America has always been considered the “Melting Pot,” with people from all over the world coming together to blend cultures, ideas and lifestyles into a perfect gumbo that bubbles over with innovation. Through blending cultures, ideas and musical abilities, Lyman Ellerman and the Nashville Salvation Band have created a melting pot of musicians who make incredible music that defies classification and can only be considered Americana.
Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, Lyman Ellerman hails from Springfield, Illinois. His move to Nashville several years ago has proved fortuitous for this talented songwriter of hundreds of songs who has honed his skills through writing with some of Nashville’s most distinguished songwriters. Lyman enjoyed sixteen cuts last year alone, a feat to which many songwriters aspire. And while his love of songwriting is apparent in the lyrics he writes, Lyman is also an accomplished singer and guitarist. His voice, having grown raspier and more defined through the years, seems, at times, country, but then a hint of the blues creeps in to reveal the depth of this singer.
Lead guitarist, Jason Morgan, from Sale Creek, Tennessee, has spent a lifetime bending strings with fingers that move with lightening speed. Considered an icon in heavy metal, Jason’s intellectual and emotional talent on guitar is respected across the globe, especially in Peru and Canada, where fans can’t wait to see this guru of heavy metal pull them to their feet with his wailing guitar.
Sergei “Spooky” Olkhovsky, who holds worldwide acclaim as an accomplished bass player, hails from Obninsk, Russia. This Grammy-nominated bassist was a former member of Bering Strait and brings to the band the skill of a musical protégé. A master of the bass, mandolin and fiddle, Spooky adds a layer of sophistication that can easily be heard in the sounds he somehow pulls from his instruments.
Scott Mundstock, the drummer in this mix of talent, toured with Lyman in another band, Ragged Jack, for several years. Like Lyman, Scott is from central Illinois, his passion for music fueled by an unrelenting desire to touch his audience with undeniable rhythm. For Scott, who has played professionally for 25 years, his sticks are an extension of his hands. That talent on drums, combined with a beautiful tenor, gives the band extraordinary harmonies.
Together, this eclectic mix of musicians have created an album filled with songs that are not only musically crafted to perfection but reflect life in America. Get Loose, the band’s debut album, produced by Lyman and Jason for Woodshed Resistance Records, brings all of the influences of these band members together in a beautiful explosion of word and sound. Songs like, “In Spite of My Fears,” showcase Lyman’s songwriting and vocal abilities, while the musical cadences that ebb and flow like a morning tide stir emotion in the listener. Other songs, such as “I Can’t Let Go of the Lonely,” and “I Can Count on You,” display the band’s softer side, while “Beat Around the Bush,” a more up-tempo song featuring Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano chords, urges listeners to jump up from their seats and twirl around the dance floor. Jason’s rock and roll background is prominently displayed in “Your Weakness,” followed by Lyman’s stirring vocals in “Figure It Out.” All in all, this first effort by these seasoned musicians is truly a coming together of genres and musical cultures that has resulted in quite a gumbo—simmered to perfection, piping hot and just really good.
Around November of '09, myself and five other close pals finished recording a record here in Nashville. It was entitled "Life Is A Wheel". The band was Ragged Jack. It wasn't what I expected it to be. I must have not had a clear vision of what I was after whilst writing and choosing songs and such. It can be so difficult and ultimately draining of the heart and soul during that procedure and even more so when you're not totally satisfied with the outcome. Not that the songs were bad nor the performances. It just didn't seem like I (we) ended up with a cohesive group of trax. Neither sonically or soulfully.
So I decided then and there I wouldn't do another project without knowing fully what kind of songs and sounds I wanted to create going in. Now mind you, things change in the process. But I wanted to stay true to the palette I was going to paint from and not give in to too much gloss so to speak. I had already decided that I wanted to do a record of songs that I like to refer to as "songwriter" songs. Songs that had meaning. Mostly for me yes, but often in writing I forget that my plight and loves, losses, victories, and challenges are pretty much the same as everyone elses. In other words I told myself to not "make stuff up"! Throw out the made-up. Keep the real. Being a songwriter is like abandoning your soul sometimes and trying to write the ever fleeting hit money maker. I'm ok with that. However I have to do it on another clock. When I want to make a Lyman Ellerman record, I have to write Lyman Ellerman songs. What's in my heart, not something conjured up. That's what I realized after I listened to "Life Is A Wheel" after it was finished. And most of the disappointment came from the fact that I had a glimmer of this realization going into that project, but alas, I let it get out of control and turn into something else. And when it was done..., well, it just didn't fit.
So I turned to my two best friends, Jerry Turley and Jason Morgan. Both extraordinary people and musicians. Both more talented than I could ever hope to be on my best day. I told them both I wanted to make a record that would mean something. That could touch peoples lives, that could touch mine and their lives. It had to be thought out. It had to have texture. It had to be powerful both in theme and sound. It had to flow. It needed to be a RECORD ! A record of where a life stood. A record of where I was musically at the time.
So, a couple years back, here in Nashville at home, we decided to once again start that grueling process. We agreed to equally share in production duties. Initially I thought it might be cool to split up production duties and individually tackle certain songs, but without deviating as it were from the aforementioned palette.
Our first session was meant as nothing more than a trial run of a couple songs I had written. But when Jerry and Jason showed, well Jason and I got on to another melody and literally I believe in the course of an hour or two we ended up with what would become track #6 entitled "All By Myself" on the new collection. We put the basics down to track and began working on drums, knowing full well we'd have to come back later and rerecord some of our demo guitar and bass and vocal tracks after we would finish pristine drum tracks. If I remember correctly, Jerry was here about four days. I'll never forget him saying at the front door as he was leaving he wished we would've worked on something uptempo. I couldn't believe it!! We'd just smoothly laid down some killer takes even if we would revisit them later.
Less than a month would pass before Jerry's struggle with his own heartaches would end when he succumbed to depression and took his own life. I wish we would've done something uptempo too. Just for Jerry. It wouldn't have changed anything, but he could've rejoiced in what we had done for a bit. That would have made me happy as well. With a debilitating blow such as that, he being my best friend and bass player and acquaintance of over 30 years, it nearly paralyzed me...., and Jason for a brief period. But we decide to carry on. And I resolved even more strongly than before that this record would turn out as I planned. Little did I know that the well was going to overflow with emotion. Nothing of which I had ever contended with quite to these circumstances before.
Before I forget to say...., in his honor, song # 6 is Jerry playing bass. We decided to comp his takes and preserve his last studio work. Song # 7 entitled "New Pair Of Shoes", I wrote for Jerry just days after his funeral services. It started out as a slow song with sad melody. I loved the lyrics but I was struggling with it and told my wife one morning I knew what the problem was. It needed to be UPTEMPO for Jerry. We reworked it a bit and it's one of my favorites of the entire collection. It'll be difficult to not have him playing it live when we debut it but I know he would've enjoyed both the song and knowing it was written for him. And I will feel my friend every time I perform it from here on out.
to be continued:
Back to the process.
I should say for clarity it's not that I don't like the "Life Is A Wheel" record. I'm very fond and attached to some of the songs in the grouping. It's simply that I didn't follow through completely with my vision and the direction I was aiming for initially. So really, I was more disappointed in myself than anything else. And the fact that when you're working on a limited budget, very rarely do you end up with the quality you had hoped for going in. Looking back in retrospect I have to be tolerant of many different variables that went along with making that particular record. Producing is a wide spectrum of trial and error and give and take. Each new project presents the possibility for growth and improvement.
That's what excited me most about undertaking the new record "Get Loose". That and the assurance that both Jason and I seemed to be locked in mentally, and for once I had decided to keep my patience issues out of the picture. It's easy to overkill in production. Haste helps nothing when you're trying to make music.It's absolutely imperative to feel the song in it's purest form before deciding how to best present it. It's kind of like dressing for the ball. If you add every accessory in your closet to your outfit, before long, all anyone will notice are the accessories and not the main piece. I like to use the term breathe. You've got to let the song breathe. I've always felt the lyrics and melody are the canvas for the entire process of a song, front to back. Lyrics are rarely changed unless you suddenly realize out of the blue that the line you've loved for the past few months suddenly makes no sense whatsoever. How'd I miss that one?? It happens!! Occasionally. Melody on the other hand may be altered to better get a message across. I believe simplicity is a great place to start and go from there.
With all of that said, I'd like to present a bit of an overview for the record. For all and anyone who may read farther, and for myself as well. It was a huge undertaking for me as it took 13 months from beginning to completion. And when I say completion..., there were at least a few times when I thought we were complete only to have Jason inform me that we were not. A guitar line here or a harmony line somewhere he had mysteriously drawn out of the depths of the mix that would spotlight and enhance my blurp or my hacksaw-ish guitar delivery. Thanks ol' Pal !! But in the end, front to back, together, he and I collectively turned out a record I'm more proud of than any work I've ever done musically.
Looking back and listening to the trax and reflecting on the momentous changes that occurred in my life in just the past couple years seems almost eerie to me. Some of the songs were written aforehand that seemed to me could've been written after the fact of those trialsome events. It's almost like I was preparing myself for what lay ahead in some crazy way.
The 1st song : Get Loose
Sometimes..., mostly always I guess, we're tied to our actions and the consequences of them. In other words, we pay for what we do. I came to the realization that some folks..., me included, can be tied down by what we DON'T do. It's hard to say which is worse sometimes. There are obviously good consequences to some actions. No action on the other hand I believe can be debilitating in a sense. Fear breeds more fear and sometimes can nearly be paralyzing. So, getting loose is not meant to be in a partying rowdy sense, but rather a freeing up of whatever it is that holds us back. If partying rowdily is what you need however I recommend it in small doses.
Song # 2 : Drink Your Wine
I call it our durge! I just began one day strumming those chords on a flatop and out pops "You gotta Drink Your Wine".
Don't know where it came from, it was just there. I think life is like wine in a way. I like wine. Some wine I don't like. I have to keep trying different ones to discover the ones I think are really pleasing, and I hate to waste the not-so-good ones. So I finish those too. We have to make the best out of life. The one we were given at birth and the one that we create for ourselves long after there's no one left to blame for how ours has turned out. Yep, I believe we're personally responsible for how we ultimately turn out,. Give the skeletons in our closet a rest once in a while, and Drink Your Wine!!
Song # 3: Economy Blues
Well this song rather speaks for itself. I performed it one night at a writer's round here in Nashville. Seemed like everyone enjoyed it. I kinda' wanted an old bluesy sounding song in the mix as well. It wasn't easy tracking at first but after we experimented with some guitar tones it started to take on a life of it's own. I can't let all the secrets out to everyone, but I can tell you you'd be hard pressed to figure out what some of those chops were being cranked out of! I particularly enjoy the groovy Gretsch work Jason was doing in second and third verses. Pretty greasy for sure!
Song # 4: In Spite Of My Fears
This one might take a while. It's important that I give you a little personal history about myself. Not too much. Just enough to understand where I was coming from and why on this tune. And I just checked the write date on this for reference and it means even more to me now. I'll explain as I go.
My mother and father came from the Ozarks of Missouri in a time where those country folks didn't have much in the way of comforts at all. My dad was a logger. That's all he'd ever done since he went to work at a saw mill when he was 12 years old. He was strong and determined I suppose to make something of both his life and for that of his family. My mother by the time they married wanted nothing more than to get out of the "woods" or the hills as she liked to refer to them. Her upbringing wasn't all that pleasant and she was an educated young woman and she consequently knew there was more than what she had came from. So both my parents had a shared interest in leaving. I rather believe in my own mind and heart that had things worked out differently at some point they would have gone back to Missouri. I personally love the place right there with the Current River and Jack's Fork and Sinking Creek. That's the vicinity where they were born and grew up and cultivated their own stompin' grounds.
I was the second son to my parents and why I was tagged Jr. I'll never know for sure, but I was proud to wear the honor of being named after my father. Still am to this day. Unfortunately I never got to know him. He was killed in a logging accident just two weeks before my second birthday. My brother was 9. That had to be tough for him! Anyway, to the song we go. My mother, best I can remember whilst growing up was always afraid something was going to happen to my brother or myself. She worried a lot. I think losing her husband took more of a toll on her than she realized until quite some years later. She passed away on November 29th/04 after a battle with cancer. What I didn't realize until I was much farther along in life, actually just a few years ago, was that I had begun to model her fears as well. All the things in this song about fears are 100% accurately applied to me. In essence we all have some sort of fears. Trick is once again to figure a way to get through the uncomfortable places and issues. As for me, it's a work in progress. Back to the date of writing. I took my son to Atlanta on July 30th/09 to see Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and John Mellencamp in concert. Awesome show. My son Ryley at 15, was swallowed up with Dylan. I was impressed he was so impressed. We spent the night and left early the next morning for Nashville I guess around 4:30 am. Ry fell asleep. Soundly. I was still stoked from the show and began hearing words and music running through my head. It's about a three hour trip give or take a few minutes from Atlanta back to Nashville. Before I got home I had written completely In Spite Of My Fears. July 31/ 09. I lost my brother Jerry in a auto accident in Hattiesburg, Ms the previous fall. November 21,08. He was born on July 31st. I must have been aware of the date as I'm pretty tied to time and dates. I just hadn't thought about it until I decided to write these notes and when I checked write date well, there it was. After I lost my brother it was the first time I felt like I was totally alone. Even though I'm not and wasn't. Just no one left from my immediate family. No one left to ask questions about family history. No one to remind me of things I may have forgotten along the way. I guess sooner or later we all have to step into shoes we aren't pepared to wear. Gradually, slowly, they begin to fit, in spite of our fears.
Song # 5: Can't Let Go Of The Lonely
This was one of the first trax we recorded best I recall. I had done a rough version first and sent it over to Jason. When we got back together to start tracking he had some piano parts and great guitar work ideas. Actually, I think in the end of this one it was pretty much his baby as far as production goes. The harmony parts I recall were pretty painful. Because I was singing them!! What was I thinking? Jason was more than patient with me on this one and actually throughout the whole process, coaching me along, getting the best out of my tired ol' hollering voice. But he has great ears and I trust him explicitly. If he said I could do it better, I just assumed he was correct and gave it another shot. That was pretty much across the board no matter a vocal line or guitar solo, or whatever. We just worked it until it was right. These songs are going to be great to perform live because I've never personally worked so hard at my craft as I did on this record. I know we can go out and recreate these songs to as near humanly perfection as possible. And I think we're both excited about that! So..., once again..., THE SONG !!
Can't let go of the lonely. I hang on and on and on! I kind of look at sadness and grief and loss as part of living, and I want to get the most out of it. I don't really want to hurt, but I think memories, initially after losing someone, can be painful as well. But I don't want to not think about someone because it hurts. So I rationalize that if I let go of the lonely, then in essence I'm letting go of a part of the person or the memory. I think we're through grieving when grief lets go of us. Make any sense? In my office here at home, my studio, where I write mostly, where Jason and I have dissected many a song idea and thrown many in the small waste can under my desk that gets emptied often, tucked into one of the foam bumpers that the monitors sit on is a picture of my brother Jerry. My sibling brother that is, my mother's other son. This song was written on February 17th/2010, almost a month to the day before my best friend ended his life. But the song started out about my brother. I just wasn't coming to terms with him being gone. I was looking at his picture that morning and I just thought in my head how hard it was to see past him being gone. It proved to be a bit more personal than I was ready to deal with at the time, maybe my way of not letting go once again, and so I redirected the theme a bit as you can tell by listening. On a positive note for me, the lonely has begun to ease up a bit over the loss of my brother. I miss him horribly and there's days when I just wallow in the energy of loneliness. I'm not sure if it's his or mine. I just know I feel it and in some twisted Lyman way it's like I feel him. And I'm ok with that.
( to be continued )
Song # 6: All By Myself
As stated earlier, this is the only track we ended up with JT playing bass on. So glad we were able to make that work out. He was a stellar musician and a great friend who stuck by me through thick and thin. Obviously this song has nothing to do with his passing as he was sitting in the living room (probably sleeping) as it was being written. I recall Jason was playing a greasy little melody in drop-D. I told him that was cool and asked what it was and he says "Nothing". Perfect!! We own it!! As I've already clarified, I don't care much for being alone even though I'm getting better at it the longer I live. I still have major setbacks when I'm away from my wife for any extended period of time. Or if we've been on vacation when we return to work and everyday life I always experience withdrawls. So while this song is not about any particular incident or person or persons it still aptly defines how I deal with these types of situations. I particularly dig the low down groove that creeps in around the 3rd verse. Check it out!!
( to be continued )
Before I move on I wanted to mention the name for the new band Jason and I are working on. The Nashville Salvation Band. Yeah, that one. I just wanted to clarify some info about the band name so as not to confuse anyone about what sort of statement we might or might not be making by choosing that name. Personally, for me that is, the name has nothing to do with saving Nashville's music industry from whatever artistic slump some may perceive it's in. My take on that topic is this. If I were 17 or 18 again and some music exec wanted to make a star out of me...., there's no way I'd walk away from that!! Take me to plastic surgery!! Now!! Let's do this thing!! I don't think it's right to blame the artist necessarily for the drudgery we often hear nowadays. Blame the folks who are in control. The pencil pushers as the late great Ronnie VanZant used to say. It's a very big nasty machine the music business! Truthfully, I wouldn't want to be behind the desk either. There is so much truly awesome talent roaming the streets of Nashville and other major music hubs in this country and so many of them trying to squeeze through a crack somewhere. I'd just hate to be the guy or girl that had to pick and choose through that mass of people constantly at the door, not to mention having to turn the majority away. I just look at the whole situation as it is. Don't let it bother me. I concentrate on what I am or am not doing for my career. We're all responsible for ourselves and I don't have time to be burdened down by what I don't like on the radio. That's why there's a knob! There's still some really great music being made these days. You've gotta know where to look and listen.
Actually for me I think the name of the band is about preserving something. Saving something. Something true. An art form. A recording process. Music that can be performed live and sound like the record. I can't tell you how many times I've been disappointed to record music only to find myself unable to reproduce it live as I heard it in my mind as it was going down. That is and will be the main objective of this band, other than the fact that we want to have good songs. Songs folks can take hold of and remember. Songs that will be important. Songs that can be attached later to a memory and time and place for the listener. Nashville is just where it started for us. Nothing more, nothing less. A good friend of mine and Jason's had the idea for Salvation Nashville Band or Nashville Salvation Band and we liked the way it sounded. We thought we'd stick with it and give it a try. We invite you to interpret it any way you'd like. It's ok with us.Just please listen to the music.
Song # 7: New Pair Of Shoes
As I wrote earlier, this song I wrote in memory of my best friend and fellow musician Jerry Turley a few short days after his funeral service. Now more than a year later I reflect back on the writing. You know when you write from your heart and your feelings you never know how those songs or writings are going to look to you somewhere down the road. A year or two, 10, 15, or 20 years can change things drastically I suppose. I know that just in the year and five months since Jerry's passing things have begun to look significantly different to me already. I'm glad I wrote the song when I did and somehow I feel I'll be writing others down the road about my ol' pal. They creep in on you when you're not expecting. I may hear an old recording or see an old picture or recall some old memory and a few days later out comes the emotion of it all. Never aware at the time that it would manifest itself in some particular way whether or not I wanted it to or not. Sometimes you've just got to get out of the way and let it come on through. It's kind of like a cleansing in a way. I like to think my heart and soul kind of know what they need all on their own, and as long as I stay true to them I'll be ok and possibly even stronger from submitting to them.
I don't know for sure if I was Jerry's best friend. I know he was mine. I know in 30 plus years he treated me with dignity and respect. I know we laughed together and cried together on occasion. I knew I could always count on him and trust him with any of my most prized possessions. Even my family. I knew I could call him if I needed him. If I needed a dollar. If I needed an ear. I knew he wasn't always happy. I knew he hurt inside more than he should have. I knew I couldn't do anything about it other than to help him realize he needed to stay aware of the fact that it could get out of hand if he didn't watch it.
He was a man of modest needs. He was thrifty. He was sensible. He was a farmer. He loved music. He loved to talk. He loved his dogs. He loved the farm. he loved the dirt on the farm. He loved people and people loved him. Sometimes he talked too much. Sometimes he couldn't hear me talking for him talking. Sometimes I couldn't hear him talking for me talking. We argued, disagreed, and a few times nearly came to blows. Neither of us ever raised a hand toward one another because in the end we just had too much respect for one another to ever go that far.
I've watched him on stage. I've looked at him to get a look back to acknowledge that we were doing it right only to discover he was in his own world. Somewhere deep in the song. A place in the song I hadn't written into it. He once told me that no one knew my music like he did and I think in retrospect it was because we were so connected that he could take it, make it his own, and take it to where he wanted it to be. I always felt like my music was his music and he knew that. We were just borrowing from each other. Because we could. No strings attached. No paybacks. Just sharing.
Jerry traveled through some bad weather. Far worse than anything I've ever gone through. But simple pleasures made him happy when he was able to experience it. I'm not speculating on why Jerry needed out. I've just come to terms with the fact that he did. My life was made better by him being a part of it. I just thought in some strange way that maybe something as simple as a new pair of shoes could have lightened his step a little and made the path he had to walk a little more comfortable and easy to tread. Like so many of his other friends I miss him. I love him. For all of you I hope this song makes you think of him and rejoice in your own memories of him. Thanks for listening.
To Be Continued: