Nikki and Clay, what's the scoop today?
Continuing the introduction to the dulcimers in my wooden brood, pictured up top here is Nikki Six-String (get it?) Nikki is a Folkcraft six-string dulcimer, something I had never heard of before noticing one in our shop at Walt Disney World one day. Historically, the mountain dulcimer is a three-stringed instrument. The melody was typically played on the first string with the middle (treble) and bass string serving as the drone, that beautiful constant "thrum" that identifies not only dulcimers, but bagpipes as well (many refer to the dulcimer as a "bagpipe with strings" in that regard.) At some point, folks began to double-up the first string to carry the melody better over the drone. These two strings were placed close together to make them easier to "note" at the same time, thusly the four-string dulcimer was born.
The six-string dulcimer takes it a step further and doubles every string. Depending on what gauges you use, the sound varies, but is usually very full-throated and high in volume - all the better to compete with those guitars and their big voice boxes, eh. When I first purchased Nikki, she had the standard .015's as melody and one in the treble position, but was doubled with a .022 to thicken the sound. .027's or .028's on the bass string and you've got it goin' on. Nikki's made of cherry wood, not as warm as rosewood or spruce, but most assuredly a scorcher when it comes to resonating. She's not used best for delicate tasks - rather, when you need a fullness of accompaniement, she'll definitely handle the job as good as any gee-tar!
Went over to Richter Records and re-recorded the vocals on "Angels and Devils", "Cuckoo Tom" and "Positive Vibes". After listening to them over and over again, I decided that my voice was too shredded at that point to do the songs any justice (and I didn't ), and I'm much happier with the result. Of course, the more I listen to the rest, the more I'm thinking (don't do it!), we'll see about some of the others when we go in next week. I added some harmonies that I've always intended in the mix, but never got to the rehearsal point. Once they're recorded and out there, everyone will pick them up rather quickly. When it comes to arrangements, I don't rule with a heavy hand - since I'm not a bassist/drummer/trumpeteer/mouth harpist, I let the band come up with their own parts for the most part, and they're usually right on the money. I'll suggest a line here or a change of chord here to preserve the original "feel" of the song, but that's about it. It never has to go absolutely this way or that.
A Surprise Phone Call...
So, I'm taking Jae to work this morning and her cel phone rings. She answers it, and I hear her say "why, yes it is", so it's someone she doesn't know. Then she erupts in giddy excitement and starts saying things like "oh my gosh! we sing that song all the time!" "Yes, he's here, he's driving right now, is this your phone number?" By this point, after hearing the 352 area code, I knew who must be on the other line and I smiled.
She confirmed it when she hung up.
Clay Simon had just rung up, having heard that we were "singing a song" about him and his store. For those of you who read an earlier post here, you'll know that Clay is the proprietor of Simon Brothers Mercantile, a place that we stopped at in Roosevelt, Texas about four years ago. While we were hanging out there, I began writing a song about the fascinating place and the friendly folk who kept it running. For some time, there was a website for the place, but then it disappeared and I couldn't find any reference to it on the web. (I suppose I could've asked a Texas operator about the city, but I wanted to have something to give to Clay when I dialed up.)
So this was mighty good timing on his part, and I called him back later today and we talked for a little bit about that hot summer day and what's been going on since. Apparently, an assistant of his went to do a search on the store and came up with the song lyrics, which he printed out and proudly displayed. "We were talking about it this morning and I said, 'I oughta see if I can get in contact with them.'" With Jae's phone number on the site, it was easily done.
I told him that we just finished recording the song and would be sending him a copy of the album. "That'd be great," he said, "and I'll play it here in the store."
How cool is that?