Ace Pickin’ and Sweet Harmony

Dakota Dave Hull and Sean Blackburn · Ace Pickin’ and Sweet Harmony
Ace Pickin’ and Sweet Harmony
Dakota Dave Hull & Sean Blackburn
©℗ 2017 Arabica Productions #CF20

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The Musicians
  • Sean Blackburn vocals, guitar
  • Bob Bovee French harp
  • Cal Hand Dobro
  • Dakota Dave Hull vocals, guitar
  • Peter Ostroushko  mandolin, fiddle, harmony vocals
  • Becky Riemer harmony vocals
  • Curby Rule acoustic bass guitar
  • Butch Thompson clarinet
  • The Fanettes (vocal chorus) are Bob Bovee, Dakota Dave Hull, Sean Blackurn, Becky Riemer, John Ashton, Peter Ostroushko and Curby Rule
  • The Diskettes (vocal chorus) are Cal Hand, Butch Thompson, Sean Blackburn, Dakota Dave Hull, Peter Ostroushko, Becky Riemer, Curby Rule, John Ashton and Bob Bovee
The Pickers & Singers
  • Sean Blackburn has been playing and singing professionally since 1969, and seriously some of that time. He played guitar on an early Robin Williams demo that never sold, did a rhythm track on Lonnie Knight’s first album because Lonnie broke his thumb, and did two songs on the Live at the Extemp album with his former partner, David Hughes. His present partner, Dakota Dave Hull, is much taller and wears a hat. Sean is very interested in corresponding with people interested in trick roping and lariat spinning.
  • Dakota Dave Hull has been playing music on the road for the last seven years and looks it. He was played backup guitar for Utah Phillips, Robin and Linda Williams, Jim Ringer and others. After spending a year in Greyhound busses as part of a duo with Peter Ostroushko he somehow managed to hook up with Sean Blackburn while smuggling a piece of meat into the New Riverside Cafe. They are now in their third year of working together. Dakotey has also been a part of a songwriting partnership with Jerry Clark for the last ten years. They’ve written several beautiful songs, three of which are featured here. Dave plays a Hoffman guitar and a Bellville guitar, not necessarily at the same time (an exception is “Jingle in my Jeans” on this album, where he does play both at the same time, with great difficulty). Both of these guitars were made in Minneapolis. Dave was made in Fargo.
  • Peter Ostroushko has been one of the busiest Minneapolis musicians for years. After spending a year on Greyhounds with Dave, he spent a year in a van with Robin and Linda Williams, and then a year playing electric mandolin and fiddle with the Sky Blue Water Boys. He can be heard on several records, most notably Cal Hand’s record, Robin and Linda’s albums, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks lp and the Live at the Extemp album with Dave. The heavy breathing between the hot fiddle licks on this album is Peter’s. He says it’s his trademark.
  • Curby Rule has been playing with the Sky Blue Water Boys for the last three years. He has been playing bass since Halloween of 1968 when he and a friend flipped to see who had to fill in for a missing bass player.
  • Butch Thompson has been playing professionally for over fifteen years. He has two records of Jelly Roll Morton piano tunes on the Biograph label, in addition to his work on others. He has been recorded with the Hall Brothers jazz band, with Chet Ely, and with Kid Thomas and his band, to name a few. He is currently on tour in Europe.
  • Cal Hand was with the Sorry Muthas from 1968 to 1972. They had one record, Greatest Hits, Vol. III, on the Symposium label. Since that time he has been doing a lot of session work, playing on albums by Gamble Rogers, Steve Young, and Peter Lang, among others. He also toured with Leo Kottke in 1974 and played on three of Leo’s fine albums on Capitol records. His own record, The Wylie Butler, is on the Takoma label.
  • Bob Bovee has been playing professionally since 1971. In addition to his fine harp playing he is a great singer and guitar player. He says his biggest influences on the harmonica are Sonny Terry, Hammie Nixon, Saul Broudy, and Mantovani. He keeps his harmonicas clean by sipping Jack Daniel’s through a straw while playing. His record, Pop Wagner and Bob Bovee, is on the Train on the Island label, just like this one.
  • Becky Riemer played her first job at the Coffeehouse Extempore in 1971. She spent a couple of years doing coffeehouses and colleges before joining the Wolverines Classic Jazz Orchestra as the singer in 1973. After about a year with them she began working on her own again and can be heard on the Live at the Extemp album. She is presently the lead singer with the Sky Blue Water Boys, with whom she has worked for about two years.
Track List
  1. Old Fashioned Love
  2. Blues for Dixie
  3. Drought Year
  4. Hillbilly Swing
  5. Give the Fiddler a Dram
    Midnight on the Water
  6. Jingle in My Jeans
  7. The Old Campaigns
  8. When You Go
  9. Beaumont Rag
  10. Fan It
  11. That Palomino Pal O’ Mine

This album was recorded during Marx Brothers week on Minneapolis television. We had as much fun recording this record as they must have had making those movies. Most of the songs on this album are from, or reflect, the times when those movies were made.

ace pickin' band
Front Row: Cal Hand, Dakota Dave Hull, Curby Rule, Butch Thompson
Back Row: Bob Bovee, Sean Blackburn, Becky Riemer, John Ashton, Peter Ostroushko

The Songs

Old Fashioned Love We learned Old Fashioned Love from the singing of a friend of ours, Eric Peltoniemi. It was originally from a musical but Western Swing got ahold of it with Bob Wills, recording on September 24, 1935. Dave sings lead with backup vocals by Sean and Becky. Sean plays the guitar break.

Blues for Dixie Another one of our favorite Bob Wills tunes. This one was first recorded on November 10, 1947. Sean sings this one and Dave plays the guitar lead.

Drought Year A home-made song about the great drought of 1976. Dave sings the lead with harmony by Sean and Becky. Sean plays the guitar break and fills.

Hillbilly Swing This song was recorded in 1938 by Jimmie Revard and his Oklahoma Playboys. nobody seems to be willing to take credit for writing this one, even on the original 78. Sean does the singing with a chorus by the Bisketts. Sean plays the first guitar break, Dave the second.

Give the Fiddler a Dram & Midnight on the Water Give the Fiddler a Dram is a song about a real person. Midnight on the Water comes to us from the fiddling of the great Benny Thomasson. Dave sings lead with vocal backup by Sean and Becky. Sean takes the break and plays the fills in Fiddler. Dave plays the guitar break in Midnight on the Water and Sean plays the harmony at the end.

Jingle in My Jeans So many people think that musicians don’t know the first thing about investing their money. It is time to dispell that myth. We know where our money goes. Every drop. Sean sings and fingerpicks the first lead and Dave plays Ted Bogan style rhythm and flatpicks the second lead.

The Old Campaigns This song is really about political and labor unrest in the 1930s. It applies equally well to the sixties. We sing it with hope for future campaigns. Dave sings lead and Sean adds the harmony. Dave plays the short break, Sean plays the guitar fills.

When You Go It really is true, and can be verified by piles of extensive research, that what the world really needed before this song came along was one more lost love song. Now, at long last, here it is. Sean sings the lead with a harmony by Dave and Peter. Sean does the fine fingerpicking and Dave does the flatpicking.

Beaumont Rag is one of the hottest of the Texas contest tunes. First learned from Bill Hinkley, about five years ago. Sean plays the swing-style rhythm, Dave picks the lead.

Fan It This one was recorded by Bill Boyd’s Cowboy Ramblers on October 27, 1936. A version was recorded by Bob Wills just a little over a year earlier. Written by Jimmie Jaxon, a black entertainer, this song was a standard of most of the Western Swing groups. Sean sings this one with a harmony by Dave and a chorus by the Fanettes. Dave plays the first guitar break, Sean the last.

That Palomino Pal o’ Mine was recorded on December 1st, 1947 by the Sons of the Pioneers with Roy Rogers singing the lead. Sean sings Roy’s part and Dave, Peter and Becky fill in the rest of the chorus. Dave plays lead guitar.

We owe a great debt to Bob Wills, who helped us forget the hard times, and to Woody Guthrie, who helped us remember.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Sean Blackburn

Well on the way home from school me and my friend and I “Dakota” Dave, were talking to our friends about recording an album of our favorite songs and two of them turned out to be instrumentals anyway everybody said “gee that would be swell” let’s go over to Dave’s house because his mom will let you smoke and they don’t care if you drink beer but they got mad when we tried to get the parakeet drunk so then we went to a “studio” and played all the songs by microphones and stuff and you can tell where we were having fun but Dad said I shouldn’t leave in the part where somebody burped but it turned out okay then one day we went to the lake and I hooked my back pocket and pulled myself off the dock into a canoe and got three stitches but other than that it was okay.

©℗ 1977 Dakota Dave Hull and Sean Blackburn

Notes by Garrison Kiellor

Well, boys, I just heard the tape of your brand-new record and isn’t it a genuine beauty.

I have heard you play these songs in some of the rattiest spots on all of the wrong sides of town, and the songs always came through clean and simple despite the drunks and the dirt and the general dog-vomit tendencies in the air, and now they have come through on this recording, which may be the harder trip. Recording is sure a killer. You crawl into a studio and they wire you up and stick the business end into a Big Hemi mixer channeled and chopped and suddenly you are liable to forget what it was that made you play music in the first place. Well, it sounds to me like you had a good time in there.

Anyway, the songs survived it and the feeling comes through just as when you sang them first. And now they are released and free to beat it on out of here and live their own lives, to be fruitful and to fall among thieves and to go up to glory. So I am proud of you both and hope you won’t mind that I think of you as artists. It doesn’t mean you have to play in higher-class establishments. Just that you should take good care of yourselves. …Garrison Keillor

  • Produced by Sean Blackburn, Dakota Dave Hull and Peter Ostroushko
  • Reissue produced by Dakota Dave Hull
  • Recorded by Steve Wiese at Creation Audio Studios, Bloomington, Minnesota, July 11-15, 1977, in the afternoons
  • Digital transfer and mastering by Steve Wiese, Miles Hanson and Dave Hull at Creation Audio, Minneapolis, November, 2016
  • Photography by Elisabeth S. Paper
  • Graphics by Dakota Dave Hull
  • Reissue Layout by Nick Lethert
  • Notes by Garrison Keillor
  • Insert notes by Dakota Dave Hull and Sean Blackburn
  • Cal Hand appears through the courtesy of Takoma records
  • Thanks to Jerry Clark for his ideas and support
  • Thanks to John Ashton, the Iowa Cornflake, for keeping us supplied with coffee, cigarettes and beer
  • Special thanks to the Coffeehouse Extempore for the air-conditioned rehearsal space
  • This album is dedicated to Woody Guthrie and Bob Wills
  • Train on the Island Records is associated with the June Apple Musicians’ Cooperative in Minneapolis.