Upon hearing John Reischman’s instrumental tune, “Gold Mountain Blues,” I was struck by how mournful it sounds compared to the rest of his new album, Walk Along John.
As it turns out, Reischman was inspired by the history and presence of the Chinese population in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he lives. In addition, the moody arrangement is as complex as the melody. After a few email exchanges, Reischman was kind enough to share the following:
“I came up with the melody that became ‘Gold Mountain Blues’ about 2007 or so. I was playing my mandola in a way that mimics frailing banjo, and this bluesy lonesome tune took shape. It reminded me at the time of a Dock Boggs blues.
“When my band, John Reischman and the Jaybirds, started putting together material for our fifth CD, our bassist, Trisha Gagnon, came to me with the concept of co-writing a song about the Chinese railway workers in Canada. I thought the melody that I had come up with on the mandola would work well for this concept since it was in a minor pentatonic mode. So it became the verse melody and part of the bridge for the song ‘Gold Mountain’ from our CD called Vintage and Unique.
“Later, when I was working up material with one of the core ensembles for Walk Along John, I remembered the tune and still thought it could work as a mountain blues. At one of our rehearsals, Eli West came up with a great way of accompanying the melody on his bouzouki. Patrick Metzger played a minimalist but rhythmically effective bass part, and Trent Freeman added bluesy unison and counterpoint fiddle lines. It is primarily all played in unison by the lead instruments over one chord with some chord substitutions I came up with towards the end of the tune.
“I then asked Ivan Rosenberg, who recorded and mixed a lot of the project, to add Dobro to it. His playing sounds very natural, like he was in the room with us when we recorded it.”
After taking all of that into account, I feel like I was in the room when they recorded it, too. Enjoy “Gold Mountain Blues” by John Reischman.