gorgeous melodies with perfect lyrics
Behind The Music
I had been listening to some Senegalese drummers and fooling around with a low C tuning on the guitar when this tune popped out. I played a six-string acoustic part, then overdubbed the bass on my Sadowsky 5-string fretless with a pick. (Okay, Fender extra-heavy.) Billy and I wanted to strengthen the 4/4 feeling of the groove, so we got the great Bruce Gaitsch in to play something, anything. He played the muted single note stuff on a Strat in one take. Then he picked up my Taylor 12-string, which was tuned to the open C9. The sound was so thrilling to him and us that we rolled tape again, and he played this ethereal part in one take. The vibes mentioned in the lyrics? Bobby Hutcherson and McCoy Tyner in a duo recording. Played in a CD player on E. 4th Street. Positively.
2. Nowhere Fast
The true genesis of this tune (didn't Hemingway have a story called "The True Gen"? I think so.) I was at a recording session for the basic tracks to Amanda Homi's CD. I wrote a bunch of the tunes with her, and I was there to make sure the band played the right changes. As if. Anyway, on an extended downtime break, we sat around the kitchen at Dangerous Recording on E. 2nd Street and passed around Ted Kumpel's guitar. Ted did some great tunes, and Tony Shear did some beauties, and I did a couple of mine. We were recording Amanda's CD, so she just pointed to the control room when it was her turn. Ted did a really strange tune about snorkeling, with real slinky changes. I went home and wrote this one - the story of my brilliant career, if you can crack the code. (Hint hint: Rugs and real estate means internal medicine.)
I told Billy that this is his funkiest track ever, but you can't really say that to a drummer. Tim Ouimette and Billy worked out the wacky horn parts ( I got one lick in). You can hear me talking though a Mister Microphone thing at the end. Important hidden phrase: "Soap can kill you, soap can kill you." If you eat enough of it.
3. If I Ever Learn To Speak
A personal protest song. Guitar lick stolen with great reverence from the Kingston Trio's "Green Back Dollar." [excerpt]
4. Measure of the Man
I went to the Bitter End one night and heard Chip Taylor, writer of "Angel of the Morning". He talked about hearing "Ruby Tuesday" and wanting to write something that simple and lovely. I say he succeeded. So I sat in my living room and tried to do the same.
I played the guitar part, then we added vocal and tap. Producer Ward took it across the street to Jim Beard's studio, and Jim played the "band organ" part. It is an actual sample (it's come to this, folks, "an actual sample") of the carousel in Central Park in New York, New York. Jim and Jon Herington recorded the thing with a DAT player.
5. Brother and Sister
Billy and I were sitting in his little drum room in his house on 21st Street one murky, hot, depressing summer day. He hit this cool little groove on his kiddie drum set, and I hit this droning thing on the drop D tuning, and I started unspooling words. I can see her now - beautiful malcontent, staring out across low tide, into the murk, smoking - Galoises? English Ovals? Lucky's? I was thinking of Mark Eitzel when I channeled the words.
I love Billy's chatter-and-clatter drum part. I told him it's funky enough to loop and sell if he wants, but he says he couldn't possibly do that, oh no. (Link to Billy's site here!)
This track introduces two special players - the incredibly rock-solid and in-tune acoustic bass playing of John Patitucci, and the weird swamp science of Marc Shulman. You may know John from any number of brilliant recordings of the past two decades, from Chick Corea to Dave Grusin to his own dates as a leader. Marc has graced albums by some of the best singer-songwriters on the East Coast, and played with the Blue Nile and Jonatha Brooke. He burns hot, so he wears a sleeveless t-shirt to record in, and wets his hair and slicks it back. That's why they call him "Nuke."
6. All That Glitters
In the DADGAD tuning. I wrote it in my kitchen, thinking about a deep disappointment with a certain friend or two. I love the brushwork from Mr. Ward. The closest I've come to pure, plaintive Appalachian poetry, mysterious and ancient. Nikki Gregoroff told me it sounds a hundred years old, and I think I felt that old when I wrote it. But I'm younger than that now.
7. Angel on My Shoulder
It's a funny thing - sometimes the songwriter doesn't know what he's got. I was playing a few new songs for Producer Ward one day. I hit him with a snappy little number that had it all, I thought. Wit, cool chords, bitterness, and Fourteenth Street. His comment. - something like "Yeah, it's a song. Next". "Well," I stammered, "I kinda have one more tune. I dunno…" And I played "Angel". When I was done, I looked up, and he had tears in his eyes. "I've got tears in my eyes and goosebumps," he said. So we kept it. Once again, Shulman stirs up a storm.
You can pick up a little angel pin at Value Drugs on Seventh Avenue and Fourteenth Street. Right next to the hand squeezer thing.
I've played this tune at bars and bistros around the country, the world actually, and it never fails to stop ‘em in their tracks. An anthem for those that ain't getting enough of whatever it is they need. Cheer up everybody! Bruce Gaitsch provides the tweety bird calls. [excerpt]
9. The Way I Look at You
Finally, a love song! Introducing Allison Cornell on violin and viola - who knows the difference anyway? Her part adds a bit of sweetness and hillbilly swing to the track. I've seen Allison play with Shania Twain lots of times, but my favorite was hearing her solo gig at the West Bank Café in New York a few years ago. She plays great piano and sings beautifully, too. A wonderful, inspired, talented person.
10. How Long
Has this been going on? Hardly. More like, "How long, O Lord." Once again, Billy and I in his little drum room upstairs. Me with my 12-string and a few words scrawled down, Billy with toy drums and a mind like the open sky. We jammed for awhile, then went back and nailed the pieces together. The first chord of the bridge gives me a lydian shiver every time I hear it. I love Allison's sixteenth-note obbligato under the first verse. An ode to everyone living off the grid.
11. The Christmas Roses
There's this couple I know, and they were having a tough time one Christmas, see, and, ah, the roses were wilting but still beautiful, and the days get longer after December 21, but we plunge deeper into the freezing heart of pitiless winter anyway, and there's always hope somewhere, even in some tossed-off roses in the snow…
John Patitucci plays beautifully with the bow here. We added Allison's parts later - I say we, I was in another county at the time. Producer Ward and Allison put that little string trio together. [excerpt]