APPLE SEEDS: Strings on my bucket

Washtub Bass or Gutbucket


APPLE SEEDS: Strings on my bucket

Strings have been a positive contributor to my life for as long as I can remember.   Those strings have come in a variety of material, length and meaning. 

Any farmers in the crowd?  Binder twine has so many uses – We would tie that scratchy ‘string’ around our waists, as reins for imaginary horses, galloping through fields while we saved our ranch from bandits – in the nick of time, just before the horse show, where we ceremoniously jumped over anything we could drag into the middle of our laneway. 

Cat’s Cradle  - no I haven’t messed up the iconic Harry Chapin song.  Although perhaps he drew some inspiration from this simple game transforming string into creations, played by young girls in buses and bedrooms everywhere.

Corking – No – This time it isn’t about wine.  My sisters and I would spend hours, with scraps of yarn and string, creating a plethora of potholders and tiny, little rugs. 

Gut Bucket or the “washtub” bass – I was recently reminded of rollicking family gatherings with Uncle George on his 12 string, spoons for those of us less talented, and the bass line reverberating through the gut bucket we all lined up to play.

Today for me, strings hold a new fascination.  The haunting sound of a bow being drawn across the strings of a viola, violin, or cello gets into my bones. Put that sound into rock music and you have a winner.   I cannot take credit for actual musical knowledge of any kind and my ramblings are written from the perspective of a fan (fans hold a special place in this world – ask a musician who doesn’t have any). 

My first memorable ‘strings in rock’ experience was a John Mellencamp concert at Exhibition Stadium in 1988.  I was captivated by the girl (Lisa Germano) rocking the fiddle.  Jim Cuddy and Blue Rodeo are exceptional performers, particularly in an intimate setting like the Empire Theatre, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of Anne Lindsay.  (Okay, I am lying a little bit – Jim Cuddy did earn some of my attention)

The violin set up my string fascination, but the cello holds some sacred ground as well.  Although classic examples of the cello’s role in rock music have to be Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ or the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, but I have become enamoured with a higher profile cello.  

A few years ago I bought Damien Rice’s album O (released in 2002) His poetic, dark lyrics throughout the album express a degree of heartache that I would probably have outgrown if not for that rich sound sliding around among the vocals.   The first four bars of “Volcano” grabs you immediately with those haunting and passionate strings. 

Lisa Hannigan’s clear voice ramps up the honesty and interest to most of the tracks on the album but it is the sound of the cello which keeps that CD close to the top of the pile.    CHECK OUT THE VIDEO

Thanks to the eccentric flavours of my radio station cronies, my most recent “nothing mello in this cello” experience is Kevin “K.O.” Olusola and his interpretation of Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’.  This guy takes a cello, adds some vocal beat-boxing, and creates this incredible sound from air and strings.   CLICK FOR VIDEO

If you were ever under the impression (misguided) that playing a stringed instrument wasn’t cool, get your Google on and check out the 2Cellos.  The brilliant pairing of Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser is musical version of the Fast and the Furious.  

As a lover of all things AC/DC, their cover of Thunderstruck and Highway to Hell made it evident to me that rock stars defy definition.  Combine unbridled energy and skill with sex appeal and a cheesy kind of humour, and this duo is knocking it out of the park every time. 

Scroll down to watch and then be prepared to sit there for a while and watch some more.  BTW – the re-hairing of their bows must be a full time job.  

I may not know why the cello isn’t spelled with a ‘ch’, and the fact it rhymes with a fun, colourful dessert adds to the appeal, but I can safely say that strings are on my bucket list, in one form or another. I will play something with strings. 

My guitar picking is rudimentary, and the violin I have never learned to play gathers dust in the corner of my bedroom.  But I’m not done.  My bucket is far from full, or should I say empty…  It depends on your perspective.   

2CELLOS - Thunderstruck [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

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