Paul Ely Smith
c.2016
traditional, sort-of

Story

"Cluck Old Hen" is a venerable old Appalachian tune. Virtually all of the writers who talk about "modal" Appalachian music comment about its roots in dance music from Scotland and Ireland and there are some connections there, certainly, but playing this tune on the gourd banjo demonstrates its much more evident roots in West Africa. There's nothing in Scotland like this!

Louis Moreau Gottschalk, arranged by Paul Ely Smith
c.2016

Story

From "American Akonting."  This is both a remarkable piece of music, demonstrating African-American music a half century before it swept into mainstream American popular music in a more pervasive way, as well as a document of an African-American banjo style that was not documented anywhere else.  In fact, there is no other document of African-American banjo music before 1900, and this 1854 piece (along with a version of Gottschalk's earlier "Bamboula," also on my recording) represents the roots of string music from the Mississippi Delta that became the driving force in American music.  For more information, go the the "Articles, downloads, press" section of the website and download my published research but, yes, I think this is a transcription of banjo music, arranged for piano by Gottschalk--and perhaps cut-and-pasted a bit (but in an interesting way!).  I back-engineered my gourd banjo version using techniques adapted from West African plucked lute technique, 19th-c. minstrel-era banjo methods, traditional clawhammer style, and the playing of blues guitarists like John Lee Hooker and Son House.  You can download tablature and notation (for five-string banjo) of this piece, and "Bamboula" as well, in the "Articles, downloads, press" section of the website.

traditional, arranged by Steptoe
c.2007
Steptoe

Story

I'm posting some examples of other people's music that I've produced here over the years, a nice sampling of music on the Palouse. Steptoe was an absolutely outstanding local bluegrass-esque band, with Von Walden, Tina Hilding, Paul Hill, and Paul Anders.  There was often chaos in the studio when someone would call out, "Hey, Paul!"

c.2003
Paul Ely Smith

Story

The piece is based loosely on Scottish traditions of sung dance music, or puirt-a-beul, and vocalizations of bagpipe music, called canntaireachd. The lyrics of the last two sections are from actual puirt-a-beul (things like "thin porridge, gruely porridge," and "I was born in beautiful Islay"), but the music draws on both traditional and entirely made-up musical ideas. I wrote this piece in 1990, and it has actually been performed quite a lot, but never officially recorded or published. This is a live performance. 

Shiloh Sharrard
c.2007

Story

I'm posting some examples of other people's music that I've produced here, a nice sampling of music on the Palouse.  I met Shiloh when her dad brought her into record a few songs when she was eleven.  She was already a great country singer at that point.  She made her first CD at fifteen, and this Dwight Yoakam song is my favorite track from it.  I was determined to get as much of a driving groove from acoustic instruments as I could.  Guitar by Shayne Watkins, mandolin and fiddle by Richard Kriehn, and I played everything else.  For more info on Shiloh, go to her website: http://www.shilohsmusic.com/shilohs_music_002.htm

Paul Ely Smith
c.2005

Story

I composed this for my son when he was two years old. Thomas Arthur heard it and wanted to use it in his show, so we had to get permission from Peter to use it and record it. The banjo in the background is my great-grandfather's 1893 Fairbanks, so there is definitely some family juju going on in this recording!

Tiana Gregg
c.2009

Story

Tiana came out one afternoon in September 2009 and recorded 19 songs. Then she came back in December did another 12 songs. All of these are really good, and she did great performances of them in one or two takes. I was/am amazed. Her performance here on her song "Motherstrong" was stunning. Tiana's first two CDs have currently sold out, and she used to sing at her little cafe in Palouse, the Green Frog, then she renovated it as the Congress, but music is not as much of a thing there as before. 

Richard Kriehn, mandolin; Paul Ely Smith, guitar
c.2010
Ludwig van Beethoven, arranged for mandolin and DADGAD guitar by Paul Ely Smith

Story

I produced a CD for mandolin virtuoso Richard Kriehn, and I arranged the piano part of this obscure piece by Beethoven for myself on DADGAD-tuned guitar. I love this piece (I recorded it on 5-string banjo and piano on my first record), and this time I get to play the accompaniment part. Richard is the best mandolin player I have ever heard, and he is pretty darn good on fiddle/violin and guitar. Since it is his CD, you can't download this one, sorry. Beethoven wrote six pieces early in his career for mandolin and "keyboard"--there is some debate whether this was for piano or harpsichord, composed apparently for a countess who played mandolin, so maybe her sister had a harpsichord or something. It doesn't look like Ludwig wrote it for himself, since it's a pretty easy keyboard part. This Sonatine in C is the cool piece; the others are not up to Ludwig's later standards.

Shiloh Sharrard
c.2013

Story

Shayne Watkins, the electric guitar player on this track, came up with the brilliant riff that transcends the Bob Seger and Rodney Crowell versions of this great Rodney Crowell song. Fabulous steel from Brian Davies. Alane Watkins sings harmony. My odd minimalist piano part and bass from Solé Farr. Russ Rosenbalm on drums. This is about as big a production as I've done out here! Preston, Shiloh's dad, wanted Shiloh to do this song on the record, and I have to say he has excellent taste. She is awesome on this song.

Tiana Gregg
c.2009

Story

This fabulous song is also (along with "Motherstrong," above) on Tiana's first CD, "The Baby," which is currently sold out. Tiana sings and plays guitar, and I play everything else.

Shiloh Sharrard
c.2013

Story

I wanted Shiloh to put this Freddy Fender song on her CD after I heard a live recording she did of it. I think Shiloh can deliver country music in Spanish better than anyone else I've heard. Steve Penoncello gave us an authentic Norteño accordion sound, though he was born and raised in the Midwest American accordion tradition. Shayne Watkins on acoustic guitar, me on piano, Richard Kriehn on mandolin, Solé Farr on bass. Alane Watkins sang harmony.

Richard Kriehn, mandolin; Paul Ely Smith, banjo
c.2010

Story

Another piece from Richard Kriehn's CD. I kept the banjo pretty low-key to show off Richard's wonderful improvisations around this classic American fiddle tune.

Mike and Olivia Haberman
c.2009

Story

I'm posting some examples of other people's music that I've produced here, a nice sampling of music on the Palouse. I had known Mike Haberman for years, and he wanted to do a recording with his daughter Olivia before she went off into the world out of college.  They are both very talented--in particular I thought her sound on the tin whistle was wonderful on this song.

Paul Ely Smith
c.2005
Paul Ely Smith

Story

Besides Lullaby, this piece is my favorite from the "Handmade" CD. I've always liked how the 10/8 rhythm in the second movement sounds so natural. When I performed Mosaic, I often played this piece as a kind of warm-up to "Hare Halleluia Allah Hu" (also audible here on the website)--they are related guitar parts.

Paul Ely Smith
c.2008

Story

This is from Act 1, Scene 5. It accompanies Pantos drugging and then assaulting Cassandra, and her rescue by her servant Partana. For more information, see the blog.

Paul Ely Smith
c.2008

Story

This was the first song I wrote for Mosaic, built on essential prayers of divine praise from four religious traditions: Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. That these phrases are etymologically related speaks of a deeper universal song of praise, here applied to a text from the Christian New Testament (Philippians 4:8) that is resonant with the spirit of much Sufi Muslim poetry.

Lyrics

Hare halleluia Allah Allah hu

Whatever is true, whatever is noble

Whatever is right, whatever is pure

Whatever is lovely, all that we admire

Anything excellent or worthy of praise

Paul Ely Smith
c.2008

Story

This is a six-part canon, which basically means that any part can be sung with any other part. In this recording, the parts trickle in and all six aren’t going until the end. “Dona nobis pacem” is a prayer in Latin that means “Give us peace.” “Om shanti” is an ancient Hindu and Buddhist mantra. “Om” is a sacred syllable and “shanti” means “peace.”

Lyrics

Dona nobis pacem

Give us peace

Om shanti shanti

Om shanti om

In our hearts, our homes, our world

In our hearts, our homes, our world

Solstice Woodwind Quintet
c.2005
Paul Ely Smith

Story

This was written for WSU's Solstice Woodwind Quintet in 2004-2005. They played it twice, once at the WSU New Music Festival in 2005 and then again in my studio, recorded here.

Emerald City Brass Quintet
c.1990
Paul Ely Smith

Story

I wrote this piece while I was at UCSD, but I had my friend David Hensler's brass quintet, Emerald City Brass Quintet, in Seattle in mind when I composed it.  There are various train-related sounds here, and the title refers to a train that runs between Chicago and San Francisco.

Paul Ely Smith
0000-00-00

Story

"Zeno's Breakfast" is the first piece I composed for Thomas Arthur's performances (before that he used music I had composed for Ellipsis). It was recorded in 1986. David Hensler played trumpets, and I can't remember who the trombone player was. I played everything else.

Paul Ely Smith
c.2012
me on fiddle and piano, Russ Rosenbalm played that lovely cymbal swell...

Story

In the middle of mixing a song on a CD I was producing, there was this little phrase right at the end that no one would ever probably notice but all of a sudden it jumped out at me as some sort of sonic logo for palouse river music.