New Treebeard CD "Reel Ale" now only £5!

Click the buy now button above to pay by paypal, or send a cheque for £5 to Chris McMahon 25 Fir Street Sheffield  S6 3TG. The CD is released in a four page card digipack sleeve in full colour. It is also now available online as a digital download from iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp.

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Reel Ale - A History

Wow, that did take a lot longer than I expected! We decided to start work on the CD almost immediately after "Heavy Wood" was released in 2002 & by 2004 we had a goodly number of tracks recorded. Then disaster struck! My 200GB audio drive crashed with all the data on - with no back up, of course. I got the data recovered for a cool £200, but all the audio files were just numbered wav 1-3000, so I had to go through them all identifying & re-labelling, before jig-sawing them back together into the original songs. Whole takes of guitar & vocal track were easy to identify, percussion tracks less easy, single note or phrases of fiddle, virtually impossible! Anyway I'd almost put it all back together, probably about 70% of the original recordings recovered, when I has a second less devastating crash. Everything was recovered this time, but to be honest, at the time (2005-ish) I had a lot of other projects going on & just lost faith in the whole thing. When the Forged in Sheffield compilation CD was being put together (I did the audio editing for it), I finished off one Treebeard track "Train" to contribute to the CD but pretty much forgot about the rest of the material.

In 2008 I started thinking about recording again (I wanted to get everything working properly for the Haze 30th anniversary in May of that year), so got Chris Jellis to come into Cellar Studios (at the time in an attic on Hoole Street) to record his guitar parts for "Singularly Fine Day", Highwayman's Hollow" & "Dun Ringill". I didn't do anymore work on the CD that year, the Haze 30th anniversary recording took priority, then a planned move of the studio back to the Fir Street cellar was delayed by flooding and then repairs to my soundcard, but finally, in September 2009, I started laying down tracks for the new album. 

Although the track listing was almost decided back in 2004, I redid most songs from scratch, as we used to play everything detuned (Heavy Wood was recorded a semitone flat), then since Ceri had started standing in with the band & then become a full time member, we started tuning back up to concert pitch (easier on the flute, but harder on the vocals!)  

Recording a Treebeard album is like doing a jigsaw, or making a collage, due to everyone's other (work, family, band) commitments, and the fact that I only really have facilities to record one person at a time to the sort of quality that I'd like. I start by playing a rhythm guitar part along with a midi drum track, maybe putting a guide vocal down & labeling verse, chorus, etc. on screen, then the other musicians come over, one at a time, usually an evening each every week or two to record their parts. Paul (McMahon) prides himself on being able to put a whole albums worth of bass takes down in one evening, strings & vocals usually take a bit longer! And again because of time constraints, I'd usually record 4-12 takes of each instrument, then edit them on my own later.

This resulted in me spending a lot of time in the studio on my own (at least ten times as long as each other musician), so if I felt a track needed a little extra something, I would end up doing it myself, rather than waiting for someone else.

Though when I started thinking "what this needs is more banjo", it was obviously time to stop!

The artwork was done pretty much the same way. Although I know some great photographers, in the end I just wandered round taking pictures myself - though I got some strange looks carting an old reel to reel player through Rivelin woods!

We used the same pressing plant that Cyclops Records use for all the Haze releases, but hit a minor hold up with MCPS. To record cover versions you have to pay a licensing fee, usually not much, £10-20 per track for a pressing of 1000 CDs. Fine except that we were refused permission to release one of the tracks in the Russian Medley. I contacted the publisher, who contacted the estate of the composer, who thankfully granted permission! We just had to pay an extra admin fee to the publisher for their trouble.

Track Listing

1    Train 
2     Three McMahons 
3     Driftwood 
4     Dun Ringill 
5     Ale Jug/Rice 
6     Believe 
7     Over The Hills And Far Away 
8     Tam Lin/Sleep Soundly In The Morning
9     Free Electric Band (dedicated to Sass)
10   Going To California 
11   Singularly Fine Day 
12   Star Of The County Down 
13   Chris World/Around The World For Sport 
14   Highwayman’s Hollow 
15   Russian Medley
16   Ace Of Spades 
17   One Day Like This/Hey Jude

1 Train (Chris McMahon)
CA - flute. PC - yambu. PM - bass, vocals. CM - 12 string guitar, mandolin, lead vocals. GW - fiddle. With Danny McMahon - train whistle.
The 2004 recording of this was released on "Forged in Sheffield" CD featuring the "original" Treebeard 5 piece. Then in about 2006 I was asked to appear in a short film playing guitar & singing in my most outlandish stage garb. I decided to do "Train", but slowed it down & played it in 6/8 rather than 4/4, so this is now how we start the song before kicking into 4/4 after a couple of verses. We have also recorded version of the song with Haze on the 30th anniversary CD, quite a loose jamming sort of version.
The yambu that Paul Chisnell played is a sort of cross between a Cahon & Djembe that he borrowed off one of his twins. I did my best to copy Chris Jellis's mandolin part, Danny's train whistle was bought by Mum & Dad on holiday in the Rockies.

2 Three McMahons: The Brown Bear of Bolsterstone (Paul McMahon)/The Banshee (James McMahon)/ The Cropredy Hop (Chris McMahon)
CA - flute. PC - djembe, tambourine, drum kit. PM - bass. CM - bouzouki, octave mandola, electric twin neck mandola. GW - fiddle.
As set of three tunes, The Brown Bear of Bolsterstone, by Paul is also played by The Outlandish Knights, and was even used by Boggarts Breakfast Morris Side for one of their dances! The 2nd tune is often simply known as McMahons & was written by James McMahon, no relation as far as we know! The final tune of the set is one of mine. Whenever I pick up a new instrument it seems to inspire a new tune, "Comrade Chris's Balalaika" from "Heavy Wood" was the first thing I played when I picked up my first balalaika & "The Cropredy Hop" simply appeared under my fingers when I picked up a mandola at one of the music stalls at Cropredy festival. The big fuzzy solo at the end was played on Dave Peggs solid body twin-neck mandolin/octave mandola, which Tim Stenton bought from him a few years ago & I borrowed & never gave back.

3 Driftwood (Francis Healy)
CA - cello, viola. PC - congas. PM - bass, lead vocals. CM - 12 string guitar, mandolin, vocals. GW - fiddle.
Can't remember who came up with this one, but it was in the set 2002ish, then dropped, then revived when we finally did the album!

4 Dun Ringill (Ian Anderson)
CA - Eb flute. PC - lead vocals, udu. PM - contrabass balalaika, vocals. CM - bouzouki, vocals. GW - mandolin. With Chris Jellis - guitar.

We learned this due to a request from Dave Martin, Whitchurch Festival organiser. It appealed to my sense of karmic balance to put flute on a Tull track that didn't originally feature flute.

5 Ale Jug/Rice (Ceri Ashton)
CA - flute. PC - djembe, tambourine & skull. PM - bass. CM - guitar, bouzouki. GW - fiddle.

Two tunes from Ceri, Rice is probably her most famous work, it's a firm session favorite in Sheffield & was featured on Hekety's Furze Cat CD & played on Radio 2. It's also played by The Outlandish Knights.

6 Believe (Chris McMahon, Gordon Walker)
PC - djembe, vocals. PM - bass, vocals. CM - 12 string guitar, mandolin, lead vocals. GW - fiddle.

My words set to a tune by Gordon. Very much inspired by the gulf wars, the lies surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, and the whole "war as entertainment" approach taken by the media. Don't get me going, just don't!

7 Over The Hills And Far Away (trad arr Treebeard)
CA - flute, vocals. PC - lead vocals, snare drum. PM - bass, vocals. CM - guitar, bouzouki, vocals. GW - fiddle.

Paul Chisnell doing his best Sean Bean impression! The use of snare drum on this is a reference back to "The Hangman & The Papist" on Heavy Wood. It's shocked us all (especially Paul Mc, who was never keen on it) by being our most popular itunes download.

8 Tam Lin/Sleep Soundly In The Morning (trad arr Treebeard)
CA - flute. PC - talking drum. PM - bass. CM - bouzouki, 12 string guitar. GW - fiddle.

Tune set suggested by Gordon from his book of Scottish tunes.

9 Free Electric Band (Albert Hammond, Mike Hazlewood) dedicated to Sass.
CA - flute. PC - yambu & tambourine. PM - bass, vocals. CM - 12 string guitar, lead vocals. GW - mandolin.

I used to go to the open mic nights every Monday night at the Classic Rock Bar, I usually arrived late as it was after Boggarts Breakfast Morris Side practice, & Sass always got me to finish the night off with "Free Electric Band". We were playing at the White Lion in Heeley on 9th June 2005, when Birley Mick told me that Sass had died that night, so at half time I took the band out the back & showed them "Free Electric Band" & we played it in his memory in the second set.

10 Going to California (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant)
CA - flute. PC - yambu. PM - guitar, lead vocals. CM - bouzouki. GW - mandolin.

Led Zep tune that we'd sometimes play with Haze. When we were putting the album together, I felt it was a bit short of Paul Mc vocals, so we revived this. It's a pretty faithful rendition, though I think the flute gives it a psychedelic sixties vibe.

11 Singularly Fine Day (Nigel Mazlyn Jones)
CA - alto flute, cello. PM - bass, vocals. PC - lead vocals, talking drum & cowbell. CM - prima balalaika, vocals. GW - fiddle. With Chris Jellis - guitar.

One that Paul Chisnell & Chris Jellis brought to us from their band Old Pekuliar, from Nigel Mazlyn Jones album "Ship to Shore". The first mix I did had lush "Queen" style harmonies all over it, but Paul C wanted to go for something a bit more stark, so we stripped it right back.

12 Star Of The County Down (trad arr Treebeard)
CA - alto flute, low whistle, whistle, vocals. PC - bass drum, djembe, vocals. PM - bass, vocals. CM - guitar, bouzouki, vocals. GW - lead vocals, mandolin.

Traditional song suggested by Gordon & his one lead vocal on the album (like Heavy Wood it's track 12!) Chris Jellis used to play the finger picking guitar part live, so I had to learn it for the recording.

13 Chris World (Chris McMahon)/Around The World For Sport (trad arr Treebeard)
CA - flute. PC - yambu. PM - bass. CM - bouzouki, 6 & 12 string guitar, banjo, mandolin, accordion. GW - fiddle.

Originally "Chris's fast tune", Paul was explaining to Danny & Jess how come burping & farting at the dinner table was OK for me but not for them by saying that I inhabited Chris World, analogous to the virtual worlds they were used to from video gaming. Pairing it with ceilidh/session favourite Around the world fro Sport seemed to add just the right amount of synchronicity. And, no that isn't a tape fault in the middle! I'm always looking for production tricks to make things sound a bit more contemporary & when I heard the tape stop effect in the middle of a Black Eyed Peas song, I knew I had to have it!

14 Highwayman’s Hollow (Paul Chisnell, Chris Jellis)
CA - vocals, flute, alto flute. PC - lead vocals. PM - bass, vocals. CM - bouzouki, rainstick. GW - fiddle. With Chris Jellis - guitar. 

Paul C & CJ original, again brought to us from Old Pekuliar. One of only 3 songs featuring CJ on the album (He left the band last year, but fortunately not before recording this!)

15 Russian Medley: Katiusha (M Blanter)/Cossack Patrol (L Knipper)
CA - vocals, viola, cello. PC - vocals, doumbek. PM - contrabass balalaika, vocals. CM - accordion, prima, alto & bass balalaikas, prima, tenor & bass domras, vocals. GW - fiddle. With Chris Jellis - 12 string guitar. Jemma Gurney - soprano sax. Catrin Ashton - vocals & Russian coach. Danny McMahon “Nostrovia” & breaking glass.

I'd always wanted to play this, & when I found a £40 balalaika in Electromusic we were away. Jemma's sax was recorded before the great computer crash of 2004 & pieced together note by note from recovered audio files, Gordon's fiddle is also a surviving recording from the same time. I went rather over the top with balalaikas & domras, Paul Mc played the contrabass balalaika, then I added bass, alto & prima balalaika & bass, tenor & prima domra. We then overdubbed 3 octaves of singing in Russian, Danny smashing glasses, and of course, the accordion. This track nearly delayed the release of the album, as unlike popular songs, where permission is granted on the nod by MCPS, or traditional songs, which are, well, traditional & public domain, classical works have to be OK'd by the publisher & estate of the (usually deceased) composer, but we greased their palm with silver & got the go ahead.

16 Ace Of Spades (Ian Kilminster, Phil Taylor, Eddie Clarke)
CA - viola. PC - bass drum, hi hat, vocals. PM - bass, vocals. CM - accordion, guitar, banjo, vocals. GW - fiddle.

One of Gordon's early suggestions & quickly became a live favourite, well into Hayseed Dixie territory, though I think we're all a bit sick of it now!

17 One Day Like This (G Garvey, R Jupp, C Potter, M Potter, P Turner)/Hey Jude (J Lennon, P McCartney)
CA - cello, viola, fiddle, vocals. PM - bass, electric guitar, lead vocal. PC - afuche, congas, tambourine, cowbell, vocals, drums. CM - 12 string guitar, vocals. GW - fiddle. With Paul Pearson - guitar. Betty, Danny & Jessie McMahon - backing vocals.

A request when we played a private party last year, I'd never hear the track (or the band) but we all liked it, and it's become a regular finisher. The segue into Hey Jude just happened, me'n'Paul looked at each other & launched into it, in true telepathic fashion. The reprise at the end was me harking back to classic sixties psychedelic King Crimson style. It seemed like a good idea at the time to play the riff from Sweet Child of Mine on banjo, I then added Ceri's cello & Paul Pearson's guitar, which had gotten quite drowned out towards the end of Hey Jude & echo'd & played Gordons' fiddle backwards to finish it all off.

CD Credits

Ceri Ashton - flutes, whistles, strings, vocals
Paul Chisnell - percussion, vocals
Chris McMahon - guitar, bouzouki, vocals
Paul McMahon - bass, guitar, vocals
Gordon Walker - fiddle, mandolin, vocals 

With:- Chris Jellis, Jemma Gurney, Catrin Ashton, Danny McMahon & Paul Pearson. Recorded in Cellar Studios, engineered & produced by Chris McMahon. Artwork & photos by Chris McMahon.
c&p 2010 Gabadon Records 25 Fir Street Sheffield S6 3TG

CD images


For more pictures from the "Reel Ale" photo shoots have a look at my flickr page:- ChrisTreebeard

Audio Samples

You can hear our music & download the CDs on Bandcamp, or join us on Reverbnation.

Click the buy now button above to pay by paypal, or send a cheque for £5 to Chris McMahon 25 Fir Street Sheffield  S6 3TG

Tour Dates Reel Ale CD
Biography Songs
Photos! Audio Samples
Links & Reviews Video Clips
Gabadon Music  Treebeard Home

Contact the band via email!

Last updated 13 July 2017