Barbara Meyer-Spidell of Mud River Lee & The Bluegrass Orchestra spearheaded a Video Series while embarking on a 12 week jaunt at Conway’s near Marquette University’s campus, on Wells St and 22nd. With over 25 or more hours to edit and only 6 weeks into the making of the series, she reflects:
“At first it was all about getting out of the rehearsal kitchen of Lee’s really cool pad that has great acoustic sound, but was getting rather cramped as the Band’s size grew. We had something like, three vocalists show up, Christine Swanson, Sherry Dobson, Myself, and Jennifer Pendur who doubles on bass with Wilson Brown, and then John Losienecki showed, who also doubles on Bass, when not on violin, lo and behold, we had for a minute Phil Schwinn on mandolin, only to have him replaced by Miles from Plasticland, and then Lee, of course, but also Musky Mike on Banjo (Greylak), and before you knew it, the room was ‘over filled’ …and me usually either thinking like a video/journalist or a soprano or a percussionist, thought : I need to film all this, let me find a venue.
I knew of Deb and Gary’s venue- Conway’s Smokin Bar and Grill and how they actually have a ‘green screen’ behind their stage, and since I have been on the incredible music video journey all summer long, it did not take me but a minute to get us out of the kitchen and into the Smokin Bar and Grill at Conway’s. I sometimes forget to tell people that…When they come to perform, you get video logged into the series, albeit archived and unproduced so far, because that takes time, but meanwhile I have caught some great performances already. Al Williams of One Land Bridge, Carrol Brown of Round Barn Jamboree, Andrew Gollup, Christine Swanson, and yet to come will be Boney Fingers, Cayuse Cowboys, Grand Disaster, Mule Bender and yes, even our own Edgar Alan Cash…all incredible performers with great sounds in varying crossover’s of acoustic music with either Bluegrass over or under tones….I like to call it, yes, you heard it first here- Blurgrass—it fits in well with our Muddy. Why do we call him Muddy? Did you hear the first set? Ba domp bomp…I tease, Lee, or Muddy, is an incredible songwriter, performer, character, and icon even, but yes, it can turn into Blurgrass, a purist at heart’s nightmare, but for a experimental sound effects kind of gal like myself, well, I eat it up…and film as much of it as I can. What can happen when you tamper with explosives, is well, and explosion, and we can be a stick of dynamite, and then we take it down many notches and let Lee have the set to himself, because, well, he is really a man who has something to say, whether it is about Love or Ships, Catfish or OldFolks, he will say it well, peacefully well.
In fact Mark Shurilla showed up after the legendary poet Liddy’s funeral, so much is happening in Milwaukee, it is insane, Shurilla performed with all the greats and I consider him the Berry Gordy of Milwaukee, and as I was getting off the stage, I said to Shurilla, ‘I can live without that song’, in reference to our rousing rendition of ‘This Land is Your Land’…and Shurilla looked at me and said ‘Not in some circles.’ I looked at him and said ‘huh?’ He said, ‘You know that I worked with Arlos Guthrie right?’ and I said ‘Yes’. He then said ‘ Barbara, in some circles, the night is not over until that song is done, and when it is done it is really DONE, and I mean done up big. The night is not over until that song is sung by everyone, they bring everyone up onstage, all the guests, and it is the pinnacle and culmination.’ I had to eat my words, of course with ‘Well, I did not enjoy it because, I did not rehearse it nor did I know we were going to do it.’ That is just me, it is an age gap thing, I think. I enjoy working with Lee- or Muddy, but there are a few songs that I prefer to listen to than do, because of lack of internalization of them. I never internalized that song, and if I did, I might have to re-arrange it, like Buffalo gals. I have a hard time with that song, it is written from the male perspective, and I rearranged it and switched some of the words to French. Eventually we just pidgeon holed it, the song was driving me nuts. I am not like others, musically, I guess. My background is classical, and I am an emotional person, so I might have to go through several steps to own a number. yes and the beauty of it is all captured on video tape….”
As far as the video series is going, she says that just as soon as she finishes her video documentation of Leonard Zubrensky, and Les Paul, she will get onto editing her Bluegrass Series, made at Conways, with top notch musicians, she just wishes she had more instrumentalists coming and more viewers, at Conway’s the crowd have been longtime proponents of the Blues style, so the switch has added dimension to the place, but it takes a while to establish a place, even in a town full of musicians, and adds that the food is phenomenal and not costly at Conway’s and that she would be surprised if it didn’t finale with a large bang.