Story songs in the grand Southern tradition, of times present, and past. Seasoned with fiddle and tasty picking.
These songs have been in the works for a few years. They grew up in beer joints, and songwriter nights, in coffee shops, and on porches. They grew up through the cracks of family, friendships, work, survival, and the sometimes difficult choices that come with being a “grown up.” They grew from the hard packed ground, of a hard ass town, that I am proud to call home. The title “Know Why” is a play on the common misspelling of my last name, kind of a goof, but it does raise a fundamental question. The fact is, I don’t know why. We do what we do because we have to.
There are many ways for an artist to create "buzz" for their latest offering. Pre-orders, media, gimmicks, custom marketing plans and promotions. I didn't do any of these things. I'm not knocking it. I sometimes wish I had the resources or the talent, or the ability to talk about myself in the third person, but I just don't have it in me. With the help of some talented friends, I made the most honest record I could. I used the resources available to me. I enjoyed every part of the process. I present it to you without apology.
Mississippi (Why you got to be so mean?)
In his book Mississippi: An American Journey, Anthony Walton referred to Mississippi as "perhaps the most loaded proper noun in American English". It is a land of sharp contrasts, hacked from swamps, jungles and forests that are constantly trying to reclaim it. It is the land of some of the finest people I have ever known, yet it is defined by a history of unspeakable human cruelty. It is also the primordial soup that the evolution of American music rose up from. Mississippi constantly leads the nation in poverty, obesity, teenage pregnancy and lags in education. Despite all that it will always be the place my heart calls home.
That tasty fiddle is provided by Alice Hasen, who came from Vermont to teach music in Clarksdale, a northerner but certainly not a carpet bagger! Stephen Chopek on drums, Vincent Manard on keys and bass, and Cecil Yancy on harmony.
Makes Us Blue
This one has been knocking around for awhile. A traveling man's lament.. Missing home when you're gone, and missing the road when you're home. My traveling buddy Joe Hopkins is playing 12 string on this one Stephen Chopek on drums, Vincent Manard on Rhodes and Bass.
Walking Down Magazine
By luck or happenstance I managed to spend a good bit of time in New Orleans over the last year or so. The city has always had a running away to join the circus feel to me. Like Memphis, it is inhabited by interesting ghosts of a checkered past. I will always just be a little in love with her.
Cecil Yancy and Alice Hasen really made this one special. The fantastic Jimmy Stephens jr on bass and the always rock solid Stephen Chopek on drums keep it moving along. Fun fact, the guitar on this one is my daughter Chessie's from her elementary school guitar lessons!
There is a spot in the Natchez Trace that, according to legend, was the site of ancient rites by Witches. In the early days of the country, the Natchez Trace was the major trade thoroughfare from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS. The tale is mine, but draws inspiration from the story of the notorious Harpe brothers.
The star on this track is my friend, and mandolin virtuoso (he's going to hate that label, but the shoe fits bro), Carlos Gonzalez. We recorded the mandolin part in his living room. He had just gotten his dog Barney, who stayed between us the whole time, if you listen hard enough you might hear the jingle of his collar! Cecil's haunting backing vocal really calls on his Pentecostal gospel roots. Vincent adds the extra creepy synth and Aztec death whistle at the end
Lake Michigan Blues
I took the train from Memphis to Chicago to play a show and had a great time. Lake Michigan was the first Great Lake I have been up close and personal with. It really did look like the ocean! On the journey home I was seated in the car with a couple of fellows that worked for the railroad and had been to Chicago for some training. One of the guys was from Slidell, LA and the other was from near McComb, MS. I don't think they shared my love of the windy city. The fellow from McComb kept talking about "getting below that Mason-Dixon line." A few days after I got home the story of a guy that got on the wrong side of the Dixie mob being sent up north to take out a fellow southerner and subsequently getting stuck in a cold exile himself, came together.
My friend Brian Mulhearn threw down some tasty guitar and recruited his friend Barb McGavern to lay down the backing vocals. Chopek on the drums , Vinnie on bass and Hammond organ.
This one is a little out of my normal wheel house, but it was a lot of fun to put together. We recorded the initial tracks at Five and Dime with Harry Koniditsiotis engineering, Chopek on drums, Jimmy Stephens jr. on bass, and Vinnie on keys. My friend Tommy Landers recorded the vocals, and Joe Hopkins' 12 string, on a sweet vintage Neuman U87 at his place in the Arkansas woods. I turned Vinnie loose with the Mellotron strings and flutes on the Nord keyboard. I was not disappointed.
The Way She Looks at Him
I tell this story whenever I play this song. I was in a bar in Amsterdam waiting on my friends. We were supposed to be leaving that day, but airplane trouble had kept us. We had been 10 days out and to make it worse they sent us to a crappy hotel in the suburbs without our bags. Needless to say, I wasn't in the best of moods. An English fellow came in and in my head I was making fun of his mop of red hair and big teeth (not my best self). After a few minutes a lady sat down next to him and looked at him as if he was the best thing that had ever happened. I realized I was making fun of the luckiest guy in the bar. I wrote the song so that I wouldn't forget.
This was recorded, kind of off the cuff at Tommy Landers' hideaway in Arkansas. I played guitar while Joe Hopkins and Tommy beat on stuff and sang back-up. I think Mr. Yancy added a some vocals as well. Here she is, warts and all.