Milltone Drum – A Very Cool Instrument

milltone Drum from above

Milltone Drum from above

Sometimes, when I have a small amount of time to kill, I go to a website called Blogsurfer.Us which gives you a rolling scroll through seemingly innumerable blogs. Every six seconds, you are shown a new blog’s opening page. You can pause, or back up (controls just like a video player in the upper left corner) when something intriguing catches your eye.

It is a very easy method for pushing out your boundaries and finding stuff that you would, otherwise,  never have seen. I think doing just that is a good experience and helps keep the brain clicking as one ages.

Today, I stumbled upon a blog devoted to a very, very cool new instrument, the Milltone Drum.

Rather than try to explain it, let me ask you to watch this great video:

I love it.

The sound reminds a little of the Kalimba, or “thumb piano,” common throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Kalimba thumb-piano

Kalimba thumb-piano

The Kalimba is also variously known as: Mbira, Mbila, Mbira Huru, Mbira Njari, Mbira Nyunga Nyunga, Marimba, Karimba, Likembe or Okeme. I have owned one for several years and it is easy and fun to play and usually captivates anyone (especially children) seeing it for the first time.  Highly-talented Maurice White, the driving force behind the success of Earth Wind & Fire regularly played a Kalimba during E W & F concerts and on several album tracks.

But the Milltone Drum is a high-tech, super-tuned beautiful version of this type of instrument. As good as it sounds in this Youtube video, imagine the wonderful tonal quality of this instrument when heard live. And each one is a real piece of art. These things are gorgeous!

These unique and lovely instruments are available on eBay for around $250.00. You can learn more, and see a number of stunning iterations of the Milltone Drum Blog.

Milltone Drum-3

Milltone Drum in Red

Milltone Drum-5

Milltone Drum decorations


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Radio Nostalgia

Cropped screenshot of Edgar Bergen with Charle...
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I recently discovered a website that offers an unbelievably comprehensive catalog of Old Time Radio shows. These are available as streaming broadcasts, downloads, or on CD with multiple episodes bundled as collections in MP3 format. The Old Time Radio Catalog at is a huge storehouse of classics from the heydays of music, comedy and drama on the radio.

Yeah, I know that this is, ostensibly, a music blog but I am crazy about all kinds of good old stuff, and the days of lying in the floor listening to The Shadow or Fred Allen are near and dear to my old heart. This is before TV, if you you youngsters can imagine such a thing. We had a huge cabinet-style radio, about 3/4 the size of a good refrigerator. It was all tubes, had the greatest of sound and could pull in a station from 5-600 miles away if the station had enough power. When the atmosphere was right we could get WLS in Chicago; WOWO in Ft. Wayne, IN; WSM in Nashville and something out of Louisiana whose call letters I can’t remember. All this in addition to local stations within 75 miles or so of Danville, KY where I was living at the time.

We would listen to Wait Hoyt broadcast the Cincinnati Reds (or “the Redlegs” as they were still called back then). “There goes one into Burger-ville,” was Wait’s call for a home run, giving a nod to his sponsor, Burger Beer.

Gunsmoke, Dragnet and  The Lone Ranger were just a few of the radio shows that eventually migrated to TV and enjoyed great success there, too. Music, of course, was huge, along with variety shows with the likes of Edgar Bergen & Charley McCarthy, and George Burns & Gracie Allen. The Old Time Radio Catalog appears to have it all. Check out this excellent, and well-organized website.

Old Time Radio Catalog website

Old Time Radio Catalog website

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Another good movie soundtrack

You've Got Mail album cover
Image via Wikipedia

As soon as I put up the post about the soundtrack for Sleepless In Seattle, another Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie came to mind. That is the romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail. The movie is clever and fun. Tom Hanks is always easy to watch and Meg Ryan is pretty cute in this part. there are some great people in the supporting cast. Look for Dave Chapelle in what, I am pretty sure, was his first movie role as Tom’s assistant at Fox Books.

The musical selections are terrific and, again, they really feed the story. Once more, like Sleepless In Seattle, the movie climaxes with the incomparable Jimmy Durante setting the mood with You Made Me Love You. It can’t get any better than that.

Listen to this lineup of performers: Harry Nilsson, Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbison, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Billy Williams and Jimmy Durante. Also included, but maybe not as familiar, The Cranberries and Bobby Day (with Rockin’ Robin). Harry Nilsson is featured on three tracks and, if you have not given him a listen in recent years, by all means do so. He does The Puppy Song (cute), Remember (very pretty song) and one of the three best versions of Over the Rainbow you will ever hear. (The other two are, obviously, Judy Garland’s original from the movie, and Jane Monheit.

Jane Monheit, btw, is one of the best of today’s jazz, cabaret, ballad, swing & showtune performers. She tours with her own excellent band led by her husband, Rick Montalbano, and featuring his excellent custom arrangements. If you get a chance to see them live, especially in one of the small, intimate venues they prefer. her website has some good samplings from her impressive album catalog . Here is the link: A Jane Monheit CD is always a safe investment.

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