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A wee piece on the Suitbass

Paul’s handmade piece of musical luggage, the Suitbass, was the subject of a nice little writeup on Christoper Catania’s website, along with a nice shot of our own Mr. Wargaski playing said instrument.

I had never seen an instrument quite like Wargaski’s suit bass, and it was great to be reminded that bluegrass music has a rich history of relying on the creativity of musicians to make instruments out of stuff they have around the house.

Read the complete article.


A more animated Tangleweed, part III

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: News, TweedBlog. Tags: , ,

Mr. Billy Oh

Paul and the Suitbass

Our friend Mindy Fisher is working on a short animated film set to our version of The Fox, from our forthcoming fourth CD, Please Punch Richard for Me. Pictured are our own Paul Wargaski and Billy Oh. Paul is playing a cartoon version of his homemade suitbass.

The Fox is an interesting piece. Though it’s been widely recorded since the postwar folk revival, it has roots that run quite a bit deeper. There is a 15th-century manuscript in the British Museum with an early version of the lyrics. There’s an article Paul ran across from the Journal of American Folklore with some excerpts from the old text:

It fell ageyns the next nyght
the fox yede to with all his myghte,
with-outen cole or candelight,
whan that he cam vnto the toowne

You can follow the development of Mindy’s animation on her blog: Ornaglyphology.

Build a washtub bass with The Viper, part III

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: TweedBlog. Tags: ,

In part I, The Viper showed you the materials you’ll need to build a washtub bass. In part II, he shows you how to put it all together. In part III, with the help of his daughter Irene, he demonstrates how to play Paganini’s Caprice #5 on the gutbucket.


Build a washtub bass with The Viper, part II

In part one, our friend The Viper showed you the materials you’ll need for your gutbucket. In part two, he shows you how to put it all together.


Build a washtub bass with The Viper, part I

In our ongoing effort to promote bass portability and homemade instruments, our friend and yodeler extraordinaire The Viper shows you how to make your own washtub bass. In part one, you’ll learn what materials you’ll need to pick up at the hardware store to make the Stradivarius of gutbuckets.

We were very happy to have The Viper sit in with us for a few songs on our last sojourn to the land of cows and beer. We have some recordings that we’ll share soon.


Paul’s Suitbass Remix

By Paul. Filed under: TweedBlog. Tags:
Suitbass Remix 2.0

The classic SuitBass, by Paul Wargaski

In the spirit of going green.  I’ve redesigned and revived the suit bass for maximum output and it still sounds sweet.  I’ll be unveiling it on our summer 2009 shows.  Yes, that’s a vintage wooden suitcase complete with f-holes, a custom bridge, and a re-purposed neck from a dead bass in my violin shop. There’s a bottle opener on the side, and a full wet bar inside the case.


Crazy banjos in Banjo Craziness

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: TweedBlog. Tags: , ,

Banjos, at least decent quality closed-back banjos, are expensive. Even folks who take the initiative to buy the parts from Stewart MacDonald and build their own find that banjo construction is an expensive proposition. Virginia luthier John Calkin has been experimenting with non-conventional designs to make banjos from inexpensive, readily available materials. Like two by fours.

He’s documented his efforts in an interesting page on his website, called Banjo Craziness. He notes that his designs are more appropriate for old-timey frailing rather than bluegrass, and he makes this hilarious (though likely controversial) observation:

[B]luegrass sucks. Bill Monroe should have been a priest or a welder or a pimp, anything other than the father of the hideous noise called bluegrass. Bluegrass is a well-spring of Southern sentimentality, morbid lyricism, cornball humor, and poor writing. Hardcore ‘grassers lament that there are no good new bluegrass songs, but I maintain that there are no good old ones, either. The real irony is that some of the hottest pickers in folk music play bluegrass.

Read the full series here:


On the road again: to Iowa

We’re on the road for a couple days for a quick swing through Iowa and Kansas. As I write this post, we’re in the van on our way to a show at the Bluegrass Cafe in Tama, Iowa. After that, we head down to Lawrence, Kansas for a show at the Bottleneck with ‘That Damn Sasquatch.’ We’re off Saturday, and then we’ll be back home in time for pie.

These shows will help us tune up in preparation for our return to the studio. We head back to King Size to work with Mike Hagler (who engineered our second record) next weekend. We tend to work pretty fast in the studio, so we’re hoping to knock out five or six tunes in a day of tracking. As was the case with the last record, almost everything will be tracked live, as we tend to work best this way.

We all met up at the airport this morning and rented a minivan from one of the agencies at O’Hare. Paul was carrying the suitbass over his shoulder like a hobo bag when an October gale blew it off. The scroll cracked, sadly, but the instrument was otherwise unharmed and remains in fine playing shape.

Construction at O’Hare seems to have necessitated the removal of all all the Starbucks kiosks from terminal 2, leaving us dispirited and confused while we waited for Billy to swing by in the van. Disaster was averted by a quick stop at the O’Hare Oasis to prevent our heads from imploding in a miserable, desperate, state of coffeelessness.

Technology marvels: Scott is in the front seat on a conference call, I’m in the back seat blogging with a wireless broadband connection. I have some pictures, shot in glorious van-o-rama, but my laptop bluescreens every time I plug my iPhone in, so those will have to wait.