The songs on "Bodega Sessions"
(notes by Rick Shubb)
Take the Freight Train
Actually a medley of four songs: The old Elizabeth
Cotton fingerpicking standard Freight Train, Duke Ellington
and Billy Strayhorn's Take the A-Train, Chatanooga Choo-Choo,
and Atcheson, Topeka, and the Santa Fe. I assembled this
medley several years ago, and Bob and I have featured it in performances.
We've always called it "the train medley," until we renamed it
for the CD. It seemed like a nice number to start the set off
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
I first heard this by one of my favorite contemporary
groups, the Rhythm Brothers. I loved the song, and thought it
would be a good number for Bob and me, so we dug up our recording
of it by the Spirits of Rhythm and listened to that. Our version
is sort of a cross between those two sources, with some of our
own touches thrown in. Charlie Warren, our bassist on Bodega Sessions,
was on the Rhythm Brothers version of this song, too, so I suspect
he holds the record for most recordings of Sherlock Holmes and
Lullaby of Birdland
A jazz classic written by pianist George Shearing.
Bob and I have featured this for many years, and it is one of
the first numbers on which I began utilizing a "mute" on my banjo.
The "mute" consists of a pair of wooden clothespins which I have
modified so that they lock onto the banjo bridge. My use of this
setup is not so much to reduce the volume as it is to modify the
tone and response ...the clothespins reduce the attack relative
to the sustain, giving the banjo a sweeter sound; more suitable
for certain songs. This sound has become an important part of
my playing, and I've used it on five of the songs on this CD.
This chestnut is often associated with Benny Goodman
and Lionel Hampton, although it predates them. Lots of folks have
taken a whack at this one, and now we have,t oo. We tried this
song once a long time ago and it never got off the ground with
us. Then one day we hit on an arrangement and a groove that seemed
to suit us, and played it almost constantly for about three days.
That time it stuck!
Wrap Your Trouble in Dreams
The lyrics of this old standard carry a great message.
Bob does a nice job on the vocal, and I use the muted banjo to
keep it mellow.
The familiar Latin tune, our version is a banjo spasm.
I take a deep breath before the downbeat and hold it until the
tune is finished. Fortunately for me, it's a short arrangement.
A Bob Wilson original. Whenever you hear Bob playing
"finger style" guitar, he is using a flat pick and his fingers.
This enables him to incorporate various techniques which utilize
the flat pick, such as his chord soloing and single note runs,
into an otherwise "fingerpicking" type of sound. The result is
a very fluid and satisfying guitar style, which is showcased nicely
on Summer Faire. And being a Wilson tune, naturally it is harmonically
interesting with some unusual chord changes.
The Old Man of the Mountain
I first heard this in a Betty Boop cartoon, sung by
Cab Calloway. Those Fleischer cartoons were wonderful, and many
of them featured popular jazz artists. The animated "old man"
didn't resemble Cab facially, but his dance steps were unmistakable.
Whenever I sing this minor-key ditty I think of Betty clicking
up that mountain in her high heels.
Usually associated with Maurice Chevalier, our version
is an instrumental featuring muted banjo and some amazing guitar
We were kicking around this Gershwin standard one day
and Bob just couldn't seem to get an idea of how he wanted to
play it. Nothing he was doing satisfied him. Later that afternoon
we watched an old Jimmy Durante movie, Strictly Dynamite, which
included a musical number by the Mills Brothers. Even though they
didn't prominently feature the guitar, there was something about
the sound they were getting that lit the lightbulb for Bob. As
soon as the movie was over ...you can't just walk out on Jimmy
Durante ...we went back downstairs and attacked Liza with a new
approach, and Bob's fine chord solo on this tune is the result.
Thanks, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.
Lover Come Back to Me
We experimented with this tune years ago. We made a
cassette recording of it, but for some reason, never continued
playing it. When we had some of the material on this CD already
recorded, it occurred to us that Lover Come Back to Me would fit
in nicely, so we got out that old cassette and listened to it.
We re-learned it from our own playing, and threw in a few new
licks. I think we were right, it's a nice addition to the set.
I Cried for You
Bob takes the vocal on this one. It's interesting to
note the difference in his guitar style between the intro, where
he gets sort of a Travis sound with his flatpick-and-fingers,
and his hot solo. This song is about as close as I come to playing
bluegrass style banjo on this CD, but come to think of it, it's
not really that close.
I wrote this tune and named it for the neighborhood
in Berkeley where I lived at the time. It was an unusually prolific
period for me; the muse was staying at my apartment, and remained
for about two weeks or so. I wrote roughly a tune a day during
that time, many of which I still play. I dedicate this one to
Rob De Witt, whose talent and support kept the muse around a little
longer. Walnut Square has just a touch of bebop in it, a style
I was exploring at that time, which is enhanced by Charlie's driving
The Fats Waller classic, and a standard if there ever
was one. It's been done a lot, but its still a great melody. We
play it as an instrumental.
Bye Bye Blues
We've often used this up-tempo instrumental to close
a set, and it was a good choice to close our CD. Bob plays the
head, and we feature a lot of interplay between guitar and banjo.