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Bob Bassett | First Tears At Forty

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Folk: Traditional Folk Folk: Folk Blues Moods: Type: Vocal
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First Tears At Forty

by Bob Bassett

Timeless music by award-winning musicians, from original songs to acappella Appalachian ballads, British traditional, US country and folk blues.
Genre: Folk: Traditional Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. First Tears At Forty
4:57 $0.99
2. American Stranger
3:55 $0.99
3. Little Sadie
2:23 $0.99
4. White Cockade
2:26 $0.99
5. Lookin' For Trouble
4:15 $0.99
6. It's Over
3:59 $0.99
7. Snow Toad
2:53 $0.99
8. The Cruel Mother
3:43 $0.99
9. You Are My Flower
2:53 $0.99
10. Jenny Get Around
3:32 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
My Uncle Hud played right wing and lead banjo for the Woodville Mudcats Hockey Team and Dixieland Jazz Band. He didn't have much of a slapshot, but he played a mean version of 'Bye Bye Blackbird'. Three more beers and he would launch into 'Barkin' At The Hole' and 'Who're In The Peapatch?'

In my early teens, he loaned me his tenor banjo and gave me my first lesson. "Bob, I'm gonna teach you 'Laura'. Laura C-Chord, that is. Stick with her, Bob, she made a mint!"

I played through high school in a Kingston Trio type of group called the Peddlers, with a few gigs at political rallies and the occasional radio show. During that time, I picked up a cheap Stella nylon string guitar and a Grey Five String banjo from my mother as a reward for quitting smoking!

My hero was Pete Seeger. I spent hours learning tunes from his book "How To Play The 5-String Banjo", bought a Gibson Long Neck with money from my paper route, and had a leather carrying bag made for it by our town cobbler, just like Pete suggested. If anyone out there knows where I left that bag, please let me know. Thanks.

At University, I played coffee houses and parties, picked up a Harmony Sovereign guitar and a no name Mexican 12 String guitar. If anyone out there knows where I left that 12 string, please let me know. Thanks.

I traveled to England in 1969 at the height of the British Folk Revival. I had an introduction to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, and immediately got a part in Ewan's Festival of Fools - not because of my acting or singing ability, but because I sounded like an American.

Over the next three years, I worked regularly with Ewan and Peggy at The Singers Club, traveled and played with fellow Canadian Vera Johnson in clubs all over the UK, recorded a small session at the BBC, played a gig at The Troubadour, and worked mainly at the West London Folk Club, singing traditional Canadian, American, and British folk songs and ballads.

Appalachian dulcimers were popular with British musicians for their droning sound, and I had one made for me by Peter Abnett, a luthier living south of London, more famous for the instruments he made than I ever became on the ones I played!

Soon after returning to Canada, I traded my long neck banjo for an Epiphone Five String (a Gibson Mastertone copy), put together an autoharp from pieces found in the back room of a bankrupt music store, and found a really good deal on a brand new Martin D28. If anyone out there has that long neck, please let me know. Thanks.

I met a good friend and an amazing musician Stan Gadziola, aka Doc Warsaw aka Muddy Walter. Together we played clubs and festivals for over ten years, and it was Stan who encouraged me to submit two of my own songs, 'First Tears at Forty' and 'It's Over', to a contest held by our local radio station CFOS. I was surprised to win a bunch of hours of recording time, and that's what led to this album. If anyone out there knows where I left Stan, please let me know. Thanks.

FIRST TEARS AT FORTY uses a Double Drop D tuning I learned from Buffy Saint Marie's 'Codine' for the drone. Stan and I play guitar, and Rasta Steve Auld is on the bass. I was working through a lot of personal changes when I wrote this, but managed to cheer myself up by plagiarizing Robert Bly, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. I like the optimistic last line.

AMERICAN STRANGER is a traditional tune from an album by Happy and Artie Traum. I love the triples on the bass strings and the fact that Leith is mentioned. I live in the Canadian version of that village. I also like plighting my troth if there’s good harmony.

LITTLE SADIE comes from one of the best old timey banjo players ever, Clarence Ashley, who can get the most amazing popping sounds out of his banjo. Stan always marveled at how many violent songs I knew, “Oh, no, not another dead woman song!” I always blamed it on the traditional repertoire rather than my taste in women.

WHITE COCKADE came from the singing of Lou and Sally Killen. It’s a traditional acappella British tune from the days when press gangs roamed the countryside looking for young men who would ‘accept the King’s Shilling.”

LOOKIN' FOR TROUBLE is by Steve Goodman. I wish I had written it, and I probably could have paid more attention to the advice. Stan plays harp on this one as well as electric guitar.

IT'S OVER started as a song about a friend’s father who was dying of cancer. We all knew it was over, but the hopeful discussion continued. The song became more general as I wrote more verses, and it now describes that watershed moment in any situation where more talking is just going to be pointlessly painful bad theatre. “Last move you made was a little too slick …”

SNOW TOAD by Peter Lang was fun to learn and more fun to play. It’s the only tune I play in open C with the bottom E string dropped down two full tones for a booming bass. The Stones used the tuning on some early recordings, but it’s not a common one.

THE CRUEL MOTHER is traditional British Child Ballad #20 with dozens of variations around the world. There’s even a kid’s skipping song! I’ve been haunted by this tune ever since I heard Ian and Sylvia sing it in the 60’s. From other variants, I added a few extra curses to their Appalachian version, and we sing it here in parallel fourths for a nasty, edgy harmony that befits the deed. The song is full of magic and symbolism and takes on extra meaning when we learn that the ‘clerk’ in the song is the ‘cleric’ or priest hired by the royal family.

YOU ARE MY FLOWER is a fine twangy old A.P. Carter tune I learned from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album "Will The Circle Be Unbroken”. I added the autoharp later on a quiet night in the studio. Autoharp is an old Lutonian word for ‘three weeks of tuning and three minutes of playing.’

JENNY GET AROUND is a wild little tune I learned, along with many others, from Pete Seeger’s tablature without ever hearing it played. Eddie Mole, a local fiddle champ, joined us for the session. He had never heard the tune before, but after listening to it once in the headphones, played along as though he’d known it all his life. Stan’s guitar is the best here, and we hope we captured that old timey string band feeling. My wife Anna tells me it’s a great tune to vacuum by. Or did she tell me it sucks? I’ll be right back …

Thanks, Uncle Hud, for getting me started, and thanks to all who helped along the way!



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