These days, what with the lack of album sales, the downloading, the streaming and the increased cost of recording, it’s a real leap of faith to release an album of new music. Now imagine having recorded a new album and then scrapping the whole thing and starting over again. Such was the case with Try To Make It Fly, the new album by the Lonesome Ace Stringband.
Max Malone (bass) had moved to Horsefly B.C. with his wife in 2019, leaving Chris Coole (banjo) and John Showman (fiddle) back in Toronto. The year 2021 saw Max returning for a few weeks to write and record new material. Keeping in mind the need for physical distancing, they recorded their individual parts to a click track instead of together like they’d normally done.
“Mostly because the repertoire was so new it didn’t feel as settled,” said Chris at this year’s Mariposa Folk Festival. “It didn’t sound like us so we scrapped the whole album.”
“We sunk thousands of dollars into it at that point,” adds John. “That was a tough band-aid to pull off.”
By 2022, the pandemic restrictions had been lifted and the band was touring again and could finally play the songs live. What they found out was that they didn’t like all of the material. The songs and tunes were tweaked and adjusted every night so that when they went back to the studio it was a totally different experience. They were relaxed with what they had, having played it so much on the road. And if something didn’t sound right they had no problem starting again from scratch.
“You’re not going to remember the thing you scrapped,” said John. “You’re going to remember what you wound up with.”
While Max was building a homestead in British Columbia, Chris and John continued to write material and record videos back in Toronto for social media as a way to stay connected with fans. Given the COVID restrictions in place, they came up with unique ways and locations to record outside. The recording equipment used was the same type as in studios so the quality was good enough to compile the best selections into an album called Afield.
“One of them was recorded in Coole’s small fishing boat! That was one of the best experiences,” John said.
Before lockdown, the Lonesome Ace Stringband was very busy with touring throughout Canada, the States and Europe. Luckily, that kind of schedule returns once Try To Make It Fly is released on Oct. 13, with the band on the road from the middle of October until early December with a break of three weeks in November.
“We were starting to feel like we were getting more recognition, meeting a lot of people and making good connections with other musicians,” said John.
The videos the band has created for social media have received a lot of positive feedback, mainly as a result of the humourous content. 'Smoke On The Shoulder' sees John in his kitchen holding an eight-pound pork shoulder while Chris and Max, in pig costumes, play their instruments. What follows is a musical recipe on the best way to season and cook the big cut of meat.
“Chris, Max and I have worked together so much that if one of us has a zany idea we’re pretty much likely to run with it,” John said. “If it misses the mark, at least you had fun.”
For more on the Lonesome Ace Stringband and Try To Make It Fly, go to lonesomeace.com.