by Raymond Morin, above photo by Jennifer Baron
As many of our regular readers know, this summer saw the release of Petrifidelity, a new CD and Tablature book of original guitar duets, featuring myself and my fingerpicking cohort David Leicht. It being a limited release, and not (yet) available in any online/digital format, it seemed a good idea to take the record to the people, to go on a little musical jaunt to the east coast and back, raising awareness about our latest work. Longtime readers of this site might remember my similar trip from last year, promoting 2009’s Holykyle LP. The summer 2010 journey ended up being a lot of fun, and different for a few reasons. I had a new touring partner, a beautiful new guitar, and got to catch up with some good folks that I hadn’t seen in quite a long time.
The tour came about in the usual way : I started sending emails around about four months ahead of time, and booked a couple of my usual spots. As it happens, I had recently been having a lot of great conversations with my friend Jay Yonush, a singer/songwriter who performs as Rum Glass Serenade, and I thought this tour might be a great opportunity to have some more conversations and officially introduce Jay, who had never embarked on a solo tour, to “the road”. Jay was into it, and with just a little more planning, we had a nice 5-day jaunt on our hands. I would be promoting Petrifidelity, and Jay would be promoting his debut CD, Up Inside My Head.
With the tour fast approaching, I found myself between instruments… I had a very interested buyer for my Larrivée OM-09, which I had taken on the road the previous fall, but my new guitar, a Collings OM2, was still being built down in Texas. I didn’t expect to have the Collings in time for the tour, so I secured the loan of Mr. Leicht’s Martin dread (pictured on the cover of Petrifidelity, along with the recently departed Larry) which I thought would be a fun change of pace. About two weeks before the tour, though, I walked into Acoustic Music Works just to shoot the breeze, when the owner Steve told me that he had received the invoice for my guitar, and that it would be shipped soon. I was completely surprised, it was late July, and I wasn’t expecting the OM2 for another month! I stopped in again a couple days later to pay the balance on the guitar, with the intention of telling Steve that I didn’t want to know when it shipped, just to call me when it arrived (I’ve always found that the days that a new guitar is in transit are about the longest days imaginable) but to my surprise, the guitar had not only shipped, but the box was sitting right there at the shop, waiting for me!
The Collings was everything I hoped it would be, a much lighter build than the Larrivée, and a huge upgrade in the playability department… there’s nothing I like better than a guitar with perfect intonation! It was far and away the fanciest guitar that I had ever owned, and a part of me was hesitant to subject it to the rigors of the road… but with some encouragement from members of the Collings forum, I decided that she definitely had to make the trip with me. My new guitar wasn’t electrified, so I borrowed a few soundhole pickups, an old Sunrise, a Dean Markley “Woody” and a Rare Earth humbucker, so I would be covered, magnetically speaking. I also decided to bring an amp, to have a bit of control over the EQ. It wasn’t my ultimate electrified-acoustic sound, but I was short on time, it would have to do.
The tour began on August 12. The plan was that Jay, who lives in rural Connecticut, would fly into Pittsburgh one-way, and that we would travel east, with the tour ending in Boston, a short drive from his home base. Other than a delay in Detroit, Jay’s flight was without incident. The first show was a party at my house, so we picked up some wine, beer and whiskey on our way home from the airport. When we arrived at my place, my future-wife Minette, always an amazing hostess, was fixing up some snacks for the party. Guests began to filter in around 6:30, and we hung out and socialized for a good while before David and I kicked off the evening’s musical offerings. We played all of the songs from the new CD, as well as a few from last year’s LP. I always enjoy house shows for their intimacy, and it was great to play, unamplified, for a great group of friends.
David and I were followed by Dan Koshute, a young Pittsburgh-based singer/songwriter with a set of golden vocal chords. Dan’s voice reminds me of a mix of Jeff Buckley, Mick Jagger and The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft, and his songs have an urgent, anthemic quality. He sang his heart out that night, and I think he definitely earned some new fans. After Dan, the folk duo Devilish Merry played a fine set, featuring some lovely dulcimer and banjo. Jay closed the night, and Pittsburgh was officially introduced to his country-tinged, folky-punky sound. In my usual fashion, I continued drinking and talked Jay’s ear off long into the night, oblivious to the fact that he was completely exhausted from a long day of traveling… I apologized the next day for keeping him up so late, but thankfully he wasn’t sweating it!
Our Friday night show was at Blind Willow Books, a lovely little bookstore in Emmaus, PA. The store is owned and operated by Kyle Page, who presides over a great selection of books of all kinds, and a merch table filled with limited edition recordings by some of the experimental musicians that pass through. For unknown reasons, the local act that we were supposed to play with cancelled, so it would be just Jay and I performing. For non-famous musicians like us, we kind of depend on a local act to bring people in… but thankfully we had a surprisingly good turnout, and it turned out to be a nice, mellow show. Jay’s playing was more confident than the night before, and I would see it improve each subsequent night, as he got more comfortable with the pace of his set. We used my phone to take a couple of (very quiet) videos… Jay is performing his original “Icarus Needs A Ladder”, and I’m playing a little medley of Bert Jansch’s “One For Jo” and Davy Graham’s “Anji”.
The show got out reasonably early, and Jay wanted to get a head-start on the drive to Connecticut. We drove about an hour from Emmaus, and Jay treated us to a nice hotel room, somewhere in New Jersey. Still feeling a little restless (it was only 10:30, after all) we decided to have a couple drinks at the tacky sports-pub adjacent to the hotel. Though the bar and its atmosphere were completely generic, we still had a good time talking and drinking late into the night.
The next morning, we made the best out of our skimpy continental breakfast (it seems that this particular Days Inn puts most of its emphasis on pillows) and set out for Connecticut, where we were slated to play at Union Station, the home and sometimes music venue of our good friends Terry and Sarah Paquette. The couple went all out for this party, there were tents, a DJ, a pig roast, a fire, some fine craft-brewed beer… they pulled out all the stops! I was happy to be playing the show alongside my good friend Matt Goulet, who had learned David’s parts out of the Petrifidelity Tab book so that I could present the songs in their intended form, as duets. Matt had also recently acquired a new guitar, a stunning Bourgeois vintage OM, and man, did that guitar sound great! For the sake of spontaneity, we decided not to practice, and instead just enjoyed the party. We were slated to close the evening, after sets by Jay and another friend and former bandmate of mine, Rodney St. Onge, who now performs insurgent country music as R. Lee’s One Man Band.
Both Jay and R. Lee played loud, exciting sets… Jay was all charisma in front of his hometown crowd, and R. Lee played drums with both feet whilst strumming the heck out of his Ovation acoustic, singing all manner of uptempo, bawdy country tunes. Matt and I certainly mellowed the mood with our mostly instrumental acoustic set. Matt did a great job learning his duet parts, which I was never really worried about, since he’s one of the best guitarists I know. We closed with Archie Fisher’s great “Mountain Rain”, a song that Matt had been smitten by a couple of weeks prior. Even without having ever played the tune together, we were somehow able to pull off a convincing version, and some people singled it out as their favorite of the night. The party wound down, and we said our goodbyes before departing for Jay’s house, just a few miles down the road.
The next day, Matt and I got an early start toward Providence, where we were slated to play at The Penalty Box later that evening. It was fun tooling around in Matt’s car, listening to music and touring the small Rhode Island towns where he spent his youth. We had a sandwich and took a break in a nice park behind a library, which somehow looks like a lush tropical rainforest in my pictures! We then headed up to Providence for a free afternoon concert featuring the up-and-coming folk trio Brown Bird, who turned in a nice set, despite a pretty uneven mix. We still had a little time to kill, so we had a couple of pints at the Wickenden Pub.
Unfortunately, our Providence show was kind of a bust. Attendance was very low, and we were basically playing for the benefit of ourselves and the bartender. These kinds of shows happen once in a while, and it’s important to still play with heart and put on a solid show, which everyone did. Jay opened the night, followed by Matt and I. I think we definitely improved on our duet performances from the night before, with our Archie Fisher cover really coming together. R. Lee did a double set, everything from country classics to modern punk-country numbers and originals. It was Matt’s last night as part of the tour, so we said “So long”, and Jay and I went back to his place in Connecticut for the night.
I was excited for the Boston show. As with my 2009 trip, I booked a Monday night at Zuzu, a great bar and restaurant that’s part of the Middle East club complex. My friend Johnny books and tends bar there, and he always makes me feel at home. Before the show, I had a couple things to do, namely practicing briefly with my friend Nate McDermott, who was to perform “No Occupation” and “Capitano” from Petrifidelity with me, and shopping for the suit I’ll be married in next spring. We somehow found time to do both, and the songs and the suit came together before showtime.
The Zuzu show was easily Jay’s best of the tour. He sounded great through the small PA that the bar had, and his picking and singing were spot-on. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and even had a few drunken dancers twirling around in front of him. By the time I started playing, many of my friends had arrived for the show, and I felt great going into my set. I kicked it off with Bert’s classic “Strollin’ Down The Highway”, and followed it up with a number of tunes from Petrfidelity and Holykyle, as well as the new-ish Pairdown song “Cathedral”. I called Nate up, and he sang and played beautifully on “No Occupation”. I somehow got confused about my capo position on “Capitano”, and thanks to me, we had a number of false starts… then I realized that I don’t use a capo on “Capitano”! I eventually figured out my mistake, and we nailed the song. I played Jackson C. Frank’s “Blues Run The Game” before closing with my original “No Two Ways”, a song in Drop-D that pits an insistent Jack Rose-esque alternating bass against a melody that goes back and forth between Irish and Middle Eastern sounding scales. It’s a little flashy, but memorable, and I’ve used to to close a lot of shows.
I was really glad to be able to close the tour on a high note, and Jay and I both agreed that it was a great time, and that we’d have to do it again someday. We went our separate ways, and I stayed at Nate’s house in Brockton that night. The next day was spent driving, as fast as I could back to the ‘Burgh for one last show. I was reunited with Dave to open for David Wm. Sims, the legendary bass player for The Jesus Lizard, who was touring solo under the moniker unFact. We also had the pleasure of playing that night with Noveller, a New York based guitarist who creates compelling electric guitar soundscapes using looping pedals. Overall, it was a classic Pittsburgh show, scarcely attended but artistically impeccable, and it felt great to be playing the duets with Dave once again. It also felt nice to drive the two blocks from the venue back to my house for a good night’s sleep, before returning to my job and normal life the next day. I’d like to say thanks to Jay for sharing the touring experience with me this time out, to all the people who helped set up shows, to Matt and Nate for putting in the time to learn the duets and for performing them with me, and to all the people who listened to us play and bought copies of Petrifidelity, making this trip a success.