Contratopia | Riff City

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Riff City

by Contratopia

Veteran contra dance band delivers high-energy sets of mostly original reels and jigs, a swing tune and two waltzes, featuring fiddle, mandolin, piano, English concertina, oboe, banjo, guitar and percussion.
Genre: Folk: Contra Dance
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Riff City
4:15 $0.99
2. Last Call At Hawley-Cooke
3:14 $0.99
3. All Fall Down
5:03 $0.99
4. Cement Donkey
4:53 $0.99
5. Happy Ears
5:24 $0.99
6. Night in Slovenia
3:18 $0.99
7. Liberation
5:43 $0.99
8. Road to Bangor
4:59 $0.99
9. Aubrey and Andrew's Wedding
4:18 $0.99
10. Two Bits
4:38 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
It's been 10 years since Contratopia released our 3rd CD, Smitten. Most of these Riff City tunes have been played regularly at dances during at least some of those ten years and the band (which still includes the original four members) has been active during our "season" (roughly November-March, with exceptions) throughout this period.

Contratopia has always played lots of original tunes from members John Goodin and Erik Sessions but this CD marks the first contributions from Pat O'Loughlin (Cement Donkey & Two Bits) and Patrice Pakiz (Night in Slovenia). In addition we recorded three great, modern tunes; Paul Gitlitz's popular Flying Home to Shelley, Larry Siegel's Liberation and Maison de Glace by Rejean Brunet. We think that waltz lovers will also enjoy two of our recent favorites, Last Call at Hawley-Cooke and Aubrey & Andrew's Wedding.

Riff City CD titles and credits

1. Ain't Broke (Goodin) / Riff City (Goodin) / Two Days to Maine (Goodin) (4:15)

2. Last Call at Hawley-Cooke (Goodin) (3:13)

3. All Fall Down (Goodin) / Flying Home to Shelley (Paul Gitlitz) (5:15)

4. Cement Donkey (O’Loughlin) / Moss Don’t Grow (Goodin) (4:56)

5. Ross’s Reel (trad.) / Cornutopia (Goodin) / Happy Ears (Goodin) (5:28)

6. Night in Slovenia (Pakiz) (3:27)

7. Angeline the Baker (trad.) / Snow on the Ridge (Goodin) /Liberation (Larry Siegel) (5:47)

8. Road to Bangor (Goodin) / Eager to Please (Goodin) / Maison de Glace (Rejean Brunet/SODRAC) (4:59)

9. Aubrey & Andrew’s Wedding (Goodin) (4:19)

10. Black Squirrel Frisbee (Goodin) / No Contest (Goodin) / Two Bits (O’Loughlin) (4:49)

Total time: 45:52

Tune titles with brief notes:

1. Ain't Broke (Goodin) / Riff City (Goodin) / Two Days to Maine (Goodin)
The first tune don’t need fixin’, the second tune comes from pentatonic riffing rooted in 60’s garage rock and the third tune comes from one of many memorable family trips by car from Iowa to Dover-Foxcroft, Maine.

2. Last Call at Hawley-Cooke (Goodin) (3:13)
From 1978-2003 the Hawley-Cooke Bookstores were the best bookstores in Louisville, KY. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of times I was there as the store was closing.

3. All Fall Down (Goodin) / Flying Home to Shelley (Paul Gitlitz) (5:15)
After hearing a Liz Carroll and John Doyle concert at Folklore Village in Wisconsin we drove through falling leaves on a moonlit night to get home. The next morning I wrote this reflection of the music and the night. Erik suggested we combine AFD with “Shelley” not long after we learned Paul Gitlitz’s great tune from the Out of the Wood band in Bozeman, MT in 2007.

4. Cement Donkey (O’Loughlin) / Moss Don’t Grow (Goodin) (4:56)
MDG was written to complement the Donkey. In my mind the suspended chords in the B section come from Keith Richards and “Honky Tonky Women.

5. Ross’s Reel (trad.) / Cornutopia (Goodin) / Happy Ears (Goodin) (5:28)
A set that nearly made it onto our Smitten CD. "Cornutopia" and "Happy Ears" are contra tunes that think they are jazz tunes. I don’t have the heart to discourage them.

6. Night in Slovenia (Pakiz) (3:27)
Patrice says: “After nudging by my bandmates to write a tune, I came up with this one. Originally I planned it to be a reel, but it had a mind of it's own and refused to come out as anything but a swing tune. Slovenia is the origin of my grandparents and somehow it got mixed up with Tunisia and Thelonius Monk.”

7. Angeline the Baker (trad. and/or S. Foster) / Snow on the Ridge (Goodin) /Liberation (Larry Siegel) (5:47)
Pat is largely responsible for keeping "Snow on the Ridge" alive all these years. Erik brought us Liberation after he played a gig with Larry a while back.

8. Road to Bangor (Goodin) / Eager to Please (Goodin) / La Maison de Glace (The Ice House) (Rejean Brunet) (4:59)
Another trip to Maine, another tune. "Eager to Please" just wants you to like it. "The Ice House" is the latest of several jigs in D that we have tried in this set over the years. It’s a great one.

9. Aubrey & Andrew’s Wedding (Goodin) (4:19)
Written for my Goddaughter’s wedding, now long ago. We’ve played this a lot but I think this version is special.

10. Black Squirrel Frisbee (Goodin) / No Contest (Goodin) / Two Bits (O’Loughlin) (4:49)
We were tossing a frisbee around at Ted & Lynn’s house in Takoma Park one afternoon when a black squirrel mysteriously appeared. "No Contest" just sounds catchy. It’s kind of related to "Riff City" musically.

Recorded and mastered by Steve Kaul at Wild Sound in Minneapolis. Mixed by Pat O'Loughlin and Steve Kaul.

Contratopia is: John Goodin (Mandolin, Guitar), Pat O'Loughlin (Banjo, English concertina, Percussion), Patrice Pakiz (Piano, Oboe, Percussion) and Erik Sessions (Violin).

Special thanks to Andy Martin for added percussion on Night in Slovenia and Two Bits.

Our cover artist & designer, Maria Nicklin Collins, asked early on "Why Riff City?" Here's what I replied:

The tune "Riff City" has been in our setlist for a decade or more, along with several of the other tunes on this CD. Three or four years ago Susan Songer asked me if she could include the tune in her upcoming 3rd Portland Collection tunebook. The Portland books are major sources for tunes in the contra dance community and it's a real honor to be included. Erik's tune "It Ain't the Heat, It's the Humidity" is included in the 1st Portland Collection.

Titles of songs and tunes are always good possibilities for CD titles so "Riff City", especially with the Portland Collection tie in, was an obvious option for us. But there are lots of good tune titles on this CD. The unexpected nudge in the "Riff City" direction came to me in the form of a quote from the jazz critic Ben Ratliff. Writing an appreciation of the late African-American author Albert Murray in the magazine Jazz Times, Ratliff said:

"He saw jazz as refined resistance. He saw riffs as infrastructure for a utopian city. He saw solos as people writing, urgently, “I was here.”

Contratopia - Riff City, that's the connection I saw.

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