OwlTail

Cover image of Contra Pulse

Contra Pulse

Contra Pulse interviews musicians about the past, present, and future of contra dance music.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

Popular episodes

All episodes

Warning: This podcast data isn't working.

This means that the episode rankings aren't working properly. Please revisit us at a later time to get the best episodes of this podcast!

Podcast cover

Episode 35 - Sue Songer

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are The Black Cat Jig/Asher (George Penk, fiddle; Clyde Curley, mandolin; Sue Songer, piano) from A Portland Selection 1, Riding on a Load of Hay/The Golden Stud © Paul Roche and recorded virtually by The Portland Megaband, Pretty Peggy (George Penk, fiddle; Clyde Curley, octave mandolin; Sue Songer, piano) from A Portland Selection 1, and Du Petit Sarny (Betsy Branch, fiddle; Clyde Curley, mandolin; Sue Songer, piano) from A Portland Play Along Selection.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or download the transcript directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Sue Songer in action:Playing piano with her longtime band Joyride (Sue Songer, Erik Weberg, George Penk, and Jeff Kerssen-Griepat) the Portland Roadhouse during the Cascade Promenade in March, 2018.Another Joyride video with Sue playing fiddle during the Northwest Folklife Festival in 2017Here is the Joyride websiteYou can’t say Sue Songer without immediately thinking of The Portland Megaband.Watch her conduct the band at a Portland dance in 2013, filmed by Doug PlummerYou don’t want to miss the epic pandemic era Megaband video that Sue helped organize in March, 2021 (Sue is of course in her signature tux ;)Sometimes she also helps organize and conduct other community bands!The Pittsfield Open Band in Ann Arbor, MI in 2018Here’s the South Coast Dance Orchestra (OR) in 2017, a project of the South Coast Folk Society A Lifetime of Achievements! In 2019 CDSS awarded Sue the Lifetime Contribution Award for her contributions to the world of contra dance music!Doug Plummer captured some highlights from the celebratory gathering in Portland, OR on 3/30/19 during which Sue’s award was presented.Rob Hoffman also created a longer video of the full ceremony, which you can view here.PublicationsAlong with her co-editor, Clyde Curley, Sue helped to compile the three volumes of The Portland Collection: Contra Dance Music in the Pacific Northwest. In the podcast you heard selections from some of the accompanying CDs.Sue’s most recent publication, David A. Kaynor: Living Music and Dance encompasses and celebrates the many contributions David has made to the world of contra dance. Order your copy here!Here’s the screen shot showing Kaynor’s calligraphy mentioned in the interview

2hr 27mins

19 Oct 2021

Rank #1

Podcast cover

Episode 34 - Amy Larkin

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are The Brumley Brae/Skippin' Cat, Hangman's Reel, The High Part Of The Road/All The Rage, and Four Potatoes/Catharsis - George Booker, all from Uncle Gizmo’s self-titled album, Uncle Gizmo!Special thanks to Max Newman unearthing his vintage recording of the Uncle Gizmo album.Check out our upcoming live event! Mentors and Inspirations – a panel discussion with Becky Tracy, Pete Sutherland, Rodney Miller, and Kate Barnes. On Monday October 18th at 7:30 Eastern.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or download the transcript directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Amy Larkin in action:This is a video of her playing with Heyday (Amy on fiddle, Shirley White on fiddle, Jonathan Larkin on accordion, George White on guitar) at the Concord Scout House in 2012Here she is playing twin fiddles with Eric Boodman, backed up by her frequent collaborator, guitarist Benjamin Foss, at the Sandywoods Contra DanceBut twin fiddles is nothing compared to this gig with Charlie Pilzer’s superband “Not Enough Fiddles,” seen here playing at NEFFA in 2015She also plays Cajun and zydeco music with her husband, Jonathan Larkin and their bandmate Aaron Mayo in the Allons-y BandSome other people mentioned in this interview:Did you know that some of the people Amy mentions in this interview have also appeared on Contra Pulse!As mentioned above, Amy was part of Charlie Pilzer’s conglomeration - “Not Enough Fiddles.” Julie interviewed Charlie in Episodes 2 and 3 of this podcast.Two of Amy’s band mates in Uncle Gizmo, Larry Unger and Sam Bartlett, have also been Contra Pulse guests.She also mentions one of her primary musical influences, Rodney Miller, who spoke with Julie in Episode 24 of this show.Finally, as promised in the interview Amy shared her tune list with us! You can check it out here.

1hr 50mins

28 Sep 2021

Rank #2

Similar Podcasts

Podcast cover

Episode 33 - Sam Bartlett

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Green Table, Iris O’Norman and Rumblestrip from Sam’s 2004 album Evil Diane and Dance-a-Rama and Mick Good’s Waltz from his 2016 album Dance-a-Rama.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or download the transcript directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Sam Bartlett in action:Playing at the 2012 Dance Flurry with NotoriousAnd with the Stringrays at Dance in the Desert, 2013You can also check out the Stringrays’ websiteHere’s Sam playing banjo while Abby Ladin (his wife), tears up the floor with her old time flat footing (while singing, too! Woah!) at the Alabama Folk School in 2015Sam brings together community art and music making in a cranky show at Timber Ridge Camp in 2016Check out lots more art by Sam here on his TumblrJulie and Sam speak at length about the jaw harp, his first instrument. Hear Sam talk about the joys of jaw harp and play a tune at Contra Carnivale in 2009Can’t get enough Sam? Here’s another recent interview he did, which includes him playing a few tunes with his son Stefan!And of course check out all the goodies on his own personal website and YouTube channel!You definitely won’t want to miss the Stuntology playlist!Some other people and topics mentioned in this interview:Pete Sutherland not only called the first contra dance Sam ever attended, but he got out on the floor to lead him through the dance when he lost his way. Did you know Pete has been interviewed on this podcast in a double episode (ep 19 and ep 20)!Here’s a great video from back in the day when Sam and Abby and a bunch of musicians and dancers performed with the dance company called “Rhythm in Shoes”

2hr 18mins

7 Sep 2021

Rank #3

Podcast cover

Episode 32 - Larry Unger

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Lowdown Hoedown/Beth Cohen’s/Kolomeike from Notorious’ their 2006 eponymous album, Door County #2/Sweetbriar from the Reckless Rambler’s album Lowdown Hoedown published by Great Meadows Music, Two Rivers from Uncle Gizmo’s eponymous album, and Blues at Daybreak from the 2010 Notorious album The Road To Damascus.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or go straight to the transcript.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.Be sure to check out Larry’s many recordings here on his website! See and hear Larry Unger in action:Here’s some video from this interview of Larry demonstrating his guitar techniqueLarry has played for countless dances! Here are a few videos:With Audrey Knuth and Emily Troll in Greenfield, MAWith Notorious at Echo Summit Dance Camp in 2019 and at the Dance Flurry in 2012And here with fiddler Karina Wilson (who you heard in our previous Contra Pulse episode!) at a contra dance in Denver, COYou can hear tunes written by Larry in so many places:Here he is playing with fiddler Audrey Knuth (with an impressive instrumental background!)Playing his waltz "Two Rivers" for dancers at Norse Hall, Portland Oregon, September, 2019By Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi at Le Café de la Danse ParisAnd a pandemic era solo banjo tuneHow many instruments does he even play!?Playing “Shenandoah” slide guitar style on a NationalA fretless gourd banjo at “FunFest” in Evart, MIAnd how about this jaw harp / hurdy-gurdy duo! Many dances have been written to Larry’s tunes:Voici some dancers in France dancing to his tune “Ariel Julia,” and here are some Tango Fusion dancers dancing to the same tune at the First Night Show at the Saratoga Dance Museum on New Year's Eve 2008.Here some English country dancers enjoy Larry’s tune “Judy and Jim's Wedding” while dancing “Sunlight Through Draperies” by Tom Ruby

1hr 43mins

17 Aug 2021

Rank #4

Most Popular Podcasts

Podcast cover

Episode 31 - Karina Wilson

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Late for the Dance/Red Prairie Dawn performed live by the Karina Wilson Trio, Bright New Morning, a singlewritten and performed by Karina with Bard Edrighton on banjo and guitar, recorded at Torreon studios in Santa Fe, NM, Smithy Hill from the Reverie album Violet, and Celeste, also from Violet, featuring Terry Wergeland and Marni Rachmiel. See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent. See and hear Karina Wilson in action:Karina has been playing for contra and ECD since she was a teenager!Here she is with Jeff Spero in Santa Barbara, CAAnd with Larry Unger in Denver, CO and in Paris, France (joined by David Brown)!Here she plays for an English Country Dance at May Madness in Prescott, AZ She is involved in countless other musical projects such includingLone Piñon, a New Mexican string band, or “orquesta típica”Broomdust Caravan playing “cosmic country and blues”A new project, Karina Wilson and Big Heart Band - here’s their music video “Blood Moon”Being in quarantine didn’t stop the music - hear her perform with her trio in the fall of 2020 (with musicians Mohit Dubey and Michael Chavez) As you heard in the interview Karina is passionate about understanding traditional music from within the geographic and cultural contexts in which it has developed. She shared some of the fruits of her explorations with us:Hear the band Lone Piñon perform a polka by elder violinist Mariano Romero and Tomas Maes (mandolin) of Santa Fe.Here’s an archival recording of Mariano Romera and his group Los Villeros Alegres that Karina sharedFom the Michoacán region (a state in Mexico) she has been inspired the fiddler Juan Reynoso - here he plays a pasodoble at the 2000 Festival of American Fiddle Tunes One of Karina’s biggest influences was her father, longtime dancer, dance caller and folk community icon in the Santa Fe region. He passed in 2011 but his legacy remains strong in dance communities throughout the Southwest.Hear Richard call at “Boo Camp,” a local halloween dance weekend outside of Santa FE in 2007. Here’s another (spooky!) video (if you look closely you might catch Karina in a fairly epic Halloween costume...Here is a little documentary created about Richard right before he diedErik Erhardt and Lauren Lamont of New Mexico wrote a book about Richard called “All Join Hands” with his dances, poems, stories, and stories about him and his community in it.

2hr 11mins

27 Jul 2021

Rank #5

Podcast cover

Episode 30 - Jeff Spero

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Julia Delaney/Farewell to Chernobyl from the Syncopaths’ first album Rough Around the Edges, Waves and Smiles performed by Audrey Knuth and Jeff, the Fifth Gear set from the second Syncopath album Five Gears, and Waltz for Ann Marie from Michael Mendelson’s album A Fiddler’s Notebook.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent. See and hear Jeff Spero in action:One of Jeff Spero’s main musical projects over the years has been The Syncopaths:Hear them in concert at Echo Summit dance camp in 2017And here they are rocking the dance hall at Balance the Bay in 2015Jeff also plays with the Rhythm RaptorsHere they play at Fiddling Frog in 2015And at Labor Day Dance Away in 2017In 2013 videographer Doug Plummer captured this video of Jeff expounding on his “boom chuck” piano accompaniment style at BACDS AmWeekAND he writes dances! Check out some of Jeff’s contra choreography here on his websiteJeff has also co-written a book with James Hutson titled “(Southern) California Twirls: A Collection of Contradances and Three Community Histories.” Some other people and topics mentioned in this interview:Jeff mentions pianist Kate Barnes as a major influence—Kate has been interviewed on this podcast!He also plays with another Contra Pulse favorite, Rodney Miller, interviewed in Episode 24 of this podcast.Another west coast band, Hillbillies from Mars, has had bearing on Jeff’s style

2hr 1min

6 Jul 2021

Rank #6

Podcast cover

Episode 29 - Doug Protsik

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Blanchard's Hornpipe/Good For The Tongue from the Old Gray Goose album Maine Country Dance Tunes and Songs, She Said She Couldn't Dance from the Old Gray Goose album Opera House Medley, Feisty Barny self-recorded by Doug Protsik, Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad Polka also from Opera House Medley and Popcorn Schottische from Maine Country Dance Tunes and Songs. See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Doug Protsik in action:Doug’s longest-running musical project is the folk band Old Grey Goose. He produced all three of their recordings, including the group’s first recording in 1978 for Folkways, “Old Time Country Dance Tunes and Songs from Maine”This video is from a contra dance at Maine’s “Common Ground Fair” in 2011 with Doug playing fiddle and calling.Hear Doug perform his original work during the New Rag Contest at the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, held every Memorial Day Weekend in Oxford, MS.Doug shares a special “Rain song” created at Maine Fiddle CampCheck-out this article from the Bangor Daily News featuring Doug and other Mainers sharing how they adapted and helped keep traditional music and dance alive during the pandemic. Doug LOVES a good Fox Trot! Here he leads a Fox Trot on saxophone at an evening dance at Maine Fiddle Camp. He also arranged a fox trot version of “A Sentimental Journey” for a virtual Camp recording during pandemic..Some other people and topics mentioned in this interview:Doug is the current director of Maine Fiddle Camp, a family traditional music camp in central MaineHe speaks at length about legendary Maine caller Ted Sanella In the interview Doug cites numerous influences on his playing and musical style:Fiddle masters Otto Soper [little to no information exists online about Otto though he is cited as an influence by countless traditional musicians), Don Messer, and Mellie DunhamDudley Laufman, a regular at Maine Fiddle Camp (Dudley is featured in the very first episode of this podcast!) Franco American musicians Louis Beaudoin, the band La Bottine Souriante, and harmonica player Gabriel Labbé

2hr 40mins

15 Jun 2021

Rank #7

Podcast cover

Episode 28 - Sylvia Miskoe

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Cotillion des baies-des-rochers from the album Canterbury Dance Orchestra’s album Welcome Here Again, Rock Valley Jig from the album Fiddle Tunes with Omar Marcoux, album and a track from The Strasthspeay and Reel Society of New Hampshire: Stirling Fiddlers Welcome To The Strathspey And Reel Society Of New Hampshire. See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent. See and hear Sylvia Miskoe in action:In the interview Sylvia speaks about her longtime involvement with the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra. Watch a short clip from the documentary "Welcome Here Again, A Recording Session with the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra" and hear the story of when the Orchestra performed at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.Sylvia has been recognized by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts for her deep and long-lasting influence on New Hampshire’s traditional music and dance. In 2011 she was presented with the Governor's Arts Award for Folk Heritage.See her play at the Scottish Gala for the Strathspey & Reel Society of New Hampshire that same year!Here she plays for a Scottish country dance at Springstep in Medford, MA with longtime collaborator Vince O’DonnellSome other people and topics mentioned in this interview:Sylvia mentions Dudley Laufman, who was interviewed for the very first episode of Contra Pulse!She is one of the founders of the Strathspey & Reel Society of New Hampshire, a group devoted to learning about and playing Scottish music, open to all ages and abilities and was their music director for 7 years.Julie and Sylvia both teach accordion at Maine Fiddle Camp in the summers!

1hr 49mins

26 May 2021

Rank #8

Podcast cover

Episode 27 - Betsy Branch

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are a set of three tunes from the Portland Playalong Selection with Sue Songer and Clyde Curley (a companion CD to the renown tune book): Jeff City / John Sharp's Hornpipe / Ducks on the Pond, Sunday River Waltz from Betsy’s album with David Kaynor - Midnight in Montague, Picassiette from her album with pianist Mark Douglass -Iles de la Madeleine, Kitchen Jig/Over the Causewayfrom Midnight in Montague, and Offerat Ecclesia, a piece from a Portland Revels recording called Down Through the Winters featuring Betsy and Shulamit Kleinerman on vielle. See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Betsy Branch in action:Betsy plays with longtime collaborator David Kaynor live at Fiddletunes Festival in 2010 and again at the Folklife Festival in SeattleHere she joins Leela Grace and Lisa Ornstein at the Portland Oldtime Music Gathering in Portland, Oregon in 2013 Through the magic of the internet and video editing Betsy plays along with her younger self and some friends in this compilation video ofMoney MuskSome other people and topics mentioned in this interview:Learn more about Betsy’s book project with Kevin Burke hereBetsy is a close collaborator and music editor for The Portland CollectionShe is also the Associate Music Director for Portland RevelsBetsy mentions fiddler and musicologist Lisa Ornstein, who also resides in the Pacific NorthwestHere’s a peek behind the scenes of the Tractor Tavern Square Dance, a significant venue in Betsy’s exploration of dance music.Finally, check out this mega-cool video of the Portland Megaband, recorded virtually and edited together during pandemic times. An impressive feat!

2hr 9mins

4 May 2021

Rank #9

Podcast cover

Episode 26 - Owen Morrison

The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Reel des Accordéonistes  / Mother’s / Le Champs de Bleuet / Reel Ti-Mé from Elixir’s album Anybody’s Guess, Way Down in Union Country from 21st Century Hoedown by The Morrison Brothers, Daybreak (Reprise) from Owen’s Solo Album Daybreak, and Javelina Hunt from the Night Watch album Splendid Isolation.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Owen Morrison in action:Owen plays with Elixir at ContraShock in New York City, September, 2018Here are The Morrison Brothers tearing it up at ContraCopia dance weekend in Philadelphia, November, 2014Listen to The Figments in concert at Michigan Dance Heritage Fall Dance Weekend, September 2014And here’s an amazing father and son duo, Owen playing one of his own tunes with his dad, Jim Morrison at Berea’s Christmas Country Dance School, 2009Some other people and topics mentioned in this interview:Owen’s band mates Anna Patton and Nils Fredland from Elixir have each been interviewed on this podcast!The Morrison Brothers websiteMany of Owen’s early musical connections were made at Pinewoods Camp

1hr 48mins

13 Apr 2021

Rank #10