Back in the Redstone Vaults

I know it is hard to maintain a productive atmosphere during these times. The best thing you can do to avoid not meeting your own requirements, is to keep those requirements low and only set yourself goals that are easy to reach. Strainful Train could have easily done so, after all we have already achieved everything that’s achievable for a band. We traveled out of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, one of our songs was transcribed into tabs and we wasted at least 100 € of gig payment on beer. We could have leaned back and enjoyed the last years of our lives, Benny would have committed himself to stock trading again, Hendrik and Tim would have gone back to mushroom cultivation. Unfortunately the band has the habit to stick to the quirky ideas they have during the long bar nights. One of those ideas was (after Tim elucidated how funny things are, that are a bit tinier than usual) to make another vinyl, just a wee bit smaller than the first one. A ten inch mini-LP.

During the pandemic times, the event industry was not that active. So Pietro Rossi of Redstone Productions was able to spare some time for us. His studio vault in Amsterdam was hygienically harmless, so why not visiting the temple of analog audio gear and recording some live material for the mini-LP. All of us just took some days off and we went there. Old school, without Irish refinements, without professional support in the background. But rough and gruff, like in the old days, just Hendrik, Benny and Tim. I have to admit, that it was an intimidating concept. In the ecstasy of playing along with Denise and Brian, it is not a problem to miss a tone here and there. But that doesn’t work anymore with only the three of us. Every note has to fit perfectly, that is why we rehearsed aggravatedly (but nowhere near enough).

As we arrived in Amsterdam, yet again we met a perfectly prepared Mr. Rossi. A team of handsome and competent audio engineers set up the microphones and checked the signal flows. The first day was reserved for arriving and warming up, considering what laid ahead of us, we wanted to be primed properly. We spent the coming days completely in the well illuminated vaults of the Redstone Studios. Even the fact that this place felt like a motherly womb to us, didn’t protect us from the pressure and stress these recordings meant, the acoustic nakedness doesn’t allow mistakes. Many attempts were needed until the prophet was pleased. Fortunately, during this whole time we were supported by a very patient Mr. Rossi. His team swiped the sweat from our foreheads and did a perfect job recording the whole struggle. The days were hard, but worth it. At the end, we had four songs on the hard drives and a good feeling in our guts. Pietro rewarded us with an online concert together with his friend and songwriter Baschira. We performed an interpretation of “Bella Ciao” that would have made the crowd tear down the building, if there was any crowd. Strange times. We had so much fun with Baschira and his friends, that he invited us to an original Italian midnight pasta. We gladly accepted the invitation and a wonderful time in Amsterdam came to a wonderful end.

At this moment the audio mastermind Mr. Rossi is still precisely processing the recordings. Dust the vinyl record players and stay tuned for some mesmerizing new songs!

Keep it Reel

Strainful Train is proudly presenting another episode of “Keep it Reel”! In today’s online lesson, we are laying hands on an extraordinarily fascinating kind of tune, the Reel. We’ll find two groups of four notes each, adding up to an eighth-note bar. And within each group there are two heavy-light pairs. The Glory Reel is a predominantly northern Irish tune, so it is played with mostly short, punchy single bow strokes. So grab your fiddle and jam along!

The Stroller!

It’s 6 in the morning. The first weak sun rays vaporize the dew from the grass, some dozy birds have just begun to chirp and somewhere in the distance you hear him. His worn leather shoes traipse through the meadows while he is whistling a jolly melody. There he is, the stroller!

IV & III

Some of you may have feared or even awaited it and some of you probably just wouldn’t care. The forever unknown folk trio has entered the cloud! They bring you the finest folk from the Irish cottages, digitized and in high resolution, to your terminal devices. Strainful Train Vol. 3 and Strainful Train Vol. 4 are now available on Spotify, iTunes and Deezer.
And if anybody wondered: yes there is also a Vol. 1 and a Vol. 2. As soon as we find out, how to digitize wax cylinders, they will also be uploaded.

The Fellowship of the Burek

Once a year, in a cold night somewhere below the steep cliffs of the Baltic Sea, the band gathers for an ancient ritual to decide about their future. The rugs are unrolled and a little fire is lit. Benny fills his pipe, his glance wanders to the distance and he awaits the contact with his ancestors. Hendrik and Tim sit next to him and drink beer. After an hour or two, the crickets stop chirping, the fire flickers in unnatural colors and the air is filled with ghostly whispering. Benny has made contact with the ancients. He begins to talk in a long forgotten language and his body sways slowly. The whispers get louder. Tim nervously tries to roll a cigarette and Hendrik tensely sips his beer. Suddenly, the fire dies out and the whispers are gone. Everything is quiet, not even the sea dares to form a wave. “What have you been told, Benny?” asks Hendrik, “Where should we go next?”. Benny takes a long last puff with his pipe, opens his eyes and says: “Affalterbach”.
So we had our next target: Benny´s lovely hometown Affalterbach, somewhere in the Swabian south of Germany. Since Tim attended a logistics course during his coercive measures of the job center, he knew, that such a distance should not be traveled without stopovers. So Benny contacted some friends, pubs and local musicians self-help groups in south Germany to organize some travel-through concerts (by sending postcards from our merchandise, not joking). It worked out, we had few confirmations and a little tour was becoming reality.
Continue reading “The Fellowship of the Burek”

Brother Andy was in town!

Brother Andy is a good looking, tattooed lad with a husky voice and a fancy hat. He likes good beer, deep conversations and northern lights. Which he’s able to observe a lot, up there in the northern outback of Finland, with its long nights and its high depression statistics. Maybe that is the reason for him writing this special kind of wholesome and dreamy blues music. And it was our promise to bring this music to Germany. Hendrik knew him well, since he recorded, mixed and produced his Album. So Andy was invited to Germany for some double concerts of Strainful Train and Brother Andy feat. Strainful Train.

We’ve never played together with him, but the modern music business doesn’t allow doubts or rehearsals. So nearly without any preparation, a concert was arranged in the well-known retreat of Wismars freethinkers, the Tikozigalpa. And even though the most influential German musical reformer, Peter Maffay, was live-broadcasting his seventieth birthday in the local cinema at the same night, Brother Andy’s attraction enticed so many folk enthusiasts, that people had to peek through the packed doors to get a hint of his engaging stage presence. The concert was a blast and due to the already described insufficient preparation, we weren’t able to perform a proper encore. A problem, we were going to encounter at every of the three scheduled concerts of this weekend. The second one took place at the cosy cultural hot spot of Klütz, “alte Molkerei”, formerly known as “Café Miluh”. And the third one in the yard of a friend in Heidekaten, a village Benny is going to call ‘home’ in the near future. A little stage was improvised by a few euro pallets and an old carpet, a few straw bales were hauled in front of it and the whole village was invited. It was a beautiful night; the yard filled with people attracted by the sound of Brother Andy; the illuminated trees and the starlit sky created an atmosphere that put him on the spot. After all, we promised to visit him. And now we expect at least a concert below the northern lights of Finland. But until then, there is some work to do. Are you ready for our new album ‘IV’? We are. And are you ready for us? Because we are coming! See you next week on our tour through Germany!

Brother Andy is in town!

In the northern Finnish outback, the days are short, the liquors are strong and the people are rare. This seems to be the perfect environment for writing superb folk music. And we are going to bring the living proof for that to germany. Brother Andy is coming and together with Strainful Train he will enchant you with a colourful mix of folk, blues and Finnish traditionals.
Here are the dates:

 

You value true and original handmade music?

Then come and have a look into our experience of live recording a ‘cottage living room’ album. Pietro Rossi, the audio mastermind, supervised the Strainful Train recording in Ireland and shares his insights with you.

Our gratitude goes to RedStone Productions for creating such a wholesome recap video of our recording sessions with Denise and Brian.

The West Coast awaits us!

We were welcomed at the lovely home of Hendriks friends Caroline and the other Brian somewhere west of Dublin. Their living room was occupied and prepared by us for the magical moment, the first musical gathering of the whole band. Percussion and Fiddle have never seen each other before. And magical it was. Denise’s soft and fragile violin tones danced around Brian’s ecstatic Bodhrán rhythms and for a short moment there was harmony and world peace in this living room. I was amazed and you will be too, when you listen to that future album. But first, there was still much work to be done, the material had to be worked out by everybody, we needed to practise a lot.
For example in Denise’s garden, the neighbours seemed to be okay with that. We also used some live sessions at different venues to massage the new songs into our minds. Some of you may remember Lahinch, the surfer village on the west coast, where we played on every available stage two years ago. Brian lives not far from there and we made good on our promise of the German invasion. We took over his house and rearranged the complete interior into a perfectly improvised studio. Including special sound features like the dripping of a leaking cistern, the occasional barking of Molly and Silo and the rattling engines of passing tractors.
Pietro, the godfather of sound, arrived a day later with some neat microphones with the worth more than a used sports car in his backpack. From now on we had four days to record 10 tracks. Let me explain how such a recording day looked like (warning, change of time form ahead): When the first birds begin to sing, Benny opens his eyes, welcomes the beautiful day, smears a wee bit of earwax on his shoes and goes for a morning stroll. Since everybody is still asleep as he returns an hour later, he begins baking bread for the breakfast.
By now the first of his band members may have awoken and is starting his morning routine to get rid of his hangover. Benny just keeps on killing time by fixing stuff in the household until everybody is sitting at the breakfast table, the last piece of furniture we allowed in Brians house. By now it is usually around 12. After the feast everybody takes their position in the “studio” and the recording begins.
All the songs are being recorded live, which means every instrument plays at the same time, if somebody screws up, the whole take is for the trash can, like a business adminsitration degree. This puts quite a bit of pressure on the musicians. As soon as the recording starts, you can see the sweat running. And when the last tone is dying away, everybody is nervously checking the faces of the others for signs of guilt.
When nobody declares him or herself guilty of screwing up the take, the headphones are put on and the material is checked in detail for traces of screwups until the culprit is exposed. This procedure is repeated until the sun and the mood go down. A few beers and a cigarette for dinner and the day is called a day.

I do not want to hide, that there have been many difficulties in the process, but due to Brian’s immense project management skills, Hendrik’s persuasiveness and Tim’s outstanding cooking abilities, we had a full album recorded, before the week had passed. We returned to the beautiful Egan’s Bar to celebrate the outcome and have a little farewell concert. The pub was packed and even the nobility showed up, King Sean honored us with his presence. It was a wonderful night, now we had everything we wished for. 

It is time, my friends!

It began on a cold Thursday evening. Somewhere in Western Germany, we waited at a parking lot in the shadow of an ancient monastery. It was our meeting point and we were on time. Nobody said a word, we were nervous, we were not used to the Prophet being late. Did he have an epiphany that made him  change his plans? It wouldn’t surprise me, “the one who shines upon all”, as his cult following call him, always forged his own destiny. But suddenly he stepped out of the shadows. His ibex wool hat and his sturdy jacket inspired awe and deep admiration and his face was smiling warmly. He said “It is time, my friends. Let us begin our journey.” And so we did.

We were back on track again and here are the naked facts: Hendrik had reactivated all his contacts to Ireland to organize a new album recording with local musicians. The congenial percussionist Brian Fleming was willing to add his magical Bodhrán beats to our tracks. And we were elated to hear, that the lovely Denise Boyle and her fiddle were there to support us. To make everything perfect from the technical perspective, our dear friend Pietro Rossi from Redstone Productions got appointed the responsible audio engineer. The gear for the recording was professionally prepared by him, whoever is interested in technical details of his preparations can check out his vlog he did for this project:

https://www.youtube.com/redstoneproductions

We stopped over in Amsterdam to pick up the gear. And nothing else, Amsterdam is boring and not worth a visit, we spent two days there and we did absolutely nothing worth mentioning so lets skip this topic.
The old route to Ireland via Great Britain was blocked due to the dawning Brexit like the road to Fuchsia City by a sleeping Snorlax. So we decided to bypass this erratic country by ferry from Cherbourg. We weren’t able to cross France without filling up our cheese supplies. We annihilated the supplies of Neuf-Chatelle in a little French countryside supermarket. From now on, everytime the car was opened, people around randomly passed out. Hmmm, I love the smell of moldy cheese stored in a car parked in the sun.

We spent our ferry ride to Dublin rehearsing at one of the ships public areas. People seemed to like it, we were bought enough beer to have problems distinguishing between the strong swell and alcohol induced balance problems. To be honest, the swell was quite heavy, Hendrik was amazed (and I was shocked) how deep red the area of our ferry route was on his wind speed app. Even though I had cause for thought during the night, we survived the trip and reached Dublin the next morning. A few neglected rights of way later we adapted to the left-hand traffic and headed to our first gig in Newbridge. The McDonnells bar is one of the most visited bars in the area. Even on a Monday evening, there were way too many people in the audience for our small sound system. After some complaints that the loudly chatting folks on the other side of the bar couldn’t understand Benny’s poetic lyrics and we should pump up the volume, we danced on the thin line between feedback problems and unsatisfied listeners. The concert was still good and our struggle was forgotten after the show, our beloved midland friends from the last tour showed up and we got invited to an after show party in a tiny micro kitchen. People got wasted, unpacked instruments and started to sing, it was the most compressed form of Irish lifestyle I ever witnessed. Unfortunately it also led to us heading for the first rehearsal with Denise and Brian, the event we all were going nuts about for the whole week, pretty hangover.

 

Will we make it? Will this album ever be recorded? Why does Benny smell so good? Stay tuned and you’ll find out.