Dancing in the Light

MoLookDown New & Used Tunes, Vol. 2: Dancing in the Light

This album was completed in the fall of 2014. I’ll be re-editing this page sometime soon, but there’s still a lot of info below, so I’ll just leave it for now.

Below is a list of the tunes, the instrumentation and players, and a short description of each piece. Since I have not yet set the sequence of the project, they are in alphabetical order. Every piece has two guitar tracks, my 1992 Larrivee C-10 cutaway strung normally, and my Taylor 812-C strung with the treble strings from a 12-string set, called either “high strung” or “Nashville Strung.” I played both of these parts. I also sing the lead vocals.

As I finish each mix, I am posting it above the body copy about that song.

1. Dancing in the Light (written by Mo Mack)  Bass: Andrew Pressman, Fiddle: Bill McClellan, Harmony Vocals: Tenor – John Boelling, Alto – Annie Mancini, Background Vocal Arrangement by Susan Peck         My mom died in 1992, but in the months before her death, I “received” the title for this song. I just knew I had to write this song, and that it would be called what it’s called. It took me 7 years to write it. Losing a mom is hard. It wasn’t until my brother Mike turned up a box of letters mom had written to her dad when she was just married and pregnant with her first child (Mike) that I had the key to the story of the song.

2.  Gentle Arms of Eden (written by Dave Carter) Bass: Andrew Pressman, Fiddle: Gordy Euler, Mandolin: Bill McClellan, Harmony Vocals: Tenor – John Boelling, Alto – Cynthia Boelling         Everyone in the folk community knows Dave Carter and laments his passing at too early an age. However, there are still many folks who haven’t heard his work, and this is my effort to spread the word.

3. Grampa’s Song  (written by Mo Mack)  Bass: Andrew Pressman, Mandolin: Bill McClellan, Harmony Vocals: Mona Warner and Raina Rose       The Rev Marilyn Sewell, who was then the minister of the First Unitarian Church of Portland, called me and asked if I might write a song to complement a sermon she was writing about the letter she would leave her kids for them to read after her passing. I was honored, and then so pleased with the result. This is what I wish I could have told my Grandad before he passed on. His grandkids called him “Grouchy Grampa,” but really he was anything but.

4. Hold the Light Up (written by Meredith McLeod) Bass: Mo Mack, Mandolin: Bill McClellan, Fiddle: Matt Hundley, Harmony Vocals: The Gyspy Moths, AKA Raina Rose (McClellan) and Meredith McLeod       Years ago, when my daughter Raina was in high school, one her bestest friends was Meredith Cushing, now McLeod. They discovered folk music together, and formed duo called the Gypsy Moths. They both wrote fabulous songs, played guitar, and sang harmony on each other’s compositions. I assisted them in making an album, which I still enjoy tremendously. I heard this song Meredith wrote more recently, and fell in love with it. Then I thought, “How cool would it be if i could coax them into singing harmony on songs of theirs?” They took to the idea surprisingly easily, and I love the result. The wonderful scat-like improvised counter-melodies are Meredith in action.

5. In Love With the World (written by Raina Rose) Bass: Mo Mack, Harmony Vocals: The Gyspy Moths, AKA Raina Rose (McClellan) and Meredith McLeod       Raina said she got this whole song complete in a dream. It sure sounds like it.

6. It’ll Be All Right in the Morning  (written by Mo Mack)  Bass: Mo Mack, Fiddle: Bill McClellan, Harmony Vocals: Tenor – John Boelling, Alto – Cynthia Boelling       I wrote this back in the 70’s. It’s aimed at kids, of course, but is is plenty of fun, especially with John and Cynthia doing what they do so well.

7. Let Peace Prevail (written by Mo Mack)  Bass: Mo Mack, Fiddle: Bill McClellan, Harmony Vocals: Tenor – John Boelling, Alto – Cynthia Boelling       Yes, I recorded this on my first album, too. That was a much more complex piece. During Mr. Bush’s stupid waste of life and treasure in Iraq, a friend of mine (Hi RCA!) and I worked on bringing more music to the peace marches in Portland OR. We reworked this piece so that it was better suited to having large numbers of people sing it together. That is in fact the purpose of this song, that many folks would sing it together. It should be considered not a prayer of plea and supplication, but rather a prayer of decree, with each of us declaring peace to now exist throughout the world as we sing.

8. Sunny Side of Life (Bill and Earl Bolick – The Blue Sky Boys) Bass: Andrew Pressman, Fiddle: Bill McClellan, Mandolin: Bill McClellan, Duet Vocal: Bill McClellan       Just Google the Blue Sky Boys. It’s worth your time. This is their most popular piece. It’s one of the first tunes that Bill taught me, and we developed a nice rendition of it over the years. When Bill said, sure, he’d come up to Portland from LA and play on my album, I quickly laid down my side of this tune for him to play to. I wanted to make sure we left a good copy of our work on it. I’m quite satisfied with it, and it is hard not to love this tune.

9. Swimming to the Other Side (written by Pat Humphries) Bass: Andrew Pressman, Fiddle: Bill McClellan, Harmony Vocals: Tenor – John Boelling, Alto – Cynthia Boelling       I loved this song the first time I heard it. Like Gentle Arms of Eden, this song is well known in folk circles, but not so well-known elsewhere, and it deserves to be.

10. Universe Say Yes!  (written by Mo Mack)  Bass: Mo Mack, Electric Guitars: Eli Dokson, Tenor Harmony Vocal: John Boelling       Raina gave me the idea for this song. She just declared out loud the title in response to some dilemma she was dealing with, and I laughed and jumped up and wrote this song. Eli Dokson can sure play guitar. He lives in Colorado but was in Seattle visiting family. I had told him how much I wished he could play on certain pieces on my album, so he called me up and asked if I was serious. He took a train down to Portland and spent a day with me and we captured all the parts he plays in that one session. Thanks, Eli! Your contribution is SO appreciate

11. Upon This Hill  (written by Mo Mack)  Bass: Mo Mack, Electric Guitars: Eli Dokson, Harmony Vocal: Halelupe       This is the kind of song that you just sort of write down like automatic writing. You start out, and you have no idea where it will go, and the story develops as you write. Halelupe is a Portland singer-songwriter I met at a retreat put on by the Portland Folkmusic Society. I love the way she sings, and her energy, and she very kindly agreed to come and sing on this tune. She made it way better.

12. We’ll Build a Land (written by Carolyn McDade) Bass: Andrew Pressman, Mandolin: Bill McClellan, Fiddle: Matt Hundley,  Harmony Vocals: Tenor – John Boelling, Alto – Cynthia Boelling       This song comes from the Unitarian-Universalist hymnal. My friend RCA, another friend Teresa and I discarded the 3rd and 4th verses and wrote a new 3rd verse. We also altered the chorus slightly. It was a great hymn, and much beloved, but we felt it was so close to being a folksong that it deserved a chance, and that the more people we get to hear and maybe sing this chorus, the better off the world will be. Please forgive us, Carolyn, we are only trying to do what’s best for the world.

13. You Never Mentioned Him (written by Mo Mack and Jon Batson) Bass: Andrew Pressman, Fiddle: Bill McClellan, Electric Guitar: Eli Dokson, Harmony Vocal: Raina Rose       Back in the 70’s, I was down in LA trying to become a professional songwriter. I attended a songwriter workshop put on by ASCAP, and met this similarly inclined gentleman (I use the word loosely) named Jon Batson. We spent much of our time together cracking each other up, so we decided to try our hand at co-writing.  We wrote a number of “classic country songs” that no one wanted and earned us no royalties, but this and the next song lived on in our memories as being worthy of singing. With this song, we were trying to make it into a serious, heart-wrenching ballad, but try as we might, it wouldn’t go that way. I was distracted by a phone call one day while we were writing, and i came back to the table and Jon had suddenly taken it in this humorous direction. You can’t tell a song how it wants to be written.

14. You’re Not Alone (written by Mo Mack and Jon Batson) Bass: Mo Mack, Electric Guitars: Eli Dokson, Harmony Vocal: Rebecca Loebe, and Mo Mack       So this song never made it into my personal playlist, though I always liked it. One day a couple of years ago, a yellowed, old lead sheet of this song just kind of fell out of a bunch of various papers and landed in front me on my desk. I began to ask myself why I didn’t embrace this song, and with a new review from the distance of decades since it was written, I realized “I hate the bridge!” I re-wrote the bridge into something much stronger (I think) and fiddled with some pronouns in the verses, and matched it with a blues lick that I had developed for my version of a certain Bo Diddley song, and voila! I enjoy playing and singing it now. Thanks to Rebecca Loebe for coming up with her marvelous background harmony.


WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? Here’s a little about someone of the musical contributors who aren’t described elsewhere.

First, the incomparable John and Cynthia Boelling. I met these delightful people and singers as I was singing bass with the choir of the First Unitarian Church of Portland. John was the tenor section leader, and a teacher of voice both privately and for the University of Portland. Cynthia sang with the altos, and before long, they were married. They both also sing regularly with the Portland Opera. I can’t mention them without mentioning Greta, their sweet and talented daughter. Back in the middle 2000’s, they offered their services to me to sing as a trio, and we sang together for about a year, working up the arrangements you hear on this album. In fact, the initial stimulation for this album was to document the pieces that we worked up together. It is such an incredible pleasure to sing next to people with rich tone and accurate pitch. Sometimes I was so busy listening to us that I would lose focus and drop my part. Sad in one sense, but it’s a good problem to have.

Second, there is my wonderful daughter Raina Rose. She decided to become a singer-songwriter too, after seeing all the success her dad has had. Back in the middle 2000’s, she piled into a Dodge Caravan with a bed in the back and began booking herself all over the country. I think she was on the road that first tour for 18 months. Now she has 5 or more albums out, and is well-respected in the folk community. She moved to Austin, TX, several years ago, and at the Kerrville Folk Festival met a bass player named Andrew Pressman. They are now married, living in Austin, and expecting their second child. I am a proud papa, indeed. http://www.rainarose.com/

Matt Hundley is a young fiddle and guitar player who I found on line in Portland when I needed just a little more fiddle playing, and he did a marvelous job. He plays regularly with a pair of great lady singers called “Lead and Lace.”  http://www.laceandlead.com/

Jon Batson, my dear old co-writer and friend, has gone on to become a novelist as well as a songwriter. Check him out: http://www.therealjonbatson.com/

I’ve never met Pat Humphries, but I hope I do someday. She is one half of Emma’s Revolution:  http://www.emmasrevolution.com/bio/pat/

I did get to meet Dave Carter on several occasions, and counted him as a friend.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Carter_and_Tracy_Grammer  Tracy Grammer continues on without Dave, and here is her website: http://www.tracygrammer.com/

Halelupe, thank you so much for helping me: http://www.halelupe.com/HaleLupe/Home.html

And certainly check out Rebecca Loebe: http://www.rebeccaloebe.com/

Annie Mancini, who sang the alto harmony on Dancing in the Light, sings with the Unitarian Choir. She is studying to be a doctor, and i know that’s a good thing, but what a fine voice she has. I hope she doesn’t waste it saving people’s lives. Thanks, Annie!

My friend Patrick McNamara was exploring the idea of singing the tenor part for Dancing in the Light, and asked his friend Susan Peck to flesh out parts for the background vocals on the song as a starting place. She very kindly complied, and gave us the parts, with some modification by me, you hear. Patrick found himself over-committed and John Boelling stepped in to sing the part. Susan, thank you so much for your contribution. I look forward to meeting you and thanking you in person.  http://www.speckletone.com/

Here’s more info on my brother Bill:  http://www.fiddlehangout.com/my/Bill+McClellan

And if you need a bass player who can really cut the gig, contact Andrew Pressman:  https://www.facebook.com/drupress

And although she had nothing to do whatsoever with the album, you must go and visit the website of my other daughter, Marisa McClellan, www.foodinjars.com She can teach you all about preserving all kinds of food and has fabulous, unexpectedly delicious recipes for jams, jellies, pickles, butters, preserves and more.