Shawn Feeney’s Musical Anatomy

What if we didn’t need musical instruments? What if they were a part of us, natural extensions of our bodies that allowed us to extend and transform our voices into something altogether different? That’s the idea behind artist Shawn Feeney’s Musical Anatomy series. He imagines bodies with musical anatomies, referencing musicians from a variety of genres and traditions — a bluesman with a harmonica mouth, a jazz musician with saxophones where his nose and mouth would normally be, and so on.

Astor & Pollux

The drawing above, “Astor & Pollux,” depicts a pair of Siamese twins joined at the bandoneon, with faces modeled after Argentine tango legend Astor Piazzolla. Check Shawn’s site for more strange and wonderful imaginings; you can also pick up a poster of “Astor & Pollux” for $10.

MP3 Monday: The Polka Floyd Show

We’re back! After a long vacation, we’re tanned, rested, and ready to share some strange and wonderful things from the accordion world with you. Let’s start with some classic rock with a twist; as you can guess from their name, The Polka Floyd Show isn’t your typical Pink Floyd tribute band. This Ohio band combines a love for Roger Waters and the boys with accordion and peppy polka rhythms. Their latest release, Live from the Ohio Theatre, showcases tracks from throughout Pink Floyd’s lengthy career, including early chestnuts like “The Gnome,” while a lively crowd eats it up.

You might think their schtick would get old quickly, but the musicianship is solid and the energy never wanes. Traditional? Hardly. Campy? A bit. Fun? Absolutely.

All Squeezed Up at Graceland

Last month, the American Accordionists Association held its annual festival in Memphis, Tennessee. The gathering featured performances by Riders in the Sky (with Joey Miskulin), Jeff Lisenby and the NashVegas Jazz, Tony Lovello, Bruce Gassman, Joe Natoli and Mary Tokarski. In between the concerts, workshops and competitions, a small band of accordionists made their way over to the King’s house for a little rock and roll… accordion-style.

Under the direction of Frank Busso, the fifty-strong accordion band played “Love Me Tender” and “Blue Suede Shoes” on Elvis’ doorstep:

Minding the Accordion Store

Forget the recession; running an accordion shop is a challenging business even in the best of times. Last week, the Chicago Tribune had a great profile of the Italo-American Accordion Company in Oak Lawn, Illinois, which has been in business for nearly 95 years. Joe Romagnoli took over the business in 1948 and made a name for himself by selling meticulously hand-crafted instruments. Today, his wife Anne runs the business, but it’s a far cry from the accordion company’s heyday. According to John Castiglione, who runs Castiglione Accordions in Warren, Michigan:

“The market is more scattered than it was in the ’50s, when the accordion was the No. 1 instrument and everyone took lessons and there were schools… People still buy, but for all intents and purposes, you don’t find stores selling just accordions.”

At Italo-American, they’re lucky to sell a handful of instruments a month; most of their business comes through repairs. But Anne, who’s now 83 years old, refuses to retire and makes a spirited accordion sales pitch to anyone who walks through her door.

“If you have an old accordion, put life into it. The accordion is a happy thing. There is no other instrument this self-sufficient. You play guitar, you need people. But you can take an accordion to a picnic. You can’t take a trumpet to a picnic!”