Saturday, 28 June 2014 15:48
It is maybe a bit irresponsible, jamming ourselves into the cobblestone bottleneck as billions of Catalans bum rush the ancient square, the first of the fire bombs going off. I dunno what other people would do? Not come here maybe? (or at least stay the hell back at the cushy tourist hotel and watch this humanity play out safely on a tiny device screen?) Stay alive. 

“Go with Dave, Gus!” That’s what I think Eric was shouting last Sunday night when we found ourselves divided by a human, Euro-river, flood thing the likes of which I’d only ever seen on a studio monitor over the shoulder of an anchor girl on a hotel BBC world news report. My back hits the stone wall pretty hard. Not “time to panic” hard, but hard enough, I notice it. This particular street festival is not going to be “casual.” It is not going to be relaxing. No…rather it’s very old and politically charged, tonight is the night that the mob grabs the microphone and screams its lungs inside out. Add to that that this is the first night of Summer and the longest night of the year and you get the feeling that maybe there are even older Gods at work; constellations whispering shit back and forth, big stone eyeballs opening somewhere. It feels like we might be standing over a giant sun dial buried 100 feet beneath this square. Now the first of the Dragons start to appear and the mob begins jumping up and down in place, Gus is on my back (it’s all we got now) and we know we must begin jumping up and down with them, only dead men know what happens if you don’t.

On Saturday night (the night before) we rocked the shit out of a little box theatre north of Barcelona. We ended our performance by locking into the psycho strobe light throb of the “Rollin’ & Tumblin” riff and vanishing one by one. Right before I walked off, Gus and I looked at each other for a micro-second (he prolly didn’t even notice) but my mind took this weird picture, a physical memory or something?? I’m not sure what the hell it was? Same rhythm as the mob though.

Azkena is where they invented the black, rock n roll tee shirt. It’s a powerful music festival. I once saw Iggy climb the lighting rig there and I assume scare the shit out of whoever was backstage that really loves him. His simplicity was complete and stunning. There was 0 bullshitting going on. He was managing to starve the bullshit of oxygen so it couldn’t survive anywhere near where he was standing/singing/rolling around…not even where he was going. His band sounding like an off shore drill. Thump, sssss, thump.

Gus and Huck played wiffle ball in the hotel lobby at 4 am, I saw it from outside the glass doors right before we went out for Mahous and Pacharan. We even managed to convince a Bosnian Electronica DJ to knock it the hell off and play the Americanos some Frank Sinatra. Eventually he does and it sounds crazy good. I think even he is surprised. It is 6am now?

The Mountain Minstrelsy band is mega now, it’s growing up fast, a village band, family band. We are working on Europe for the Fall (all of Spain for sure.) We won’t last forever but we are not finished yet. Next stop is NYC, Philadelphia and Nashville. I wouldn’t wanna come on after us now.

Thanks to our fans in Espana and Basque Country! Xoxo thanks to Albert and the Azkena family, Oriol and Andrei, Miguel at Hostelets, the folks at Konvent Zero, The Scorpions for the bass (D#) Pappas, David and Oscar, Oscar Pamplona, Dr. Paul Murff.
Marah at Azkena Rock Festival - Spain
Friday, 30 May 2014 07:57

HOLA ROCKERS! MARAH AT AZKENA ROCK FESTIVAL FRIDAY JUNE 20th...It is with great joy that we announce our addition to this prestigious and amazing rock n roll festival. EUROPE- if you can get there, get there! Azkena is something to not be missed. MARAH presents the full on MOUNTAIN MINSTRELSY band at ARF 2014 in beautiful Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain. Check out the Festival line up here:



"A Melody of Rain" Official Video
Monday, 28 April 2014 18:57

Friends! All will be pleased to hear that our new video is can now sit nicely next to other great music videos like 'Thriller' (the one where Tom Petty is in a UFO in the desert.) As you watch our new little instant classic starring the young Huck Tritsch, we ask you to seriously consider buying our MOUNTAIN MINSTRELSY OF PENNSYLVANIA album (LP/CD/Download Card all in one package for $20) available at Buy it and say YES to independent music and soul and spirit and it and say NO to a lot of the other ridiculous baloney currently out there. Support us and we'll make you proud. Go Minstrelsy!

Your friends,

"...a great album, a weird and wild stew of country goodness, seasoned with bits of rock, punk, Appalachia, folk and great songwriting…loaded with more surprises than a Yankee rooster in a French henhouse.” – 8 of 10 Popmatters
“…unfettered charm and stoic simplicity far removed from the cluttered trappings of present day circumstances.” – Blurt

“A genuine slice of this country’s history, Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania is absolutely necessary listening.” – Elmore Mag

"…a freewheeling celebration that is filled with charm and personality.” – Twangville

"Ultimately, there is a pulse-quickening thrill when we dig up a long-forgotten past and shine upon it a contemporary light. These are the things that make this album so unique and attractive." 9 of 10 No Depression

More shows coming soon...

"(Moho)-MILLHEIM-the cultural/artistic hub of Central PA" by D.B.
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 17:48

"(Mo-ho)-MILLHEIM-the cultural/artistic hub of Central Pennsylvania" by D.B.


It's a great honor to have been asked to play a “once a month” residency at the Elk Creek Café + Aleworks, why? Because famous 15 piece Cuban bands play there, old NYC Folk icons too, beautiful Jazz combos, Africans come all the way from Africa occasionally to play one stringed droney fiddles there made from turtle shells, sexy girls from Austin, TX strum acoustic guitars there, I met Gus at the Cafe, watched Michael Hurley hurl creepy, clean electric notes into the pin drop silence, an Amish buggy rattling by.


Musically speaking it's a gift to all of us out here, it's an impossibly lucky break, integrity, standards, whatever, it is hard to believe it actually exists, but it does.


A couple weeks ago we released an album called "Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania" and then we collectively held our breath...knowing MM was made from a lot of the same stuff as our beloved “local.” It too had a degree of integrity, a purpose to it beyond self promotion, it was made by old standards, it had love in it. Career suicide? Commercial disaster?? On the world stage?? No one knew?…ya had to laugh.

*We did know that no one on Earth seems to say Minstrel-sy very easily.

*It was a vinyl LP.

*It had the tremendously geographically limiting word "Pennsylvania" in its title (never would have cleared the Clear Channel demographic department.)

*It wasn't airbrushed or auto tuned or even aimed at anyone.

*It was a Marah record, but it also wasn't.

*It was old songs, but they were also new.

*It has "Rattlesnake" on it! (a provocative malaria fever dream sequence meant to challenge even the journalistic prowess of Lester Bangs)


IMO our record had brains and guts and songs and soul and all the things that might clash with "success" as it has come to be known today. But ya know what? It’s doing all right!  We let go of our little analog balloon into the digital cloud and at first it went sideways but then it started to slowly rise. It hit tons of branches yes, but it was still going up. Now it really seems to be finding its path in the most organic and grassroots/underground way. Everyday we receive heartfelt letters from people thanking us for making it. Something so odd? So awesome? So Different?? So cool. It has been physically selling LP’s too…in Millheim, yeah, but also in New Mexico and Maine and Ireland, Illinois and France and Croatia and a couple copies even got mailed out to damned.


Anyway, the point is Elk Creek Cafe, no Mountain Minstrelsy. Never would have happened. It was the common ground, our meeting place, our HQ. It brought the people (physically) together and that alone kicked open the door of possibilities...So, like I said, it's an honor to have been asked to play these 4 big Saturday nights.


This Thursday the Mountain Minstrelsy band will play in Washington, DC, then me and Christine are gonna return to the Cafe Saturday Night to play Marah songs, stripped down, acoustic, we're gonna do that… for a bit...


but then we are gonna bring the Mountain Minstrelsy band back up, and we're gonna kill it one more time on our "home field." We need to celebrate.


The coolest thing to me about this whole MM business is that it's a moment in time, we are proud that our record will be on the planet long after we are gone. But as a live band, as a "show," we are right now, not "catch 'em next time." Right Now.


So if you can get out here, get out here, it's a beautiful drive. If you live here, even better, come out and see this, tell your friends that haven’t seen it…it's badass, and also it's yours.


Next up is the Worm Moon! Then comes the real SPRING! I hear Penns Valley Radio is coming 'round the mountain now too. The resurrection of St. Luke's! ELK CREEK Mai O Mai Bock in big ass brown bottles! Holy Crap, how lucky are we! Love you guys, thanks for having us, see you Saturday night!! We are excited to play music for you.


Good Luck With Your Stupid Album
Monday, 24 February 2014 13:59
This is writing we just found in our ipad. It's DB fishing around for potential MM liner notes, it's kinda hilarious, enjoy...

In a "one traffic light" town you don't just go around promising people loads of stuff and then not deliver it. Turn up at the pub later that night and act like you don't know what the hell anybody is even talking about. You don't just go around selling people dreams outta the trunk of your car. Pull away in your big turnip truck honking at nice folks, making wide turns with your fat arm hanging out the window.

A big fake watch.

That's not what you do. ...take it to the bank...that's not what you do.


I've been hanging around a tiny little town out in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania for a couple of years now and I’m telling ya, folks would figure you out real fast...(in the big city you'd be fine, you'd blend) in a "one traffic light town" you'd be LUCKY to get “run out on a rail.”


So in 2012 when we asked a bunch of our neighbors/musicians/friends to "stand in" as our backing band while we ATTEMPTED to even SEE if it was even POSSIBLE to find a good "album" hiding in a bunch of dusty, inaccurate, often clunky song lyrics from god knows how long ago that we just happened upon in a book one snowy night...


We didn't make a big deal of it.

Couldn't afford to.

Not out here.   

We didn’t say that our album was gonna blow the music world to bits.

It would not turn the academia world to dust.

We just asked ‘em if they liked the idea?

(Re-imagining some old "ghost world" folk tunes and prop 'em up like skeletons just for a minute or two while we took their picture...see what they're really made of.)


It just seemed like such a cool thing to do. No promises.


But ya know what? They said "Hell yeah! It's a great idea!"


Soon we noticed a lot of other people started liking on our idea too...

"Holy cow! What a great idea" they'd say,

"Co-writing songs with dead people, ha ha I'll be damned".

"Old forgotten Pennsylvania mountain music huh?" Whaddayaknow.

"Hey honey, come here.... now tell her what you just told me".... that kinda thing.


So TOGETHER we all agreed, we'd give it a go.

Just to see what happened.

That is all.


This is what happened next:

We rolled some tape recorders into a grand old de-sanctified church and put coffee on in the basement then everything got really quiet for a moment...


Then BLAM! A Star Wars man went whizzing past my face followed by an epic explosion of fiddles and machine gun banjos, big brass parade drums, amplifiers were being made out of tin pie plates, people were painting pictures and walking around handing out business cards, "Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave" some old folks began croaking along, barber shop singers, young guys in Drive By Truckers tee shirts started showing up next with giant plastic cups of beer, bats were flying in crazed circles, crayons were flying around, someone got the BBQ going, people kept handing me jars of moonshine and winking, everyone was playing everything so fast, the record was either skipping or slowing down "Dave,Dave,Dave,Dave,Dave" wiffle balls whizzing by, my mom came in, a guy showed up to give us a bunch of stage lights and cables that he said he'd stolen for us from the Grateful Dead, a little girl was running around with a homemade Ouija board, no one was even tuning anything anymore, there were bells and Tubas and pogo sticks, cables were running every where like black spaghetti, cameras were everywhere, people were pulling the rope to the church bell, neighbors were shouting (cheering?) pointing. I remember horses coming through. There was a woman nobody recognized in the basement baking a pie. Soon other bands started turning up and asking if we could record some of "their stuff "


Then BOOM again....then Nothing...

It was all over, it was just me sitting at the fire pit listening to "The Old Riverman's Regret" on my big ass headphones staring off at a hazy July mountain. It was soooo slow, it sounded like it was melting, I was definitely melting.

" the romance is gone from the river towns" ...Jesus.. a hundred years ago? What do you even write song lyrics ON a hundred years ago? What the #*!$ would this person have to say about the way everything is NOW…here, today. I had, and would never have the answers. The music fading back into the very mountains it's "said" to have come from...


Making this "Mountain Minstrelsy" album was an absolute joy. It was both chaotic and triumphant, it was uniquely times beautiful at times ramshackle, but the spirit always remained very, very rock n roll. An education for sure, I learned a ton. I miss it already.


Though we apologize for nothing, it must be said that these are raw and unpolished recordings by today's standards. Good. That was the whole idea. Play them loud. Enjoy them. They are perfect in their way. They are every bit as perfect as this crazy new world they have returned to inhabit once again (for however long this time.)


The best thing we did was recording everybody playing together and all at once... one mic bleeding into the next, right down the line. It made it harder to ruin it, you couldn't clean it up very much at all, if you tried to pull it into the "middle of the road" it would just slide back down into the hobo ditch.


We have chosen to call this Volume 1 as many more songs were arranged and recorded then could be included (due to LP time constraints) so should the opportunity present itself in the near future for a second addition to be made, it would be great joy to do so. We all agree, it is good and rewarding work.


At our best we were 7:

Kai & Jimmy, Myself & Christine, Chris Rattie, Gus and Huck.

Good squad, solid team, covered all the bases, together we could make a big freewheeling sound.


Looking back now, Mountain Minstrelsy feels more like a place than a album.

It feels place me and Christine dreamed up and kept blabbing on and on about.

Eventually we got everyone so damned worked up about it that one night we just packed up our banjos and drums and fiddles in the van and drove there,

just to check it out....

But guess what??

It was awesome there!

"SEE?" we said,

"Holy crap" they said..."it is awesome here!"

We were proud.

So we stayed there/played there a long time...when it was over some of us didn't even wanna leave. I couldn't even remember the way we'd come.


I guess somewhere along the way i personally got a bit carried away and the whole process became something more like a lifestyle then task, or a job at became this secret awesome time machine we were given keys to for a time. Strong friendships were made while unearthing these old relics. Always, I walked around with a book under my arm more like a college student then a rock musician. There was a 6 year old kid INDISPENSABLY involved in pulling it all off, also an 86 year old man. Much has happened. I owe you all now.


MUST BE SAID: Christine is your producer/engineer/mastermind here, she did everything, (everything good anyway) learning on the fly, running around like a chicken with no head, taping X's on the floor, notebooks exploding with lyrics and settings and #'s and patch bay roadmaps, microphones, Decca trees, who knows what? I sure don't. 

It was inspiring to watch however, so nice one Smitz.



Whoever originally penned any single word of this are a friend of mine now. You've been gone from this place for a long, long time now but I feel like I know you, and I get you...I like you, and on some nights I think I might even love you....mostly I'd just want you to know someone down here remembers and appreciates you. So thanks! I'll see you up there/out there soon enough and then you can show me how all this stuff really goes.


Ok, good luck with your stupid album,

David Bielanko

Sugar Valley 2013

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