In early October Sesu, Aidan and I went into the studio to record 3 songs for special projects. For the first time we had Aidan focus exclusively on electric guitar and Sesu on the drum kit in addition to the Ashiko. The result was much more rock than you are used to hearing from us but that was entirely appropriate given what we were recording.
Up first was a cover of the Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers which is slated for inclusion on the Whiplash Records tribute to the Stones.I told Aidan to “think Mick Taylor.” He accomplished it. After you hear the track sit back and remember that he is 14 as we are doing this. What a kick it was having Sesu playing a kit. He sounded so good in the earphones that I had to look over and was a bit awestruck by the historical figure I was playing next to. Really, it’s a joy to play with those 2 musicians.
As is generally our practice in the studio we do the basic track live. This time it was Aidan’s electric rhythm guitar, Sesu on the kit and my vocals and acoustic guitar. Aidan then recorded his leads and fills and added the bass. His leads are complete takes! Sesu then recorded an Ashiko track and I put on a second unison vocal and that was it. I like the energy that we achieved. I like the propulsive power of Sesu’s drumming. I like the fills and the leads. Overall, I’m just really happy with this recording.
Dead Flowers will be on a Whiplash Records compilation that is coming out in late April 2017. I’m really looking forward to this one. I can imagine that the Stones are a sweet spot for a lot of the bands on this compilation. With roots that go back to the early CBGBs era of NYC and the New York Dolls (original guitarist Rick Rivets plays on all these compilations) it’s a natural. We are already on the Whiplash compilation of The Who and this one has me even more excited (and that’s a good one).
Next up, was an up-tempo version of the Grateful Dead’s Friend of the Devil. This was released on this year’s Whiplash Halloween IV. Each time we are included on these compilations it is really an honor. The music on this one is really outstanding! It doesn’t have to be Halloween for you to enjoy it so get a jump on next year’s Halloween party and get it now!! I had the same kind of experience with this track as Dead Flowers and again really ended up liking the energy in this recording. Aidan plays two really good solos. He’s really got a feel for how to introduce himself and make a statement and these too are complete takes. I’ve been playing Friend of the Devil and Dead Flowers for many years and with this band for a while too. It makes things easy when we have that much history behind a performance.
For many reasons, The Grateful Dead are a significant source for me not the least of which is that I consider them the ultimate group of modern songsters. In traditional terms a songster is someone who travelled around collecting songs to add to their repertoire and spreading them around by playing. They might be playing at a dance or on a street corner or in a bar or a juke joint but the point was the songs were getting passed around in ways that sheet music or later recordings didn’t. It’s the oral tradition really. The Dead, of course, recorded almost everything that they did so there is a new element to their work and its distribution. The point is, they were collectors. You will hear traditional blues, Chicago blues, old time string band, early country, Irish, New Orleans funk, traditional tunes from the Bahamas and a whole lot more. Jerry Garcia was a student of these musics but it wasn’t just him. The whole band was like this (Weir is no slouch). So it has always been important to me to play some songs that they collected and passed on in addition to the originals. We started with the Hunter/Garcia, Friend of the Devil in which I include the final verse that Hunter wrote but Garcia never sang. To me it finishes the story, so I include it. You can expect more of their traditional tunes from us in the future. I’ve Been All Around This World (1944: Grandpa Jones) is in our set list. Deep Elum Blues (1930s: Lone Star Cowboys and The Shelton Brothers) is a likely candidate. We’ve been playing it at jam sessions recently (Here are Aidan and I doing it at home 2016. This was recorded moments after I took my new $69 uke out of the box. He’s playing a $40 acoustic he bought in the Wisconsin Dells a year ago. So that’s a grand total of $109 for the instruments in this video! Not bad.). Anyway, I think Sesu suggested that Friend of the Devil would make a good addition to the 2016 Whiplash Halloween compilation. It is!
Finally, my friend Ursula Bielski, at the urging of our friend Clarence Goodman, offered to include a song on her upcoming compilation CD for Chicago Hauntings. Ursula owns the tour company and is THE expert on Chicago ghostlore. She’ll be playing the disc on the tour buses so lots of people will get to hear it.
I told Aidan and Sesu that I wanted a slow and swampy version of Friend of the Devil for this one and off we went with no real rehearsal. I really like how it came out. I’ve played if for some people and have gotten a great response. We play it pretty slow and spooky but not slow like the later day Grateful Dead arrangements. You should be hearing it in the coming year! We’ll pass on more information as we get it. If you find yourself in Chicago look up Chicago Hauntings and go on a tour! You’ll be glad you did.
We didn’t do a Christmas song this year but we have one ready for next year and Another Pint already has one recorded for next year! Meanwhile Whiplash included Black Diamond Strings from our first album on the 2016 Christmas collection – A Whiplash Christmas IV – as a special gift. We are really happy about that! Again, Christmas might be over this year but get this now so you are ready for next year!