Tell It to Me”
  • “Hot Corn Cold Corn”
  • “Jack’s Red Cheetah”
  • “Blue Ridge Mountain Home”


  • “The Fox”
  • “Ashokan Farewell “

A Song for All Seasons

Front cover art for 'A Song for All Seasons' by The Viper and His Famous Orchestra (2000)Front cover art for Robert Maxwell’s “A Song for All Seasons”A recent request for a recording of “Das Kapital” from an intrepid ex-colleague of mine from grad school in Champaign-Urbana (thanks Becky) got me thinking about why I’ve made it so hard to find and order the CDs recorded by The Viper and His Famous Orchestra: Everything for Everyone and A Song for All Seasons. Every couple months or so I get a request, but right now you pretty much have to hire a private dick to figure out a) who I am and b) how to reach me.

So as a start on smoothing the flows of the aforementioned capital, I’ve updated the “About the Viper and His Famous Orchestra” page to give my contact information and pricing information on the two recordings. (Soon, I hope to make it even easier to get these without anyone having to deal with me personally at all!)

Those efforts jump-started some other long overdue efforts to give more bio and personnel information for the Orchestra, and to finally scan in some of the fantastic CD cover art that Edward Burch designed. Some of this you are seeing at the top of this entry.

Specifically, feast your eyes on the front cover art for A Song for all Seasons, the 5-song live EP of covers recorded at the Highdive and Mike & Molly’s in Champaign, Illinois, in April of 1999 and February of 2000. Burch, the Orchestra’s suitcase player, is third from left on the cover. His design lovingly recreates the cover art of the 1960s LP of the same title by harpist Robert Maxwell (Decca DL-74609), along with some other borrowed elements (e.g., the “360 Stereo” tag) typical of the era.

The individual photographs were taken by our friend Rachel Leibowitz in a basement classroom of the Music Building at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Despite appearances, they were all taken in the same season, on a snow-covered winter day. Pictured, left to right, is bassist Riley Broach, Ryan Jerving (the Viper), Burch, and trombonist Rob Henn. Riley and Ed provided their own costumes, but I’ll have you know that the top half of Rob’s costume came from my wardrobe and is STILL basically the outfit I’ll wear the first day of class in Fall semesters.

the kind of music your great-great-great-grandparents warned your great-great-grandparents about