From the Squid Central News Desk…
The Squid Jiggers release CD in tribute to records at three eateries
Maine folk duo The Squid Jiggers are celebrating the release of their second full-length CD — a tribute to vinyl records entitled “331/3” — with a three shows in October.
The first show, on Saturday October 22, includes a sumptuous, family-style Italian buffet dinner with a cash bar at Graziano’s Casa Mia on Route 196 in Lisbon, Maine. Graziano’s is a Maine landmark serving fresh, homemade food for 41 years. Dinner is at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30. Call 1-866-655-7171 for reservations with a credit card.
The second show, on Wednesday October 26, is at Bull Feeney’s on Fore Street in the Old Port neighborhood of Portland, Maine. Bull Feeney’s serves delicious steaks, seafood and hearty Irish fare and has Maine’s most extensive selection of single malt Scotch and Irish whiskies. The show starts at 8 p.m. and is free with the purchase of drinks or a meal. Contact Bull Feeney?s at 207-773-7210.
Show number three takes place at the Black Bear Cafe in Naples, Maine on Friday night October 28 at 8 p.m. Hosts John and Susan Bohill serve up the best gourmet pizza in the state, along with pasta, seafood, steak and other tasty surprises in an intimate, tin- ceilinged building on Route 302. The show is free with dinner. Seating is limited, arrive early. Call the Black Bear cafe at 207-693-4770.
The Squid Jiggers — folk veterans Dave Rowe and Troy R. Bennett — have played nearly 250 shows and released a debut album since forming in March 2010. They play a hearty mix of traditional and tradition-inspired music from Ireland, Scotland, Atlantic Canada, and Maine, sprinkled with a dash of Downeast wit.
Their latest collection of old and new songs is a CD about records. Called 331/3 in a nod to the rotational speed of long-playing discs, it seeks to capture the warmth and style of the vinyl records the Jiggers grew up on. The CD cover recalls a 1960s Columbia Records release, complete with tracks listed on sides one and two. The disc itself looks like a miniature, grooved record.
The resemblance doesn’t stop there. Recorded at Squid Jigging vocalist and bass player Dave Rowe’s recording studio in Raymond, the CD even sounds like a record.
“We would have loved to release this album on vinyl,” said Rowe. “But the cost was just too prohibitive.”
So, they used vintage equipment, and a little studio trickery, to evoke the sounds of the familiar black spinning platters instead. The album opens with the sound of a tonearm being activated. Then the needle hits the “record” and a few stray crackles and pops are heard before the first track. The music is notably warmer, more live and without the crisp digital edge of a standard CD.
“I’m not at liberty to divulge our methods,” said Bennett with a grin. “Let’s just say it involved two elderly, quarter-inch tape machines, a Dual 1229 turntable, some sophisticated software and an old Glenn Miller album.”
Rowe is similarly mum. “My lips are sealed,” he said.
But why go to all the trouble?
Because they owe a lot to records.
Bennet and Rowe (the son of a well-known folk musician Tom Rowe, of Schooner Fare) say records were their biggest connection to the wider world of folk music while growing up. Bennett recalls combing the cutout bins in Portland record stores, looking for the kind of music he wasn’t going to hear on the radio.
“As soon as I got my license, I was driving to Portland every week, looking for Clancy Brothers, Dave Mallet, Christy Moore and, of course, Schooner Fare records,” said Bennett. “I spent every dime I had on records, gas, girls and guitar strings.”
In the days before eBay, iTunes, Youtube and Google searches, finding non-mainstream music was a challenge. He’d stop at scores of yard sales every summer, looking for folk music he hadn’t heard before. He borrowed records by the dozen, transferring them to cassette.
Rowe distinctly remembers “needle dropping” Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem records over and over again, trying to discern the lyrics.
“It’s the same thing my Dad did when he was a kid,” said Rowe. “He’d listen to Kingston Trio records and learn all three harmony parts, and the guitar and banjo parts, too.”
Aside from the technical details, The Squid Jiggers are proud of the music on 331/3, as well.
Their first CD, Greatest Hits, was a collection of well known and traditional songs from the celtic genre. Their newest offering is roughly half original material and half traditional. The songs range from jaunty sing-alongs from Newfoundland, to Irish playground taunts, to original songs about larger-than-life seafaring heroes and sailors looking for ladies ashore.
Up Jumped the Dancers, a song penned by Bennett, describes the joyous effects of a fiddler and his instrument. It’s an uptempo number, but conveys a sense of sadness mixed with revelry as the fiddler brings happiness while his own remains out of reach.
“It’s a mostly true story,” said Bennett. “I wish it wasn’t.”
Just in time for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, Rowe and Georgia songwriter Dennis Goodwin tell a true tale of kindness in a new song called The Stranger. In 1862, a family in Gray, Maine waited for the body of their son, who died of wounds suffered in the battle of Cedar Mountain, to be shipped home to them. When the coffin arrives, they find the body of a young Confederate soldier in his place. Instead of sending him back, they bury him as their own.
“I got the idea for the song from my late friend Harvey Weinstein,” said Rowe, “and writing it with Dennis, who is down in Georgia, seemed like a natural idea. We?ve got the North and South thing going on.”
The album is rounded out with songs from Scotland, a couple more Newfoundland tunes and an irresistible sing along shanty from the Chesapeake Bay decked out with new verses by Bennett and a chorus of friends and colleagues.
The new CD will be available at all concerts after the kickoff at Graziano’s on October 22, and at their website www.squidjiggers.com shortly thereafter.
33 1/3 track listing
1. Jack Was Every Inch a Sailor is a lively traditional song from Newfoundland. It probably started life as a music hall number before passing into the public domain. The Squid Jiggers get vocal support here from a group of friends and colleagues dubbed the “Calamari Choir.”
2. This short medley is a pairing of Mairi?s Wedding, a well-known Scots wedding song sung while walking from church to parish hall, and I?ll Tell Me Ma, an Irish children?s playground ditty from Belfast.
3. The Bonnie Ship the Diamond was a real Scottish whaling ship, launched in 1812 and skippered by Captain Thompson. Despite the bravado of this song, it was lost in 1819 after taking 8 whales in the Arctic.
4. Up Jumped the Dancers is a new song written by Troy about a fiddler with the ability to lift spirits and set feet in motion. Though he brings joy to drinkers and dancers alike, his own happiness is harder to find.
5. Based on a true story, The Stranger tells the tale of a fallen Confederate soldier mistakenly shipped to a family in Gray, Maine who bury him like he was their own. It is appropriately written by Dave in Maine and Dennis Goodwin of Georgia.
6. Paddy Lay Back is a salty call-and-response capstan shanty made for toiling aboard ship and hauling anchor. The Calamari Choir joins in here, making this one a real shouter.
7. The Mingulay Boat Song concerns a tiny Island in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. Without a harbor and with a dwindling population, it was abandoned in 1912. The song comes from the imagination of Sir Hugh S. Roberton, who wrote it in 1938. It’s about coming home.
8. Troy wrote Come Down Ye Roses by combining parts of a traditional shanty chorus collected by Alan Lomax in the Bahama?s in 1935 with a brand new song idea. His home port of Portland used to have weekly steamship service to Liverpool and scads of shops catering to every “need” of sailors ashore.
9. The truly romantic Lovers Often Do comes from an old poem Troy wrote in college about longing for adventure and love. It?s coupled with an adapted traditional tune and performed on guitar and tin whistle.
10. The Star of Logy Bay and I’ze the B’y are a couple of authentic Newfoundland dance tunes. The former is a lovely waltz rendered here on concertina and tin whistle. The latter is a mostly nonsensical jig. It?s probably the best known song from ‘Da Rock.
11. Dave’s father, Tom Rowe, wrote Molasses for Schooner Fare’s 1985 album “We the People.” Among other details, it chronicles Boston’s great molasses flood of 1919 where a 50-foot vat of the sticky sweetener burst, drowning more than 20 of souls.
12. Hamish Henderson was a Scottish poet, songwriter, scholar, soldier and intellectual. He served in North Africa during WWII. He oversaw the drafting of Italy’s surrender order. The Banks of Sicily is adapted from his Scots dialect poem about going home at the end of the war.
13. Dave wrote The Ballad of Howard Blackburn in tribute to the Nova Scotia born pride of Gloucester, Massachusetts. He was, without a doubt the port’s most famous fingerless transatlantic sailor, bravest back room bootlegger and unlikely Yukon prospector.
14. The album concludes with the return of the Calamari Choir, singing and swaying with The Squid Jiggers on the Chesapeake Bay fishing shanty, Sweet Rosyanne. This traditional song sports brand new verses, written by Troy.
According to recent Nielsen SoundScan numbers, vinyl was the fastest-growing musical format in 2010, with 2.8 million units sold, the format’s best year since
SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. Nielsen says Vinyl sales increased 37 percent in the beginning of 2011 over the same period last year. Vinyl sales also rose 14.2 percent in 2010, although they only accounted for 1.2 percent of physical sales.
The Squid Jiggers would have loved to release 331/3 on vinyl but production costs make it financially prohibitive. But, fans of vinyl can take solace in the fact that there is no shortage of vintage, and just plain used, records out there.
The top 10 reasons The Squid Jiggers love old vinyl record albums.
1. They force you to slow down and actually listen to the music. You can?t listen to a record in the car, while you are grocery shopping or while you’re jogging.
2. Homeless records are a real value. There are literally millions of records out there just waiting for you to take them home with you — often for a little as a dollar. That’s a dozen songs or more, for a buck. iTunes can’t beat that.
3. Used records equal excitement. Pawing through boxes of used records is like going on a treasure hunt. Whether in your grandmother’s basement, a roadside yard sale or a overstuffed thrift store, you never know what you?ll find.
4. It?s all in the sound. Records are warm and fuzzy. Digital files are cold and crisp. Which one would you rather cuddle up with?
5. Records are fun to watch. Push the lever and the platter starts to spin. The tonearm lifts via unseen hands and hidden gears. The needle hits the groove with a pop and followed by three exciting seconds before the music starts.
6. When you get tired of an album you can turn it into a snazzy clock, or soften it up in the oven and twist it into a stylish fruit bowl. It’s true. We’ve done it.
7. Size matters. They’re bigger than CDs. Would you rather have a 5×5 or 12×12 picture of Herb Albert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights? We rest our case. They?re heavier, too. A crate of records in the back seat of your car gets you more traction in a blizzard than a crate of CDs.
8. Record grooves are time machines. They are the physical remains of sounds and songs sung long ago. The needle drags them back into the present. HG Wells liked records. A lot.
9. You can’t just skip to side B at the push of a button. You have to wait. It builds character.
10. They’re cool. We’d tell you why, but if we have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.
Where to hunt for albums, 45rpm singles and even older, 10-inch 78rpm records
- Flea markets and yard sales
- Your parents’ or grandparents’ cellars and attics
- Thrift stores Any one of the fine retailers in the area:
- Vinylhaven Records, 147 Maine Street Brunswick, ME 04011(207) 729-6513
- Wild Rufus Records, 135 High Street Belfast, ME 04915 (207) 338-1909
- Music Plus, 140 Main Street Biddeford, ME 04005 (207) 283-2927
- Enterprise Records, 650 Congress Street Portland, ME 04101 (207) 773-7672
- Sounds Absurd, 55 Oak Street, Portland, ME 04101 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bill’s Stuff, 405 College Street Lewiston, ME 04240 www.billstuff.com