From 1993, a reminder that these two kids — Chris Wood and Andy Cutting — originally came together over a shared fascination for Quebecois music. I don’t recall many times seeing Andy on a one row, though I do see a couple in his list of gear.
This is the first time in 135 posts that I’ve written about a subject that has absolutely no accordéon content at all, but I trust my readers will not accuse me of breaking our implicit contract or breaching some sort of squeezebox point of etiquette.
The fact of the matter is that Chris Wood has released a new recording, None the Wiser, and it has come to dominate my every waking moment. If you don’t know — and even if you do know — Wood is a highly regarded English folk musician and songwriter. On the current recording he centers the groups sound around a sort of baritone urge (his wonderful voice), and the featured instruments are his guitar, upright bass, and hammond organ. Yes, that’s what I said! Wondrous!
I urge you to seek it out (it’s available on Bandcamp now). It will vastly increase the probability of your having a great day. It will improve your quality of life.
Here’s Chris talking about the new recording:
UPDATE: Novelist Tom Brown wrote about None the Wiser, exploring the joys of instant Bandcamp access. Read that here.
This is the fifth piece in a series about Andy Cutting. Click through for parts one, two, and three … and also some pictures of his boxes.
The duets of Andy Cutting and Chris Wood are among the high points of English and European folk music. That’s not hyperbole. Cutting’s solo playing is a thing of beauty. The work with Blowzabella is a spectacle to be adored. The Cutting and Wood duets are something else.
In the middle of our conversation in December, Andy Cutting went on a wander, performing here, teaching workshops there. I had asked him some questions about the partnerships of his career — especially Blowzabella and Chris Wood. At the end of February, the answers arrived.
Could you talk about Blowzabella? How did you encounter them, and then join?
|Andy Cutting with Blowzabella|
I knew of Blowzabella for several years before I really met them. Through seeing them at various English folk festivals. In fact before I played the box! When I started to play, I went to a box workshop run by Riccardo Tesi at Sidmouth folk festival. Paul James, [Blowzabella’s piper and sax guy], was helping Riccardo and they asked me to play a bit. I discovered some years later that on hearing me pay Riccardo turned to Paul and said “you need to get him in Blowzabella.” Dave Roberts, box player, had recently left and Dave Shepherd (the violin player) was leaving, so that meant they wanted someone to fill their shoes. Fortunately for me I was in the right place at the right time. They asked me to a few of their gigs and then I received a letter saying I was now in the band.
Part 1: Getting to Rdio
So as not to bury the lede, I’ll just let you know that this story ends with me completely enamored with the Rdio service and the music it brings into my life. But it wasn’t a sure thing … Give a listen to this playlist while you read on!
As someone whose aesthetic is devoted to an instrument founded in technology that was around before the Caesars — i.e., levers, valves, and bellows — it should surprise no one that I am rarely an early adopter of, to use a technical term, the “newly fangled.” I had to be counseled through the great CD conversion of the 1980s, and just five years ago, MP3s seemed like so much ephemeral cods-wattle to me.
I go through a process, I’ll admit. It resembles grief, in that there are stages. (ANGER: “F*&^ing music industry wants us to buy our music AGAIN in another format! I don’t think so!” DEPRESSION: “Oh, my beloved record collection … *sob* … vinyl … *weep* … beautiful covers … *salty tears* … wasted …”) But when I reach acceptance, I reach it completely, wondering how I had ever doubted in the first place. This is usually when my wife steps in and somehow signals that it’s time for me to get a grip already. It was my wife, for example, who bought me my first iPod, thus bringing my doctrinaire objections about the value of artifacts and “the authentic listening experience” to a deserved end. Now that was cods-wattle.
So, in January my wife bought me a subscription to Rdio, a commercial music streaming service. Not something I had considered before. I had heard of Spotify and other such streaming services, of course, but I always asked myself, as Neil Postman suggests we do, “What is the problem for which this technology is the answer?” I could think of none. Subscribe to Spotify? Why would I do such a thing? You want me to pay for music that I wouldn’t then own??? What kind of IDIOT would do that???
I got the e-mail: “You have subscribed to Rdio …”
What? At that point, I had never heard of Rdio (which, I later discovered, is pronounced in the pirate manner, “Ar-Dee-Oh”). Then I got the text from my wife, “I just subscribed you to Rdio …” My wife, as I have mentioned in the past, is a woman of marvelous virtue. She knows me, and she knows things. If she thought I should check out Rdio … hm.
Part 2: And What I Found There
|What fresh new Hell is this? Ah … Wondrous!|
In many genres, I have discovered, Rdio (and Spotify) present one with an unimaginable cornucopia of music. It’s stunning, and the price ($14.95 USD) is astounding when you consider the ridiculous availability, and the fact that suddenly, your shelves of CDs have shifted from being repositories of treasure to being sites of clutter and storage problems.
One of the first artists I looked up was Red Garland, a jazz pianist who I’m particularly fond of, and immediately I found The Complete Studio Recordings. Thank you very much. I think I will. Then I started looking for Baroque music — Bach, Handel, and all that — and sweet mother of God! One could listen their whole lives without exhausting the goodness there. How about the entire Topic Records catalogue, a cornerstone of BritTrad music? Yes, they do. What about … well, you get the idea. They had a lot of music in a lot of genres. They may not have had every specific thing I went looking for, but they had enough so that at any given moment in time I could find excellent music that would scratch whatever itch I had at that moment. Extraordinary.
But what about L’Accordéon? What about the tradFrench that runs through my free reed veins? Give a listen to the playlist!
An abundance! Perhaps I did not discover that long lost Marc Perrone recording I’ve been looking for — the one with “En Avant Blonde” — but I did find four others. I conducted a fairly thorough search and found a couple of La Chavannée recordings, some Patrick Bouffard. I did find some material that I had never seen before. Hurdy gurdy player Philippe Besson recorded on the Parsiparia label, and there was quite a bit of goodness there. Trio Safar, a fantastic group featuring accordéonaire Christian Maes, just one of the insanely virtuosic Belgians I found at the L’autre Distribution Rdio page. Chanson was well represented, from Edith Piaf to Emmanuelle Pariselle — very helpful and timely, since I’ve just been asked to play in a chanson tribute in Lewiston! And still, surprises arise!
Rather than run through the laundry list, I’ve put together a short playlist. I invite you to enjoy. It contains some new discoveries for me, but also some bog norm favorites. Patrick Bouffard’s “Valse A 5 Temps” is a staggering minute fifty-nine of music. “Nova,” from a compilation of Breton accordéonists, starts off in a suspiciously modern mode, but resolves to laride greatness. If I had included Irish accordéonists or more English players, the list would be very long.
I invite you to join me on Rdio. I am not a shill. This is not a paid advert.
“What,” I hear you say, “you can’t see paying for music and then not ‘owning’ it?” I would invite you to consider what the “ownership” of music means, and then have a conversation with Chief Seattle about what it means to own the land. I feel as if I’ve been given direct access to the greatest artistic achievements of mankind, and I intend to enjoy it.
Fa la la la la …
What does l’Accordéonaire want for Christmas?
Je suis content, usually, and I don’t spend a lot of time desiring things, and when I do, I make sure it’s an important thing that will improve my quality of life. Something related to accordéons. But Christmas invites the question: what do you want, darling? Here are four things that seem especially cool to me.
Vent de Galerne: I don’t know how it is that I don’t already have this CD, but I don’t. What I’ve heard is gobsmackingly beautiful. The latest endeavor by La beloved Chavannée is focused on a nautical theme. There’s a lot of synergy between Vent de Galerne and the river boat built by the clan last year. Free samples can be heard over on myspace (of all places), and the CD can be ordered from the Chavs themselves, here.
The Early Andy Cutting/Chris Wood recordings: more stuff I should already have, but they seem to be hard to find, especially on this side of the pond. The relatively few recordings I can get — Albion, Handmade Life, Andy’s eponymous recording, etc. — have become the soundtrack for this six month of my life. What an amazing thing that two such talents should have found each other in the world.
A Trip to France: Yeah, well …
A Wesson Melodeon: I decided some months ago — probably just moments after playing my Nik for the first time — that my next box would be a one row in D. I’ve done a lot of looking, and have gotten my heart set on a box by Rees Wesson in Welshpool, Wales. My goal is to use it to play some of the French Canadian repertoire local to Maine, and to start dipping back into the reels and jigs (flashback to the tin whistle, Irish session days in Minnesota …) Actually, I’ve always loved Irish on the one-row (no, that’s not me). One-rows also have a tradition in East Anglian music, and, of course, in Cajun music. Here’s Rees playing the Bristol Hornpipe:
All right, so I guess I’m not all that great at producing the list o’ stuff to buy, a la Oprah or Rachel Ray. Cross marketing? Not for me. One thing I’d like, no one can give me: time to make more music! What do you, dear reader, want for your accordion Christmas?
In the United States, the fourth thursday of November is Thanksgiving. I love this holiday and love having the opportunity to express my gratitude for the extraordinary blessings in my life, many of which center on the accordéon, its music, and its masters.
- Speaking of masters, first on the list would have be my wife, who has been generally and genuinely supporting of my accordéon efforts during the course of our marriage. Just as one example, she did NOT send back the Castagnari Nik when it arrived in the post last February, when I was at work. Instead, she sent a picture on my phone, and called me up so I could hear how it sounded.
- Thanks to the folks who have willingly discussed with me things accordéon related, including Frédéric Paris, Sylvain Piron, Dave Mallinson, Alexandra Brown, and, most recently, Andy Cutting.
- Thanks to the friends of this blog — whether they know it or not — who have been willing to discuss issues with me as I developed posts. Some have actually written stuff that I’ve published here. Thank you, Andy of Vermont, Chris Ryall, Geoff Wooff, Owen Woods, Steve Mansfield, Chuck Boody, et many al. Tom McDonald — despite being a non-accordéonist — has been a real help just on the blogging and inspiration front.
- Thanks to melodeon.net! Not enough to be said about that friendly, squeeze congregation’s influence on my quality of life! Just today, a quorum from that parish helped talk me off the ledge over a reed that seemed to be going sour.
- Thanks to everyone involved in the collective effort to bring the “La Bourrée” tune book out, a huge important task! The folks at concertina.net really stepped up for this one.
- Thanks to my kids — Max, Brigid, Emma, Julia, and Sarah — who somehow think that it’s cool that their old man plays obscure accordéon music. They continue showing up to my gigs.
- Thanks to Amy and Rob, at the Water St. Cafe, in Gardiner, who have given me a place to play regularly in the past few months, so that I could get my chops into shape.
- Thanks to everyone who reads this blog. Having just crossed the 40,000 hits line, I have no idea, really, who you all are (the occasional comment would go a long way!) … and I monetize the blog in only a very minor way … but this blog was started because I wanted to talk about accordéons with people who wanted to listen to me talk about accordéons. Thank you.
Discussing his non-collection, Andy Cutting sent along pictures of some of his accordéons. Not pictured are any of the three Mory boxes, which are somewhat ubiquitous in Cutting’s photos.
|One of the Maxes, the Pokerwork, the Mignon, and … what is that with
the stradella bass? Is that the Crimean thing from John Tam?
I also asked Cutting about acquiring a D/G Castagnari Lilly “by accident.” He tells the following story:
I ordered a D/G Lilly for a friend. A few months later it arrived. My friend was delighted then a couple of weeks another one arrived. I couldn’t very well send it back so I kept it. I now lend it out to people who want to have a go at playing the the box.
This makes a bit more sense than the Lost Weekend I was envisioning — where you wake up with unexplained accordéons in your home — and reveals a not very surprising generosity of spirit!
Part One is Here.
Andy Cutting does NOT have an accordéon collection. Listening to Andy Cutting, one is entranced, of course, by his playing, but one also marvels — perhaps with a modicum of jealousy — at the sound of his instruments. I asked Cutting about his instruments. Is he a gear hound? Does he have a collection?
I wouldn’t say I was a gear hound at all. I’m primarily driven by playing music on a machine and have the instruments I feel I can best do that. I don’t really have a collection, as such. Although my wife would say otherwise! For those who are interested, the boxes I have are:
- Hohner Pokerwork D/G (my first box which I still play at home)
- Hohner one row four stop G
- Hohner Club 3 D/G
- One of those Chinese one rows
- A small two row CBA thing that John Tams got in the Crimea when he was filming Sharp,
- Castagnari Mignon Gish,
- Two Castagnari Max, one in D and one in A
- Castagnari Lilly D/G (bought by mistake!)
- Castagnari Handry 18 G/C
- Oakwood (I’ve no idea what model. It was made for me), two row 21 button, 8 bass with stop for the thirds, G/C Bandoneon (octave) tuned,
- Two Castagnari Mory C/F and, finally,
- Castagnari Mory D/G (my most used and favorite box)
|With Chris Wood|
Part Two is HERE.
Andy Cutting was not the first to bridge the channel between English melodeon and Musique du Centre-France, but his work in the 90s — with Blowzabella and Chris Wood — elevated the art form. His style is the envy of many (okay, me!) with its effortlessness, flow, and … rhythmic feeling of levitation? His compositions are intricate and intriguing and they stick with you. A tune like “Spaghetti Panic” draws you in and sparks a compulsion to try and learn it.
During breaks in his touring, Andy agreed to an interview-via-email. Part one starts with early stories. Later installments will discuss equipment, repertoire, composition, and technique. The conversation is ongoing, though, so if you’ve got a question for Andy, I’ll be happy to pass it on!
Part Two is HERE! Here’s a video of Andy with Chris Wood to keep you warm (thanks Clive Williams). Go to 6:45 if you were wondering what I meant by “levitation” above.