Wednesday, May 05, 2021

FTW, 5.5.2021

In the aftermath of the Trout Mask Replica project, all the other music I'm capable of playing seems kind of mundane, and I'm finding I miss the daily challenge of hearing, transcribing, and learning those parts. While I'm waiting for some other project to suggest itself, I'm trying to keep up with my running in spite of a persistent, nagging calf injury, and getting in the habit of giving Auggie, our mighty protector and overseer, twice-daily insulin shots (apparently, diabetes is not uncommon in indoor senior cats). 
Our local municipal elections resulted in a mayoral runoff between the Anointed One of the money people who pull the strings in this town (the current mayor's former chief of staff), and the retired AT&T exec and longtime Democratic party chair who, if elected, would be the first Black woman to hold the office. (I will be happy to vote for Deborah Peoples once again.) Likewise, our city council district will hold a runoff between a local whiskey maker, recently relocated from California, and a fundamentalist right winger who's been a regular presence at council meetings the last few years. (I will be holding my nose and voting for Leonard Firestone, thank you very much.) 
While turnout was better than in previous municipals, it was still only a paltry 13% of the registered voters. Hopefully, the folks who marched and prayed for George Floyd and Atatiana Jefferson, and froze their asses off and boiled water during Snowpocalypse way back in February, will make themselves more of a presence at the polls on June 5th.
The estimable saxophonist Dave Williams, whom I fondly remember essaying Charles Mingus' "Nostalgia in Times Square" many times at the old Black Dog Tavern (RIP) and elsewhere, pulled my coat to a couple of Mingus tomes of which I was previously unaware. Mingus Mingus: Two Memoirs by Al Young and Janet Coleman juxtaposes two remembrances of the titanic bassist-composer by two young acolytes who aided in the editing of his own self-mythologizing memoir Beneath the Underdog. And Gene Santoro's Myself When I Am Real: The Life and Music of Charles Mingus serves as a corrective to some of Mingus' wilder fabrications (without casting aspersions on his authorship) and provides a much more well-rounded portrait of the man and musician than Brian Priestley's dry-as-dust Mingus: A Critical Biography
Santoro interviewed many Mingus familiars, including his sisters, fellow Watts musicians Buddy Collette and Britt Woodman, and his various ex-wives and collaborators, all of whom provide valuable perspectives. The author also touches on influences I wouldn't have previously considered, including the artist Farwell Taylor (immortalized in "Far Wells, Mill Valley" on Mingus Dynasty), the film composer Dimitri Tiomkin (for whom Mingus worked in the '40s), and filmmaker Orson Welles. He clearly did his homework and covers the vicissitudes of Mingus' tempestuous career in day-by-day detail. All of which just makes me want to hear the music again.
While I no longer feel compelled to own every note ever played by the 1964 touring band that boasted the searching multi-reedist Eric Dolphy and walking jazz piano history Jaki Byard, I've been enjoying repeated spins of the recordings of them I do still possess (the Cornell University show Blue Note released in the last decade and the two Paris concerts, one of which has been an obsession of mine since the mid-'70s, the other of which an NCO Academy student pulled my coat to when I was an Air Force instructor). The lengthy versions of "Meditations" and "Fables of Faubus" contain entire universes. 
These days, when I want to hear Mingus, I usually reach for the DVD that contains performances by the '64 band filmed for state TV in Belgium, Norway, and Sweden; it's as interesting watching the nonverbals between Mingus and his men (trumpeter Johnny Coles, drummer Dannie Richmond, and ternorman Clifford Jordan, as well as Dolphy and Byard) as it is to hear their musical interplay. But the audio-only versions are no less rewarding, and now, after reading Santoro, I'm motivated to hear earlier records I've neglected like Mingus Plays Piano and the aforementioned Mingus Dynasty.

I agree with Octavia Butler, who wrote, “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” So while I await inspiration's return, I'm working, albeit slowly, on building the muscle memory of the alternating bass figure I learned for "Dachau Blues," and attempting to play something like a Richard Thompson bagpipe solo with a droning D on "Marquee Moon" (although I really enjoy the interlocking parts on that song more than Tom Verlaine's lengthy ride). Speaking of alternating bass figures, last week, I played through this from Safe As Milk, relying on my shaky memory (and forgetting the last bit of the intro; wha-wha).

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

FTW, 4.28.2021


Getting back into a practice routine, playing stuff I can loop and blow lead over: "It's About That Time" (inspahrd by hearing Bill Pohl play it in his solo set at the Grackle), "Dark Star," "Marquee Moon," the "Sweet Jane" intro from Rock and Roll Animal. Of course, after six months of Beefheart practice, I sound exactly the same as always if you put me behind a fuzz and wah. 

May have inadvertently discovered the source of the "reverb" I've been hearing from the Silvertone with the selector in the between-pickups position, particularly high on the neck, even though I'm running it dry. While practicing "Marquee Moon," I noticed ringing harmonics that occurred on certain notes in the line. Tried playing the same thing on my beater acoustic; no harmonics. I'm convinced it's the wooden bridge that's causing this effect. Want to experiment with this more when I'm plugged in.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

FTW, 4.25.2021

In my dotage, I am become a folkie. These days, the most regular spins on my turntable are the Byrds' Fifth Dimension and Notorious Byrd Brothers, the three Fairport Convention albums with Sandy Denny, and Joni Mitchell's Blue and Hejira. When I'm too busy to flip LPs, John Fahey's The Return of the Repressed and The Legend of Blind Joe Death frequently provide the soundtrack to meal prep and consumption. 

I got my copy of Richard Thompson's memoir Beeswing last week and devoured it in a day. Thompson's a good talespinner, no surprise, and I particularly like the approach he took to the task of writing a book: focusing on the most interesting part of his creative life, although not hesitating to refer to his earlier and later life in his narrative. 

Myself, I liked the approach Bob Dylan took in Chronicles, Volume One (writing about what he thought was important, which turned out in large part to be other singers he admired, and other writer's songs -- what his "Great American Songbook" phrase reveals more than anything else is his love of songcraft, full stop) better than the one Pete Townshend did in Who I Am (well-edited, but with inordinate focus on the part of his life after his most creative years, which becomes a tiresome litany of houses he was buying and women he was chasing). 

Reading Thompson, one gets the sense that he used "unloading his head" as an opportunity to process long-suppressed trauma, and reveal a little more of himself than his affable-but-reserved persona usually allows. It's interesting to read his take on the hothouse milieu of mid-'60s London in which Fairport germinated (didn't know he'd written a song about walking home from seeing the Who at the Marquee, but of course he did), the life of a touring musician in those early years, and his impressions of folks like Nick Drake and Sandy Denny. Although the subtitle indicates a stop at 1976, he does address his split with Linda, without going into a lot of detail, and owns his failures. No less than one would expect.

After having a few days to process the end of the Trout Mask Replica guitar project, I've realized that I've only completed the first step in a journey that will take years. My next one is to start working on mastery of the material. I might not be posting videos, but I'll surely be playing, which is the important bit.

ADDENDUM: The TMR guitar project made me more aware of time, which is an awareness I probably needed. Blowing stuff like this takes me out of that realm and into different space, which I also probably need, after six months devoted to transcription and rote learning.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Further thoughts on the "Trout Mask Replica" guitar project

Jeff Cotton's part from "Wild Life." I'd forgotten what a bear it was to sync the parts on this song.

YouTube viewer Alexander Gedeon writes, "Do you have any new thoughts or insights about how [Trout Mask Replica] was made? Do you [see] an underlying logic to the compositional style or does it all have a degree of randomness?"

My first thought on this was how much work the musicians did over ten months, learning these parts by ear and memorizing them. An incredible feat. And of course, John "Drumbo" French's task of notating Don Van Vliet's piano compositions and arranging them for the other musicians to play. All to record them -- 20 songs -- in a single four-and-a-half-hour session, and then never play most of them live (except for one show where they concentrated on easier material). On the album, much of their work is buried in the mix, obscured by Don's prominently-mixed vocals and sax, or extraneous elements like the phasing effect on "Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish," or the overdubbed screams on "Pena."

There is definitely logic to this music; the only randomness would be in the way Don composed the pieces on piano, but even those, as arranged, have their own internal logic. When there is unity between the two guitars, they're probably playing what Don's left and right hands were playing. French tended to arrange repetitions in groups of four or eight, which is typical of Western music, although there are exceptions -- fewer or more repetitions, or phrases that are played once and never repeat. Some of the variations on themes on the record could be mistakes musicians made in the studio, because they were so rushed. I suspect as long as they all started and ended together and played the sections mostly correctly, there wouldn't have been retakes.

The songs are really collections of riffs that are blues-based because that's the vernacular the Magic Band traded in. The musicians were accustomed to fingerpicking, although the hybrid picking on heavy strings with metal fingerpicks was something new. (I've always thought of this as Don's revenge on string players for the feelings of inferiority he felt early on, playing with more experienced and skilled musicians.) There's a good amount of single-string melodic stuff, which only occasionally -- as in Bill Harkleroad's part on "Frownland" -- departs from the blues.

It's interesting to me how Jeff Cotton played many of the more interesting parts, and there were a couple (French mentions "Ant Man Bee" and "Wild Life" in his book) where Cotton learned his parts directly from Don (who probably sang or whistled them, as he did in the Strictly Personal period), without French's involvement. Jeff was musically literate and, as a clarinetist, had actually given Don some pointers on playing the sax. But he had the job of transcribing Don's lyrics, in the same way as French took on the role of transcribing Don's piano extemporizations. When we hear the tonic-flat 5th-octave chord (which corresponds with a 3rd and 7th, also heard in blues), it's usually Cotton who's playing it. (Guitarist Ken Duvall once chided Beefheart biographer Mike Barnes for referring to the chords in "Circumstances" on Clear Spot as "dissonant;" they're 7ths -- blues chords.)

I see Don's achievement on this album as similar to John Fahey's with his "American primitive" style of solo acoustic guitar playing -- using raw materials gleaned from blues, but deploying them in the manner of a classical composer, in cells or movements, rather than following a strict harmonic progression. (Samuel Andreyev's analysis, also on YouTube, is invaluable here.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Thoughts on the "Trout Mask Replica" guitar project

During the pandemic, between September 2020 and April 2021, I learned all the guitar parts from Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica and posted videos of myself playing them on YouTube. It happened the way a lot of things happen: from a surfeit of time. 

I'd had the tab transcription of the Lick My Decals Off, Baby instrumental "Peon" that Ron Geida did for me for about 20 years, but never got around to learning it. So during April 2020, while my wife was working from home via Zoom, I sat down in front of the music stand in our sunroom and very laboriously read through it. When I got to where I was able to play through the whole piece, I shot a shitty camera video of it, as if to say, "I did this!"

(I say I'm an illiterate blues-rock guitarist, but that's not totally accurate. I took violin for three years as a kid -- well, I carried the case to school for three years, anyway -- and can remember EGBDF and FACE from treble clef; I'm hopeless on note values.)

After playing through "Peon" obsessively for a few days, it occurred to me while I was running that Elliot Ingber's guitar solo in "Alice in Blunderland" (the instrumental from The Spotlight Kid, the first Beefheart I responded to from the first record of his I owned) was made up of short phrases that I might learn in a similar way. So I sat down, listened to it a bit at a time, and made some notes. I wasn't ready to attempt to notate anything. Soon enough, I was able to play through it, and shot another video. 

Trout Mask Replica was a more daunting challenge. When I was first exposed to it, at college in 1975, I couldn't hear a lot of the music, and not just because of the mix on the album, which emphasized Don Van Vliet's voice and saxophone (but conveniently for my purposes had the two guitars hard-panned left and right). My knowledge of music theory and harmony was non-existent. I learned to play by stealing licks off of records with a pretty rudimentary harmonic palette. (Many years later, I tried jamming a blues with a jazz guitarist of my acquaintance and felt like a five-year-old trying to have a conversation with an adult.)

But over the last few years, while involved in an ongoing task that required attention and listening, I'd inadvertently developed my ability to hear music. Also, years of playing in bands had sharpened my ability to hear the intervals between notes, which I could identify (so I could tell, for example, that the interval between a major third and a seventh is the same as that between a tonic and a flat fifth). So I started out trying to transcribe some songs from Trout Mask Replica.

As I mentioned before, the guitars on the album are hard-panned, with Bill Harkleroad always on the left, Jeff Cotton always on the right. My first step was to make reference recordings of each channel on my phone (using the video camera; there might be a way to record audio alone, but I'm too techno-illiterate to fathom it). 

Then I'd listen to each and make a transcription using non-standard notation, based on positions on the neck. I'd write down the range of strings and the position, the notes in sequence, with markings to indicate high or low (if more than one instance of the note appeared in the range) and rough indicators of duration and emphasis. 

I decided I would shoot videos to use as a visual reference to go with the transcriptions when I inevitably forgot the pieces. I've used them to recall pieces I've forgotten and validated that I'm able to use them for that purpose. Unlike the musicians on the record, I didn't commit the songs to memory; in most of the videos, I'm reading from my charts. Typically it'd take me a day or two to make the transcription, another couple of days to learn the piece well enough to record one part on my looper and play the other part over it.

At first, I was posting my YouTube videos on a Facebook fan page for John "Drumbo" French, the Magic Band drummer and Trout Mask transcriber-arranger, who gave me feedback on one of my transcriptions (he rated my accuracy at 85%; Denny Walley, whom I'd seen on the Bongo Fury tour and twice with Beefheart, also told me the correct tuning for "Moonlight On Vermont"). After a few months, I left the group when a troll harassed me. Particularly before the election, my nerves were on edge, and I find fan culture -- based on one-upmanship and proximity to the object of fandom -- to be fairly toxic.

I'd started out using Nick Girgenti's Strat for the videos, but Drumbo (whose book Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic was invaluable for providing the social context in which this music was created) was insistent that heavy strings were necessary to be able to hear the definition of the parts properly. As I didn't want to have to buy the two additional springs for the Strat's tremelo, I decided to restring Jon Frum's Epiphone with .013-.056s (which I'd last used in Colorado, winter of '79-'80) and use it instead. For the last few songs, the Epi was supplanted by a Harmony Silvertone 1478 -- same model as my very first electric guitar, which I broke before I could really play -- also strung with .013-.056s, that I bought online for a good price at Nick Didkovsky's urging after having spent years searching for one.

While waiting for strings (in the time when postal service slowed due the pre-election machinations of Trump's postmaster general Louis DeJoy), I shot one video using my beater acoustic, then after I had the new strings on, I re-did the videos for the pieces I'd previously done using the Strat. The heavier strings took some getting used to, but soon I was re-acclimated to them and found I could do pretty much anything on them that I could with lighter strings, except for bending the G a whole step. I'd also started hybrid picking with a flatpick and two metal fingerpicks like the Magic Band guitarists, and discovered that the fingerpicks were hell on wound G strings. I sent off for a dozen replacements, because I found that I broke one every few weeks.

In late September, my social media buddy Jeff Economy (filmmaker and original cinematographer on the MC5: A True Testimonial documentary) pulled my coat that a guy out in California was doing a podcast wherein he planned to discuss Trout Mask Replica in detail, devoting an episode to each song, and suggested I contact him. And that's how I came to know Joel Bakker, whose feedback on the TMR guitar project proved to be invaluable and motivating. (I'm in his "Sweet Sweet Bulbs" and "Dali's Car" episodes.) Ken Duvall, whom I looked up to as a teen around the time he actually got to audition for Beefheart twice while living in Boston, was also a source of great feedback and encouragement. Reunion Magic Band guitarist Eric Klerks' videos were a big help getting started, and his online guided meditations have helped improve my focus, sensory clarity, and equanimity. High On Fire bassist Jeff Matz and YouTube viewers Alexander Gedeon and Lucas Siccardi provided useful feedback.

Here are some brief impressions of the songs, in the order in which I learned them.

My Human Gets Me Blues -- One of the most fun to play. Opens with Fmaj7. I like the way the guitars switch parts early in the piece.

Steal Softly Through Snow -- Another fun one to play. A lot of phrases that shift and move quickly.

Sweet Sweet Bulbs -- A kinder, gentler Beefheart. Loosely synced bluesy lines flow into a moment of temporal dislocation before rejoining.

Frownland -- In standard tuning; both guitars use slide. The first "hardest thing" I learned. This was the first time I realized the existence of "touchpoints" -- those moments in a seemingly chaotic piece where things sync up. The high single-note stuff in the Harkleroad part is daunting. The first time I played through it over the looper and the parts synced, it blew my mind.

Bill's Corpse -- The first instance of notes I thought I'd been hearing on the record for years not showing up in the transcription. An example of the "third note" one can hear when there's dissonance.

Moonlight On Vermont -- Guitar #1 in open G with a capo at the 9th fret (thanks, Denny!). A "greatest hit." Gimme that old time religion.

Hair Pie -- Much hidden detail underneath some of the album's most recognizable riffs.

Veterans Day Poppy -- Guitar #2 uses slide with the high E dropped to D. It's interesting how the parts that are most audible on the record alternate between the two guitars. And the division of labor between the two guitars on the long Amaj7 coda.

Ella Guru -- Guitar #2 uses slide in dropped D. There's a menacing undertone beneath the cheery melody. I dig the "laughing" slide line.

Hobo Chang Ba -- Both guitars use slide; Guitar #1 is in dropped D. Delta blues extrapolations chug along like a freight train.

Dachau Blues -- Incongruously upbeat given the lyrics' subject matter. Jarring dissonance, counterpoint, and a surprising alternating bass figure. A case where I found the technique to play something I really don't know how to.

Old Fart At Play -- Guitar #2 uses slide in standard tuning. Bluesy riffage under the more prominent slide part. 

Fallin' Ditch -- Guitar #2 plays slide in dropped D. One of the simplest constructions. The bass plays the main melody, which is why I shot a video of that part. Perhaps I'll do more if Andre Edmonson lets me borrow his bass again.

Sugar 'N Spikes -- Both guitars play slide in standard tuning. Ambles along amiably in almost cartoon-like fashion.

Wild Life -- Oddly swinging funereal blues.

Dali's Car -- Dissonant contrapuntal etude. Inspired by a sculpture of a car overgrown by plants, and it really sounds like unruly life overtaking technology.

She's Too Much For My Mirror -- Mood shifts from nervous to leisurely to intense.

Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish -- One of the most complicated pieces, most of which is inaudible on the record due to the prominence in the mix of Don's vocal, sax, and a phasing effect. Lines rush by like bustling city traffic. 

Pena -- Dense, bordering on chaotic due to the prominence in the mix of Cotton's vocal and Don's screams. This took longer to transcribe and learn than any other TMR song. The most frustrating moment in the project.

Pachuco Cadaver -- The rockin'-est number on the album. The Cotton part really has all the action. (It was interesting to note French's characterization of Cotton as the "feel" guy, Harkleroad as the "detail" guy.) The closing "Shortnin' Bread" section sounds pretty flat without Drumbo's traps.

Ant Man Bee -- Guitar #1 plays slide in standard tuning. Variations on a syncopated line over shifting chords. While trying to play the Harkleroad part, I erased my loop and had to re-record it not once, not twice, but three times. The second most frustrating moment.

When Big Joan Sets Up -- Guitar #1 plays slide in standard tuning. Rather than try to replicate the stops and starts of the album version, I just did an abbreviated version of the form to wind up.

Some general observations: 1) The mystique behind this music is justified, I think, and the musicians' accomplishment insufficiently recognized. It's a shame that so much of their work was buried in both the album's mix and Don Van Vliet's statements to the press that star-struck journos accepted as gospel. Drumbo says his original transcriptions were destroyed after Don's passing. In a perfect world, some music school library would be reaching out to him for his musical archives. 2) I was surprised I had the technique to play all of this, but then, the Magic Band musicians came from the same sort of blues-rock background I did, with a little more grounding in country blues. (Perhaps that's why Eugene Robinson from the band Oxbow told Joel Bakker that his guitarist, a Zappa fan, perceived there was "nothing happening" guitar wise with the Magic Band.) 3) Much of the music is more tonal than I expected, with the perceived dissonance coming from contrasting tonalities in the parts or certain recurring tropes like the tonic-flat fifth interval I referred to earlier. 4) I'm a little incredulous I was able to do this. Now that this project is done, I'm going to miss it. Learning these songs over the past six months gave me a sense of purpose I valued. While on a certain level I miss the physical abandon of playing loud with other people in front of an audience, it is gratifying to know that I can find satisfaction playing by myself at home, at a volume that doesn't disturb the cat.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Jimmy Ley's "No Excuses, No Regrets"

My late friend Tim Schuller was a Dallas-based blues scribe, but before making his way down to the Lone Star State, he grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and spent time in Cleveland and Chicago. Tim had many stories about Cleveland-based performers like Robert Jr. Lockwood and Bill "Mr. Stress" Miller. While lesser known outside Northern Ohio, Jimmy Ley was an estimable performer who shared plenty of stages with both Lockwood and Mr. Stress, as well as legendary guitarist Glenn Schwartz (James Gang, Pacific Gas and Electric). Now intrepid indie Smog Veil, who've done yeoman work in documenting the late '60s-early '70s Northern Ohio musical underground (including releases by Stress and Schwartz) are releasing No Excuses, No Regrets, a compilation of studio, live, and home recordings that preserve the legacy of this exciting and expressive performer.

A triple threat instrumentalist on piano, harmonica, and slide guitar, Jimmy excelled as an ebulliently extroverted singer, front man, and bandleader, covering a wide spectrum of music, from old-timey boogie-woogie piano to modern soul-blues. Imagine Mose Allison's gift for lyrical rumination wedded to the groove and improv facility of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band when Butter started employing jazz veterans for his horn-driven lineups and you'll get some idea of what's going on here. Jimmy was an entertainer first, and his bands -- most notably, Blues Idiom and the Coosa River Band -- were less raw than Mr. Stress's Chicago-styled outfit and less idiosyncratic than 15-60-75 The Numbers Band, who were evolving their own unique take on blues-based music in nearby Kent. 

This isn't a museum piece; it's sweaty party music for working stiffs to drink and dance to. Just listen to the relentless propulsion behind Jimmy's extended harp solo on Tommy Brown's "Southern Women," or Rodger Collins' "She's Looking Good," which is tight as a patent leather shoe, with guitarist Alan Greene filling in for a full horn section. Jimmy's ear for obscure R&B gems also unearthed Johnny Fuller's "Mercy Mercy," which sports a topical lyric atop the deepest groove imaginable. The four-piece Coosa River Band also applied their stripped-down attack to a modern, "downtown" take on Don Nix's "Going Down" (which audiences of the time would have known via Freddie King or Jeff Beck's versions).

There's even an unlikely commercial appeal to some of the original material. Ley's signature song "Deborah" sounds, as its author admits in Nick Blakey's always exemplary liner notes, incongruously appropriate for Tom Jones, with plenty of guitar ornamentation from Greene. (Jimmy Ley spins a great yarn and has a phenomenal memory for detail. He's also brutally honest in his own self-assessment, owning up to the problems with ego and alcohol that eventually led to his departure from the music business.) "Something's Crawling" is a jazz-tinged statement of determination in the face of adversity, while the late night lament "Thank You" was inspired, Ley says, by seeing soulful Brit psych rockers Procol Harum at Detroit's Grande Ballroom.

My own favorite stuff here is the old-timey, "Down Home Jimmy" material: the rollicking original piano stomper "I Think Your Time Has Come," the raucous train song "The 413," and the one-man boogie-woogie band version of Gatemouth Brown's "You Got Money" that Ley cut for a WMMS "coffee break concert." Even the straight-ahead blues tracks here -- a long version of Otis Rush's "Checking On My Baby" that features guitarist Al Silver to good advantage, a take on Muddy Waters' "Tiger In Your Tank" with Jimmy on slash-and-burn slide, and Willie Dixon's "Spider In My Stew" with Jimmy playing both piano and harp -- posses an energy and spark that'll transport you from wherever you're hearing this music to a table in front of the bandstand of some '70s Rust Belt dive. And that's a compliment.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

FTW, 4.11.2021


I was really distracted this week while trying to learn "Pena," and the piece's difficulty -- it was harder to transcribe than most of the Trout Mask Replica songs have been, because of the prominence of Jeff Cotton's excruciating vocal and lots of overdubbed screaming in the mix, which made parts harder to her and repeated listening to snippets of detail a fingernails-across-the-chalkboard nerve-wracking experience -- drove me closer to my frustration tolerance than I've been with this project to date.

On the positive side, while learning the Zoot Horn Rollo part to this piece, I noticed that the middle position on the Silvertone 1478's pickup selector switch has an out-of-phase sound that I didn't remember it having. If that was also present in my old one, it might account for my affection for the "Richard Thompson" sound that resides between the bridge and middle pickups on a Stratocaster. It's funny how many of my tonal preferences were formed by the peculiarities of guitars I had early on.

Having worked my way through 19 of 22 Trout Mask songs with unique instrumental parts (three of the album's 28 songs are acapella; of the remaining 25, "Hair Pie" is played twice, "China Pig" is a one-chord blues, and "The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica)" has instrumental backing by the Mothers of Invention), I've made a few observations. (I still have "Pachuco Cadaver," "When Big Joan Sets Up," and "Ant Man Bee" to go.) Seven of the songs I've worked on so far use slide. Only four use open tunings. Here's the breakdown (Bill Harkleroad is Guitar #1, Jeff Cotton is Guitar #2):

"Frownland": Standard tuning, both guitars use slide.

"Ella Guru": Guitar #2 uses slide in dropped D. 

"Moonlight On Vermont": Guitar #1 uses slide in open G with a capo at the 9th fret.

"Sugar 'N Spikes": Standard tuning, both guitars use slide.

"Hobo Chang Ba": Guitar #1 is in dropped D. Both guitars use slide.

"Old Fart At Play": Standard tuning, Guitar #2 uses slide.

"Veteran's Day Poppy": Guitar #2 uses slide with the high E tuned to D.

I'll update this list when I finish the Trout Mask Replica Guitar Project.