RIP Harley Allen

The Bluegrass Blog yesterday informed us of the untimely passing of a Bluegrass legend, Harley Allen.

Unfortunately I didn’t know Harley, but I am connceted to him in 6 degrees kind of way because I’ve spent a lot time playing with Dan Cade who used to play Red and Harley in Dayton back when they lived here. So in folk tradition kind of way we are linked together, albeit once removed.

He apparently wrote the song “A Simple Life” and I dug up a video of Ricky Skaggs playing it on the transatlantic sessions which features the always tasteful Fiddle stylin’s of Aly Bain, great stuff.

That being said, there is a possibility that he wrote the other “Simple Life” that Ricky Skaggs plays more recently, available for a listen over on Grooveshark. I don’t know that for sure, which ever one, its readily apparent that he was an immensely gifted person with a passion for the same things we value here, and he will be missed.

Aly Bain on Poet Norman MacCaig

Sometimes things just come together serendipitously. So it is that I found a post this morning on midcurrent news about a piece written by the fiddler Aly Bain on the poet Norman MacCaig. As it happens, I just posted a little video featuring Aly Bain below from the Transatlantic Sessions.

I didn’t know Mr Bain was a fly fisher when I posted that, but now I am awarding him an honorary star on the Fiddle and Creel Walk of Fame. Mr. Bain and Mr. MacCaig both embody everything we love here as illustrated by the quote below.

We used to talk a lot about fly fishing and hill walks. We compared stories and flies and lochs and weather and frost and clouds. He wrote poems about them and I played fiddle tunes about them. However, I never went fishing with him. This BBC Scotland film is my homage to him going fishing. Billy Connolly, the novelist Andrew Greig and I all knew Norman. We all met up at that gig at the Traverse.

For the film, the three of us go up to Assynt to fish in what Norman called the Loch at the Green Corrie. We struggled through these mountains for four hours in a blizzard. Norman must have been sitting up there chuckling to himself.

It was a good way to remember Norman but I’m lucky to have other ways to remember him. For my 40th birthday he wrote me a poem. I have a handwritten copy of it framed on my wall. It’s called Shetland Reel and it means a great deal to me.

In return, I am going to write him a tune but I can’t write it until it’s perfect in my head. Imagine if I wrote him a tune he didn’t like? He’d kill me.

• Billy Connolly and Aly Bain: Fishing for Poetry: A Celebration of Norman MacCaig, is on BBC2 Scotland, Monday 8 November, 9pm, and on BBC Four on 18 November, 9pm

And to further illustrate our point, take a look at the above video of Mr. Bain playing a version of one of my favorite fiddle tunes, I have quite a few, called Big Scioty. I’m fairly certain that this tune is named for the Scioto River, a River I used to fish quite often when I lived in Columbus. The Big Sciota holds surprisingly good populations of the SMallmouth and other sunfish family critters as well as Suageye and in some secret spots, Muskie. So enjoy!

St Anne’s Reel from the Transatlantic Sessions.

Very few things embody what we here at the Fiddle and Creel espouse more than the Transatlantic Sessions, featuring Aly Bain, Russ Barrenberg, and everybody’s favorite grammy award winning houd dog player, Jerry Douglas.  So here is a nice fiddle tune, St. Anne’s Reel for your Thursday afternoon, as filmed by the BBC. They used to play this on BBC America fairly frequently, but now there are so many old Top Gear episodes to abuse that this fine music doesn’t get much air time. Tis a shame.