Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pete Foutain and the Kings of Dixieland - Shine on, Harvest Moon

Available on eMusic, Amazon, and iTunes.

This tune has become one of my stand-bys at Fizz. Indispensable, I might even dub it. Why? Take a listen...

In the first 40 seconds you hear only a solo banjo, playing the main melody with rapid strumming. It's a little bit mysterious--it makes you focus in, wondering where it's gonna go. As a DJ, an intro like this is useful if you want to really shift gears, or give dancers a second to catch their breath and then find their next partner. However, it's a bit on the long side, and sometimes I start the track at the very end of the solo bit if I want to keep the energy building from the previous song.

Right around 40 seconds, percussion comes in to, and the banjo starts to play the melody at a more defined tempo (around 160 bpm). It's chill but rhythmic, and fun for dancing. But it only lasts for two phrases.

Then the whole band comes in, with trumpet leading and the trombone and clarinet right behind. The transition adds a smooth but really large burst of energy to a room full of dancers. Try playing it, and watch as your crowd gets peppy. The trumpet, clarinet (the leader, Pete Fountain), and trombone each take half a chorus, followed by some group improvisation. Then the band drops out, and it's back to just the banjo and percussion for a little coda. Cheesy good fun.

It's over in under 3 minutes, and that includes the long prelude. Sometimes I wish it was a bit longer. Other times I appreciate that it's so short--like giving everyone the musical equivalent of a shot of whiskey and letting them loose again.

One of the things that stands out about this song is the quality of the drumming. It's nicely audible, relaxed and swinging, and has some fun rhythmic fills, all of which make it much easier to dance to than a lot of Dixieland. The songs rhythm is accessible and infectious (banjo helps a lot with that!), great for spinning in a room where you've got some people out for their first night of East Coast, and some that have been coming to the dance for years.

Oh yeah, if you're not familiar with the tune, there quite a few vocal versions out there. Search for renditions by Leon Redbone, the Ink Spots, or the Asylum Street Spankers.

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