On this Day #10 – Live At The Ragged Edge

Live At The Ragged Edge - Tom Adams & Michael ClevelandOn March 12, 2002, Tom Adams and Michael Cleveland recorded Live At The Ragged Edge (Rounder 82161-0539-2).

Tom Adams (banjo) and Michael Cleveland (fiddle) got together for an evening of live music at the Ragged Edge Coffeehouse in Gettysburg, PA, for what was never intended to be a commercial release.

For the recording they used a Yamaha EMS 860 power mixer and a Sharp MD-MS722 portable minidisc recorder.

Michael Cleveland remembers …….

Michael Cleveland accepts the 2011 Fiddle Player of the Year award - photo © Dean Hoffmeyer“Originally, we never set out to make a record. This was just a small show that Tom booked for the two of us just for fun. We were in between shows with Dale Ann Bradley and I went to Tom’s house in Pennsylvania, so we could pick and do some writing hopefully. He said that there was a small coffee house that we could play, maybe make a little money, but mostly for fun. I was all for it. It was a first in more ways than one. We had always played a few fiddle and banjo tunes during a show, but never an hour and a half show of them.

Also, the day of the show, Tom realized, we might need a sound system for this thing. So, not long before the show, we managed to find a small system and a couple of mic’s from a local church, so that is what we used. Tom recorded the show on a minidisc recorder plugged in to the board, and that is how we captured the audio. There was no rehearsal, other than us talking about and writing down some possible tunes. I’ve got to say, that was one of the most fun musical experiences that I’ve ever had!!! Nothing planned, we just played and let the music take us where it would!

Had we known that we were going to make a record, I’m positive that we would have totally over thought the whole thing. I don’t think either of us would have played as freely as we did and I think that it would have ruined it. You can tell. It’s a jam and that’s what I think is so cool about it.

We’re just playing and having fun!”

Tom Adams adds ………

Tom Adams“Mike and I were playing with Dale Ann Bradley. We talked about trying to write some tunes together. I picked a week where we had gigs with Dale Ann two weeks in a row, and drove Mike to our home in Gettysburg to hang out.

A couple weeks before that I contacted Jake Schindel at the Ragged Edge to see about us playing there. Mike and I made a set list and I think we ran through the vocal numbers the day before the gig. But the instrumental stuff was just wide open. We knew how the tunes were going start but had no idea how long we’d jam on them or exactly how we’d end most of them.

Mike was amazing and that night was absolutely one of the most fun times I’ve ever had playing music. We really had a dialogue going on. I hooked up my mini-disc recorder to the PA for the purpose of listening back to see if there were any cool licks happening that I might want to try to remember for building a new tune around. I don’t think we ever wrote any tunes that week, but that gig was a lot of fun. There were no plans to make a record from the mini-disc.

The Rounder album exists because of my wife Judy. My depression brought on by the focal dystonia in 2002 made me not even listen to that recording for almost two years and I even thought about erasing it. I stopped listening to anything with a banjo in it and I sure didn’t want to hear myself play.

Judy finally convinced me one night to listen to the recording and I was amazed at how it sounded. A live recording in mono with just fiddle and banjo and it sounded to me like a whole band was rocking out. Judy suggested sending two tracks to Ken Irwin at Rounder, and I think within a couple of hours Ken said he wanted to hear the whole thing and do an album.”

The CD was released in 2004.

Matt Glaser wrote, in the liner notes, this advice for listeners … “sit down and make sure that there are no flammable materials anywhere near your stereo system, because this recording captures Mike and Tom inn all their totally wild glory. It’s kind of like if Paul Warren and Earl Scruggs were cloned and genetically engineered.”

The full track listing is as follows ….

Welcome,  The Fiddle and The BanjoDear Old DixieDance Around Molly, Box Elder Beetles, Cripple Creek, Liberty, Shady GroveFire Ball MailBack Up and PushJohn Hardy, Sitting On Top Of The WorldNorth Carolina Breakdown, Ginnie Whitt’s, Whistling RufusFunky Mountain SpecialJohn Henry, Ricestrow, Going Down The Road Feeling BadI Saw The Light / I’ll Fly AwayLittle MaggieSally Goodin’ and Black Mountain Rag.

Mike Cleveland continues to play fiddle with his band Flamekeeper.

Tom Adams is currently teaching banjo full-time from his home near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, both online via Skype and in his home studio.

There is a Tom Adams Banjo Workshop on Saturday, March 16, 1:00 – 3:30 pm, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Details can be found on his web site.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.