I'm spending soooo much time on the banjo lately. Really, I should be sounding soooooooooooooooooooo much better, but I'm not.
On the 6th I celebrated my birthday by going to Toronto by myself and wandering around. Bought the great strawberry Danish at Bread & Roses, visited my old school and surprised a bunch of teaching colleagues, went downtown, and visited the Twelfth Fret. Unfortunately, they didn't have a head that would fit my old Orpheum. They did, however, have a fair selection of banjos which I took the time to try out. I started out on an 1890's Cole, and then tried the newer ones: Vegas, Gold Tone, Wildwood, and a terrific Nechville Atlas with a twelve-inch pot. I found the newer banjos easier to play, with slightly wider string spacing.
I took the Orpheum back in for its third repair of the year, some work on the peghead. It will be a couple of weeks waiting its turn in the shop. I'm thinking of relegating it to two-finger picking, but I have to save up for a new open-back. Maybe I'll try one of the "kits" that Bill Rickard puts together. The bonus is that he's just north of Toronto.
This Friday was our second jam of the new year. I raced up to Sunbury only to realize I'd left my music and instrument stands at home. I dumped the guitar, banjo, and mandolin and flew back home. I made it back with time to spare, which surprised some people. Marge signed me in second, my usual spot, and I did "Keep on the Sunny Side" and "Down the Road", both for the first time. Another singer said, when it was her turn, that I'd taken her song, so she had to choose another. Second time around I did "Pancho and Lefty", and I got a third turn and closed the evening's activities with "Goodnight Irene". A couple got up from the audience and joined in at my mic, while other musicians took the rest of the mics.
When Lorne, our steel player, had his first turn, he took so long trying to figure out his second song that I said, "Hurry up, or we'll get the hook!" And when Les thanked the audience for not running out on him during his numbers, I said, "It's cold out!" He replied, "I'll get you for that!"
Our fiddler surprised my with a banjo CD he'd burned just for me.
Well, gotta start gettin' ready for Friday's jam. So far I've narrowed it down to "Pack up Your Sorrows" (guitar), "Hard Times Come Again No More" (banjo), "Chased Old Satan" (banjo), and "So Long - It's Been Good to Know You" (maybe guitar, maybe banjo, maybe ...). But I've been working on "If I Needed You" by Townes Van Zandt, and I played a Ry Cooder CD (Into the Purple Valley) in the car when we went to breakfast this morning (and on the way back, with a newly purchasedantique table), so the list could change drastically by Friday evening.
Oh (said he, already having given waaay too much information for one post), bicycles and banjos (and other instruments) do mix. I've reserved the Portsmouth tavern for a Thursday evening in February for a Kingston Velo Club jam session. Exact date not set yet, but all cyclists (and non-cyclists) would be welcome.