Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts: Fleetwood Fair

Our Traditional Tuesday song was suggested by my brother Chuck this week: Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts with “Fleetwood Fair.” The song recently won a Hancock Award for the “Best Original Song.” The Hancock Award is sponsored by TalkAwhile – an acoustic music forum. Dave Swarbrick, formerly of Fairport Convention, is the honorary president of the awards.

I am really impressed by the song, the arrangement, and video. The harmonies are nearly perfect. There are also some interesting instrumental things occurring with “Fleetwood Fair.”

While Katriona Gilmore plays the mandolin left-handed, she plays violin and viola right-handed. She also is apparently small in stature as I originally thought the instrument was a larger mandola as it dwarfs her; however, its tonality and the credits rightfully identify the instrument as a mandolin. Its presence as an accompaniment instrument provides bell like accents and chunky rhythm when necessary.

Jamie Roberts is simply amazing on the percussive lap guitar on this tune. It is different enough to draw attention to this song. The sight of someone playing a guitar in a nontraditional way is exciting, but close your eyes and listen and Jamie’s guitar evokes a synthesis of an Appalachian dulcimer, Chapman Stick, and a cajon all in one.

The song is Em; from doing some research on Jamie’s technique, I learned that he uses a D modal tuning that he capos at the fifth fret to play in G – the relative major of Em. The tuning he employs is D A D A A D and when capoed is a fourth higher at G B G B B G. I tried both the tuning and his technique.

The tuning I was able to handle – the lap/percussive style is quite another thing. Doing this would take quite a bit of practice as it requires both hands to be on the fret board (much like the Chapman Stick). The acoustic I used was a thin Ibanez acoustic/electric and did not lend itself to the sound Jamie gets from a dreadnaught guitar. I’ve got another guitar I can try, but I doubt if I’ll master this style anytime soon.

Jamie’s Tutorials on his Lap Style Percussive Guitar

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