Monday, March 07, 2011

Giddy up! (CD Update #1)

Don't fall over, but the recording for the upcoming solo EP (The Ride Of Our Lives) is over. It's not really finished of course, but it is over. Thanks for asking.

Of course, there are always things you wish you'd done differently, just as there are always a few overdub ideas that you never got around to trying. There comes a time, though, when you realise that you could easily spend the rest of your life labouring over these songs without ever finishing any of them, and so you come to accept that it's time to let them go. That way, you can start labouring over the next batch.

So, guitars and microphones have been put away, and under the expert guidance of Brian and Ed Ditchflower, mixing has begun. And what fun it is, too. I mean, I love just being in the company of these extremely fine and talented gentlemen at the best of times, but joining them in the cozy confines of Mr Merrill's Studio Bee in order to fine tune and polish these little songs over a couple of fine fermented beverages? It's damn uplifting, I tell you.

First order of mixing business was the title track, which is actually the last song on the record (I said it was fun; I never said it was orderly). This song means a lot to me, since it's built around a true story (unlike the majority of my material which is gleaned from unsubstantiated rumours and bald-faced lies). The Ride Of Our Lives tells the story of my mother, Jean, and her best friend, Mary, growing up together in post-war England, and how their friendship endured into adulthood. Although my mother remained in England, and Mary ended up marrying an American and settled in the US, their lives (and the lives of their children) remained entwined. Mary's American husband would become my Godfather, and in case anyone wants to point fingers, it was his invitation for me to come over to America, back in 1978, that resulted in me actually moving here.

Acoustic guitar-based, with a dash of mandolin, this might be the folkiest-sounding concoction I've come up with yet. No apologies there though; the lyrics almost insisted upon it, really. I'll admit that early on in the recording process, I was a little concerned that it might sound a little too fake-Celtic or something, but I've stopped worrying about it. Instead, I'd rather focus on how thrilled I am with the viola part that Nashville-based string maestro, Tim Lorsch, added to the song. I'd originally asked him for a fiddle track, and he suggested using a viola instead. It ended up adding a nice plaintive touch of melancholy that seems to suit the song perfectly. Having said that, if any reviewer does end up levelling the fake-Celtic barb at this effort, Tim will, of course, get the blame.

The next one up was "Come Back", which is to be the opening song on the record. Lyrically, this one has me looking back at Old Blighty (again) and sprang from me thinking about my decision to leave, all those years ago. They say you can never go back, and Lord knows I'm not going to argue with that, but it is a bit of a deep and murky issue for me, and one that I have trouble dealing with, and articulating. So, I did what any self-respecting, repressed Englishman would do: I trivialised and made light of it by dressing it up as a 4-minute disposable poppy-folk song.

I have to say that Brian did an admirable job of blending in Ed's snazzy, foraging electric guitar embellishments and assorted atmospherics in order to tart up what otherwise is another rather stark, acoustic guitar song (anyone noticing a trend here?) Truth be told, I'm really pleased with how this one came out, and am particularly proud of the fact that I managed to work references to both steam trains and Slade, into one song. It makes little sense of course, but it makes me happy. Giddy, even.

Meanwhile, my old Headlights comrade-in-arms, Steve Connelly, has worked his usual magic over at Zen Recording, mixing track #3 for the record. This one's called Bed Of Nails, which is one I've had kicking around for a while. In fact, it was originally intended for "Undercurrent" but it never got finished. The drum track (courtesy of the charming and talented Chuck Darling) actually dates from the Undercurrent sessions, and like everything Chuck does, it makes me giddy. 

This week we'll be mixing the final two songs: Middle of Life, and Riddles. Middle of Life is another folky one, and is an homage to my ballroom dancing expertise. Ok, it's really not, but it is in 3/4 time, waltz you very much.  Once again featuring the mighty Tim Lorsch with his acrobatic fiddle, along with the sublime Miss Emma Robinson on some sweet backing vocals, it also has the term "glottal stop" inserted into the first verse. Giddy? Yep.

As for Riddles? Well, it's one I've yet to figure out.

Good times, clean rhymes and riddles

Be kind, don't lie or

Fiddle about (don't shout!)

We'll tell you what you need to know

Not what you want to hear

Listen to me

I sound just like you

Old ways, long days to dally

New toys, old boys

Carrying on, with bells on

Tell us what we need to know

Not what we want to hear

Listen to you

You sound just like me

Feel your heart break

Back in the neighbourhood

The faces we make

Sometimes stay that way for good

Good times, clean rhymes and riddles

©2011 Across The Water Music (BMI)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Looking forward to hearing the new songs Steve, especially a finished version of Bed of Nails! All the best. Mark Cohen, UK (The Shining Hour)