A Weekend Spent FAWMing at the Mouth

Over the weekend I wrote, recorded and posted six songs in two days, to finish February with fifteen new songs. Three of them are not “harmonitronica,” but I do have an even dozen of those, plus a few that I did in January and more to come. So there may be an album of that in the works.

Meanwhile, here are the results of my weekend marathon, in reverse chronological order:

Sunday Night

Unreal No. 4 (Glow)
I did a lot of weird stuff this year, and the penultimate song was particularly strange and threatening, but that’s not actually how I’ve been feeling. As I said in the liner notes, “This has been a really wonderful February, so I wanted to close out with something about playing in the snow, making hot chocolate, sitting next to the fire, playing music with friends, and the people in your life who make you smile for no apparent reason.” And you know who you are. 😉
The basic fingerpicking pattern has been in my head for a while; I actually recorded it on my phone, to remember it, when I was in Arizona. I got the steel guitar out, played through the riff a few times to make sure I remembered it, put a tremolo harmonica in the rack, and turned on the recorder. Three minutes or so later, I turned it off, and this is the result. One take, no editing, a few flubs, a creaky chair.
Correctness Is the Goal
In Ithaca a few weeks ago I picked up a 1961 Folkways LP called Mend Your Speech, narrated by Harry Fleetwood, possessor of “a kindly gentle voice and a cultivated manner.” This “remedial study” focuses on correct pronunciation of common words. It’s a deeply strange record, and its calm obsession with “words fitly spoken” is, in spots, rather disturbing.
The backing track for this is looped bass harmonica, chromatic harmonica, abuse of the microphone with various metal implements, and vocals inspired by seeing Yoko Ono last week.
Walking the Halls
Coming upstairs from getting the newspaper the other day I found myself whistling this little riff. I went straight to the synth and played it into my looping system. Played some harp over it, and edited it down from 20 minutes of messing around.

Three Conventional Songs

Words Of Angels
I sing a lot of gospel tunes at traditional music sessions, and I do it without irony or mixed feelings. Another atheist gospel lover calls those songs “love songs to the universe.” I kinda like that. But … just because I love something doesn’t mean I won’t make fun of it…
The Twelve-Bar Blues
The idea of writing a 12-bar blues about having the blues in twelve different bars came to me over the summer, along with the chorus, although I mostly rewrote that. I’m sure someone has done this before, but I had fun with it. These are all real places that I see and play music at all the time; the last bar mentioned, Freddy’s, is on the edge of Bruce Ratner’s commercial terrorism basketball arena project, and may be torn down.
Soon Enough
This is a classic country song, with a humorous self-flagellating twist that I am really fond of. I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve written in a while, and I am happy to say it is not at all about current events.

And One More…

I put this up one night last week and didn’t have time to post about it. It’s basically acoustic harmonitronica — recorded using my looping system, but without any effects aside from a touch of delay. I recorded the basic four-bar harp rhythm, then overlaid vocals and harmonies and harmonica.
Unusually for the harmonitronica stuff, it has lyrics which were written down in advance, although I reorganized and rewrote them as I played. It’s the only explicit love song of this year’s crop, and I am glad to say it did not blow up in my face the way last year’s love song did. (Not at all, in fact; see the final song.)
As usual, this was all recorded live. The original was about 15 improvised minutes, trying different ideas out. I edited it down to the stuff that worked and removed a lot of repetition. I am becoming fond of this kind of composition, as opposed to my more typical method of writing, then recording. This has been a very different FAWM for me and it’s perhaps my favorite so far.
However, one drawback of improvisational recording is unprovidential screwups. The clipping on this track is one such, but can’t be fixed. I might redo the demo sometime, but it wouldn’t be the same.
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