Good Times All Would Happen: Hear Sid Selvidge & Steve Selvidge’s 78

Sid Selvidge is a performer and folk music scholar of the highest order. It’s a well-deserved rap he caught from devoting himself congenially and tirelessly to knowing the people and learning the songs of the South. And of course, to contributing his own songs to the story. Sid is a walking record of Delta music and the American folk scene as it has been and as it is, with stories for days and an ear ready for any new ones you might want to share with him.

Sid had a memory of the Frank Stokes song “I Got Mine” from hearing it on a sampler, he recalled it being catchy and sly. A song that puts its singer in the shoes of a rascally gambler out for a good time. But as he discovered, listening to it again, the exact lyrics are hard to make out. He looked them up, and found enough different versions to keep you confused for a week. So, acting in the truest folk music spirit, Sid just picked the words he liked and rolled with it, the version that now goes on record as his.

Things do change and stay the same in equal parts. For Sid, his son Steve, and for us the day we recorded them together in Memphis, that meant hearing Sid singing a song he’d sung so many times before, but in a changed voice and on a very old format. It was Sid’s idea, to hear the old and the new together this way, the perfect test of time, and the perfect record of place.

Hallelujah! Hear The Wandering’s 78

It was the true spirit of mobility, a genuine adventure.  Rooting around a dark alley for a power source, decent light, bright sound and a clean-ish, flat surface for the Presto and for the ladies’ fancy shoes.

It was late at night, and there was an energy, a happiness, a spark still glowing from the show The Wandering had just played at Joe’s Pub.  They slipped out the back after their encore was through to make a record with us in the alley. Five voices with the fife as their sixth, bouncing joyfully off the concrete and mixing together in the warm spring air.

Did we feel it?  We hadn’t noticed.  A train went by, fast, beneath our feet.  The Wandering, more accustomed to standing on solid ground than we New Yorkers, felt it rumble.  The Presto felt it, too.  Leaving a pretty-looking zig and a zag on the groove to mark it’s passing, a note stuck forever to the surface of the record telling exactly what their tapping feet had sensed.

We might have never gotten to sleep that night, it’s true.  The excitement of the glorious recording lit us all up so, band, crew and friends alike.  Had The Wandering’s flipside not been just the right reverie, the perfect song for the night’s end, we might have vibrated right through till morning.  It was so beautiful in its calm, so right in its gentle longing, “Rock My Soul” brought us fluttering right back down to earth.

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Serendipity, Spoons, Hammers and Harmony: Our California adventure continues south and finishes strong

Something drew us into that café. With it’s squeaky screen door, two tiny tables and unassuming presence at the end of the block, it just looked like the place where the locals go.  We were passing through Joshua Tree on our way to Wonder Valley and had stopped in for a quick bite to eat.  When Victoria Williams walked through the café door, we could hardly believe it.  The luck!  She told us her sweet dog Beau had led her there, and we’re inclined to thank him here now.  We asked her if she’d like to make a record later that week and were thrilled to find that she did!

The next day we sped back west to meet an old friend for a very unique recording.  Coati Mundi had tested every spoon in his kitchen, he told us when we arrived at his Murrieta, CA home.  He’d chosen the perfect two, the ones that sounded the best in the bright-sounding room.  The version of “Billy Boy” he had cooked up was truly original, infused with Latin percussion and the strangeness of a memory he has of learning the song as a city kid sent to the country for some fresh air.  Over a home-cooked meal Coati reminisced with his sister about the Midtown disc-recording booths and rock concerts of their childhood.  And he even played us the very first acetate he ever cut as a young piano player in New York City.

A couple hours drive away in LA the next morning, we were scaling Topanga Canyon in search of Little Wings.  He met us in the road and guided us up to a steep parking spot, then helped us haul our gear down dirt paths and up homemade stone staircases to a lovely, sundappled little utopia where he spends half the year in a tiny cabin.  We assembled on the porch to record his mesmerizing take on “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”, and afterwards, he broke out his spray paint and stamps to customize the record sleeve.

Later that day in a cozy apartment in Studio City, Adam Levy & Gaby Moreno patiently practiced their smokin’ hot jazz while we disassembled the Presto to replace some tired tubes.  If it sounds scary, that’s because it was!  With no backup on hand, our Presto had to work.  Many fraught moments later, the platter was back on and spinning.  With the crisis averted, Adam and Gaby performed a sparkling version of “After You’ve Gone” that we’re sure will be one for the ages.

Gaby had been kind enough to let us use her just-bought vintage suitcase Newcomb turntable to play back their acetate, and after hearing its beautiful warm sound, we knew we had to get one.  She and our friend and master audiophile Tom DeSavia directed us to the Audio Specialist.  He turned out to be the vintage dealer of our dreams, outfitting us with the perfect new playback turntable.

We arranged to meet Victoria at her friends’ house in Echo Park a few days after we’d run into her in Joshua Tree.  When we arrived, she and Beau were waiting for us with great-sounding a spot all picked out in the beautiful front room.  Victoria’s friend Gabe Noel came over with his cello to accompany her as she sang “Take This Hammer” with her undeniable style and breathtaking grace.  Over a dinner of vegetables from the garden out front, Victoria and her friends gave us a wonderful feeling of home so far away from our own.

It had been almost two weeks since we’d arrived in California, and those two weeks had been monumental.  There was just one more record to cut to complete this most amazing trip.  We packed up our car, bid our lovely LA hosts Elli and Andy goodbye, and started north for Pasadena.

Tom Brosseau & John Reilly were waiting for us, warming up their voices and guitars.  They spun through an impressive repertoire of classic songs, wowing us at every subtle turn of their harmonies.  Settling on two perfect tunes, “Careless Love” and “Single Girl’, the duo made an acetate of true distinction marked by the beautiful sound of true friendship and collaboration.

Later that night, we saw them perform at the Sanctuary in Santa Monica along with their friends Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and Willie Watson.  And who should we see there but Victoria! It was a wonderful way to end our week in LA, and we headed back North with our hearts full of happiness and our car full of unbelievable records.

Before catching our flight, we stopped in to say hello to our old friend Mia Riddle in Santa Cruz, then headed the rest of the way up the coast back to San Francisco, the place where this whole wild trip started.  A new year began while we were on the road filming this next chapter in The 78 Project Movie, and we feel the newness now, filled with potential and excitement, as we write this.  It’s off to an amazing start thanks to our friends and supporters and to this fantastic West Coast journey, now complete.

Ouds, a New Year, a Lacquer Factory and the Desert: Our first week in California

At the end of our first week in California, we found ourselves looking out across a vast expanse of sand and sky thinking back to our trip’s beginning, just one week ago in San Francisco.  It seems too beautiful to have all just happened in one week. But as Ben Vaughn reminded us, gesturing out beyond his property to the faraway mountains before we recorded with him at his house in Wonder Valley, “How can anything be wrong?”

This idyllic scene in the Mojave fell at the end of a week filled with wonderful hospitality and amazing serendipity. But we should begin at the beginning of the story of our California Journey…

Last week when we left New York, we were nervous. If you’d seen us at the airport, you’d have laughed or died. We checked 9 bags of gear, including the Presto in its iron-clad, perfect black road case made for us by Red Dirt. It might have only been a hundred yards from the car to check-in, but it felt like a mile. Thankfully the nice folks at Delta took our gear with good humor, and we were on the plane and on our way!

We arrived in San Francisco and watched in horror as the Presto came crashing down the baggage chute. After testing the gear and finding everything miraculously in working order, we set out for Santa Rosa to record our first 78 of the trip with The Easy Leaves. At the end of a gravel road, next to a chattering creek, Sage Fifield and Kevin Carducci live in cozy, adjoining shacks. We set up in Sage’s under twinkling lights and recorded the duo performing “Cotton Fields.” Our first record in California! And it was beautiful.

Novato became our home base, thanks to our generous friends Tony and Kay. And suddenly, New Years Eve was upon us. How better to spend the last day of the year than on a real adventure? we thought when Jaron Lanier called and asked us if we wanted to stop by his Berkeley home to see his profound collection of musical instruments from all around the world. We stopped into San Francisco to pick up Jody Stecher to join in the fun, and an hour later we were lugging the Presto over clarinets and under hanging ouds to make our final 78 of 2012. A momentous and improvised recording of Jaron’s own design.

A new year and what a way to start it! Recording with X’s John Doe in his home in Fairfax. After cutting a rendition of “Skip To My Lou” more badass than your average barn dance, John was all fired up to try out some of the 78s he had lying around the house. So we turned the turntable over to him for an afternoon of Almanac Singers and Lead Belly’s “Sinful Songs.” 2013 felt welcomed in right.


An hour away in Sacramento the next morning, Julie Baenziger of Sea of Bees awaited us with doughnuts and coffee and stories galore. Her voice, like her house, was filled warm sunlight and life as she sang “In My Dying Day.” And after we made her 78, she took us to see her favorite Sacramento sights, cafes and a recording studio and all the places a local would want to go. We felt so at home that it was hard to depart, but we had to put a whole state under our wheels that night, so we bid Jules goodbye and hit the trail.

Eight dark hours later we were in Southern California. We regrouped, backed up and repacked at our dear friend and 78 Project contributor Sarah Law’s house. The desert was calling and we knew we had to be ready. We had a date with our supplier!

We can say without hesitation that Apollo Masters in Banning, CA is the reason The 78 Project can exist. They make our 78 acetate discs and the cutting needles we use…and they are the only ones in America who still do. We were honored that they extended us an invitation to visit their record-making facility, which included a full tour of every part of the process. All we can say is that it was mind-blowing. Apollo is a small company that produces an incredible product. Each disc goes through so many stages of production and quality control, and at each stage a real human being handles it. We saw how they polish the metal discs and coat them in lacquer then punch the hole in the center after they’ve dried. We also saw how one woman carefully crafts the ruby-tipped cutting needles one at a time under a microscope. We left wide-eyed and in awe of the preciousness of each and every disc we cut!

Further east past the grapevines and cow pastures, past the golf courses and the Joshua Trees, at the end of a long dirt road and a long dirt driveway, Ben Vaughn was waiting for us. His famous Rambler stood sentry as we entered his property, and two vintage campers sat out back, ready to be used to make a 78. As the sun went down, we set up in front of the Silver Streak, and Ben played “Worried Man Blues” with a lilting, cheerful energy. No dust settled on the disc and his camper provided us with a refuge for our playback after the hot desert sun set and left the air chilled and dark.

Our L.A. adventures are still to come, and our California trip is only halfway done!  More from us soon…

Our California Road Trip begins today! A new year of 78s awaits…

Our journey to make The 78 Project Feature-length documentary film continues today...

As the sun sets over Manhattan tonight, we’ll be 30,000 ft above the city, flying West towards the next leg of our journey: California.  We’ll give the Presto something to help it sleep and nestle it snug and warm in its fantastic Red Dirt Case for the long flight in cargo. 

When we land in San Francisco, we’ll free the Presto from its foam and start heading down the long roads that cross the great state.  From the forests to the oceans, the cities to the deserts, we’re going to try to film, record and see as much of California music and scenery as we can in two weeks.  And we hope you’ll join us!

Every day we’ll post photos on Instagram, tweets and Facebook posts so that you can see and hear what we experience along with us.  And if you’re one of the generous backers of our film, we’ll write and mail you a real, tried and true vintage postcard from the trip. 

The left side of our custom google map is just waiting to be filled with pins for new recordings and encounters and visits.  We can’t wait! 

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Episode #14: A Slide “Guitar Rag” to Make Your Season Bright: Joe Bussard’s holiday greeting

You’ll pass the Barbara Fritchee on the right hand side.  You can’t miss it, because of the candy cane.  These directions, given over the phone with a gleeful chuckle, began to make perfect sense as we turned a corner off the interstate in Frederick, Maryland and were greeted with a lovely little hometown diner dressed up for the holidays with a 20 foot candy cane out front.

After winding and dipping around corners and down hills, we arrived at Joe Bussard’s home, greeted by a wood-burning stove, his napping, contented cats, and the man himself. Time’s a-wastin’! There’s so much to hear!

At the end of a few hours of listening to more rare, beautiful records than we can properly recount, Joe acquiesced to our request of him to record a holiday greeting on his slide guitar.  In front of the mic, he turned on like a light on a dark winter night.  A Presto recordist himself, Joe knew the drill.  Or the screwdriver, as it were.

May your holidays be the happiest on record!  Thank you for watching, listening and supporting us during this wonderful year!  Our warmest wishes to you for another beautiful year to come.


Episode #13: Sid Selvidge & Steve Selvidge “I Got Mine”

A beautiful afternoon filled with end-of-summer sunlight hid the rainstorm that was on the horizon. Our week in Memphis had been full of surprises, and our last day there was no different.

Sid walked in first, and his son Steve followed with their guitars.  While we set up, father and son filled the room with stories of Memphis past and present.  Sid can tell tales of Tennessee music for days, and you’d never want to miss one minute.  He’s been there for it, and not only can he tell it, he can play it for you, too.

They settled in to pick and slide through a mischievous version of “I Got Mine,” two styles of playing that spin on the same axis.  And when the story was told and the song finished, we heard two generations echo “It’s a record.”

Our deepest thanks to Ward Archer. For so many things!

Night Will Come: Hear Leah Siegel’s 78

How did we imagine things when we were children picturing our adult lives? Exciting and strange, moving more quickly than the quiet creep of childhood, and painted in much broader strokes inside much more confident outlines. We would fill our houses with grass instead of furniture. And when we fell in love, we would be held fast in strong arms or gentle, delicate hands, and kissed as the sparkling night kept us safe.

We met Leah Siegel in that fantastic possibility, in a mischievous loft with grass instead of carpet, the magical surroundings completed by ladders leading to hideaways and a forest wall scattered with glittering stars. And when the Presto was nestled snugly in the soft ground, she sang of a whimsical and lovely romance contained in the smallest most innocent of gestures.

Our beautiful early hopes and feelings are not lost to us. In fact, more often than we even know, we look for and find them again in songs.

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The rest of the story is a memory. A view of a dreamy past carried along through life, strange and unforgettable and intoxicating.





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