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This Issue: Dave Alvin making Ashgrove for Yep Roc Records, Rick Shea leaves the Guilty Men, and the Original Blasters EuroTour diaries summer '03 part 2.

(Continued from page 1)

duets CD in which he records instrumentals with other guitar players in their living rooms. Dave Alvin recorded a few tracks, one of which will make the album. - Christy McWilson is recording a new album. Dave didn't have time in his schedule to produce it, but he did play guitar on some songs. -- On 3/28/04 Dave Alvin spent 3 days in Winslow Court studio recording guitar tracks for a new Knitters record that is scheduled for release in January of '05. The Knitters recorded live versions of DRY RIVER, BORN TO BE WILD, WRECKING BALL PART 2, a few old X songs, and some other country and folk songs. Look for release in early 2005 and a cross country tour to follow.   ~~ AM

~ ~ ~ ~ ~  The Songs  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


In the studio -- On the first day, we started with that song and then finished the day with it. The one at the end was the one we kept. Greg overdubbed a guitar through a Leslie (rotating) speaker, which gave us this sort of organ sound. Everything else, including my guitar solo, is all live. Vocals were overdubbed. We spent a lot of time getting the vocal right.  A lot of these songs are more like reading poems than singing, so I wanted to make sure it was a good reading. I think these are the best vocals I've done on record. I owe a lot of it to Greg and to the songs. We used a different mic that we called the "Howlin' Wolf" mic (laughs). It's the same mic they used on the Chess records recordings in the late 50's at Universal studios in Chicago. Greg wanted to make the vocals sound like I was in the room talking to the person listening. There is no compression and only a bit of reverb.
The writing -- I don't know what triggered the idea. The way I write songs is: a dam fills with water and then it breaks - that's how it happened. I've been saying that LA needs a club like the Ashgrove.


The writing -- When Tom Russell and I wrote it, it was a ballad. Tom was going through a divorce and it was written from his perspective. I re-wrote it to fit the theme of this record. I always liked the song, but didn't want to have a ballad on the record. For my version, I changed the melody, the chords, and I changed a quarter of the lyrics. In Tom's version we disagreed on the ending in the last chorus. Tom continues the story. I thought it didn't matter what happened in the story, so I used a repeating chorus in my version.
In the studio -- There are a bunch of Greg's guitars on there. There's an acoustic, a twelve string, and a baritone guitar. The main guitar that you hear Greg playing that sounds like a pedal steel is what is called a 'B bender.' It's a Fender Telecaster with a lever on the back that you push with your hip and it bends the B string a few octaves. So with a regular guitar you can get pedal steel sounds. It's really difficult to play.
It was popularized by a guy name Clarence White, a bluegrass guitar player in CA in the 60's. He was possibly the greatest bluegrass guitar player ever and later became a member of The Byrds. There's another
Ashgrove tie-in here: Clarence White was a regular at the Ashgrove club.


In the studio -- That's the live vocal. The song just kept on going. We debated on how long it should be. It had to fade out.
The writing -- Blues songs are hard to write because you want to write one that sounds like part of the tradition. This one was written to be sort of a delta blues and Percy Mayfield song. He used to deal with dark themes. BLACK SKY is another way of saying dark cloud.


The writing -- I wrote that with Rod Hodges from The Iguanas. It became the title track on their last album. I wanted to do my version as a guitar song; The Iguanas do it with saxophones. I changed some of the lyrics because Rod grew up in Northern CA, so he had names of northern CA radio stations on there. He is married and has a kid so it was written first person, so I changed that. When I wrote it,  I was thinking of a late 60's R & B groove like I'M YOUR PUPPET.


The writing - It's about people I know - there are a lot of things going on in there. People don't understand that whenever you write a character song, or a narrative song from the viewpoint of someone else, the writer is always in there. You always have to pick something from your self to make the song good and personal on some level. The song is about an area of CA that is interesting. There are all kind of California references - like if you want to get speed, you go to San Bernardino (laughs). It's also about a steel plant out in Fontana that was the big source of employment for the town. They closed down the plant and the town took a hit.
It's about what happens on a lot of levels -- personal and social -- when the economic infrastructure that was built up in the 30's and 40s that created the middle class falls. When that gets destroyed, what do you have left?
All of the songs kind of connect thematically. At the end of OUT OF CONTROL the only place the guy has peace is when he drives up into the mountains to get high with his girlfriend. After all this horrible stuff he has put himself through, the only rest he gets is in the mountains - then it's followed by EVERETT RUESS which is the same thing.


In the studio -- That's a live vocal and was cut over at Mark Linnet's studio. His studio is better for acoustic stuff. We used a piano player named Patrick Warren who added a sample of orchestra strings on there. He brought in samples of actual instruments - cello and violins, etc. It's very minimal and far in the background
The writing -- I went into junk store and found a book that had a beautiful engraving on the front. It had letters and poems and drawings that this guy Everett Ruess had sent back on his various journeys to his family and friends. As my song says: 'he just started going up by himself to the high Sierras (mountains) as a teenager and living up there for months at a time.' He was a great outdoorsman, who was a real good artist, and a budding poet - all around a very smart kid. A lot of times kids might do that because they are lost, but he was pretty much the opposite. His family was very supportive and let him do it.
So in that book there was a photo of him when he was bout 17 and he looked kind of like me when I was 17. I started reading through the stuff and it's all the things I like.  I thought: 'this kid is the guy for me. He's one of my kind of heroes.
He disappeared in 1936 and then his legend started growing. He was last seen in southern Utah right on the Arizona border at an area called the Grand Escalante, which has a maze of canyons that are still unexplored.  He is better known in Utah than in California. When he disappeared, he let everyone know. It was a slow decision that he came to out of purity. He finally said, "I love you all, but I'm going to disappear and never come back. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life."
I performed the song for the first time last year on a radio show in Salt Lake City. The switchboard lit up with people telling Everett Ruess stories. There is a press in Salt Lake City who published a new book of all his writings. There have been some unconfirmed sightings of Everett over the years--sort of like Elvis. So he may still be alive.


In the studio -- The first few times I played it live, I thought of it as a bluegrass song. I wanted to change it to a blues because I felt it was straddling the line. In the first few days in the studio, we did an acoustic version but later I decided to plug in the electric guitar and go for it. We tried to add a different element to each blues song to make them different, so on that one, Greg plays a little bit of National Steel.
The Writing -- I wrote that with a singer-songwriter gal named Shannon McNally who lives in New Orleans.  The melody I came up with while

Rick Shea comments on leaving the Guilty Men

   I first saw Dave Alvin with The Blasters in 1980 at the Palomino club in No. Hollywood and I remember how I was completely floored. It was the original lineup of Dave and Phil, Bill Bateman and Johnny Bazz, even before Gene Taylor joined the band, and I had never seen anything so focused and driven. It wasn't like they were playing music as much as they were presenting something sacred. I saw the Blasters a dozen times or more and got to know Dave and first worked with him a few years later when he was starting his solo career. About five years ago Dave came up to me at 'The Sugar Shack' in Hollywood and said: "Hey, I might have a few gigs for you." Since then I've had the honor and privilege of touring, recording and playing guitar with one of my musical heroes and one of the great songwriters of our generation.
    As one of The Guilty Men, we've played everywhere from Hollywood to Austin to NYC and all points in between, from smoky dives to Madison Square Garden. We've blown the roof off more than a few joints and left anyone unlucky enough to go on after us stunned. We've toured Europe 3 or 4 times and driven more miles than I could ever remember. I've also been honored to play on albums with several of the artists Dave has produced over the the last few years -- Christy McWilson, Red Meat and Katy Moffatt to name a few -- and recorded with Dave and the Guilty Men on two live albums,
Out in California and Outakes in California, and Dave's Grammy winning album Public Domain.  It's been a tremendous experience and through it all Dave has always been more than generous, letting me sell my own albums at his shows, introducing me to everyone involved and having me either open the shows or do a few songs and bring him on.
    Due to the commitment to my own albums and other related projects, along with family commitments, I'm sorry to say I won't be along for the tour this summer for the new album
Ashgrove. To Joe, Bobby, Chris and Gregory, it's been a hell-uv-an experience guys, thank you, have a great summer and I hope we meet up soon down the road a bit, and to Dave, it's been amazing man, keep tearin' it up amigo. Adios for now.      --  rick shea

Rick Shea played his last show as a member of the Guilty men in Holland at the  Moulin Blues Fest. The band played a little going away joke on him. In one of the final songs, AMERICAN MUSIC, Rick Shea took a guitar solo and the rest of the band stopped playing, letting Rick take it all by himself. The crowd cheered loud. Dave later said, "The joke was on us because the crowd reaction was so good, I thought we should make that a regular part of the show!" Rick Shea is a great guy and a great musician. We're gonna miss him. -Billy Davis

The Original Blasters
European Reunion Tour 2003
Tour Diaries Part I1:  by Billy Davis