Friday, December 19, 2008

Busker Days: "Frisco Fog"

As I exit the North Berkeley BART Station at the other end of my evening trip home from work, more than occasionally I’m treated to some busking. I’ve seen an older lady on guitar belting out some soulful tunes, a wistful guy on sax, another guy plugged-in (a BART no no!) doing jazz-infused guitar work and a really amped-up younger woman jumping up and down on a milk crate playing accordion and singing zydeco. For a while, every time I came up out of the BART netherworld in the evenings I was confronted with a man deftly playing a classical guitar. 95.7% of the time he was playing the same exquisite Spanish folk song. This means either a) he and I are cosmically and tragically destined to forever cross paths exactly at the time he plays his favorite song; or b) this song is a big money-maker for him. I choose b. But if he’s making money its not coming from my pocket (OK, maybe the first time or two), and that’s saying something, because I’m the easiest, most free flowing, crumpled-up-dollar-tosser a busker is ever going to see. Ever.

Busker rule number one: if you have to rely on money-maker songs, have at least five to draw from because I’m coming by every day at 6:55 PM sharp and I’m hungry and tired and I have two kids that want to jump all over me at home. OK?

That said, my favorite end-of-the-line busker is Sam Strong who plays the recorder. I hear the sweet intertwining celtic melodies as the sound of the departing train subsides and my hand instinctually grasps for the nearest bit of loose change on me. After donating regularly for over a year, one day I went up, introduced myself and asked to record. One of the songs I recorded that day is this short, sweet, Sam Strong composition, Frisco Fog. I hope you enjoy.


  1. This is very nice. I am particularly digging the trains coming and going at either end of the song. The station manager's public address at the beginning is rather perfect for this. Good sounding recording too. Keep 'em coming.

  2. This sounds like a good listening option for the end of a long day of working and commuting. Simple, relaxing, unobtrusive. I think if I had to endure an overzealous zydecologist after a day in the salt mines I might tie the accordion and its owner to the tracks.

  3. Well Mr. GeeBee, I couldn't agree more. Overzealous music does not have a place at the end of my day at the mines. You'll be interested to know that the zydecologist, now known to me as Rene, was present today and it was actually a rather soothing experience. The first tune I heard was a languid traditional song sung in french. The third song, which I listened to briefly as I started my walk home, was her take on Baby, Please Don't Go. It had as part of its arrangement an interesting chordal motif, a la accordion of course.

    The second song? I recorded it, so stay tuned.

    Rene informed me that her band, Culann's Hounds, consisting of an accordion (of course), guitar, bodhran and a sometime stand-up bass, is playing this Saturday at the Starry Plough in Berkeley. She referred to the music as, among other things, celtic and zydeco. How can you go wrong with that? See you there!

  4. One band here in Boulder -- actually they are based out of the anti-social town of Nederland, Colorado -- describes themselves as "Gyptic Soul Funk." Go figure.