Thursday, August 13, 2009

About Some Of The Songs

Whose Fault But Mine? compact song about seeing signs and trusting omens in the city.... "Soot in sunlight, oh my soul I am reclaimed..."

Whose Face? - written for a friend's film - in the end unmade - "Whose Face?" was originally intended for a deathbed scene about a gangster's last moments.

My Primitive Joy - Robby's drums and Jimmy C. Clarke on pedal steel bring it all home. Its relaxed feel was something new for us, and I love Jimmy's solo.

Have You Been To The City? - hope to disappointment, innocence to oblivion... mood somehow reminiscent of Charlie Patton's exile sentiment "I've been to the nation but I couldn't stay there..."

November Song - my marriage song for Judy.... Scott's drumming and, as with his playing on "Have You Been To The City?", what he does is perfect for the song. He also produced, getting a great vocal sound.

Musicians On My Primitive Joy Include...

Scott McEwen (producer, string bass, drums, guitar and piano): Scott lent his experimental sensibility and ideas to every song on the album, honing them with crazy analog wisdom. He made it all happen...

Jimmy C. Clark (pedal steel, violin, trumpet): Jimmy's a musician's musician who tours with Loretta Lynn. Hearing him create harmonies and arrangements on the fly was one of the most amazing studio experiences I've ever had.

Robby Cosenza (drums): I'm a huge fan of Robby's awesomely fierce drumming. His work here - on "My Primitive Joy" and "At Dusk"- is artful and subdued...

JJ Murphy (drums): JJ's playing and production insights - like how girl group sounds were worth keeping in mind while recording - make "Whose Fault But Mine?" one of my favorite songs on the record. His outrageous stories between takes also made our sessions a blast.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Recording, Part 1: The Fry Pharmacy

Waiting for morning coffee, I'll tell you something about the music I recorded for the new CD... first of all, though, you must know something about The Fry Pharmacy, the studio the songs were recorded in... It's in Nashville, or more specifically in Old Hickory, just outside Nashville, out by the lake that Johnny Cash made his home on. (Parenthetically: Johnny's old house burnt to the ground a few years back. We in the Ramblers have theorized that it committed suicide upon learning that it had been recently purchased by one of the Gibb Brothers, of Bee Gees fame.)

Anyway, back to The Fry Pharmacy. It's owned by Scott McEwen, the Ramblers bass player, who acquired it a few years back.... the place was indeed once a drug store, built in the 1920s (or was it the 30s?), and operating for thirty-odd years until closing its doors in the early 1960s.

It remained dusty and shuttered for forty years; when Scott first walked throughout its reopened doors he found himself inside a ghosted time capsule... Tin ceilings. Cryptic graffitti scrawl on the walls in childlike hand. Walls the weird institutional pale green that was everywhere in the 50s and 60s but is rarely seen today (needless to say we think of that ghastly green as one of the colors of a lost childhood and so, perhaps perversely, it evokes pleasant memories).

COFFEE'S HERE... let's drink it! More soon on the Fry Pharmacy and the work we did there...

Recording, Part 2: The Fry Pharmacy, Continued

So, as I was saying, the Fry Pharmacy Studio graces the hills of Old Hickory with a certain dusty primitive splendor. It's a grimy gem whoses essence was sensed and enhanced when Scott, The Fry's proud owner, filled it with the tape machines whose acquisition has, over the years, become his life pursuit. These tape recorders are the faithful relics of the pre-digital; their whirring, mechanical personalities have largely disappeared from the studio scene as computers replaced them.

Still, who can deny the beauty of the sounds captured by these creaky beasts? Scott's crazy treasures include a machine that's recorded the pride of Michigan - The Stooges, The White Stripes and The Detroit Cobras... machines like it also recorded masterpieces like "Sticky Fingers." And tucked away in a corner you'll find a tape recorder just like the one used to capture - with gorgeous, breathtaking subtlety - the genius of "Kind of Blue."

And when these machines are turned on, they produce smells - the slightest scent of dust burnt off as tubes warm up - and heat. Like all living animals do.

So you get the picture... the ghostly past is present, alive in the hills off a highway just outside old Nashville.