Here’s a samples from our tunnel show last week. First, audio of the acapella song “Grinnin in your face” by Son House set to some semi-random images from that night.
Second, a video excerpt showing a kinda magical moment with Oddeline. It’s the end of the spooky traditional folk ballad “Cruel mother.”
Oddeline also has a gorgeous song she played that night up on her bandcamp (https://oddeline.bandcamp.com/track/river-live-from-the-tunnel-show)
Finally, check out Son House if you don’t already know him – and Frankie Armstrong’s version of “Cruel Mother.” It might just change your life.
We’re going to be playing the patio at Art House Cafe from 2-4pm this Sunday (Thanksgiving!) If you’re a Thanksgiving orphan, don’t enjoy colonial holidays, or are just free and looking to enjoy outdoor music while that’s still possible, join us?
With a whole two hours available, we’re going to revisit some old country blues tunes we haven’t played in a couple years, there will be more psychedelic dream ukulele, probably some bass guitar, possibly a miniature solo-set or two (AKA a very rare appearance by Sissy and/or Halfwitch) maybe even some guest stars, etc.
Also, if you have some clout with the weather gods, please put a good word in for us. If it’s raining we might have to… dunno, retreat to a friendly neighbourhood tunnel?
In the spirit of the Hallowe’en season, here’s our epic take on the traditional folksong “Cruel Mother,” a tragic ghost story that only seems to get more relevant all the time. (Spoiler alert: she’s not actually cruel, just cruelly alone and trapped by patriarchal forces.)
The video features Oddeline & Robin kenny and a whole crew of stellar friends, live from a tunnel near the Kitchissippi River. We didn’t rehearse this as a group and this was only the second full take we got through.
To introduce them properly, for this very special night, the extra members of Wychwood were:
– Oddeline , dream-folk singer-songwriter
– Robin Kenny, bardess and keytar wielder
– Kim Farris-Manning from Paramorph Collective,
experimental composer, arbor-artist, drag performer
– Sarah Howard, singer-songwriter, slinger of simple chords and deep feelings
-Rebecca Norton and Rūta Auzina, badass choir nerds
– Haley Wolk, banjoist, murder balladeer, half of Rubber Roses
-Megan Jensen, practiced jam-maestro, practical philosopher, pal, part-time clown
Joshua John Kitz shot the video, wielding the (phone) camera artistic-like. We figure this is the beginning of his career as a videographer.
“Cruel Mother” is a folksong and traditional ballad from England that likely goes back to the 1600s in some form, with versions proliferating through much of the English-speaking world. The words we sing stitch together a few different versions collected by Francis James Child (it’s Child Ballad 20, for those who care). Musically, we were particularly inspired by the Frankie Armstrong’s raw and spine-tingling acapella version from her 1972 album Lovely on the Water. (https://youtu.be/X3MTAkj6phc)
Our words and chords are in this google doc.
Happy Hallowe’en – here’s one more horror story in a traditional folksong. Because we couldn’t resist taking advantage of the glorious tunnel reverb and gorgeous assembled voices for one more song, despite it being damn cold.
We didn’t rehearse this as a group and this was only the second full take we got through.
“Dreadful Wind & Rain,” also known as “Two Sisters,” “Cruel Sister,” and similar variations is a traditional folksong that goes back to at least to the 1650s. Versions – or at least songs with similar themes and stories – have been collected in England, Scotland, Ireland, North America, Scandinavia, Poland, Hungary, etc. Our version is closest to the way Gillian Welch and David Rawlings do it in the soundtrack to Songcatcher, a pretty good film about collecting folksongs in Appalachia in the early 1900s
Tim will be playing a song or three at the online Tree Songs event, in support of saving trees in the Experimental Farm from a hospital/condo development that should go somewhere else.
Having just figured out how use the looper on the Empress Reverb pedal properly, I was too excited not to share whatever I could bang through quickly. The song’s “St James Infirmary Blues.”
A more serious recording of St. James Infirmary Blues is in the works, but this was pretty inspiring.
Chrissy’s organizing a carol song walk this Sunday at 2pm through the Log Drive Cafe, here’s the info:
You’re invited to come carolling Sunday Dec.12 at 2pm. We will meet at Minto Park and walk from there.
What’s a Song Walk? A good old-fashioned carolling session with some walking in between songs. Everyone will have the chance to request or lead a song and doing so is very much encouraged.
We will be singing from a booklet compiled by Maura Volante, a fine local singer and community singing.
Here’s some more info on the tree songs cause some Ottawa activists and musicians have been working on.
First, an article on pal of Wychwood (and basically all Ottawa folkies) Chris White playing music and working on a worthy cause.
Second, Tim’s attempt to put chopping trees in the context of Ottawa’s creepy developer-friendly politics.
Chrissy has a new touchsynth. The arc of pandemic musicking seems to bend inevitably towards us just becoming an experimental electronic duo, presumably while changing the name of the project to Witchwire.
For the nerds who want to know how this is being made:
Chrissy is playing the Hyve TouchSynth.
It’s being fed through an Empress Reverb pedal, with a bit of delay on the side from the Empress Echosystem and distortion from the Proco Lil’ Rat and a Caline Tubescreamer clone.
The Boss Slicer is the green thing that’s chopping up the signal into harmonic/rhythmic patterns.
Things get cooler ~1min in, when Tim remembers to turn on the Orange Micro Dark amp, which – confusingly – is purple. Before that, everything was coming out of the Orange Micro Terror amp, which is, of course, orange. And white.
Hey friends, we’re pretty excited to share a couple songs on bandcamp, as a preview of an album we’ve been working on through much of the pandemic. “Blackest Crow” is the first recording we’ve made that really captures that idea of blackgrass that’s been motivating us all along, and “Bury me beneath the weeping willow” is an actually decent acoustic recording, so we’re pretty proud and excited.
Renaissance woman and true friend Evelyne Russell played cello on “Blackest Crow” and sang on “Bury Me.” We’re probably contractually obligated to point out that none of the effects on her cello or ugly noises on “Blackest Crow” generally are her fault. There will be all-acoustic and black noise versions of just about every song on that album, so you’ll be able to pick your poison then.
In conclusion, please wander over to bandcamp and take a listen.
“The blackest crow that ever flew
Would surely turn to white
If ever I proved false to you
Bright day would turn to night”
“Blackest Crow” is a traditional folksong from Appalachia and the Ozarks, likely with some Irish roots. Most modern versions go back to versions by Tommy Jarrell (1901-1985), a legendary fiddler, banjo player, and singer from the Mount Airy region of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. Our version was inspired by the one done by Red Tail Ring, which seems to run though Bruce Molsky and back to Tommy.
The drawing is “Pesta Kommer, 1894–95 (Plague’s Coming)” by Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914), who made it for his 1900 book “Svartedauen (Black death).” And yes, it does change over the course of the video and, no, that has nothing to do with Kittelsen and everything to do with our perverse impulses.
Our friend Evelyne played cello on this one. All the other sounds are by us (Tim and Chrissy), aside from some samples from the 1956 movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
Happy spring fertility festival, here’s a song that has something to do with the death and rebirth of a Middle Eastern sun deity. (Some of his followers have sure been misguided, but we can probably agree faith in him has inspired some pretty good music.)
That’s true pal Evelyne on loud cello and quiet vocals (perils of a single mic setup), about 10 min after we said “hey wanna do a cello solo on this song you heard for the first time last night?”
Here’s a half-silly video for May Day, more the International Worker’s Day, though the pagan nature festival stuff’s great too.
The song’s “Which Side Are You On?” which written by Florence Reece in 1931, after anti-union thugs terrorized her family during the Harlan County War. (Stick around to the end to see her sing it)
This recording’s from out upcoming album, which will go to wychwood.bandcamp.com in time.
Audio from a Derek Jensen talk on Endgame, the Acolytes of Horror video on The Dead Don’t Die, The Dead Don’t Die, some forgotten podcast on a Buzzfeed reporter turned alt-right troll, Fear & Desire, Lain: Serial Experiments, Harlan County USA, Florence Reece, a VCR, and us.
The saw might just be the most musical tool out there and one of the most attention-grabbing folk instruments ever. Here’s Chrissy demonstrating at a rehearsal. Bowing the saw sets it vibrating, which makes a musical tone, a little like rubbing a wet finger over the edge of a glass. Then by bending the blade, it changes the resonating length of the saw, which smoothly shifts the pitch. To create vibrato, you shake or bounce your knee a little.
And yes, that’s a plain old saw that’s been used and still could be used to cut wood. We’ve also been experimenting with running the sound through effects and it sounds astonishingly creepy and beautiful.
There’s a full version of Cruel Mother with two saw solos here:
Chrissy soldered a mic wire onto an old phone receiver – and it sounds great on vocals – but more recently Tim’s been experimenting with using it to pick up banjo and sent it through pedals.
Here’s how it sounds in action – running the banjo input an Empress Reverb and Echosystem in this video, then a little Rat and Tubescreamer distortion and (at the end) a Boss Slicer.
The banjo riff is the chords to the traditional folksong “Nottamun Town” as we do it, and which Bob Dylan used for his song “Masters of War.”
We’re going to be playing 6-7 pm on May 28 at Art House Cafe as part of Ottawa Drone Day. If you want to hear the saw (and other admittedly less exciting instruments) played through a bunch of dreamy-spooky effects and blended into old folk songs, you’ll like this.
Ottawa Drone Day has activities all day too… there’s a youtube livestream and the adventure of performances start at 5pm at Art House and run through the evening.
It’s going to be a fun adventuresome time, and we’d love to connect with you!
If you’re in Toronto, you should probably come see Tim try to keep with Alexis Castrogiovanni at the Canadian Music Centre, this Thursday June 16. There’s a livestream too! If you can stand another screen event.
There will be cello, there will be banjo, there will be dreamy-noisy effects, many feelings, and strange beautiful music.
If you don’t know Alexis’ music, it’s stunning, and here’s proof:
Details on the event: https://cmccanada.org/…/cmc-presents-alexis…/
Earnest TV, Episode 1, guest starring Hayley and Kris.
After coming together to play some songs at Ottawa’s Hiroshima & Nagasaki Peace Memorial Lantern Ceremony a couple of days ago, we reconvened to the Quaker house basement to create a record some of what we’d played.
“Deadly Harvest” is known in Japanese as 原爆を許すまじ or “Genbaku o yurusumaji” – “No More Atomic Bombs” or “We must never forgive the atomic bomb.” It was written in 1955 by Koki Kinoshita (music) and Ishiji Asada (words ). The English translation is by Ewan MacColl, with a few touch-ups from Tim.
(The reverby echo is coming from an Empress Reverb pedal that’s well-hidden by Tim’s head, plus that Orange MicroDark that is only half-hidden, hurrah.)
The lyrics and chords we used:
[Introductory verse in Japanese]
Furusato no machi yakare
Mi yori no hone umeshi yaketsuchi ni
Iwa wa shiroi hana saku
Ah yurusumaji genbaku o
[Refrain] Mitabi yurusumaji genbaku o
Warera no machi ni
In the place where our city was destroyed
Where we buried the ashes of the ones that we loved
There the grass grows and the white waving weeds
Deadly the harvest of two atom bombs
Then brothers & sisters you must watch & take care
That the third atom bomb never falls
The sky hangs like a shroud overhead
And the sun’s in the cage of the black evening cloud
No birds fly in the leaden sky
Deadly the harvest of two atom bombs
Then brothers & sisters…
Gentle rain carries poison from the sky
And the fish carry death in the depths of the sea
Fishing boats are idle, their owners are blind
Deadly the harvest…
All that we have created with our hands
All that is, all the glory of the world we live in
Now it can be smashed, in a moment destroyed
Am Dm E7 Am | Am E7 AmDm Am | – A7 Dm E7 | Am C E7 –
F Dm E7 Am / Dm E7 Am —
Slashes show line divisions, dashes mean repeat the previous chord, two chords squeezed together means play two chords in the time you normally play one.
“Step by Step” uses the melody of the traditional Irish song “The praties grow small,” a song about blight and starvation during the Potato Famine. The first verse was adapted by Waldemar Hills and Pete Seeger from the preamble of the constitution of the American Mineworkers Association (1963).
The last two verses are by Ottawa folk music stalwart Chris White.
Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won
Many stones can form an arch, singly none, singly none
And in union what we will can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill, singly none, singly none
Note by note the sweetest song can be sung, can be sung
As our voices sing along, we are one, we are one
Different colours rising high form a rainbow in the sky
So together we will rise, singly none, singly none
Thread by thread each slender strand, can be spun, can be spun
And then woven hand to hand, one by one, one by one
Making fabrics that enfold weak and strong, young and old
Intertwined all lines shall hold, singly none, singly none
CHORDS: Am C Am — G Am G Am / ” / Am C – – – Dm – E / E7 Am G Am G Am E7 Am
(Slashes show line divisions, dashes mean repeat the previous chord, ditto/quotation mark means repeat the last line’s chords)
Here’s a snippet of “Kitty alone,” a traditional kid’s song from Appalachia with a haunting melody and slightly surreal lyrics, on the ukelele and through the Empress Reverb and Echosystem.
Featuring a totally normal bedroom with an ultranormal amount of pedals.
Shot by Sandy Zelazy (AKA Silver Reeds). We actually spent nearly the whole time singing and playing acoustically into a single mic, believe it or not, that’ll get a more official release down the road.
Kick off spooky month in Ottawa with us this Saturday – and a host of musical friends! Once again, the tunnel supplies natural reverb and amplification, the fresh air provides pleasant safety, we’ll supply the songs, you can make it special.
Saturday, Oct 1, 6pm, at the tunnel to the Library & Archives parking lot (behind the library, towards the river – here’s the spot on google maps.)
If you came to previous tunnel shows, this tunnel is directly below the bike tunnel we played in before – the bike tunnel which is closed for construction. This tunnel is bigger, more reverberant, and spookier. There will be refreshments to share and we encourage you to bring your own light to pool with ours – and whatever you need to keep warm.
Also, it’s kind of a secret (sshhhh) but Chrissy’s going to play some songs from her solo project and Tim’s going to play a little bit with Haley from Rubber Roses. AND David from Day of Niagara and IMOO (the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa and Outaouais) will be adding ambient burbles and spooky drones to our folksongs.
TL;DR Tunnelfest = spooky fun, extra specialness
We’re going to playing Libby & Cal’s album release this Hallowe’en weekend – October 29 – it’s gonna be great spooky fun. There will be candy, there will be prizes for best costumes… also: music.
All the fun details & tickets magically appear by going to bit.ly/libbycal.
If you wander over to Libby Hortop on Faceborg, she’s been posting about creating an album of alternative, non-prescriptive love songs, the joys and challenges of recording an autoharp, and other genuinely interesting things.
Traditional folksongs and our set will do a good job warning of the dangers of conventional, possessive love – also, how to avoid being misled by a demon lover (look, forewarned is forearmed). Libby & Cal’s set and album will point to more open and diverse ways of loving.
There’s a party coming up to celebrate the release of Wychwood’s first “proper” album and you’re invited. Come celebrate our new Blackgrass Harvest album with a combination concert and listening party. We’ll be playing songs from the album with an assortment of guest musicians including Oddeline, David Jackson (Day of Niagara, IMOO), Haley Wolk (Rubber Roses), Justin Dickie (Daipth, Obsidian Will) and Jack Pyl.
There will also be some trippy videos and at least one game to keep things interesting. It should be a good time.
(And just imagine – if you come, you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren “I went to the album release for the first proper blackgrass album ever made!”)
When: Sunday November 20
What time though?: Doors 7:30pm, start 8pm
Where: Spark Beer – 702 Somerset St. W. It’s cute, comfy, and conveniently located in Chinatown
There’s one 6-inch step to get into Spark (and our attempts to borrow a stopgap ramp haven’t paid off, sorry) and a couple doors that aren’t automatic. The bathroom also isn’t accessible.
As much as well want to pretend that the pandemic’s over, there are more people in the hospital in Ottawa with covid than any other autumn. If you want to come to this and haven’t got your booster yet, please do so! Not to be melodramatic but we don’t want anyone to die or be debilitated because of a fun time celebrating a little Bandcamp album. Let’s take reasonable precautions, look out for our neighbours, and have fun living life.
About Blackgrass Harvest
Although we have a soft spot for the raw live recordings and demos we’ve shared to date, Blackgrass Harvest is truly a milestone. It’s the first well-recorded album we’ve put out, in many ways our first real album, and the first fully realized demonstration of this “blackgrass” idea that’s motivated Wychwood from the beginning.
Blackgrass Harvest is an album of mostly dark traditional folk songs played mostly acoustically, but blending in some black metal, ambient, drone and noise music, samples, and other experiments. It was recorded in Tim’s bedroom between the 2nd and 7th wave of the pandemic.
Blackgrass Harvest is out on Bandcamp on 20.11.2022
Have a listen at wychwood.bandcamp.com (samples before that date and the full thing after).
We look forward to sharing these sounds and sharing the evening with you!
Merry Christmas! Here’s a present from us, a new recording of a couple of our favourite carols:
Christmas music’s weird. In a way, it’s just about the only remaining music in our culture that acts as that musical commons we drone on about. (Nobody really knows or cares who wrote or first recorded any carol or Xmas song, yet we all kind of know them and could probably sing along.) There’s loads of gorgeous and fun carols – and yet somehow Christmas is a season when we’re mostly likely to get subjected to aggressively schmaltz and annoying music. (It’s like commercialism ruins everything good, or something?) Anyways, making these recordings is our tiny “be the change” act, and we hope it brings a little more beauty and a little less schmaltz into your holiday season.
Just like its music, Christmas itself can be an annoying and/or bad time for some folk. If that’s you, we see you and care! However the holiday season goes for you, we wish you festive times in there too, with genuine warmth, peace, and things you love.
In this quiet season of long, cold nights we’re grateful for all you lovely people we’ve met through music and everyone who’s listened and played and sung with us. Here’s to lots more music making in the new year.
Chrissy & Tim ~Wychwood