I was born and raised in Memphis, TN, but moved from there in 1982. I still frequently return, often performing as a member of Dead Irish Blues. This CD is a compilation of songs I wrote over the past fifteen years reflecting my experiences in Memphis since childhood. I sing all of the songs, play acoustic and electric guitar, electric bass, tenor banjo and much of the percussion on the CD. I am grateful for the multiple contributions made by Jimmy Crosthwait (washboard wizard extraordinaire....catch some of his work with Mudboy and the Neutrons and the North Mississippi Allstars) and my wife Marty Faiers on fiddle. Memphis pal Steve McCraw makes an appearance on "Chinese Catfish" playing the second lead guitar break and Shreveport buddy Leonard Service (Wampus Cats) takes a lead guitar break on "Roadkill on the Highway of Love." DIB percussionist Wayne MacEwan adds his touch on the Louisiana rubboard to "Piece of Mind" and The Mighty Dibtones (see credits) lend backing vocal support to "Hey Hey Tomatoes" and "This Book in My Right Hand."
Track 1: Piece of Mind
This song is literally a collection of pieces of memory. The first line was repeatedly uttered by a mentally challenged man at a festival in Richmond, VA. The second line was drawn from a one-sentence report in the Memphis Daily Avalanche, circa 1875. The third line was based on my grandma's comment about "harping a louie and the dog ate it." The fourth line is from a commercial that I heard over and over while working in a department store in Mempis in the 1970s. The fifth line came from an experience I had in the workplace in Baton Rouge in the early 1980's when a co-worker thought that there was a demon in a file cabinet. Musically, the song is a melding of Stax and fiddle - never heard a combination like that, but it seems to work. Wayne MacEwan contributes his Louisiana Rubboard expertise to this one.
Track 2: Roadkill on the Highway of Love
A bluesy/slide riff set this song in motion. The lyrics are based on a personal experience of falling madly in love, committing myself to getting married, and then getting dumped after making some commitments I clearly should not have made. I sent an mp3 of the drums/bass/vocals, he recorded his lead part in Shreveport, and then attached it to an e-mail to me in PA where I was able to integrate it into the recording. Sounds pretty seamless to me. It was great to hear Leonard's take on this. Not what I would have done, which is a good thing.
Track 3: Slugburger Blues
Lyrically, this is an ode to those fried burger/filling sandwiches regionally identified with NE MIssissippi and South Central TN (I saw slugburgers on the menu for the first time outside of Savannah, TN). Musically, I view it as a rockabilly romp, which also has NE Mississippi/SC TN roots. Features Jimmy Crosthwait on washboard. Five songs with Jimmy are featured here. We did the recording at his house in May of 2012.
Track 4: Pick Your Poison
Picking up on the "not necessarily so good for you" theme of the previous song, this one is about food/drink/habits that can stunt your growth, make your life miserable, and/or kill you. Not only do slugburgers make another appearance, but so to does pork barbecue, fried chicken, and Little Debbie. This is the only song on the album where the music came first, with no original idea of lyrical content. I just set the groove and let my e-bow/Gibson SG do its thing. Musically, the least Memphis-roots influenced of the songs here, but I did listen to King Crimson when I lived in Memphis.
Track 5: Chinese Catfish
In 2010, I was looking for catfish to cook (I usually either grill outside, or make "blackened' catfish on the stove). I live in Johnstown, PA, so catfish is not always available in stores. One day I went to my usual store - no catfish. Went to another one - no catfish.....and another. Finally, I caved in and went to Wal-Mart - they had catfish, but it was from China. We raise great catfish in this country..and for whatever reason, I really got mad that all I could find was Chinese catfish....I felt my blood pressure rising...until I thought it was silly, with all of the problems in the world..to be that upset about Chinese catfish. Steve McCraw takes the second guitar lead.....another internet collaboration....and again a refreshing take, well done and much appreciated.
Track 6: Hey Hey Tomatoes
Like with many of the songs here, this one was recorded years ago for a Dead Irish Blues release. I wanted to make these songs sound as I "heard them" originally. Of the re-worked songs on this CD (tracks 1, 2, 6-10, and 15), this one sounds the most radically different. Musically, not sure where this came from, but the second guitar part on the riff was clearly Robert Fripp inspired as I keep reaching for whole tone notes. I struggled with the lead guitar parts until I decided to just be manic. Lyrically, this song is based on my Memphis childhood. The old black man selling tomatoes, the grade school experiences, the neighbors, and the smells referred to in the "chorus." It's all Memphis 1960-70. Mighty Dibtones help out on this one.
Track 7: Field Peas and Snaps
This is a guitar piece that came to me while living in Memphis....no idea what the inspiration was. But I do like field peas and snaps.
Track 8: Once Upon a Time
Way back in my childhood, I remember my dad coming home from a party and feeling no pain. He sang a bunch of silly songs (and my sister Lydia recorded them on a tape player for the entertainment of friends and neighbors) and I took some of the phrases from these and wove them into this. My dad died long before I was writing songs, but my mother liked this one. Musically, this is jugband inspired. Again features Jimmy Crosthwait and Marty. This one has been a DIB staple for a long time. Marty has always enjoyed playing this one and Jimmy fits right in.
Track 9: Grandma
Referring to the same grandma from Piece of Mind......she would always comment on my weight and then make the best damn pies and cakes....and put fat into all veggies..... The music vibe is more Texas swing than anything else, but Marty always says that Texas swing is just "fast blues." Marty and Jimmy do their thing on this one.
Track 10: West Memphis Stomp
I wrote this one after listening to some Gus Cannon Jug Stompers music. Musically, it is deeply rooted in the jugband tradition, just with updated lyrics that harken back to the them of "Roadkill on the Highway of Love." Jimmy eats this one up as does Marty on the fiddle.
Track 11. Drunken Lady Blues
This and the following two tracks appeared on the last DIB release "We're Serious This Time." After that CD came out, I felt that these songs were mis-placed - that especially the DIB foursome that plays in PA would never do these live. This one a nod to Jimmy Rogers with the yodeling.....old lady old lady old lady who? It was a fun song to play guitar on for sure.
Track 12: Concrete Builds Better Roads
Musically, it's inspired by a combination of Irish and hillbilly music. The theme, which appears and bumps and screeches...reflects my sarcastic take on the sign that used to welcome people to Memphis as they came east across the new Memphis-Arkansas bridge. There used to be a large concrete silo with "Concrete Builds Better Roads" boldly stated on it right by the bridge. Anyone who had just driven over the concrete interstate in Arkansas...or through Mississippi on I-55 knew better.
Track 13: When the Rapture Comes
This one had been ruminating for a while, and were actually driving into Memphis on the day the rapture was supposed to be occurring. The first verse had been with me for a while, I just needed the financial crisis of 2008-10 to inspire the last verse. Another song evolving out of a rockabilly spirit.
Track 14: Me in Memphis
BLUES! While I was living in Baton Rouge, blues legend Tabby Thomas took me aside once and told me to let my guitar solos breath...play them like you sing..you have to take a breath! While playing guitar on this one, I acted like he was a little angel sitting on my shoulder. The lyrics say it all..... Memphis is my home, it is where I feel grounded. And Toledo has no I.
Track 15: This Book in My RIght Hand
When I was a kid, while waiting for a bus on Main Street....in front of Lowensteins....this tall, elderly black man walked up to me with a bible in his hand and shouted "THIS BOOK IN MY RIGHT HAND PROTECTS ME FROM ALL EVIL!" He scared the hell out of me. Decades later, after I quit shaking, I wrote this...it has roots in "sanctified jug band" music.....simple riff, one chord......bust loose....PRAISE JESUS! The Mighty Dibtones play the roll of the congregation while Jimmy Crosthwait rattles and tattles on the washboard.
Track 16: The Biscuit Stomp
Well, biscuits are essential to the Memphis diet, right? This is an instrumental that came to me shortly after I got a tenor banjo. The melody inspired the lyrics. It was recorded on a real cheapo 4-track tape machine......and it ends up sounding like some long lost recording from 1930 or something. This appeared on the first DIB recording (2001), now unavailable. It's a catchy tune!