I love trad sessions, but I can’t stomach beer. I could nurse a pint all evening long but prefer to nurse a hot chocolate, spiced rum & diet cola (that’s two separate drinks, mind you) (I mean, the choc and the rum/cola) or a Bailey’s (well, it IS Irish). So I stay out of the rounds-buying tradition. (At a pub in Cork, Mel Mercier ordered a “Roman coke”; I asked him what that was. It was a “rum and coke”. I’m still working on grasping the various Irish accents.)
(“Ethno-”)musicologist, not a pro musician (though I DO get paid sometimes). Was a US folkie in the 1960s, and played in Balkan and Greek bands in the 1970s & ‘80s, but since 1972 I mostly research and perform Japanese folk song. Also teach and perform Okinawan music and Javanese gamelan. (Links to videos of my Japan and Okinawa performances are at the end of this blurb, if you’re curious about these musics.)
Based in the UK since 1981 (including 22 years teaching at SOAS, University of London), I join various sessions in Durham (cittern, some guitar - Irish, Northumbrian, general English, Scottish etc). When in London, occasionally try a session, including a monthly Swedish one and the occasional old-timey American ones. Have lived in Japan for a total of 10+ years since 1969.
Have only composed one “Irish”-y tune, so far as I can recollect: “Ballybutton Polka no. 6” (posted as “Ballybutton” on thesession). I didn’t realise at the time that we’re not supposed to post our own tunes, but since I’ve also posted a tune composed by a friend (“Catriona’s Fancy”), let’s pretend that a friend with my name posted my tune. Maybe I’ll figure out how to post it on this page instead.
But since my pre-Durham-Irish-sessions days, starting around 1962, as a US folkie, I’ve composed several country-like songs, the more frequently encountered of which are:
• “Footprints on my stomach” (“You left your footprints on my stomach when you walked out of my heart”), started in 1962 in my high school days. (Live on youtu.be/ExGpQVPzpYA) In 1973 I taught this to Scottish singer Jean Redpath, who then sang it often in concerts - a friend heard her do it in Carnegie Hall in 1978 (“Here’s a song by my friend David Hughes”). I sang it with Michael Cooney (US guy, not the Irish one), with dobro by Dave Bromberg, at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1971. A week later, back at Yale U, at the local folk sesh, a gal whipped out her cassette machine and said “You won’t believe the song I heard at the Philadelphia Folk Festival…”. I wasn’t famous (it was Michael’s set, me as guest), so she hadn’t realised that I was the guy. Sandy & Caroline Paton, bosses of Folk Legacy Records, learned it from me in 1971; later Sandy posted the lyrics online, which is presumably how American Telephone and Telegraph managed to steal the choral lyrics (tho not the melody) for a TV ad in California ca 1980 (friends reported this to me, but I was in Japan and never tried to chase it up). And in 1992 someone posted on a “funny titles” page: “I heard
the New Lost City Ramblers mention … apochryphal songs they thought they might sing, such as … “You left footprints on my stomach when you walked out of my heart”.” (In the past decade I played in old-timey and Swedish sessions in London with Tom Paley (sadly now passed away), but he’d left the Ramblers long before that quoted incident. I’m sure I sang “Footprints” for him once, but he hadn’t heard it before.)
• “The river of my tears washed out the bridge of my nose”. (No online recordings. Third verse begins “My glasses won’t stay on these days…”.) I wrote this by 1973. Searching the web, I find that a couple of people have included a title in their “funny titles” lists that obviously derives from mine: “A flood of tears [has] washed out the bridge of my nose”. And somebody in the 1990s (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/rec.music.folk/-135TaPYc5k/OLjSssS07AYJ) wondered who’d written the song “The raging river of my tears washed out the bridge of my nose”. Indeed, “raging” was in my first chorus.
• “The embryonic love affair”, with over 50 references to chickens, eggs (and cooking methods) and related foodstuffs (if I sing all the verses). (youtu.be/9vmvrj_pIhM) It starts a bit anti-feministically, because the guy singing it is angry at his ex for leaving him and so decides to consider her a slut. My female friends are fine with this - they know I’m not a degenerate but just a comic. Two friends video’d me singing it at a house party and posted it on Youtube; later, a friend heard that recording on Sirius online radio, channel 99 (“Rawdog”).
Aaaand …. the videos relating to my Japan activities:
1) Japan (3 links):
a) youtu.be/DWChUTEiD2c&list=PLVNFrqCFRXn8vE_03t5WFJC49WGDVtR0F [[4:23-7:12 (end), Akita Funakata Bushi, me on shamisen, Yoshie Campbell singing]]
b) youtu.be/o1-fRVFaJlA&list=PLVNFrqCFRXn8vE_03t5WFJC49WGDVtR0F [[0-2:52, me getting the Trafalgar Square masses to moo along with the oxherd song Nambu Ushioi Uta (also done in a few sessions in Ireland); 2:55-5:35, Akita Ondo, trad rap song; me and Sherry Sugita rapping, Yoshie Campbell dancing]]
c) youtu.be/qW6B9ao8mQM [[Played “The Cuckoo” on 3-string shamisen, with one verse translated into Japanese, on an LP of Japanese folk songs I recorded with my teacher TANAKA Yoshio in 1980. I also sang the Irish song “The Mountain Streams” [“With My Dog and Gun”] accompanied by shakuhachi bamboo flute, to show the Japanese folkies that Western songs actually DO sometimes have fancy ornaments like Japanese folk songs.]]
2) Okinawa: youtu.be/HUbsRZAU92A [ [Eisa ancestral festival dancing; balding me at bottom, plucking and singing]]