Fiddle Guitar Vocal duo the Summer Januaries– Sean Michael Robinson and Rachel Erin Robinson

A Trumpet, a Guitar, and Elvis, Kung Fu Maestro

Seattle to Leno.

Rachel and I have been playing together for about fourteen months now. Like many of the best things about our partnership, it started spontaneously—after our second “date”, i.e. all-day gab fest and bicycling extravaganza, we sat in the back yard of Rachel’s house and she taught me eight or nine fiddle tunes over the course of an hour. Two days later, duly educated and armed with another five or six tunes I learned from a recording, we made our debut at the Pike Place Market.

We’re a world away from all that now, a world away from Seattle, staying in the house of our friends Gwen and Giaccomo in Leno, a little town in Northern Italy that features one stop light, a thousand-year-old church, and happens to bear a striking resemblance to Iowa. “This region is the Iowa of Italy” Gwen assured me on our ride from the airport six days ago.

How did we end up here?

SeanRachDark

Pike Place Market, fall of 2011

The past year has been a blur of activity—you wouldn’t believe it all if I told you– but the musical portion is a little easier to explain. Rachel and I learned dozens of fiddle tunes from various sources, began to sing together and refine our joint sensibilities and interests. In the winter we incorporated the singing into our sets, and segments of fiddle tunes into these songs, in a desperate attempt to make our sets have some kind of coherence, even if it was a coherence that only we were privy to. We learned more songs, and then more, always testing what was working, what wasn’t working, which songs or tunes were right for which kind of situations or crowds. Since we primarily played at Pike Place up until this summer, our sets were geared to that noisy, competitive environment. As we gradually began busking other venues a little less fast-paced, we added ballads and instrumental waltzes, learned to stretch out or shorten the tunes on the fly if need be. We recorded two albums. We wrote songs together for the first time, saw the first outlines of our collaboration. And, this summer, we played. We played and we played and we played, sometimes as much as four and a half hours in a single day.

Read More