The Deep Ocean Blues was recorded at Bryan Nebel's studio in Brooklyn, NY, which has become a vibrant part of the acoustic music scene in this country. Greg Cornell & the Cornell Brothers, Brooklyn-based and bluegrass-tinged, have been playing clubs and bars in NYC for the past four years, becoming a recognized part of the scene. This is their first album. Nine of the ten songs were written by Greg Cornell, the group's lead singer and guitar player, who was born in Chemung County in upstate New York, and grew up mostly in Westchester County. Influences growing up included some of the great bluegrass bands of the Seventies, including Seldom Scene and the acoustic work of Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, as well as the music of Neil Young, Stephen Stills and The Band.
Brooklyn has developed into a real destination for acoustic players, featuring music venues that specialize in bluegrass, old timey and folk music. The Cornell Brothers have plans to expand with a tour through upstate New York and New England in late spring of 2014.
Some notes on the songs:
1. Deep Ocean Blues: written at a low point, but looking up. Features James Head on Banjo and co-producer Bryan Nebel on harmonica.
2. O Captain! My Captain!: this is a poem by Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass, that Greg wrote the music to. It's a metaphor for the end of Abraham Lincoln's presidency, with the glory and relief that came with victory over the south combined with the shock of his murder. Features Adam Moss on fiddle, who also happens to be Greg's fiddle teacher.
3. Heavenly Rain: Greg wrote this in June at the Miles of Music Camp in New Hampshire, a week-long immersion in instrument study, performing and songwriting. The theme recurs in other songs on the album: regret turning into redemption.
4. She Dances: an old-fashioned love song about dancing. The sea creeps in here too. Features Chris Q. Murphy on keyboards and Sam LoCascio on mandolin.
5. Star of David, Star of Bethlehem: a story of the Knights Templar during the Crusades in the 12th Century. And a love story. According to some legends, the Templars, who were officially in the Holy Land to provide protection to pilgrims, were unofficially looking for the Ark of the Covenant, which was rumored to be hidden in Solomon's Temple. They may have found a treasure of inestimable value, which helped them establish the first banking system in France when they returned, or the rudiments of Gothic architecture, which lead to the explosion of cathedral building. Murphy again on keyboards.
6. Rise Up: a diifficult relationship redeemed. Sam on mando, James on banjo.
7. I Should Have Been A Sailor: Greg wrote this after watching a film called "Going Home," in which the female lead scatters her father's ashes into the ocean. Also inspired by the time he spent at his family's farm in Chemung. It was Bryan Nebel's idea to record a stripped down version of this song, with just Greg singing and playing guitar.
8. Don't Open That Door: written by Kurt Olsen, Greg's old friend and college roommate. Danny Rose, a singer and actor from Philadelphia who was a founding member of the Cornell Brothers, sings the lead on this darkly funny warning to sinners that takes off like a runaway train with the devil on its tail. Adam plays a blistering fiddle solo, Bryan picks a hot acoustic guitar lead.
9. How I Roll: Greg wrote this after a Saturday night/ early Sunday morning at Sunny's Bar bluegrass jam in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Murphy on keyboards.
10. Chemung County Jig: an Irish-influenced homage to the land of Greg's birth.