Acclaimed guitarist Rolly Brown's first new CD release in 8 years!

Sunday Morning

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This new CD, featuring 19 tracks of solo instrumental acoustic guitar, grew out of Rolly's popular Sunday morning video series on Youtube and Facebook. It features Rolly's originals, guitar pieces by Rolly's heroes Steve Mann, Davy Graham, and Bert Jansch, some jazz standards, and Americana traditional tunes, all highlighted by the simple beauty of the acoustic guitar sound. Here's the track list:

Got a few minutes? Here's the text from the CD booklet, explaining the whole story, and telling all about the tunes:

    One weekend morning around December of 2009, I thought I’d just record a short video of guitar improvisation and put it up on Facebook. I clicked on my Macbook’s camera, and thereby started a project which is now approaching the end of its fourth year. It became a normal practice for me to post a guitar video every Sunday morning; something to listen to while mainlining that first cup of coffee. Now, about 200 Sundays later, I’m still managing to post a video every week. Of course, I’ve run through most tunes I know. Some weeks, I just turn the camera on and improvise something, and sometimes I later go back to the video, refine the original idea, and have a brand new instrumental composition. Some weeks, I set myself the goal of learning some new tune in time for Sunday’s little presentation.
    After a while, some of my loyal listeners started asking, “When will the CD come out?” “Eeek!” I thought, “Now I have to do a CD??” This meant that, rather than my little informal sketches, I’d be obliged to record more perfect versions of these one (least of all me) wants to listen to the same errors in the same places time and time again! So I procrastinated for a long time, all the while looking for the right situation for recording this sort of project. Finally, I found it, very close to home, in the form of my old friend Jay Ansill’s “Cheesy Road Studios”. More than just a studio, I needed a trusted friend who would give me honest feedback when I was trying to judge which takes were CD-worthy, and Jay was both a skilled engineer/editor and a trusted set of ears.
    So, here it is. Most of the originals were written during this project. There are some covers included as homage to some of my favorite influences: Bert Jansch, Steve Mann, Davy Graham. There’s a tune by my good friend Janet Smith, a very underrated player, composer, and arranger. And there are tunes from the folk tradition as well.
    Now, get yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy the beautiful tone of the acoustic guitar, recorded as faithfully as possible.

The Tunes:

Janny’s Day: Janice actually has more of a birthday month celebration than a birthday “day”, but I preferred this as a title. This one grew out of an improv, and eschews virtuosity. It is dedicated to the great love of my life.

Salvo Y Pepe: Perhaps my most successful improv-turned-composition, it has been tweaked into a very specific arrangement, which I like a lot. Named after fictional European detectives Salvo Montalbano (books by Andrea Camilleri) and Pepe Carvalho (books by Manuel Vasquez Montalban).

Rolly’s Rag: I originally improvised this tune on a Sunday morning, meant as an homage to the two greatest ragtime blues guitarists, Rev. Gary Davis (who I was privileged to meet and learn from in my youth) and Blind Blake. The tune sort of stuck in my head, and I still more or less improvise it, with many elements that always show up somewhere in the improv.

Beaux Je Pooboo/The Snowman: The former is a Les McCann tune that Steve Mann suggested. He just liked it, and had messed around with it a bit. I went back home after listening to him, and started from scratch, using the McCann the arrangement is mine, but the idea was Steve’s. “The Snowman” is a tune I loved from the moment we stumbled upon the PBS animated feature of the same name decades ago. While working on Beaux Je Pooboo, I noticed that the last line of the head was the same as the motif of The Snowman, so the medley was born.

Suki’s Hope: Suki is a rescue dog. I like to describe her as “Half Australian Cattle Dog, Half Demon Dog From Hell”. Rescue dogs are tricky. If they have problems, it’s impossible to know whether they’re caused by genetics, poor early socialization, or genuine abuse. Suki is the sweetest little cutie pie in the world with Jan, me, most women, and most children. Put in close proximity to other adult males or strange dogs, she can be genuinely scary and highly reactive. She’s come a long way in the past 2 years, and still has a long way to go. It’s actually our “hope” in the song title, not hers, but you get the idea...

Albany Slip: Few of my original compositions can be traced to the influence of one particular guitarist. This is an exception. In 2003, I spent a week on staff at a music camp with Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel, and this tune was a conscious attempt to use some of his technical licks and elements of his arranging style. The title came from my friend Erika Brady. “Albany Slip” is a glaze used on ceramics, and Erika felt the tune, like this glaze, was “dark and shiny”.

Into The Never-Never: “The Never-Never” describes a remote, vast part of the Australian Outback. This tune is actually an improvisation based on some of the incidental music from the Australian film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”. I always found this musical motif, related to the subplot surrounding a tribe of semi-feral children struggling to return to post-apocalyptic civilization, to be both musically and narratively compelling.

Angie: Davy Graham’s dark, catchy instrumental in A minor became a hard-driving masterpiece in the hands of a young Bert Jansch. His definitive version was the model for my recording, which is essentially an homage. There’s no great reason for recording this. I don’t think any version could ever top Bert’s. I just wanted to do it, along with Graham’s “Tristano”, so here it is.

Tristano: Several years after Angie, a more musically evolved Graham wrote this amazing tune. My standard line has always been, “I don’t know whether this is a brilliant composition or a cry for help”, but I don’t care. It is compelling and finely wrought, with nods to Django, Moroccan and Moorish music, and even Graham’s own “Angie”. I coveted it for many years, but never attempted to learn it till advances in computer technology made it possible to slow it down and hear what was going on. I’ve always thought that these two tunes are an interesting study in one man’s artistic development.

Piano Mover’s Rag: Janet Smith’s playful, elegant classical guitar rag. I long ago nominated her for sainthood for the wonderful works she did in caring for Steve Mann, who was both a brilliant musician and a deeply troubled soul. While I met her in that role, I soon learned that she was a fine musician with a long standing reputation, and I fell in love with this piece. Somehow, in our collaborative process of working through the tune, she suggested changing the name to “Piano Mover’s Dog”...maybe one of my recordings had some inadvertent dog collar jingling in the I think it’s officially known by either name now...

Grooveyard: Written by West Coast jazz pianist Carl Perkins (not to be confused with the rock-n-roller of the same name). I heard a fine guitar version from Davy Graham, but re-arranged it in another key.

Holly: Steve Mann was well known for inventive and gutsy blues/jazz guitar arrangements, but he also penned this beautiful piece. The inspiration, young Steve’s girlfriend Holly, was, in his words, “the flashiest, fanciest exotic dancer and everything else imaginable”. The relationship was fated to end badly, but, fifty years later, this lovely tune lives on.

Wayfaring Stranger: This is one of those simple but beautiful melodies that just calls out for a guitar arrangement. The same can be said for Shenandoah.

Marcy-Cathy: When, after a 30 year “engagement”, my ersatz sister Marcy Marxer and her sweetheart Cathy Fink were able to marry, I was flattered to be asked to play at the wedding, in the company of luminaries like Tom Paxton, Bruce Molsky, Adam Hurt, and a host of others. I wrote this tune for the occasion.

Shenandoah: As with Wayfaring Stranger, this is the sort of tune that just calls out for an acoustic guitar rendering. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of recordings, with beautiful guitar versions by Tony Rice, Bill Frisell, and more, but that didn’t stop me...

The Gospel According To Steve Mann: This gifted, influential, and ultimately ill-fated guitar genius was playing Ray Charles piano styles on the guitar back when most of the rest of us were struggling through simple fingerpicking arrangements. This tune is an homage to Steve’s “Amazing Gospel Tune”, which, in turn, bore great similarity to his version of the Ray Charles tune “Drown In My Own Tears”. It has plenty of the evocative bluesy licks for which Steve was known.

Heavens Tibetsy: Yet another dog tune. Nashville master luthier and musician Marty Lanham had a Tibetan Lhasa Apso named “Tibetsy”, and this tune, somewhat influenced by Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence and long ago guitar renderings of the African tune “Guabi Guabi”, bears her name.

And So It Goes: Another Sunday morning offering. I had a cool little slippery-slidey interval lick, and built the tune around it, with special attention to the tension/resolution relationship which helps create listener interest.

Sunday Morning: This one started it all. If there is one thing that has guided my playing in recent years, it’s the desire to avoid the “Curse Of Virtuosity”. I’ve tried to put aside the desire to impress other guitarists, and, instead, to make music that non-musicians will appreciate. My friend Steve Baughman may have said it best: “Better to make tears fall than jaws drop.”

There are way too many “thank you”s to actually include here. Big categories of people I treasure: Everyone involved in the music camps that have me on staff; my students and my teachers and mentors in the 3 major disciplines of my life: guitar, Tai Chi, and acupuncture; all the great folks in my various on-line communities, and the Mac-Pac.

Special thanks to Janice, the love of my life, for being unendingly supportive and so much more, to dear friends Ann Mintz and Jay Ansill for their wit, support, and friendship, and to those most constant of companions, the Australian dogs who’ve kept us laughing, scratching our heads, and sometimes pulling our hair out, for the last 32 years.

This project is dedicated to Jan and the dogs, and to the memory of Steve Mann, Bert Jansch, and Davy Graham, whose music so inspired me from very early on.

Produced by Jay Ansill and Rolly Brown
Recorded at Cheesy Road Studios, Doylestown PA, by Jay Ansill
Mastered at Airshow Mastering, Takoma Park MD, by Charlie Pilzer

Front cover photo: Sergio Kurhajek:
Add’l photos: Janice MacKenzie

Rolly Brown plays guitars by Mario Proulx, Ken Miller, Chris Myers, and Rockbridge Guitars.