Wellyn: The Double Dulcimer Magic of Force and d'Ossche' Gourd Music GM 107
Albert was to die a year after this release came out in 1989 on Neal Hellman's Gourd Music Label. No one “in the biz” knew he had contracted AIDS. We knew. He was taking the experimental medicine, AZT. He had married Colleen Harmon the year before. He had moved to Hollywood and become a successful film and television producer for New World Productions. We had cut our appearance dates to three or four a year as we focused on new careers, he in film and I in education.
All of our albums had fallen out of production. Vinyl was dying. Kicking Mule was still selling off back stock. Under the terms of our contracts, non-availability after a year allowed the rights to the tunes to come back to us. ED Denson offered us a contract revision that would allow him to bring them out in the emerging cassette market. We declined.
Neal Hellman had established his Gourd Music label in Santa Cruz, CA. He was releasing new material of his own and branching out to include other titles and artists. Even though we were no longer touring (after almost 20 years!) he felt our instrumental work would continue to sell and he was willing to invest in the cost to bring it out.
Neal wanted to have a slightly different song inclusion and order than originally appeared on the Art of Dulcimer, our primarily instrumental album on Kicking Mule. Al and I went back into the studio-- this time in Edmonds, WA, to record a few new tunes and redo some others.
Dixie and Matilda/Anthem were dropped from the new release. Conversations with the River was lengthened and the short vocal taken out. Moon Void was lifted off of the Moon Fell album. We had both been performing Cornwall for over ten years but the only recorded version was Albert's solo on Pacific Rim, so we cut it as a duet. We also cut an instrumental version of Very Best Night of the Year off of the Moon Fell album. Finally, we added one of our string-band, “bluegrassy” tunes, Saint Peter.
Chris Casler, a long-time UNC college friend of Albert's shot the very beautiful cover. Essentially it is a still life of dulcimers made by Albert. The cloisonne headstock overlay of the one in the foreground was created by Duncan Berry. So very beautiful. The inside photo by Ted Schaeffer was the result of having him ask us over to his private studio after we had finished a concert in Angel's Camp, CA with Doc and Merle Watson. He wanted to shoot an “art” picture of us. The Li Po poetry quotation-- well, that was us in those days: Stir yourself with poetry, stand firm in ritual and complete yourself in music.
Like vinyl, cassette days were numbered. Whereas vinyl is enjoying a comeback of sorts, it is doubtful cassettes will ever replace cds or memory sticks or whatever else is lurking out there around the technological corner. Neal and Gourd Music were also moving on as he adapted to his changing markets. Double Dulcimer Magic became the saddest of all releases-- a cut out, dropped from the line. He called me up one day and asked if I wanted the remainders. I still had closet space so I said, “sure”.
Gourd Music kept us in the public eye after Albert died and I went into a ten-year cycle of playing only for friends and family. I am grateful for that. I am also grateful that because Neal wanted a few new cuts, we recorded more of our material, though barely half of what we wrote. When I brought out the digitally remastered, Complete Recordings of Force and d'Ossche' on two CDs, it contained all of our five vinyl and one cassette releases-- 44 tunes. 20 years. Like Mel Blanc said, “That's all, f-f-folks.”
Glass half empty, glass half full. I choose half full. I can't imagine Cornwall never having been captured as a duet.