Back in the not so old days, as a teenage record collector, well, lets be honest, several decades ago back when I had hair, I accidentally joined Record Clubs of America. I wanted this album by Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood. I got it just a few weeks later! Each month after that, I received a letter from the company (that I ignored), followed up by an "album of the month". Then I got a whopping bill that I could not pay. I failed to read the large print, the part that says "ck this box to bypass the Album of the Month. If box is not checked we will send you our Album of the Month pick". Yin Yang in action. Dad bailed me out in exchange for more chores and a good lecture on fine print, and I got some obscure, pretty cool albums like Howlin' Wolf- The London Sessions, Savoy Brown- Hell-Bound Train, New Dimensions in Banjo and Bluegrass by Eric Weisburg and Marshall Brickman. No way! Sure I'd seen and held and perused albums (a Boomer term for "Vinyl") and marveled at the album art, and liner notes. Sometimes the album jacket had the artist's or the label's discography. (Disc- Hipster Boomer term for album, or Millennial reference to vinyl.) During this period of time, I fractured my wrist and the family MD took me, along with my father, to another MD who was really great at setting fractures and applying plaster casts. On the way, Dr. Hart put a cartridge in a slot on the dash and music played! 8 track tape! I had no idea what that meant, but man oh man, how cool! I used some of my hay-hauling money and bought myself an auto deck and two wedge speakers that Dad and I installed in my old 63 Chevy Impala, and I bought my first 8 track tape- James Taylor, Mud Slide Slim. That was a yellow plastic cartridge with a glued on label that immediately bubbled and wrinkled due to humidity. No liner notes, just a track list with really small print. Not long after that, my sister's boyfriend gave me a cassette tape. Even smaller, and far less mysterious than 8 tracks, and even less accessible readable fonts and clear graphics. Okay. So we trade off these great touchy feely visuals for the convenience of being able to listen to the music of our choice while driving. This brief intro to technology preceded a landslide of "improvements", the Walkman, the Boom Box, and the compact disc. Now, vinyl has made a comeback but you still can't listen to a record in your car and you'd better not risk leaving a vinyl in your auto or it will warp,- "Don't Leave Your Records in the Sun"- John Hartford. Factor in Blue Tooth, digital downloads to your phone and there you go- digitize the music from your phone to any pairable device and leave your vinyl at home. CDs are still happening, and will for a while, but the visual, hands-on experience is tiny, even with those booklets. Music lovers will find a way. Imagine my joy when "Old Timeless Conversations" showed up in the mail!
This project, by Craig Frailin' Evans and Chris Silver, came in a large manila envelope. When I opened it, I found an 8 1/2 x11 promo/info sheet, and a very cool 12 page, antiqued companion booklet! Reminded me of the album days! Not only did I get a collection of 14 Old Time tunes performed by two of the finest musicians around, but I also got the visual and friends, it's way more than that.
Craig "Frailin'" Evans is the "go to" Clawhammer banjo guy not just for his talent, but also for his dedication and devotion to Old Time Music. Craig takes his passion several steps further by researching and archiving not only Old Time tunes but also the artists, past and current. Craig has several video projects under his belt including "Conversations with Old Time Performers", "Old Time Conversations" and "Conversations with North American Banjo Builders", the last of which is at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Please visit Frailin.com and read all about Craig's fascinating work, and have a look at the many videos he has posted that he shot on location with so many American treasures of Traditional Old Time music. https://www.nodepression.com/conversations-with-old-time-performers-and-the-man-who-brought-them-craig-frailin-evans/
Enter Chris Silver. Both Craig and Chris are well established and respected Minnesota Musicians who had met at various events around the country. Chris, who is best known in the Upper-Midwest, is a master flat-picker, mandolinist and fiddler who has traveled the circuit for 35 years, having toured with Stoney Lonesome and the Kate Mackenzie Band. Chris' experience with traditional, roots and global music has resulted in a sound of his own. Chris also writes and arranges and performs with his son, Ari, who also adds some vocal and bass to this collaboration with Craig. Read more about Chris at www.chrissilverband.com
Chris and Craig had discussed projects for fifteen years but never really got around to getting together. When the idea began to become a reality, Covid quarantine hit. This is where it gets interesting.
You see, Craig is all about "conversation". He sees the value in traditional music "conversation". He understands how conversation, through music, freezes in time, defines the mood of the moment, and occurs in community, exists in community. So when this first message came from Chris Silver's Covid cave, suggesting the two make this project happen, just for fun, and make it happen via digital files, Craig, also holed up, let his visionary muse take the reigns and the two began planning by email, sharing files and mixing, and sending them back and forth, all with conversation recorded in digital history! So, as part of the finished product, these two took the digital dialogue and put it into booklet form, large enough to feel like a magazine, sepia toned for that antique look, right down to the glossy front and back covers, and even placed 1900s era ads throughout. The look is Old Time, the technology is mind boggingly here and now, and the mix is great!
14 Old Time tunes with vocals on three tracks. While there is some bass, mandolin and guitar, it is the Old Time fiddling of Chris, and Craig's frailing on the banjo that are mixed in the forefront. It's pretty amazing how the process unfolds. A track in the form of a wav file arrives via email, you import it to your digital mixing software, you add your part and send it back, another part is added and here it comes, back and forth, adding and deleting until the mix is just right. Micro processing at it's finest is what you get with this recording, and, the process is there for you to read in this fantastic little magazine, aptly named, "The Old Timeless Conversations Record"!
You do not have to be a fan of Old Time Traditional Music to appreciate and enjoy this recording, but you shall be a fan once it's in your hands, ears and eyes. Congratulations Craig and Chris, "Footprints on the sands of time are not made by sitting down"- but sometimes great music is.