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December 1999 Musings:

Fall Tours, Recording, and Banjo Passion

Gideon Freudmann, Lui, and Dana Robinson at Derek Studios after recording Rarest Rose
Gideon Freudmann, Lui, and Dana
Robinson at Derek Studios after
recording Rarest Rose.

This fall has been a very satisfying time for me musically. After a summer full of duo concerts with Dana Robinson, and one last September festival together in Rochester NY, the Turtle Hill Folk Festival, we headed in separate directions for our fall solo tours. I've been so all over the place that I have to look back at my calendar to remember where I was when!

I drove to the midwest in early October for a wonderful northern tier fall foliage tour, with concerts in Minnesota, Wisconsin, the glorious Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Ohio. Made it all the way up to Duluth for the first time ever. The hardest part of these tours is having to leave new towns almost as soon as I get there, when what I'd really love to do is settle in and get to know the town and its people, even play some music with them. Duluth was particularly hard to leave, but then I must admit it's a common feeling for me. The colors were strikingly beautiful in the northern parts of Wisconsin and along Lake Superior, impressive even for this Vermont native.

Later that month I flew out to Portland for my yearly Washington/Oregon tour. This tour is always a highlight of my year, I love the contrasts of those Pacific Northwest states, the thick green almost jungley growth in the hills on the edges of Portland, the mountains, the Columbia River, so different up by Vantage from how it is down in the windy gorge at Hood River, the stark landscape of the high desert in eastern Washington, the sheer drop down to the Snake River. But as much as I love other parts of this country, I am most at home and in love with the land here in New England. Sandwiched in between the further away tours were lots of concerts in the northeast, and even some time here in the little hilltown on the edge of the Pioneer Valley where I live. I had a great time at the second Boston Folk Festival, where I performed in various concert sets and shared the stage for a dynamic song swap (titled "Songs about anything but Gazebos")with Richard Shindell, Stacey Earle, and the inimitable Jack Hardy.

Dana and Johnny at Derek Studios
Dana Robinson and Johnny Cunningham at Derek
Studios recording the track Saudade on Lui's new CD,
Leaving Fort Knox.

November was an exciting month, with some fun concerts, including some duo concerts, as Dana was back touring out east. The best part though was finishing up the last tracks on my new solo CD, Leaving Fort Knox. We got everything mixed and sequenced, the next step will be mastering in January. Dana's been producing it for me, and has been a great pleasure to work with. The feel of this recording is more like "Baptism of Fire" than anything I've done since, both in the songs themselves, in the instrumentation, and in the organic way that the arrangements came together. Because of the extent of music we've played together, both songs and old-timey music, on stage and off, Dana brought into the studio a very strong sense of who I am musically and what the songs are about. As you can tell, I'm pretty excited about this project, I'll be glad when it's all ready to release.

Lui's banjo One of the most exciting aspects of this whole past year has been learning to play the banjo. I picked it up last January, and have discovered a whole new passion. Everything I've written since then has been, you guessed it, on the banjo, as has just about everything new I've learned from other sources. I've rediscovered the shape note song Ecstasy (recorded on my 3rd CD, There's a Light, with electric guitar, French horn, trumpet,...) and I've [been] having a gas playing it on banjo, with Dana on fiddle when he's around. And I'm learning old time tunes and traditional songs on it too. And sitting in on any old time jam I can find when I'm not off touring. The valley is a great place for that, believe it or not, there's lots of southern music up here in the northland.

Guess that's it for now, thanks again for stopping by. And do remember to sign in on the guest page [sorry...no longer available].

Warmly, Lui