A photo diary of my time at the 2014 International Folk Alliance ConferenceFolk Alliance is five days of music-making mayhem. The music goes until 4am every night, and then the thing kicks into gear again around 9am. This year, I was able to get my buddy Tim Huggins to play some shows with me (on bass and harmonies) since he's a once and again Kansas City native. One quick rehearsal; six showcases.
Unlike last year's event in Toronto, my guitar arrived in one piece.
Folk Alliance: interrupting healthy sleep patterns for over 25 years. It's been a crazy fun, hectic, inspiring few days and nights and early mornings until 4am. Our last onsite showcase is tonight at 12:30am, plus we were just added to a sweet offsite concert with a bunch of great songwriters from... Texas.
Here's the back of a bunch of peoples' heads while listening to Graham Nash, he of The Hollies fame (and that other band with his name in it).
Between 10pm-4am, dozens of upstairs rooms in the hotel host private guerilla showcases. Here's the always amazing Matt the Electrician doing a cover of Michael Penn's "No Myth."
And here's Breting Engel playing a set right before ours at The Midwestern Musical Co. This store is one of the coolest music establishments I've been in, run by the coolest of people — very fun, welcoming folks.
And here's Tim and I playing our set at MMC. And here's us back at the hotel in one of those upstairs showcases — taken by the lovely Oregonian songwriter Kathryn Claire. Then, after hanging for one final afternoon in Kansas City, watching the Lego Movie, making a trip to FedEx, and discovering that the midwest winters can actually be more forgiving than Maine's, I flew home. Here's a shot of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument (obviously not in Kansas... or Missouri).
Until next year, Kansas City. You're a lovely town.
"Silent Night" — written in 1818 by J. Mohr and F. GruberChris Robley - arrangement, guitars, vocals, casios Mike Coykendall - engineering, drums
East Greenwich, Rhode Island.If you take Old Frenchtown Road west off Route 2 and head back into the woods a few miles, you'll come to a small Baptist church where I spent every Sunday morning until I was 17; a wooden-pews-and-sturdy-hymns kinda place founded in 1798; heavy velvet curtains hiding the steps going down into the baptismal font behind the pulpit. Every year on Christmas Eve there was a candlelight service which commenced with the same reading from the Gospel of Luke that you hear Linus recite in A Charlie Brown Christmas. King James, of course. Followed by a sermon recounting the Nativity. Then we'd light our candles in a chain, starting with the pastor at the front of the church. The darkened sanctuary began to glow, signifying Christ's light spreading out across the world. Warm orange on the walls. The wet glimmer of yellow and white in every eye. Shadows moving on the ceiling like a tide, back and forth, back and forth, as we swayed — singing. It was the kind of sound that had weight and mass, the way it could hold you: all three verses of "Silent Night" sung a cappella, and miraculously — in key! I haven't been a churchgoer in almost 15 years, but one thing that's never changed for me is the emotional power of "Silent Night." It was my grandmother's favorite carol and I'm sure a bit of sentimentality and nostalgia work their way into my heart whenever I hear it — but really it's just a great song written by a couple Austrians (via Salzburg), and it's still going strong after almost 200 years. "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht" — words written by Father Joseph Mohr:
Portland, Oregon.Many years later, a couple of those "wrong" chords worked their way into my version of "Silent Night." It was recorded at Blue Room Studios, which is essentially my friend Mike Coykendall's amazing, vibey, highly analog attic studio. Hey, that should be the title of a blog: Mike Coykendall's Highly Analog Attic! Anyway, this version of Silent Night was tracked over a few hours, and is based around an alternate guitar tuning so strange (to me) that it takes 15 minutes to re-figure it out every winter. For guitarists keeping score at home, it's E-G-E-G-C-E. For the session, I played acoustic guitar and then doubled the same part on Mike's Nashville-strung acoustic. Nice n' bright n' chimey. Then I layered the hell out of my vocals. Yes, I swear all those vocals are me putting on my best choir-boy voice. Then we added a little casio keyboard line or two and Mike laid down some super minimal drum parts.
I think we took a break at that point and walked down to Zack's Shack, a hot dog joint on Hawthorne in southeast Portland, close to where Mike lives. (Try the dog with double-slaw on top!) Then back to Mike's to mix the tune real quick with his great plate reverbs and tape echoes blanketing the song. Print!
.... Banshee Babies!Anyway, that's the story behind this song. I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for future Song Stories. What songs do you wanna know about? What sorta details are you interested in? Lemme know. Also, "Silent Night" is available to download HERE and HERE. Here's wishing you a happy Christmas! And as ((°J°)) said: WAR IS OVER, if you want it. - Chris P.S. In the random-YouTube-find department, here's a dress rehearsal video of the Desert Jewels' dancing to my arrangement of "Silent Night."