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Liner Notes

John David Lamb - Swedish Design

Swedish Design
Original Fiddle Tunes

Fiddle tunes generally have stories behind them, and these are no exception. Having made more than 150 tunes of this sort, I cannot always recall the exact origin of each and every one. Nevertheless, I can certify that at least most of the information in these notes is true. The tunes, of course, never lie.

BD = Barbara 1st fiddle, David 2nd fiddle
DB = David 1st fiddle, Barbara 2nd fiddle

Swedish Design can be previewed and purchased from CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon or CD Universe:

1. Röda strumpor / Red socks (BD with Bill Boyd, organ) In memoriam John Sears 1917-2000

Fiddlin' John was the original Skandia fiddler and was the life of many a party long before I discovered Scandinavian music and dance. He became Barbara's mentor for a while before she was a teenager, and the two of them played for many Skandia events until Barbara left to play bluegrass. In late years, John took to wearing red socks as a kind of signature whenever he played. I thought that would be a fitting title for the schottis I made for him back in 1991.

2. Sun Break (DB) Polska for Art Andrews 1927-2004

Art and Grace Andrews were two of the most devoted supporters of live music for Skandia dances, and they loved to dance polska. They would show up at rehearsals or jam sessions just to hear the fiddlers play. When Art was hospitalized in the spring of 2004, I made this polska to cheer him up.

3. … men hemma bäst / Home sweet home (BB) For Mary Lamb Christmas 2006

Barbara plays both parts on this one.

4. Pipans hambo (D) spilåpipa solo

Mary and I made our first trip to Sweden in the summer of 1970 in a tour group led by the legendary Gordon Tracie, founder of the Skandia Folkdance Society. It was in Western Dalarna that I first heard the spilåpipa, a small folk-flute similar to a recorder. They were being sold as tourist souvenirs, and I bought one made by Lars Erik Andersson of Evertsberg. Of course I made a tune for it.

5. Blåbärstället / Blueberry patch (BD) for Gunnar & Alice Ohlanders

In the summer of 1982, after their first child was born, Gunnar and Alice picked blueberries for sale. It was a long walk to the berry patch, Alice playing the fiddle, and Gunnar carrying baby Johan on his back. They commissioned me to give them a tune that would make the walk seem shorter. After I delivered the tune, they sent me the proceeds from the sale of the season's first liter of blueberries: 10 kronor, nearly two dollars, as I recall.

6. Den flygande gurkan / The flying pickle (DB with Bill Boyd, organ) juldagen 2003

There ought to be a story here, and you are invited to make one up.

7. Orkila Rain (BD) Orcas Island – May 1995

For many years as a teacher, I went camping every spring with the fifth graders of my school. Often we went to Camp Orkila, a lovely spot on Orcas Island in the San Juans. When the weather was good, it was a pleasant change from the regular curriculum. On my last tour of duty, it rained every day for a week with only occasional let ups. I was thus cooped up for long periods in a rustic cabin with a gaggle of damp 10-year-old boys. I made this quirky waltz as a means of taking my mind away from the soggy reality of the experience.

8. Älgen på taket / Moose on the roof (B)

I think it was the fall of 1984 when our friends, Frank and Jennifer Swant were sitting with Mary and me in a cafe på Söder in Stockholm. The place was called "Älgen på taket." As we enjoyed our coffee and chokladtårta, this slängpolska came to me. I scribbled it on a paper napkin and gave it to our friends. I later came to think of it as my answer to Milhaud's "Le Boeuf sur le Toit."

9. Sally's Waltz (BD) For Sally White Summer 1983

Often played by Glada Musikanter for dances in Oregon.

10. Bittersweet (B)

I made this sentimental polska in the early 80s for Andrea Hoag, a fine fiddler and maker of good tunes.

11. Det våras för Byfåns Mats / Byfåns Mats rides again (David, bagpipe; Barbara, fiddles)

Barbara & David Lamb
The folk music wave of the seventies brought with it a renewed interest in the forgotten Swedish bagpipe. Replicas were made of some of the old instruments in museums, and expert players such as Per Gudmundson began recreating a long-lost repertoire. My pipe was made for me in 1984 by Leif Eriksson, a fine craftsman in Insjön. I too began looking for suitable tunes to play. This långdans melody is said to be from the little-known piper, Byfåns Mats in far-western Dalarna. I used the same tune in a work I composed for the Kronos String Quartet in 1997.

12. Polska för Anders Sparf (D) Summer 1999

This was by way of thanks to Anders for a CD of his own repertoire and to remember his last visit to Seattle.

13. Vintervalsen / Winter waltz (BD with Robert Bowlin, guitar)

Christmas tune for Mother Arleen Lamb 1981

14. Seattle / Scio Express – Seattle polka (BD with Robert Bowlin)

This polka was made for John and Sally White who lived on a farm in Scio, Oregon. It is a five hour drive from Seattle to Scio, and I liked to imagine a fast train to connect the two along the lines of the Boda / Bingsjö Express. John and Sally played the tune for dances around Salem, Oregon in the early nineties. På rätt spår med Glada Musikanter!

15. När alla enbär mogna… / Late summer (BD)

I made this slow polska in July of 2002. The Swedish title comes from a poem by Karlfeldt which means roughly: "When all the juniper berries ripen, then all the girls will get husbands." The catch is that juniper berries do not all ripen in the same year. That explains the wistful tinge to the melody.

16. Väldigt nära polska / Almost polska (D) "Kvasipolska #2"

In my "classical" compositions, I often use changing meters and asymmetrical phrases. Sometimes these techniques drift over into the låtar I make, and it intrigues me to experiment with ways to use a polska flavor in music that is not meant for dancing. I call these experiments "kvasipolskor" or "almost polskor." Don't try to tap your foot to this one!

17. Linelle's Waltz (BD with Linelle Milatchkov, guitar)

This is a birthday tune for Linelle in 1983.

18. Jag blir gammal, kära du! / Nostalgia (BD)

I made this gånglåt in 1988 when I realized that I was nearing retirement. The title comes from a book of poems by Lars Huldén. It means: "I'm getting old, my dear!"

19. Long Time Passing (BD) In memoriam John White 1934-2005

Barbara and I played this tune at John's memorial service in Scio – August 2006.

20. Mary's Waltz (BD with Robert Bowlin, piano)

A birthday tune for Mary Lamb, November 1991

21. Långdans från Sveaplan (BD plus many Skandia friends)

In the spring of 1978, Mary and I were living at Wenner-Gren Center, an apartment complex on Sveaplan at the end of Sveavägen in Stockholm. I had been playing the fiddle for less than a year at the time and had just discovered the joys of retuning. I tuned the G and D strings up to A and E and enjoyed the special ringing sound this gives to the violin. I made a number of experimental tunes to explore the possibilities, and this is the best one.
Skandia Spelmansstämma
Låndans från Sveaplan was recorded by Al Swanson at the home of Jim & Margaret Noyes in Clearwater, WA. Musicians include participants in the annual Skandia Spelmansstämma. In addition to Barbara & David, they are Karin Abraham, Bill Boyd, Regina Boyd, Byfåns Lars, Valerie Cohen, Janet Gabites, Ingrid Hamberg, Bob Hamilton, Trella Hastings, Deborah Jones, Peter Michaelsen, Dave Mullens, Irene Myers, Brad Reynolds, George Smith, Nancy Stevens, (violins); Bart Brashers (kontrabasharpa); Wendy Cutler (ukulele); Dale Abraham, Donna Luce (guitar); Jim Noyes (bass).

D.L. – September 2007


Photography, Mary McFaul
Graphic design, Victoria Hatch
Produced by David & Barbara Lamb
Executive producer, Arleen Lamb
Recorded & mixed by Scott Vestal, Greenbrier, TN
Additional recording and mastering by Al Swanson, Seattle, WA
All selections licensed by ASCAP
All selections copyrighted by David Lamb and published by
1907 East Blaine
Seattle, WA 98112
©®2007 Lots of Coffee Records
PO Box 90031 Nashville, TN 37209