A Conversation with GARNET ROGERS. November 27, 2010.

By Jess Hayden.

Editor’s note: Garnet Rogers is a Canadian songwriter who has performed throughout the world for the past 35 years. From 1973-1983 he was an accompanist for his brother Stan Rogers, perhaps one of the most influential songwriters that Canada has ever produced. Since his brother’s death, Garnet has become a phenomenal songwriter in his own right and has continued on as a solo performer.  

Garnet will be opening for fellow singer/songwriter Greg Brown on Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 7:30 pm at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church (near Harrisburg, PA. Info, www.susquehannafolk.org) Garnet will also be joining Greg for a few numbers on stage. Garnet and Greg recorded “Live at the Black Sheep” together in 2003.

 Jess: Good morning Garnet and thanks for speaking to me.

 Garnet: Good morning. I’m just sitting here watching the snow. First snow of the year. It’s not massive snow, just flurries.

 Jess: You live on a farm, right?

 Garnet: Yeah. It’s a small farm, 20 acres. We have horses. We have a little breeding operation here. We have a thoroughbred stallion. And we own a few rescue mares. It’s kind of winding down, though. At one point we had 22 horses and at two other farms that we were renting. That was ten years ago, but we’re down to just a handful of horses now. It’s much easier on the back.

 Jess: I’m a presenter for Susquehanna Folk where you are going to be playing on December 5th.

 Opening for Greg Brown

Garnet: Yeah. I had made an inquiry as I was sort of down in that area. I knew that Greg was playing there and I just love him to bits. We don’t get a chance to see each other very much.

Jess: Well you know we had a concert with James Keelaghan a couple of week ago and I announced that you were coming and there were a lot of people that were really excited. So I think that it’s really just going to add to the wonderment of the evening having you there.

Garnet: Well that’s great, I really appreciate being on. I think that I did a show for you guys 7 or 8 years ago at the Fort Hunter Barn. You guys do such a good job. It was a beautiful room and I just had a great time. I just have this really nice memory of a very warm evening. It was a beautiful landscape around the barn. It was one of those nights when you think “You know, this is not a bad way to make a living.”

Jess: Well, thank you. We love presenting there, it has a lot of warmth. But I think that you have done another concert for us too.

Touring with Archie Fisher

Garnet: I remember doing one with Archie Fisher a million year ago. In fact Archie and I are touring again in April. It started out as a week long run, then it got to be a 10 day run, and now it’s looking like two and a half weeks. People keep on calling up and saying “Hey, what about us?” It will be a 5th anniversary tour.

Jess: You put a CD out with Archie, right?

Garnet: We did a couple.

The live CD with Greg Brown

Jess: Now you and Greg also had a live CD together.

Garnet: Yes, it’s called “Live at the Black Sheep”. There is this really great famous club in the woods up in Quebec about 40 minutes outside of Ottawa, Canada’s capitol. It’s just this great place. There is a river and fly fishing and potters and artisans and painters. It was just custom made for Greg, who said “Oh wow, they’ve got fly fishing?” [Editor’s note: Greg Brown is an avid fly fisherman] So we just did a couple of nights there with Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman. We just had a tape machine running and it was just one of those weird two nights when we were sitting around just playing off of each other and we were all doing harmonies. It was just lovely and probably more fun than was strictly necessary. There was a really buzz about it. People would be out fly fishing during the day and at night they would come to our concert. And someone would yell, “Come on in. We’re starting.” And people would come in and get them self arranged and it was just jammed. People sitting there with their dogs and their fly rods. There’s an old Swedish steam engine locomotive that goes by every once and awhile. It’s just kind of magic.

Jess: It sounds like from the write up of the CD that you were all doing “round robin”. So you all got a chance to play some of your own music.

Garnet: Yes, exactly. Actually, in that market I was the best known artist. That was the first time that Greg had been in the area, the first time for Pete and Karen too. We were just calling out songs that we just wanted to do, and we’d say, “Oh yeah, I kind of know that.” And there were some songs that none of us really knew. Pete and Karen were pulling out some new stuff, and I was pulling out new stuff and Greg was pulling out some stuff that we never heard him play. We were all listening carefully. When you have musicians that really know how to listen there is usually some kind of magic moment that happens where it all kind of comes together. People really like it. It has a friendly vibe to it. You’d never believe that it was completely unrehearsed.

What audience members might expect from a Garnet Rogers set

Jess: Well, from the reaction that I got at the James Keelaghan concert when I announced your name, it was clear that a lot of people know you. But for those that don’t who may be reading this interview, can you tell me what they should expect to hear during your short set?

Garnet: Well, I never quite know what I’m going to play until I have the guitar in my hand. My songs tend to be fairly serious. The stuff between the songs tend to be not. I sort of have this—I don’t know if you call it “bi-polar” approach to doing shows where the songs all tend to be of a fairly series nature and between them I’m just basically making fun of myself and whatever I see around me. So, it’s supposed to be funny and people are supposed to be laughing. They generally do. I’m not doing stand-up comedy or anything, it’s just “observational weirdness”.

A Guitar Collector

I’ll probably just have a couple of guitars with me. Last night I did a show locally and I had more. I generally have anywhere between 7 and a dozen guitars with me. They are all tuned differently and they all have different sounds and personalities, different problems that I have to adjust to. That’s really part of my thing, I go around with a museum collection of old guitars. My wife and I have two houses. One of the houses is just full of guitars. That’s my workhouse. I got a guitar in last week and another one that I’m hoping to pick up in Ithaca on my way to Harrisburg. It’s just a constant quest for new sound.

Jess: Are you trying out new luthiers too, or is it mostly antique stuff?

Garnet: It’s mostly antiques. Anything made before 1944. After that it has to be a pretty spectacular instrument or something really special for me to truly lust after it. There is a period between 1942 and 1944 that I particularly like guitars from the Gibson guitar factory where the guitars were mostly made by women because of the war thing. There is something really special about those guitars. They were just made really beautifully. I think that women tend to focus better on details. There were a handful of old guys who were teaching them, they were too old and frail to do war work, so these women learned from the masters. That’s sort of the period that I like the best. But, I have guitars that go all the way back to 1890. It’s partly conservation as well. If I find something that needs a home, to be brought back to life—it’s sort of the guitar version of the horse rescue that we do. It’s like finding some brude mare that shivering in a field and you say “damn”, and you take her home and you put a blanket on her and she spends the rest of her life in a friendly place. It’s kind of an impulse to sort of preserve things.

Garnet Rogers CDs

Jess: I read an article that said that you had 9 solo CDs, but you probably have more by now. Do you know what number you are up to?

Garnet: 12 or 13 I think—but another dozen with other people.

Jess: Do you have your own label?

Garnet: I’ve always had my own label since 1976. Snow Goose.

Jess: You recorded one on Red House Records though. How did that come about?

Garnet: Well Bob Feldman, rest his soul, he just always said to me, “I think you are a Red House artist”. You know, even as good and fair as Red House is, it’s the best of all the independents, it just financially didn’t make sense for me to have to buy back my own music from my record company. So they just said if I wanted to do a record that I could do a compilation and I could have whatever I wanted on it from the first 9 albums. So that’s what they did. The put together a nice compilation and they did a lovely job on it, but I didn’t really have any input on it. It was nice. It got the name around a little more. [Editor’s note: All That Is: The Songs of Garnet Rogers] But that’s as far as it went. I really strongly believe in keeping control of my own deal. Once you give the record company the right, you give them the right to have input. I’m not really big on that.

Jess: Your newest CD “Get a Witness” features quite a few songs that feature other songwriters. Is that unusual for you?

Garnett: It’s just a little bit different as I wanted to record some songs that I had in the repertoire. There was a Karen Savoca song that I really, really wanted to do. There was a Bruce Springsteen song which dovetailed nicely with the last two songs on the CD, one of which is mine, the other one of my brother’s. [Editor’s note: Stan Rogers] That ended up being a whole half hour piece. Those three songs plus an instrumental break in the middle. They were all performed live with no editing. It’s as it was performed. I’m so proud of it and the way that the band performed. It’s an extraordinary band. At one point there are 8 people on stage and they are just really giving it hell.

Jess: Is this your own band?

Garnet: It was actually the core of another band and then some people that I played with for a couple of years including David Woodhead [Editor’s note: bass player who recently played in a SFMS concert with James Keelaghan] who I have been playing with since 1975. He has been on about every folk album in Canada for 35 years.

Jess: This CD seems to be a little more electric then some of your others.

Garnet: The whole CD is not that way but the first one in particular is really a kind of mean spirited slap at your X-president, George W. And that kind of just needed a very loud and aggressive treatment. There is also a gospel number dedicated to Coretta Scott King that needed a full, what I was imagining to be a gospel treatment. So that got pretty big. And the last half an hour gets pretty big, but the rest of it is quiet and a little more folky. But for your show on December 5th, I’ll just be a guy with his guitar.

 

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CD Review: Greg Brown’s Dream City

GREG BROWN – DREAM CITY

Editor’s Note: This is a review from Red House Records of Greg Brown’s latest CD compilation Dream City. Greg Brown will appear with sideman Bo Ramsey near Harrisburg on December   5th,2010.  Garnet Rogers opens and will join Greg and Bo on stage for selected numbers. More information at http://www.SusquehannaFolk.org.

E s s e n t i a l R e c o r d i n g s:  Vo l 2 , 1 9 9 7 – 2 0 0 6 (RHR-CD-218)

 “Exquisite…one of America’s best songwriters”- Relix

“There are not many problems that a Greg Brown song can’t fix.”- Jack Johnson

“Brown is to this country what Richard Thompson is to Britain: its most essential modern troubadour.”

– Boston Globe

Continuing where the first Essential Recordings (If I Had Known, 2003) left off, this second volume includes Greg’s recent material, starting with his 1997 Grammy-nominated album Slant 6 Mind, continuing through to his latest studio album The Evening Call, named the #2 Americana album of 2006 by Mojo Magazine.

Leading off is the title track “Dream City,” taken from Greg’s best-selling album Covenant. The driving guitar sounds of Greg’s regular sideman and producer Bo Ramsey set the tone for the first disc which highlights this period of their 2-decade musical partnership. Ranging from edgier electric songs (“The Evening Call,” “Living in a Prayer,” “Kokomo”) to bittersweet ballads (“Rexroth’s Daughter,” “Vivid,” “Joy Tears”), the album appeals to fans of Americana, blues, roots rock and even traditional folk. With his unique take on the gospel song “Samson” and dark Appalachian-inspired songs like “Lull It By” and “Mattie Price,” Greg’s most recent period has included some traditional sounding material that showcases his rich baritone and fine banjo and guitar picking skills.

The 2-disc album includes some of the highlights of his recent recordings, with material from his best-selling Red House albums, his two Trailer Records releases as well as some previously unreleased songs and live tracks.

As an added bonus to these Greg Brown favorites, the second disc includes three unreleased studio tracks recorded with fellow Red House artist Peter Ostroushko in 2001 — “Gallery,” “Verona Road” and an alternate take of “Lull It By.” The final track is the improvised “Christmas Song,” recorded live in Denver in 2006. Sure to be a fan favorite, it captures the spontaneous energy that Greg and Bo have together on stage.

After 40 years of performing, Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey continue to tour North America and Europe, playing theaters, festivals and the occasional Iowa farm. For his full tour schedule, please visit www.gregbrown.org.

The new 2-CD collection including previously unreleased material and live tracks!

RED HOUSE RECORDS

Publicity Contact: Ellen Stanley • promotions@redhouserecords.com • (651) 644-4161

The Essence of Folk Music

By Patricia Dalton

Folk music is the bread and the beer of music; the tea and the flavor of a culture.  It is “kneaded” by everyone, do-it-yourself, steeped in nationalism, and fermented over time. 

Facing the Challenges of our Lives

Folk music helps us face the challenges of our lives at the most mundane and the loftiest levels; it is a delightfully articulate mechanism available to each and every single person in society with which they can release their deepest emotions and sing their most serious thoughts.  The music comes from the earth, from work, from yielding or starving, from grief and from joy, from fighting or from living out your days in peace with your family.                                                                

Folk Music Mirrors Society

Bards and troubadours, journeymen and artisans, folk musicians do their share of the world’s spiritual heavy lifting, and yet they are wonderfully practical and materialistic.  Poets and mirrors of society, they remind us, while providing that wonderful triumph and joy that comes from sharing music, that we can do it ourselves.  We can stand up to the challenges we face when we are not sitting around the bonfire amongst compatriots and friends.

Addressing our Fundamental Needs

Folk musicians address our most fundamental needs and give voice to how we cope with our most intimate disasters; they speak to our relationship with the universe and to how we survive.  They remind us that we are not alone, with neither our problems nor our solutions.  We all need to eat; we all spice our food with whatever we can grow or find.  Folk musicians bring us the stories and the seasonings from wherever they have been; they bring us the yeasts of the world and the maps.

Gifted Songwriter and Storyteller GREG BROWN to Appear Near Harrisburg, PA December 5, 2010.

Greg Brown first gained nationwide recognition during the 1980s and 1990s as a regular on the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion”. A prolific songwriter and a keen observer of the natural world, Brown says that that he likes to think about his work “as stories sanded down into songs.” He has recorded over two dozen records, and has twice been nominated for a Grammy.

Greg Brown was born in the Hacklebarney section of southeastern Iowa and raised by a family that made words and music a way of life. His grandfather played the banjo, his grandmother played the pump organ, and his uncles played the mandolin. He grew up in coal country in an area that attracted coal miners from the Appalachian region. Because of this some of the Scots/Irish traditions associated with the Appalachians had  traveled overland to Iowa. “I grew up in a very fortunate way for someone who wants to be a musician, my kind of musician anyway” he said in a recent NPR interview “I just grew up with the stuff. That and church music.”

An important” training ground” for his magnificent lyrics seems to be his early childhood experiences with poetry. His mother, an English teacher, loved poetry and would often recite it to him. “I never made a big distinction in my mind between poetry and song” he said “I grew up loving both so much. And when I hear a poet read to me it’s the same experience as hearing music.”

The lyrics of his song “Early” show the subtle,  evocative  poetry that Brown is so well known for:

“Early”

Early one morning I walked out alone,

I looked down the street; no one was around.

The sun was just comin’ up over my home,

On Hickory Street in a little farm town.  And

Oooo-ee, ain’t the mornin’ light pretty,

When the dew is still heavy, so bright and early.

My home on the range; it’s a one-horse town,

And it’s alright with me.

Plow broke the prairie, the prairie gave plenty,

The little towns blossomed and soon there were many.

Scattered like fireflies across the dark night,

And one was called Early, and they sure named it right. 

Many dry summers parched all the fields,

They burnt the fine colors and cut down on the yield.

But the rain has returned to wash away our tears,

It’s the fullest green summer that

I’ve seen for years.

Beyond being a poet, Brown is also a gifted  storyteller. “The best songwriters are the ones that tell the best stories” says music critic Meredith Ochs “Greg Brown doesn’t just tell stories in a linear fashion. Instead he appeals to the senses as he creates a backdrop for his characters. The way that he describes sights, sounds and smells draws you right into his songs.”

Greg’s youth was spread across a map of the Midwest as they moved between churches (and even denominations), but music was always a staple. Gospel and hymns, classical, hillbilly, early rock and roll, country, and blues coalesced into a simmering stew of sound. At 18, Greg won a contest to play an opening set for singer Eric Andersen in Iowa City, who then encouraged him to head east. Moving to New York, Greg landed a job at Gerdes Folk City in the Village running hootenannies. Next he tried Portland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but after a few years he moved back to Iowa. He recorded a couple of albums on his own (44 & 66 and The Iowa Waltz), then began working on the renowned national radio show A Prairie Home Companion and touring nationally. After Greg teamed up with Bob Feldman in 1983, they re-released Greg’s first two albums under the name Red House Records — the beginning of the now legendary folk/roots label that has released nearly all of Greg’s 27 albums.

His latest solo album is The Evening Call which was released in 2006. It has charted high on Americana and folk radio, earned him five stars in Mojo and garnered rave reviews in No Depression, Acoustic Guitar and The Washington Post. Greg’s new collection Dream City: Essential Recordings Vol 2, 1997-2006 features some of these new Americana classics along with other fan favorites from his last six studio albums and some previously unreleased material and live tracks.

Greg Brown will perform with sideman Bo Ramsey in a concert sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society beginning at 7:30 on Saturday, December 5. Garnett Rogers will open. The concert will be held at CHUM  in Camp Hill, PA.  Information at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/GregBrown.html

Written on November 18, 2010 by Jess Hayden from material compiled from Red House Record’s website and NPR interviews.

CD Review: James Keelaghan A FEW SIMPLE VERSES

Years ago when I was a teenager I read a novel that really made a tremendous impression on me.  It was a book called The Drifters, written by one of my favorite writers– Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener. The novel follows six young characters from various countries as their paths meet and they travel together through parts of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Mozambique during the Vietnam War era. My favorite character is Gretchen, a girl from Boston who becomes disillusioned about life in American and hits the road after getting caught up in a senseless political riot.

What I thought was really sensational about Gretchen is that she played the guitar and loved old ballads! In fact, the entire book is peppered with verses from a selection of magnificent old English and Scottish ballads, collected in the 19th century by Francis James Child and published in the book  Popular English and Scottish Ballad. This was my first exposure to this wonderful form of folk music–it sent me scurrying to the library and to friend’s record collections to try to learn more.

I’m reminded of the love of ballad singing that I developed early in the 70s when listening to James Keelaghan’s   A Few Simple Verses. On this album, James sings other people’s songs, longtime favorites of his. He has included an exquisite rendition of an old English ballad “The Constant Lovers”. This haunting  song, which tells the tragic story of a boy lost at sea and his lover’s leap from a cliff to join him, is beautifully sung by Keelaghan with just the right amount of sentimentality. The turn of phrase and musicianship are so breathtaking, that I have listened to the song many, many times and have not tired of it. Joining this ballad is a collection of songs that Keelaghan says were important in his musical development and are” lyrically superior and melodically appealing.” These include:

Harvest Train (Dan Somers)
Bonnie Light Horseman (Traditional)
Jack Haggerty (Traditional)
Le Tourment (JP Loyer)
Sweet Thames Flow Softly (Ewan MacColl)
Boston Burgler (Traditional)
Galway Races (Traditional)
Constant Lovers (Traditional)
My Blood (James Keelaghan and jez lowe 2003)

Another great thing about this CD is that on three of the selections James is accompanied by members of the Irish super-group DANU (Benny McCarthy, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Eamonn Doorley, Oisin McAuley and Tom Doorley). He also has recorded one number with Chilean musician OSCAR LOPEZ (with whom he has recorded two CDs as COMPADRES) and English musician JEZ LOW.

Check out a couple of other sample tracks at myspace.com/jameskeelaghan

Keelaghan comes to Central Pennsylvania for a Susquehanna Folk concert with bassist David Woodhead, on November 20 at 7:30PM at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg. Information at www.sfmsfolk.org

CD Review by Jess Hayden, 11-13-10

James Keelaghan to Appear in Harrisburg, PA

Award-winning American music critic and historian Dave Marsh has called James Keelaghan “Canada’s finest songwriter.”  Keelaghan comes to Central Pennsylvania for a Susquehanna Folk concert with bassist David Woodhead, on November 20 at 7:30PM at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg.

With 11 recordings to his credit, Keelaghan is an artist who has shown himself to be a man for all seasons and all reasons. For nearly 25 years this poet laureate of folk and roots music has gone about his work with a combination of passion, curiosity, intent, and intensity. A lover of language and history, a storyteller always looking for the next unique story line, Keelaghan forges his pieces with brilliant craftsmanship and monogrammed artistic vision, making his one of the most distinctive and readily identifiable voices on both the Canadian and international singer-songwriter scenes.

“I’ve always had the urge to write,” he explains. “Some things weren’t being said in the way I wanted to say them, some things were not being written about at all. That’s why I started to write the historical material. That led me to writing my own personal narratives as well.”

Although he writes much of his own material, finding inspiration and stories in diverse places, he is also a possessive interpreter of other artists’ songs, such as his gripping take on Gordon Lightfoot’s epic Canadian Railroad Trilogy. He has never shied away from collaboration in his live and recorded performances, touring and tracking with master musicians such as Oliver Schroer, Oscar Lopez, and Hugh McMillan. “If you work with people who are better than you, you become better,” he says.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival producer Terry Wickham says Keelaghan “has become the complete artist, a brilliant tunesmith who has become one of the most engaging performers of our time. You always know the journey with James is going to be great, you just never know what all the destinations are. That is why the curve on his career continues to rise.”

Concert tickets are $18 General Admission, $14 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006.  The concert is presented in cooperation with the Midtown Scholar Bookstore. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

 Written by John Hope and reprinted from Central Pennsylvania Traditions, the newsletter of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society

The Battlefield Band: a Phenomenon in the Scottish Music World

BY KIRA L. SCHLECHTER

Money makes the world go ‘round. Money is the root of all evil. Money can’t buy happiness. All of these ideas, clichés though they might be, are at the heart of the Battlefield Band’s most recent album, “Zama Zama”: how the pursuit of wealth often turns people into unrecognizable, heartless beings – or destroys them completely.

Founding member Alan Reid, at the helm of the venerable Scottish folk band for 41 years and soon to end his affiliation with them, spoke about the album and its theme prior to the Battlefield Band’s Nov. 6 Susquehanna Folk Music Society show, slated for 7:30 p.m. at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church, 417 S. 22nd St. (A potluck dinner will precede the show at 6 p.m.)

His answers to e-mailed questions are as follows: 

Q: You said “Zama Zama” started as a collection of songs about gold, as you put it—first of all, why did that concept intrigue you at the onset of the project? Had you collected the songs first and then realized there was a concept, or did you have the concept first and then find songs that would realize it?

A: We were looking for a concept to hang an album around and the topic of gold came up. I started on a couple of songs, but the other boys thought the idea too restrictive, especially for the tunesmiths. So the suggestion was made to widen it to the pursuit of wealth in different forms of human activity.

Q: So did you then have to perhaps look for more material that would suit a concept like that, or did the material you have work for that idea as well?

A: Having settled on a broader, looser concept, we then had to look for more material, and, in a sense, think outside the box. It made for interesting choices of material and approaches to the music. Widening the net meant we could think less parochially, i.e., not confine ourselves to Scottish material.

Q: Do you read special or different meaning into a song like “The Auchengeich Disaster,” or even “Zama Zama Boys” for that matter, now perhaps considering the successful rescue of the 33 Chilean miners (perhaps reiterating their themes of the dangers of mining, no matter the recent good news from Chile)?

A: We can look at our recent history, when there were many mines in Scotland and the U.K., and find a link with recent disasters in other parts of the world, especially China. It proves things don’t change. In the West, our coal industry has all but disappeared. Why? Because it’s mined cheaper elsewhere. Cheaper coal, lower wages, more hazardous working environments, etc. So the mining disasters have moved elsewhere as well. And it’s all due to the pursuit of wealth.

Q: You relate “Robber Barons” to current times most effectively —when did you write this song, as the scandals in the banking industry and the British Parliament were going on, or how did it work?

A: I wrote it in the summer of 2008, thinking that by the time the album came out later in the year, it would be old news. It wasn’t. No we are all facing cuts, and working people are looking at banks and saying, ‘Hey, they’re still not lending, they’re still paying out big bonuses to themselves and carrying on just as before and we’re suffering for their bad speculations.’ So the song’s relevance sadly still holds.

Q: The same with Alasdair’s tune, “Bernie’s Welcome to Butner”—was that written before or after the fact (before or after – or during – the whole sordid Bernie Madoff affair)?

A: Not sure when it was written, but it was named after the affair had come to prominence. Too tempting not to, I’m afraid!

Q: How easy or difficult was it to adapt “Plain Gold Ring” to your own style — it seems to fit into the Celtic thematic canon perfectly?

A: It’s one of those lovely songs that doesn’t fit into any category. As a consequence, you can do it in (any) style. We found it pretty easy to arrange – and fun!

Q : Needless to say, you do not have a high opinion of the pursuit of wealth, it seems, or at least the pursuit of excessive wealth apart from making an honest living (like the third brother who stays behind and becomes a cobbler in “Three Brothers,” who comes out as the real hero)—true?

A: I like making up stories about little people. Most of us are ordinary people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have a story to tell. I tend not to write political songs, or songs that push a particular point of view. I prefer to try to be more subtle and let the audience make up (its) mind. Of course, ‘Robber Barons,’ a song I kind of wrote to order, is an exception.

Q: And also needless to say gold is back in the news because of its skyrocketing price and the rush to invest in it—do you have a theory on why that’s happening?

A: Ah, it’s economics. Historical cycles. In hard times when stocks are low, unemployment is high, and house prices are falling, the speculators turn to the sure commodities, like gold and silver.

Q: You’ve been working on tracks for a new album — will it also be based around a theme, and if so, what, or don’t you know yet? How far along are you; what’s the status of the process? Do you have a release date in mind?

A: That’s all the work of the new band and I am not involved. But I know they are more than halfway through and it will be a regular album, released probably early next year.

Q: You are hanging up your touring shoes after this swing is over—why now, and will you still be part of the group even though you are no longer touring with it, and if so, in what capacity?

A: I’ve been in this outfit for 41 years and in the last couple felt a bit restless. I’m a Taurean, so I take a while to make up my mind. I decided around 18 months ago I should think of making a change. I won’t be part of the band, but I’m happy to offer them songs, if they want. And if they’d rather not and want to go their own way, then that’s fine.

Q: You now want to focus on your duo work with Rob van Sante — can you talk about that more and why you feel you want to work on that type of scale rather than a larger band-type scale? What will happen with that project once you’ve finished touring with the Battlefield Band (do you have an album or tour planned)?

A: Temple (Records) are bringing out an album of my choice of my songs spanning my (Battlefield Band) career. This will coincide with a U.K. tour I’m doing with Rob, which begins at the end of January. I’ve worked with Rob on a limited basis for a few years, and I felt I’d like to develop that work more, play in smaller, intimate venues, and feature my own songs more. And hopefully tour in a less hectic manner! It may not turn out that way.

Rob and (I) already have brought out two albums in the last few years and we have another one in the can. It’s another themed album on the life of the sailor John Paul Jones. I’ve written all the music, so it’s somewhat of a pet project (almost obsession!) of mine. But we’ll give the Temple album some breathing space and hold the JPJ album for release later in 2011. And of course, the duo plan to come Stateside. 

Q: Did you select Ewen Henderson to replace you (and was it a band decision), or how did that whole process come about? Why is he the right man for the job, do you think?

The boys decided on Ewan; I had no input in that. Ewen is a friend of Alasdair, so it was a case of a personal contact and Ewen being willing and available. That’s the way it usually works in our music scene, because in a small country, so many musicians already know each other.

Ewen comes from a large family of outstanding musicians. He is a completely different kind of musician from me, which means he won’t be compared to me. I think that’s a good thing. It means the band will change in style a little and perhaps be more instrumentally oriented, but there will still be a large element of continuity.

The Batties have evolved and endured for the last 41 years. Now there is a new generation, and who knows how long the band will exist? Maybe another 30 years? It’s a phenomenon.

The Battlefield Band will be performing on Saturday, November 6 at CHUM in Camp Hill. The concert is sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society. Information at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/BattlefieldBand.html