The Perfect Wrong Note

The Perfect Wrong Note

[Special note if you’re here because you came to my reading at The Yards, part of the Flour City Reading Series: Thanks for visiting! To read the full version of the essay I read from last night–and find out what happened with Mad Maudlin and me–here it is, “To Find Mad Maudlin,” in Cordella Magazine.]

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A little music in honor of St. Patty’s Day. As I wrote in an essay for Cordella recently, I fell in love with traditional Irish music as a struggling teenager. It felt visceral and wild as any Nirvana bootleg and put an ecstatic hum alongside my heartaches. Eventually I started noodling around, learning to sing and play it, but for many years I was too anxious to play in public.

That started to change after some magical open mic nights at the Bennington Writing Seminars. Also transformative for me: a book called The Perfect Wrong Note by William Westney. (If you love to play but aren’t doing it because you’re self-conscious and rusty, maybe give it a read.) Yeah, I still cringe at my bow-squeaks and wayward notes, but these feisty old songs are like a drug for me… and if you, too, are the sort who loves Nirvana bootlegs–well, maybe there’s more to musical joy than polish and gloss. 

Here are a few snippets of a live show I did with my musical comrade Eli Burrell in Bennington, VT, June 2017.

Little Beggar Man (fiddle tune & song)

Poor Old Horse (sea chantey singalong)

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