"14 songs about life, love, snow, tornadoes, clean slates, and murky, bitter coffee"
Welcome to the CD Baby "Damned if I Know" page, where you'll find:
1. Some nice quotes about the CD
2. About the CD . . . players, producers, etc.
3. About McCrea Adams
4. McCrea on some of the songs
Thanks for visiting!
1. QUOTES ABOUT "DAMNED IF I KNOW"
"McCrea Adams resides in that coveted place where brainy songcraft, rock energy, emotive balladry and accomplished performance happily collide. A skillful tunesmith whose pointed musings bring to mind the likes of Warren Zevon, Tom Petty or a particularly pumped-up Jackson Browne, Adams possesses that rare ability to force his listener into thought while surrendering to the groove." ... Jeff Tamarkin, editor Global Rhythm, former editor Goldmine, author Got a Revolution
"Anyone who misses, or simply missed, the heyday of Steve Goodman, John Prine, and Jimmy Buffett will love Damned if I Know, both for Adams' songwriting wit and for his flair with a tune."... Steve Hochman, writer of L.A. Times' weekly
Pop Eye column
"REM fans will enjoy this set of rootsy guitar-driven rock that also recalls Ryan Adams' (no relation) post-Whiskeytown debut. A fine keyboardist and appealing vocalist, McCrea Adams may be at his best on the self-penned ballad "If It Ain't Me." Other songs such as "One Candle Away" and "Laugh Until You Cry" suggest that Adams is well worth catching live." ... Fred Shuster, L.A. Daily News music
"Intelligent, even witty lyrics . . . great musicianship and production ... McCrea Adams just became one of my favorite singer-songwriters." ... Don Chapman, Midweek magazine, Honolulu
"Heartfelt music from a singer-songwriter who tunes in to his own muses rather than following today's trends." ... Lou Carlozo, Chicago Tribune music writer
2. ABOUT "DAMNED IF I KNOW"
At its heart, "Damned if I Know" is an eclectic singer-songwriter album ... folk-based rock with touches of country ... in which Adams explores real-life emotions and situations. But Adams also ventures into territory that a card-carrying sensitive singer-songwriter would not so blithely rush into. The rocking, uptempo "Slate" and "Damned if I Know," and the tongue-in-cheek country number "Somebody's Life" ("Saw a tornado on the news/ a fella was sittin' there singin' the blues/ lookin' at the pieces of his mobile home/ even his dog had up and gone") take the CD in directions that lend it refreshing variety.
Uniting the album is Adams' expressive singing, one moment bitterly excoriating a former lover, "After what you done, I want you out of my dream/ I want the slate to be clean"; the next, simply asking the universal question, "What the hell is raspberry beer?"
Coproduced and engineered by Liza Carbe and J.P. Durand (of the instrumental band Incendio), "Damned if I Know" has a roster of musicians that includes Novi Novog on viola (Doobie Bros.' "Black Water," Prince's "Raspberry Beret"); Julie Adams, harmonies (a regular solo performer on PRI's "Mountain Stage" program, she's also McCrea's sister); and guitarists Dan (Cadillac Desert) Flowers and Dan (the Emotions) Diaz. Liza played bass, J.P. played a hell of a lot of guitar (and mandolin!), and they recruited Incendio's drummer, Joe Shotwell, to hold everything together and keep it moving. McCrea played keyboards and occasional guitar.
3. ABOUT McCREA ADAMS
Born in New Jersey, Adams grew up in a musical family. One of the first phrases he spoke was "pay wowock," which his parents luckily understood meant "play record." Early favorites included "Tommy Had a Little Wagon" and a Mozart french horn concerto. Adams' childhood was spent in small towns in upstate New York. The family then moved to the Appalachian country of western Maryland, where he went to high school in the mountain town of Cumberland. Shy and alienated, he hunkered down with the piano and realized he could pick out rock and roll songs by ear. Life improved immensely, and he soon began to foray into writing.
There was a year in Boston, then a stint of roadwork that involved some strange midwestern gigs (Salina, Kansas?) and vans breaking down in winter in the middle of nowhere. Eventually he arrived in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley. L.A. - songwriting, keyboards in lots of bands, UCLA, day jobs. Solo gigs at clubs and coffeehouses that somehow seemed to close down shortly after he played there (friends implored, "No, McCrea, don't play there . . . I like that place,"
but to no avail).
The road to "Damned if I Know" led through work with Bobby Hayden, Fracture, Josie Cotton, the Sunset Hounds, and L.A. Matsuri Taiko, as well as the recording, and subsequent annual airplay, of a parody Doors' Christmas medley, "Mr Mojo's Christmas." [Those of you trying to track down "Mr Mojo," ... yes, it's available ... please contact the Wise Men at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.]
4. McCREA ON THE SONGS
A lot of songwriters have stories about how they sat down with a guitar, or at the piano, and a song magically flowed out, and they wrote the whole thing in, like, 4 or 5 minutes. Well, ain't never happened to me. But the first line of "If It Ain't Me" did come mystically out of nowhere: I played three piano chords, started inging, and "bridesmaids and a wedding gown" came out of my mouth. I thought, "Huh?" "Gown" soon became "veil," and the rest of the song followed in, at least, a reasonable amount of time. Though I've never been literally in the situation of the song, I've felt that sort of pain, and I bet most of us have somewhere along the line.
"One Candle Away" is about the precariousness of our lives and how we "need each other/ To keep us safe from harm." The song is kind of dark -- I guess both literally and metaphorically -- but the last line, in the final moment, "Don't lose the light," brings it up a little, saying not to lose hope. The second verse took a while to finish; I wrote the beginning, about the angels and pin and armor made of tin (with a debt to Joni Mitchell's "Tin Angel"), but then got stuck. I was driving at night, and randomly heard on the radio someone talking about St. Paul cautioning early Christians that if an angel appeared and said things different than what he was preaching, then the angel wasn't a real angel but a devil. I thought, Yes! Voila! The second verse is done!
The Shaky of "Shaky Says" actually lived next door to a friend of mine, not to me. He liked goofy sayings, like that "mind over matter" thing, and he worked on cars. Unlike the song's narrator, my friend does smoke, and once when I was over there, Shaky wordlessly came into his house, looked around for cigarettes, examined an empty pack, then silently left. I like playing this song live, because I can often hear people laugh at the "murky and bitter" line in the third verse. It's always good when people laugh at things that are SUPPOSED to be funny.
A few of the songs refer to places I've lived, the most obvious being "What Were We Thinking," a.k.a. "The Cumberland Song." It's about being young, 17 or 18, living at home, getting out and riding around with your friends. I rearranged the geography a little. Actually, it was the Cliffs, in the song's bridge, not Keyser's Ridge, from which we watched the slow trains roll. The Cliffs is this great place through the woods behind Bishop Walsh High School. From way high up, you look out over the Narrows, a long, deep gorge where Wills Creek cuts through the mountains- below you is a highway, paralleling train tracks that stretch off into the distance between the mountains. "I was dreaming of flying/ Out over the Cliffs and the Narrows." It was my friend Harry -- we were in a local band together - who said he had great flying dreams, swooping over houses and hills. If you could fly, the Cliffs would be a great place to take off from.
I live in southern California now, but for many years I lived in western Maryland, about 3 hours from Baltimore. A woman I knew from Cumberland had moved to Baltimore for a job, and this song -- from someone in the sun to someone in the snow -- came from my feelings about her. The second line, about the snow burying "all the rows," was originally "buried all the roads," but my poet friend Jeff heard it as rows, as in row houses, and I thought, oh, yeah, that's much better! ... About "the last flight tomorrow night" ... I flew into Baltimore a few years ago during some nasty winter weather. Rain started freezing on the ground, and they closed BWI when the plane after mine skidded past the end of the runway.
If you made it this far, you're a trooper ... or a raging insomniac ... and you should just give in and buy this CD. Thanks! Superflux Records / McCrea Adams