Line art by Shaun Chosa.
Roustabout was recorded by Tom Herbers using a portable reel-to-reel normally used for movie soundtrack work. We recorded in Mikkel's front room, Dave's front room, the Clown Lounge (basement to the Turf Club in St. Paul), the lounge at Ed's (no name) Bar in Winona and generally had a great month bumming around Minnesota with this machine looking for quiet places to sit down and record. The fidelity is low, and the phonic is mono, getting us a lot of flack from radio stations but I like it alright anyway. The instrumental track, "adrift in lake Superior at sunrise" has also garnered a lot of reverse praise, and was achieved by scraping a violin bow over the strings of my National. I think it's still my favorite track from this record, even if I'm all alone in that.
Don’t Send Your Child to War - Mike Gangloff
once showed me a film of the Hammonds family playing a fiddle
tune where a set of thin sticks were used to hammer out a
rhythm on the strings while the fiddler played (fiddlesticks)
and so Mikkel and I tried it out with the banjo on this tune.
He's using a set of chopsticks we lifted from Emily and now
she doesn't want them back anymore.
Warmin’ by the Devil’s Fire - Fishing up on Whitefish Lake with uncles and cousins and listening to the stories and tall tales and overly long jokes that weren’t worth the punchline and finally realizing that the bobber had been out of sight for a while now. A very worn-out Bluegill waiting there, patiently, for us to finish our gabbing.
Midnight has come and Gone - Mike Gangloff, from the Black Twig Pickers, told me about the A.T. killer after he’d been killed in a car crash during a police chase. The story haunted me until this song oozed out.
Cropduster- I was about 5 and my favorite thing to do when I heard the drone of the cropduster was to go and watch. It was a bi-plane, and if the pilot knew I was there he’d do some tricks. I’d come home when it was all over, covered in poison. Explains a lot, I know.
The B&J’s nothing but a hole in the Ground - When they tore the B&J bar down my Mom went and took a brick. “I bought it fair and square, for all the money he spent here”.
Farmer - Farmers make up my extended family, and even though my folks ended up working in a packinghouse for most of their working lives they both started as farmers and always seemed more suited to that kind of conversation.
Walk Around My Bedside - From a recording by
Roscoe Holcomb where he plays guitar rather than the banjo
he’s normally known for. He was an extraordinary musician, one
of those wells so deep that it never seems to dry up and the
water is always very cold and tastes a little like iron.
Last Payday at Coal Creek - I first heard this from the Black Twig Pickers during a show where I was playing along with them. Isak just leaned over by me and said “there’s kind of an odd change here … you’ll hear it”. I loved the song and its weird rug-in-the-washer rhythm so much that I recorded it about the same time as they did. To me their version is much better and truer. I still love this song so much that it’s one I play a lot, right or no. Pete Steele is normally credited with it, and it’s got to do with the Fraterville mine disaster of which there is a wonderful and sad documentary about. His version is amazing as is another one by banjoist Billy Faier who sounds like he grew a couple extra fingers just to play it.
God Moves on the Water - Who hasn’t sung this? Since 1912 when the Titanic sank it’s been sung about. I really like a lot of the different looks at it; from the political songs about “they locked the poor below, they were the first that had to go” (check out Richard ‘Rabbit’ Brown) to the strictly historical ones (Frank Hutchison being my favorite: “how’s yr machinery now? Alright? Alright.”) to the religious ones where the theme is borrowed from a mighty old hymn called God Moves in the Windstorm that takes it’s text from the book of Job. That’s where mine falls, inspired mostly from Blind Willie Johnson and Mississippi Fred McDowell: “Jacob Aster was a millionaire, he had plenty of money to spare. When the Titanic hit the iceberg he could not afford the fare”. Bob Dylan’s recent visit to the tragedy (Tempest) is absolutely amazing.
• Download Roustabout on Bandcamp.
• Stream Roustabout on Spotify.
• KUMD Live from Studio A session
• Charlie Parr performs on Radio Heartland (The Current)
• "God Moves on the Water" live w/Trampled by Turtles video