Did You Blaine Street Records BSR 151
This album accomplishes everything I wanted to do when I started out learning to play the dulcimer in 1968. It wasn't my goal to be a showbiz star or even a musician. My goal was to take something totally unknown to me and to everyone around me and learn everything I could about it. I knew nothing about music. I knew nothing about the dulcimer. I knew very little about myself.
At nineteen I wanted to take a path in life so genuine that I could not fool myself-- to place the locus of the determination of mastery and accomplishment outside of myself. I dedicated my life to playing and learning music-- exclusively on and with the dulcimer. It's accurate to say that in the first ten years of this effort I played 14 hours a day-- everyday. For five of those years I hitchhiked 300,000 miles through out the United States and Europe.
I stayed in different homes with new people almost every night. I listened to the stories of people's lives in the context of their lives-- their dreams and hopes and expectations and tried to capture it as best as I could on a canvas of sound. If a song or a tune could touch others with joy, laughter, sorrow, tears or share the infectious exuberance of being alive, it was a true event.
The honesty of this album is that I don't get in the way of the stories of these songs. The mastery of form is that I play and sing without thinking. I live in the every moment of every note and every word. The tunes themselves breathe. Like being on a walk with old friends, the feet go where they are supposed to and the attention is on the day and on the company.
And these songs and tunes are old friends. Most of them have been played and performed hundreds and hundreds of times over ten, twenty and sometimes even thirty years. They are personal songs, but also ones that have evolved into being anyone's personal song. Not all of the songs are everyone's experience but all of the songs are someone's experience-- not just my own.
The recording is done live. That means I sing and play at the same time with no overdubs and “punch-ins” to fix something. It also means that the microphones are all live. A vocal miscue would “bleed” into the instrument track and vice versa. If the chair squeaked or my foot thumped or I exhaled loudly or smacked my lips, it would all be there-- but it's not. Within the music is another phenomenon, performance-- to be aware in that moment, to not be anticipating or second-guessing the next moment.
No smoke. No mirrors. No sleight-of-hand except that which came from being painstakingly earned. After these nearly fifty years it turns out I learned to play well, sing well and tell stories that touched the lives of others. That was my goal, though I could not have said so back then. I was only looking for some true thing. Turns out there's lots of true things.
The opening line of the title song sums this up pretty well. “Did you go where you wanted to go? Did you do what you wanted to do? Did you find somebody to love? Did that someone love you? That stuff's pretty universally true.
I wanted to do this album solo though I admit the siren's call of added instruments and vocalists was almost overwhelming. I can hear everyone I ever played with in every song. Though, like being 22-years old, standing in the stairwell at the Museum of Modern Modern Art and drinking in Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy, sometimes one thing at a time is enough.
I am indebted to Gabrielle Gern for her dulcimer mandala and to Terry Tennessen for the exquisite graphics.