Blue Eyed Blacks
Listen to Shake the Blues
This EP, Country Charm, was going to be an LP. Well, really, a concept record. Probably best to describe it as a compilation. Or a sort of tribute album? It has taken a few years so the timeline is a dusty trail by now.
At one point we started to write the “missing” music from The Coen Brothers’ film No Country For Old Men (the score for which is famously almost “music free”), complete with covers of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” and the Pogues’ “Streams of Whiskey” but after some well-meaning musical stabs, that fell short (looks like Carter Burwell’s minimalist score wins again).
Then we revived an old idea I had lying around for a country album comprised completely of songs written by openly gay writers, an idea that eventually evolved into a full band recreation of The Magnetic Fields’ forgotten country classic The Charm of the Highway Strip (it still shocks me that this isn’t his most loved work). Well that hit the ditch as well but we did salvage one song from that idea – an orchestrated duet version of “When the Open Road is Closing In.”
In the end the EP’s real theme and thread is where and how it was recorded - after hours with a group of musicians at the legendary RCA Studio B, where Elvis, Roy Orbison, The Everly Bothers and others helped mold modern music. The original mics, Floyd Kramer’s piano and the entire original atmosphere were intact. Ghosts guested on tracks throughout the two weeks we spent setting up after the daily tours were done and recording in true Nashville style with a group of musicians I had just met. And in true procrastinating collaborative style, we – Neilson Hubbard, Betsy Roo and Jason Moon Wilkins - ended up writing most of the record while we were actually recording - scribbling in notebooks and fiddling with guitars in the parking lot and corridors while portraits of Dolly Parton and Porter Waggoner stared down bemused.
After wearing out our welcome there, we finished the album with the help of many talented friends at Neilson’s East Nashville studio Mr. Lemons and mixed most of it on a train ride from Birmingham to New Orleans (big thanks to Steve Jobs and ProTools). What we ended up with isn’t country in the modern sense, or really in the traditional sense, but it is hopefully something close enough to the spirit of the place that those RCA ghosts won’t haunt us for releasing it.