By J. Dennis Robinson
“Picked up the telephone to name up my buddy.
Puzzled if I might ever see him once more.
Properly it’s exhausting instances within the U-S-of-A. Laborious instances.”
– Harvey Reid, Woodpecker Data
So begins the newest tune by Harvey Reid, unarguably the area’s most prolific and uncompromisingly impartial travelling musician. Aside from a quick stint as a teenaged lifeguard and as a university math educating assistant in 1974, Reid has strummed and picked and sung his manner by a lot of the final half century as a full- time skilled musician.
The stats are spectacular. At 66, Harvey Reid estimates he has carried out over 6,000 gigs, travelling hundreds of thousands of miles to carry out all through the nation – with the exceptions of Alaska and Washington State. He has toured in eight different international locations. He has recorded 520 tracks on 32 albums and self-published one other 30 tutorial books about stringed devices. His virtuosity facilities on guitar, autoharp, and banjo, and extends to the mandolin, bouzouki, mandocello, lap metal, and dobro.
Then alongside got here COVID-19. Venues closed and gigs had been cancelled. Reid and his spouse Joyce Andersen, a dynamic singer, songwriter and fiddle participant, have been sheltering in place with their sons Otto, 15, and Levi, 12. Their weekly digital live shows, broadcast dwell from their barn in York, Maine, now entice a worldwide viewers. We’ll get to these exhibits momentarily.
‘The Troubadour Chronicles’
Being pressured totally off the street by the pandemic in 2020, Reid discovered himself pulling outdated devices out of closets, reviving forgotten songs, and writing recent new music. Amongst his stash of unfinished tasks was a e-book, already 4 years within the making.
“The Troubadour Chronicles,” begun as a web-based weblog, is Reid’s epic quest by time and house to outline and perceive what he does for a dwelling.
“I don’t have the faintest concept why I turned a musician,” he says in the present day. “I got here from a household of academics. I went to school and all I did was play guitar.”
Reid traces his troubadour roots to historical past’s first “self-accompanied solo singers.” He finds himself wandering the villages of Italy as a lute participant within the 1500s. He imagines a kinship with an Appalachian banjo artist, an Hawaiian singer with a ukelele, the African kora participant, a Celtic balladier, a singing cowboy, and a Delta bluesman.
Throughout his analysis, the creator learn roughly 300 books and numerous internet pages, examined early sheet music on-line, and listened to tens of 1000’s of recordings. “I progressively realized I had a really worthy story to inform, and that I used to be as certified as anybody to inform it,” he says.
Harvey Reid’s labor of affection can also be a manifesto. He rails in protection of what he calls “peasant music” performed by proficient solo professionals. These are the overwhelming majority of working, however largely unheralded, troubadours, he says. They fill the hole between angst-ridden, druggie, ravenous artists and the million-download-selling pop stars who dominate the headlines. The creator takes on the business recording business, musical elitists, school music departments, and even the highschool band program.
His 500-page e-book “shouldn’t be aimed toward a market or cash stream and exhausting to elucidate or promote,” Reid admits. However it is just half the size of “Struggle and Peace,” he factors out.
“It type of mushroomed,” he says of “The Troubadour Chronicles.” “Quite a lot of the self discovery stuff started once we had our first little one. I began deconstructing myself about 15 years in the past, making an attempt to know – why am I enjoying music anyway? I don’t learn music. I haven’t had a music lesson in my life, however I observe my ass off.”
Married with kids
Previously, Reid remembers, he ceaselessly picked up a airplane ticket on Wednesdays and flew off to carry out 4 or 5 gigs from Thursday by Sunday, someplace like Michigan, Wisconsin, or Indiana. He self-recorded, self-manufactured, and offered numerous CDs within the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s. He flew at tree-level, he says, beneath the radar of the normal music enterprise. He purchased a home and saved just a little cash earlier than the recording business collapsed, changing vinyl and CDs with free downloads.
Reid’s unquestioned virtuosity continues to be on show in his many albums and on-line performances. However in 2020, he not often travelled past the native grocery retailer.
“Final 12 months was the primary 12 months in my life wherein I didn’t purchase any airplane tickets. The thrill of relaxation areas, motels and roadside eating places are vastly overrated,” he jokes.
“The pandemic has utterly upended our lives as musicians, however we have now no selection however to adapt,” Reid says, and counts himself fortunate amongst his friends. “I’ve owned my home for 27 years and haven’t any hire, and we drive older vehicles, and haven’t any scholar loans consuming us alive like lots of our youthful associates,” he says.
First married at age 49, Reid claims he didn’t need to be the sort of dad who was gone on a regular basis. “I by no means needed to be a part of the nationwide or worldwide music business crap. The true battle was tips on how to fall in love, get married, elevate a household, and have a standard life – and nonetheless be an artist. That was the actual rub.”
“I’m grateful,” the artist says after a pause. “I used to be fortunate sufficient to seek out one of the crucial proficient musicians on earth to spend my life with.”
Stay from residence
Properly earlier than the pandemic struck, the husband and spouse workforce had given just a few small live shows of their transformed Maine barn, dubbed the Puffin and Loon Lounge. In 2020, they experimented with broadcasting one-hour live shows from the identical tiny stage. A single unmanned digital camera on a tripod hyperlinks them on to the Web. Viewers entry the exhibits through YouTube, Fb, or Joyce Andersen’s web site JoyScream.com.
“It was largely Joyce’s concept to do a weekly present,” Harvey Reid says. “It was a Hail Mary transfer for us. It is about as pure a channel as there ever has been, like dwell radio was within the Thirties or vaudeville earlier than that. We’ve eliminated all the center males. There’s not even a sound man. It’s all we are able to deal with.”
The format is naked bare, Reid explains – no opening titles, no particular results, no modifying, visitor stars, video clips, or rolling credit. It’s simply two seasoned performers, taking turns or harmonizing collectively.
Seated on a stool, eyes clenched, immobile, prayerful, Reid embraces his autoharp as if it had been a misplaced little one. Joyce Andersen – eyes vast, perpetually swaying, animated – alternately caresses and assaults the fiddle tucked beneath her chin. There may be numerous tuning, twisting of knobs, plugging of cables, and swapping of devices. The online viewer misses nothing.
“Hey, how do you inform if a pair is married?” Reid says, filling time between tunes.
“They’re each yelling on the similar children,” Andersen replies. “Our children already made a snowman,” she says. “And the canine knocked it down,” her husband provides.
Then they launch into one thing utterly totally different. It could possibly be an historical ballad, a blues or bluegrass normal, a gospel hymn, sizzling jazz, a sea chanty, people tune, or nation basic. In latest weeks, they’ve carried out over 250 totally different songs.
“We’re delighted to be enjoying unpopular music,” Reid says with delight. “We’re lastly getting rewarded for being versatile. Most of our lives we’ve been punished for that.”
“Folks suppose that, once we play conventional music, all we need to do is cross it on the best way our ancestors did it. Heck with that! Probably the most enjoyable factor about outdated songs is that there’s no rulebook in any respect. You’re free as you wanna be to do something you wanna do.”
The 2 performers are clearly impressed with each other. Andersen is the bouncy smiling host. Reid is commonly somber, then abruptly elated. It’s as if, in the midst of a posh and well-practiced tune, he realizes he’s having enjoyable. He tells tales with ease, lectures on the origin of songs, or unwraps the historical past of a musical instrument.
The digital troubadour
The Joyce and Harvey present performs just like the live-feed from an early people membership, minus the smoke, murmuring and clinking glasses. Between 500 and 1,500 viewers tune in to every dwell present, or catch the recorded model on-line. The exhibits are free, however there’s a “donate” button, the web equal to a avenue busker’s open guitar case.
“We had been instantly struck with how well-received our exhibits have been,” the stay-at-home troubadour says. “Folks had been very enthusiastic. They’re surprisingly beneficiant. I used to be flabbergasted. It was sort of utopian.”
However the components is sensible. Saturated with slick video productions, repeat audiences seem captivated by this uncooked folksy format. The duo is proficient and charming. The fabric is various. The viewers is worldwide thanks, partly, to Reid’s many years of touring and protecting in contact with followers by mail and e-mail.
If it takes 100 gigs a 12 months with 100 viewers paying a canopy cost, what number of digital donations will maintain a two-musician household afloat? Subtract the price of airplane tickets, motels, hauling gear round, and lonely nights on the street. It’s a sensitive and unexplored calculation.
“We get no unemployment or enterprise assist from the federal government, apart from the stimulus verify way back,” Reid says. “It looks like my early days of being a avenue musician, although now we’re enjoying on a digital avenue.”
“It’s a really totally different world. I can promote worldwide to my scattered viewers, and the books even get printed in different international locations when individuals there purchase them, with out problems with transport, customs obligation, or stock. I’m reveling within the freedom and energy it provides me.”
However is it sustainable? Reid shakes his head. For a troubadour dwelling day-to-day, the time period has little that means.
“This 12 months has been each disorienting and energizing,” says the renegade musician. He’s glad to be residence together with his children. Time is wealth. This week, he provides with undisguised pleasure, he and Joyce wrote three new songs collectively.
“It’s a a lot better way of life than the extra celebrated touring musician factor,” Reid concludes. “If there weren’t an invisible and lethal illness swirling round us, this new actuality could be fairly superior.”
Copyright 2020 by J. Dennis Robinson, all rights reserved. Dennis is the creator of a dozen books on subjects together with Strawbery Banke Museum, Wentworth by the Sea Lodge, and the 1873 Smuttynose ax murders. His new e-book, MUSIC HALL, has been named finest 2020 historical past e-book by the Impartial Ebook Publishers Affiliation. Search for it at a bookstore close to you or go to Amazon.com. He will be reached at dennis@mySeacoastNH.com or go to www.jdennisrobinson.com on-line.
Go & Do
Catch the ultimate 2020 digital vacation live performance by Harvey Reid and Joyce Andersen broadcast dwell at 8 p.m. on YouTube, Friday Dec. 18. Their annual live performance options conventional Christmas music on guitar, fiddle, and a wide range of conventional devices. The live performance is free (donations accepted) on YouTube or through Joyscream.com, broadcast from the Puffin & Loon Lounge within the barn on the couple’s York, Maine residence and will probably be archived on-line. Harvey Reid’s new e-book, “The Troubadour Chronicles: A Historical past, a Celebration, and a Manifesto” is on the market in paper and book codecs on Amazon.com.