"Rhymes With Alimony" - released 12/01/04
Frank's notes on the tracks, with some personal observations by J. Leitch, November 28, 2004:
First of all, a note regarding the audio fidelity of this disk: the tape archive
from which "Rhymes with Alimony" was created included several disparate sources
of varying quality; some audio anomalies will indeed be noticable. We fixed what
we could, without sacrificing too much of the dynamic range; some of it we had to
1) "One Way Gal"
With Martin Grosswendt; tuned to dropped D, on a 50's Gibson LG-1; recorded
at home in the fall of '79. A nice double bend on the second string near
the beginning; chorus modulates to the key of A. Notice Martin's subtle slide
guitar, playing (probably) in open D, on a 50's 000-18.
2) "Book Cooking"
A concert favorite from 1974, played on a 1957 Gibson J-185, in open G (6th to 1st:
D-G-D-G-B-D). This is from what we refer to as "the basement tapes" (August 12, 1974
session); Frank and I bought a semi-pro TEAC 4-track in 1974, and promptly recorded
everything we knew on it. Somehow, without a lot of technical knowledge, we got a
pretty good sound, which survived nicely on tape to this day. Note the picking dynamics
in the "C" part of this tune.
3) "Turn Your Money Green"
Another tune with Martin Grosswendt, recorded in the fall of '79. Frank on his
000, Martin in open G on his 50's LG-1; two smallish guitars which matched up
4) "Nineteen Fifty One"
Something unusual; learned from a Mamlish Records reissue of a Trumpet label
record by a guy named Luther Huff. Recorded at home in 1985; Frank is playing
in dropped D, on a 50's Gibson J-160E, with Al Thayer playing a capoed 1970
Strat in G position. Vocal was run through an old Fender reverb unit; the
rockin' lead guitar part is by Frank himself, played fingerstyle.
5) "Muggsy and Estee"
From the basement tapes (July 6, 1974); in open G on a high-strung 1947 000-28
(a high E string replacing the normal third string, tuned to G an octave higher than
standard.) Muggsy McGinnis is deeply missed by a lot of us around Grand Rapids;
fingerstyle, old-timey and bluegrass players alike who hung out at Muggsy and
Estee's shop on Division Avenue on Saturday afternoons.
6) "Bad Dream Blues"
A great tune by Dave Van Ronk; another one from the basement tapes (July 6, 1974),
played on the 000-28 with the high-strung G. The song itself is in the key of G,
but Frank is certain that he played this in open D tuning, so he must have used
a capo at the fifth fret. (Paul Geremia agrees that this is an open D arrangement.)
7) "Let Me Be Your Rocker"
Learned from a Yazoo reissue of a Rube Lacy record. Played in standard E on a
near-mint, wartime "Only a Gibson is Good Enough" J-45; note the nice sixth-string
bent blue note.
8) "Letter Never Sent"
Live at the Canterbury House in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Probably on a 1957 J-185,
in the key of G, with Jim Steigmeyer playing his 1921 Gibson A-1 high octave
mandolin, with the two low strings doubled like a twelve string guitar.
9) "Can't See Your Face"
Another one with Steigmeyer; same gig as "Letter Never Sent". Dubbed from a cassette;
there may be a tape speed anomaly on this one, because it was played in A but sounds
sharp, up almost a half step. Heavy Walter Davis piano influence. You'll hear Frank
address Jim as "Mr. Stegman"; just one of many aliases. Also, listen for the only
door-slam sound effect ever attemped on a mandolin.
10) "Honor Bright"
Dropped D; from the basement tapes (November 9, 1974), playing the '57 J-185 again.
Steigmeyer on a Gibson K-1 mandocello. Frank says it has kind of a Joseph Spence feel
(J.L. says he never would have thought of this tune that way.) The basement tapes
turned out to be something special for us, because at the time, we tended to play
things off the cuff; tunes we had just written, or had just learned. We weren't
trying to put out a record; we just played what we knew. No pretense; just the music.
11) "Louis Collins"
An example based on John Hurt's fingerstyle guitar, something that Frank was so good at;
another bit from the first basement tapes session (July 4, 1974), played on the high-strung
000-28, in C, capoed at the fourth fret. With the obscure J. Leitch on second guitar
(probably a 60's J-50), playing D shapes, capoed two frets up.
12) "Bull Frog Blues"
With Mason Dixon on a 50's J-45, in C, capoed at the second fret; Frank in straight
D on his wartime J-45. Learned from a William Harris reissue; Harris was one of
the very early Mississippi guys to record, starting in about 1926.
Another basement tape gem (November 9, 1974), both guitars in straight Em.
A freshly-minted song, recorded on its second or third run-through, with lots of
guitar improv and great harmony vocals from Jim Steigmeier. The song was likely
never played again. A real Jansch and Renbourn kind of thing, with Frank on his
000-28, and Jim playing a '53 Gibson Country and Western.
14) "Texas and Louisiana Stomp"
This is something special, in my book. Influenced by the playing of Big Bill
Broonzy, Mance Lipscomb, and some Texas guys like Willie Lane and Willie Reed.
Very percussive and very much in the Texas style. Played on a '52 blonde J-185.
Frank hasn't touched that guitar in years, but I still learn stuff from him.
15) "Right Now Blues"
From the basement tapes (April 6, 1975); Steigmeyer on fiddle, Frank on his '47 000-28.
In C shape, capoed at the second fret. A song learned from a record by Frank Stokes with
Will Batts on fiddle. Apologies for the brief accidental vocal intrusion right at the
start of the take.
16) "Not Now, Cato"
An instrumental in open D, with Steigmeyer live at Canterbury House, circa 1973.
Some cool unison string bending; a rarely-played tune.
17) "Stop & Listen"
From Frank's last gig in 1987, at the former
Grand Rapids Public Museum building,
sponsored by the G.R. Folklore Society. Al Thayer and Frank (both in dropped D),
Bob Willey on harmonica, and Chuck Wickering doing a very respectable Ry Cooder-ish mandolin part.
(Note: when you hear Frank introduce "the rest of the guys", Al isn't mentioned because
he was already on stage).
18) "The Milkman Cometh"
An instrumental recorded in 1973 at Canterbury (our source was probably dubbed from
the P.A., hence the noticable sound system hum.) Frank is playing his 000-28; Jim
on the Gibson mandocello. For me (J.L.), the audio problem is totally overshadowed
by the uncategorizable composition and a brilliant stage performance that is
frankly stunning in its originality and virtuosity.
19) "Hey, Hey, Daddy"
At Canterbury, about 1980. On a 20's Bacon six-string banjo with a pie-plate
resonator. In the key of C; evidently tuned down about one half step. A Blind
Blake tune done in the style of Papa Charlie Jackson. Extra points for originality.
Live with Steigmeyer on mandolin at Canterbury House in 1973, on the 000-28 in
dropped D. A superb performance, which more than makes up for the imperfect audio