My friends kid me about one of the websites I frequent, a place called Banjo Hangout (dot Org). It’s a place where banjo geeks like me go and talk about strings and rings, and pots and picks, and necks and woods and, well, banjo makers! And occasionally I receive messages from those fellow Banjo geeks – so I wasn’t too surprised when I got one, one day through my email box that began, “Jed, I’m a fan of your music. I believe that two of your songs ought to be hits and I want to talk to you about them.” He was talking about two MP3s I’d posted on the website’s jukebox. One was a pretty little banjo tune I called “Calla’s Waltz” – and the other was a song called “Even As I Ramble” that I’d written for a film I worked on last year. Both, of course, featured my banjo – and both were Celtic in style.
(Above: Pic from concert in Dallas TX | middle top on-set with Michael Martin Murphey and band | middle bottom Jay Ungar and Molly Mason in studio with Producer Paul Mills and me | right pic in concert in Shreveport, Louisiana)
Now it’s always nice to hear from someone who likes your songs and this contact was no exception. I was about to write back a “thanks for the kind words” to this guy, when he told me he was a retired, longtime, well known Executive Producer from Warner Brothers Records – and he was dead serious about helping make these songs hits. OK ... that put a very different spin on his message, and on my response!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m 63 years old and have no illusions about being a star – nor do I have any interest in that sort of thing – but I do make my living at this, and I really do want to see my music go as far it can – so we began a serious dialogue via email. I loved those songs he contacted me about and I was determined to give them my best in a new recording project.
We talked about banjos. We talked about the Irish and Celtic music I play. We talked about the music business and in the end; we talked about how these songs (and others) might be best presented to the music and film industry. He became a true friend, my champion and my mentor!
At his suggestion, I reached out to Jay Ungar and Molly Mason to ask if they would collaborate with me on the project, and to my surprise they were happy to do so. I also asked producer Paul Mills of London Ontario to work with us. Jay and Molly chose a superb studio and engineer near their location in NY – and we had a great recording session there in early January. Paul Mills and I returned to his studio in Canada to record other tracks and finish the album, Calla's Waltz. It was released on March 17, 2016.
Most of the tracks on album are Irish or Scottish, traditional or historical. All are Celtic and American folk in style. My friend and frequent music partner Hugh Morrison from Scotland played “squeeze box” on several tracks. My friend Gordon McLeod of the Dallas area played mandolin and fiddle (and arranged the string parts for two of the songs) and a new friend from Ontario, Shane Cook played fiddle, as well. Studio players, Curly Boy Stubbs and Joe Phillips added some help on guitar/mandolin and bass, respectively.
I have no idea where all of this will go – but I absolutely love the album and I am sure the songs will get a chance to be heard. What more can I ask? The fellow who pushed me to do this project, my mentor was at Warner Brothers for a decade and a half. As he was encouraging me to begin working the Calla’s Waltz project he said to me, "You know inside you, that this could be something special. I know that too!" My heart already believed him – and my brain considered where this guy was coming from – so I jumped in with both feet!
There are a couple of songs in particular that will interest Wild Geese readers. “Prayer From Little Round Top” is the story of a potato famine immigrant who died at Gettysburg – and “Dowling and the Davis Guards” retells the tale of Irish immigrant hero, Dick Dowling and his Irish artillerymen, also in the US Civil War. Please take a look at and listen to Calla’s Waltz at CDBaby. The album is also available at Amazon, iTunes and everywhere MP3 music is sold.