The great thing about being an independent artist is that in a creative sense you can do whatever you want. In making my new record, The Glorious Decline, I had several new things I wanted to try.
First - I wanted to live with the songs and get to know them before recording them. So, while writing the songs I booked several tours over a year and a half and played the new songs every night. This allowed me to get comfortable with them and to see what the audience responded to every night. When it came time to record, these songs were my old friends. I knew them inside out and I knew how I wanted to present them on record.
Second - I wanted the songs to be different than my previous songs. I wanted them to be linear and sad and have a very flowing soundscape vibe to them. Linear because I had been listening to a lot of classical music on vinyl and I love the way a song would fill the whole 20 minutes of a record side with all these variations on the theme and all the orchestral colorations and support. I like the fact that they weren't a strict formula of verse/chorus. verse/chorus, b-section/solo, final chorus and that's how I approached many of the Glorious Decline songs. Sad because I've always written sad songs and been drawn to sad songs. Sadness would allow me a mood to work within and set a theme for the record. I wanted the soundscape vibe because I had been recording instrumental music for the past several years with Jason Tait (Weakerthans, Fembots) and was in that headspace of texture and orchestral washes of sound. Jason really opened my mind to this way of making music.
Third - I wanted to record with just one set of musicians. On each of my previous records I had several drummers and bassists and guitarists as well as a lot of guest musicians. This was great but I wanted to try something different. On the Glorious Decline there is one drummer (Jason), one pianist (Vanessa Yundt), one bassist (Adam Blinick) and one guitarist (me). The guests are kept to a minimum - horns on one song (Bryden Baird and Steve Donald), organ on another (Bob Packwood) and vocals on a third (Oh Susanna).
Fourth - I wanted to take my time with the record and not have to watch the studio clock. So, I bought a Mac G-4 powerbook and a Pro-tools rig and rented a great high-end microphone (Nuemann U-87) and made this record on my own schedule. The portability allowed me to record wherever (and whenever) the inspiration struck. I lot of work was done in backstage dressing rooms, hotel rooms, tour buses, basements and cottages. Then we were able to bring it all to a proper studio (the Woodshed) to mix it to tape on a fantastic old Neve console for the best of both worlds.
The beautiful thing about making records is that you are always learning something new and a lot of what I picked up during this process will serve me well in new ventures, primarily the pedal steel instrumental records I plan to release in the second half of 2006.
|1||an airport bar on christmas day||7:39|
|5||learn to love again||4:04|
|8||drifting too far from the shore||5:26|
|9||crawling back to you||2:04|
The Lonesome Destiny EP is a transitional work - half of the songs were written for the Promise LP that preceded it and the other half were written for the new direction I wanted to head in, one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
Of course the future has always held more interest for me than the past so these are the songs I find the most revealing. These new songs also marked my first recorded work with Jason Tait who would several years later play drums and vibes on my next record, the Glorious Decline.
I saw the Promise as a traditional Americana song-based record featuring real strong country and roots players. I wanted to move away from that to more linear soundscapes with ethnic beats and exotic feels.
The first of the new songs is Desire, a Latin-tinged duet with Carolyn Mark. The second is Enter the Desert, a national slide guitar atmospheric piece with haunting vibes and percussion. The third transitional piece, Muddy Waters, features a heavy beat, a gnarly slide guitar and a low-pitched spoken vocal that narrates the story of being drawn to the deep south.
All of these songs would have stood out like a sore thumb on the Promise but i had to record them and release them to open the door to the musical styles i wanted to pursue in the Glorious Decline. It holds a special place for me because you can hear where I was coming from on the first half and where I was going on the second half.
|3||just a man||3:27|
|5||enter the desert||4:11|
While recording with the Tragically Hip at their Bathhouse studio (for Phantom Power) I decided that this was how I wanted to make a solo record - in a country house, off the clock, good food and totally relaxed with my friends. I was very taken by the vibe of their studio. It was warm and comfortable. It was a fun and a creative place.
Funny enough, three years later Greg Keelor from Blue Rodeo offered up his country home recording studio to make my new release "the Promise." In the winter of 2001 a handful of musicians moved in and we lived and hung out and worked together. It was a blast.
We recorded mainly live in the same room to a big old 8-track 1-inch tape machine. The beauty of it was we all knew there were only eight things we could put to tape so everyone played in a connected ensemble way. You can hear the room breath and the warmth of the tape.
It was an all-star, all-Canadian band. My right hand men were Bazil (from Blue Rodeo) and Travis (from the Sadies). Baz co-wrote the songs with me and Travis played guitar and mandolin. Richard Bell (Janis Joplin and the Band) was a god on piano and Hammond organ. The rhythm sections were great too - Baz and Maury LaFoy (the Supers) on bass, Cam Giroux (Luther Wright and the Wrongs), Stephen McGrath and Glenn Milchem (Blue Rodeo) on drums. For special guests we had the Be Good Tanyas singing and Lisa MacIssac on fiddle.
The songs deal with a certain range of life's experiences from lost love (Cold Wind, Honest Night), alienation (Disconnected, Chosen One) and death (Mystery of Love, When I'm Gone) to hope (Float Away), redemption (Starting Over) and the promise of new love (Mr. Moonlight, Country Girl and Just a Dream).
The sounds are pretty rootsy and Stones-like with Beggar's Banquet era acoustic guitars, slide guitars and mandolins and Sticky Fingers era piano, organ and riffin electric guitars. There is even a Baba O'Reilly meets Gallows Pole moment where the whole record careens to the edge of out of control with fiddles and feedback.
|2||mystery of love||3:27|
|5||when i'm gone||3:45|
|11||just a dream||3:34|
Recorded at KingSize Sounds in Chicago and Private Studios in Urbana, Illinois.
In true rock and roll fashion I maxed out three credit cards and the generosity of many friendly musicians to make this record. They say the first one is the hardest.
Satellite was the last song to be recorded and I could not get comfortable singing it. I tried a lot of approaches but it just wouldn't sit in the track right. Finally I used a technique I heard that Lennon used - I laid flat on my back in a dark room with my eyes closed and the microphone less than an inch from my lips.
you could barely
hold your life together
|3||comin' down hard||4:38|
|4||i could be wrong||4:11|
|6||take me back again||2:58|
|8||i don't understand||3:16|
|9||my maker and me||4:34|
|10||fall from the sky||3:31|