Native Live At Wetlands June 1995

Hey folks!

We here at Native International Headquarters have been pretty excited ever since I, Dave Thomas, the drummer, made a big discovery deep in our labrynthian vaults.

If we were to wish for a particular gig to have been recorded in such a way that it could be remixed as a proper album, this show would be high on the list.

After months of touring to promote our eponymous first album, we had built up an armada of new songs for the follow-up release. And fortunately, that’s exactly what happened.

The headliner that night was Robbie Krieger of The Doors and special recording gear was brought in to capture that occasion. As the opening act, Native took advantage of the opportunity to do some capturing as well!

And, it’s a good thing. Little did we know that very shortly thereafter, John Epstein would leave, and our album plans would be shelved indefinitely.

Months went by before we settled on a new keyboardist – the effervescent John Watts – by which time we had accumulated even more new songs.

The fallout from all that was that several prime Native tunes never made it to the studio. Indeed it would be three years and a live album before another studio effort was done.

So, out of the past we find this golden treasure – a wonderful night with hardly a wrong note or forgotten lyric, and several extremely rare songs for you to feast upon! Mat Hutt and John Wood were so on you might forget the word off even exists! Mike Jaimes is on fire on every tune, especially his rarely-played Rolling Thunder which has an immaculate performance here.  John Epstein’s Hot Day should make everyone lament that his tenure could not have been longer. And let’s mention Mat Hutt again because his rarities are sublime, and criminally under-represented in our archives. It’s just an astounding set list.

However, there is a caveat – isn’t there always a caveat?

The tape didn’t start rolling until about thirty seconds after we’d begun playing. I, Dave Thomas, the drummer, took it upon myself to blend in bits of a recording made two months earlier at the same venue. Many of the songs from that night matched up with the night we are presenting, with one major difference. I, Dave Thomas, the drummer, was in California. Which means that the drum chair was helmed that night by the incredible Roy Mayorga.

So, the opening bars of “Carried Away” are from that other tape, but also something extra and special. The version of “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” is also from that earlier night, so here’s our very belated tribute and thank you to Roy for sitting in while I was off trying to make a movie in Hollywood.

So, here you have it — our Christmas gift to you —

Native Live at Wetlands June 1995

 

 

Native’s Classic First Album – Side Two

We’ve got a big announcement to make next week, so we’re going to cruise through a rundown of the second side of Native‘s epic first album for ya’lls!

When we say side two, we’re talking about the cassette version. In 1994, very few people had CD players in their cars, and those that did held an honorary status of near-godliness in our primitive minds.

Sadly, Native never had a vinyl release in our ten year run. But, in your mind – imagine you are flipping over from side one of a big wax platter, dropping the stylus on the first track, and kicking back with a gigantic, freshly-packed bong, while staring at Karl Ottersberg‘s brilliant album cover…

Here’s a tune with an interesting history. Mat Hutt wrote the music, Mike wrote the indelible ear-worm riff, and I wrote the lyrics and the bridge. I’ve been asked many times about the identity of ‘Sammi in red’, and all I can reveal is that she’s the same gal who inspired Native’s first song, Something Worth Remembering, and two songs that would come later – Sweet Intensity, and December Roses. She’s even more famous in a song by a major band from our scene that specifically names her. Quite a gal, to say the least! (BTW, this was my first bridge – I love a good bridge!)

Interested Third Party



Next we have a lovely reggae by Mat featuring a heavenly harmony from the great Catherine Russell. Mike’s solo was a first-take!

Fall Away



After that, we settle into the easy city-hippie groove we were so good at. A song about getting high in the city. Our management would adopt this song-title as their business name shortly thereafter and everyone got high in the city!

Running Smooth



Native was massively influenced by The Meters, and yet there is scant evidence of that anywhere on the album. Except here. Matt Lyons’ massive bass-line is the glue that never stops holding, even after all these years.  The island in question was Manhattan.

Island



The grand finale is this epic, co-written with our former lead singer, Anthony Ballsley. Recorded in one take, as I was suffering with a serious bout of pneumonia, and our gear was breaking down. This is one of the tunes we are best known for, and was a killer in a live setting. All praise Mike Jaimes’ heroic guitar gymnastics – they never fail to impress, and indeed, they hold redemptive qualities, in our opinion.

The Sea



Okay, you just got learned about Native’s first album! You are now officially a better person, and your grandchildren will revel in your tales of what it was like when America was not run by alien overlords!

Next week, a merry Christmas present is forthcoming from us to you! Stay tuned!

Mike Jaimes Took Us All Down to the River.

When Native was preparing our first album, we were trying on a lot of different musical styles. With Anthony Ballsley as lead singer, we had rocked hard. But with his departure, the various tastes and temperaments of Mat Hutt, John Wood, John Epstein. Matt Lyons, Mike Jaimes, and Myself all came to the forefront and many an hour was spent in our Mott Street basement studio, The Radon Room, trying to find our signature sound.

We’ve heard in the past few weeks, as we’ve reviewed side one of that album, that we were capable of spanning a lot of differing aesthetics – from the powerful rock of Carried Away, to the straight pop of Go, to the funky groove of Trying, to the candle-lit folky vibe of Shed Some Light, to the psychedelic Mood Swing – Native’s versatility was so all-encompassing that we were in danger of being impossible to categorize.

While, being uncategorizable might seem pretty cool, in the world of big record labels it is a major negative. “How the hell do we market this?,” was the feedback our management got from all quarters of those high offices.

The record never got picked up by a major, and we were plenty bummed out.

In today’s environment an album like ours would probably have a much better chance of finding an audience, so we take a bit of solace in that.

But, back then – when things were bleak – we rallied around the one song Mike had brought in. A rollicking little number, with a gentle groove, a heartfelt sentiment, and a soulful vocal. In many ways, it rallied us, and we persevered through the fallout of failing to get a deal, even as our studio-mates, The Spin Doctors, and the other bands in our scene – Blues Traveler, Phish, God Street Wine, and others all went on to have successful, multi-album runs and radio hits.

For Native, it was management upheavals, John Epstein‘s departure, and the long slog of being everyone’s opening act, but rarely the headliner.  It was a crucible, but we went through it and came out swinging.

And a major reason why we didn’t capsize was because of one song.

It would become the song we always played at every show, with requests coming in before we could get to it.

Even as I type this, I’m humming the easy-going melody and find myself smiling in the face of yet another set of dark times. The eternality of Mike’s deceptively simple invention will never cease to amaze me, and can never grow old.

Folks, in times like these you gotta go —

Down To The River

A Native Trifecta!

We here at Native Central are quite excited about an announcement we’ll be making later this month – we won’t spoil it with any clues or hints as to the whys and wherefores at this time, but if you are a Native fan — be excited. Be very excited!

The immediate upshot of the portentous occasion, though, is that the current weekly blog, examining the newly-remastered tracks from our self-titled first album, must be compressed like an accordion. Instead of the usual format we have followed, focusing on one track for each post, we’ll trot through a few of them in one happy bunch!

Previously, we examined Carried Away, and Go — tracks one and two respectively.

Now, we’re ready to tackle track three — this sprightly little number was completely written by John Epstein and it showcases his versatility.

It also departed greatly from Native’s M.O. in the way we developed our songs. Normally, we’d collaborate as a band with the main songwriter, oftentimes coming up with new material, such as lyrics, bridges, musical themes, etc. But, in this singular instance that process was bypassed, as the song was deemed studio-ready after minimal rehearsal, although John’s lyrics underwent a complete rewrite when, upon reflection, they were found to be a bit too dark.

Nice song. Not much else to say about it, since it was rarely performed by us (for reasons lost in the hoary mists of unreliable memory).

On to track four – a real beauty, and one of Mat Hutt‘s all-time best renditions. A true hippie anthem, with its heart on its sleeve and irony-free. It’s a song we would return to for solace during the dark eras that lay ahead. Like Tolkien’s ring — it would bind us, and remind us of our brotherhood and the bond we shared.


Finally, track five is one of my top personal favorites. We knew nothing of bipolar (or any other mental conditions other than being stoned, or not stoned). I guess we were channeling when we wrote it, and who would have thought this short, quirky ditty would blossom into a long, fiery Mike Jaimes-led exploration at our gigs?


I also really like the production on this one. It’s really one of Lou Giminez‘ best efforts as our producer. The reverse-reverb was a nice touch!

And with that we have nearly reached the end of side one, if we were listening to the cassette version. The final song on that side deserves it’s own story, which we’ll endeavor to tell over a heaping pile of cornbread next Wednesday.

Until then, here’s a trio of table-grade Native goodness, a winning trifecta if ever there was one!

 

It Doesn’t Matter How You Get There

Editor’s note: This past Monday was Dave’s birthday and after all his hard work making it possible to still have new Native tracks (more to come! Really! Just wait!) and telling stories from the heyday of the band, we’d like to give him a big round of applause and gratitude. So, Dave, wishing you a very happy birthday and a fantastic year filled with music, comics, and new stories worth sharing!

As Native prepared for our first album, we rather rashly jettisoned quite a few songs that would have been real corkers.

I suppose it was because of two things: 1) We were writing a lot more collaboratively than before, and wanted to ride that thang! 2) Many of the older tunes were meant for a different singer, and Mat Hutt was having to adjust to keys that weren’t right for him. If we changed the key, oftentimes the feel of the original was lost. 3) We now had John Epstein in the band on keyboards, and we felt we were in a new era. (Indeed, to this day Native’s eras are demarcated by who was on keys)

Okay… three reasons why great songs like Something Worth Remembering, Blue Room, Down, Love’s Lost, Water, and Balloo never had studio versions. In many ways, this is a pity because an album with just those songs would have been terrific!

There are two notable exceptions – Interested Third Party – the song that drove Anthony out of the band for being “too cute,” (which it was!), and the epic, magnum opus, grande finale – The Sea.

But today, let’s focus on a song written specifically for the album.

Today’s tune could be accused of falling into the ‘too cute’ category, indeed I have been in that camp for many a year. But, the new mastering job by our ace engineer, Jonathan Vergara, has revealed subtleties that the old cd kept hidden, and I find myself dancing, and snapping my fingers to it now, which never happened before!

Although, it only has one verse, I remember everyone pitching ideas, and riffs, so that it became a truly collaborative effort and although rather slight in content and length, I can see how it paved the way to so many Native masterpieces down the road.

Let’s see if my earworm becomes yours?

Put your finger on a globe, or the button on a CD player, and —

Go

Native Was Carried Away

Hey ho, folk!

Dave Thomas here, back from summer vacation, batteries totally recharged, tan firmly fading, underwear on backwards, and standing ready to delve once again into the history, myth, lore, facts, figures, and apochyphal nonsense pertaining to everyone’s favorite band that’s called Native!!

As we saw in the vast archive of rarities left behind in the vast Native vault (and compiled in Nativology Vols. 1-4), there are many hitherto unheard songs, untold tales, and unsung heroes & villains in this band’s legacy, and I, as curator of the vault, have the solemn duty to shine a light on the highs, explain the middles, and not be shy of exposing the low’s.

Today, I want to take us back to the storied year of 1994, when the Clinton in the Oval Office was a sax player named Bill, cars got 3 miles to the gallon, phones were the size of canteloupes, and the ink was still dry on Rudy Guiliani’s pact with Satan!

For some arcane reason, I, your humble narrator, was tapped as lyricist for the song that would serve as the opening number on our eponymous first album.

I filled it with wonderful angst-riddled wordplay and rhymes as I wrote about my favorite subject – myself. The suspicions in the pit I found myself in the middle of harked back to a previous band, a previous love, a previous job, and all the devilments found therein.

Even more incredibly, I was allowed to vent my frustrations in another song that would lead off side two of the cassette version! (Remember cassettes? Remember side twos?)

It was a task I quite enjoyed, so fittingly – I was not to do it again for quite some time, when Sweet Intensity appeared on our third album, Exhale On Spring Street.

But, in hindsight and to be utterly fair, my verbal misgivings would not long be needed as Mat Hutt and John Wood rose to the task of lyricification with great ease and alacrity. And after all, they were well-supplied with all the angst, and teeth-gnashing frustration required for great rock’n roll verbiage. And, they were soon joined by John Epstein and Michael Jaimes who penned their own opuses, which we will address in future missives.

What you are about to hear today is a much-improved, remastered version of this epic tune. Actually, ‘remastered’ might be a misnomer since the original album does not seem to have been mastered at all! Last year Jonathan Vergara, lord of the dark art of mastering, lent his touch to the album, and it bloomed like a perennial after a rainstorm.

Anyway, enough of these word-things, click the link below and wrap your earworms around what would be the opening salvo of Native’s claim to a seat among the heirarchy of toppermost of the poppermost talents in the Pantheon of A-listers.

I think I can safely say, you’ll be —

Carried Away

Our first tune – Something Worth Remembering

Native began when Mike Jaimes helped me arrange a song I’d written on a heartbreaking night during Dead Tour, 1991. Mike gave me a lot of encouragement,  but when it came time to lay down the lead vocal, he grabbed the mic and gave us this one-take performance.

In the following months, we decided it would be a good thing to put together a band to play the darn thing, and that led to the formation of Native, when Mat Hut, Matt Lyons, Anthony Ballsley, John Wood, and soundman Robert Smith convened five stories underground in my Mott Street studio.

Over time, the song’s arrangement evolved into a 20-minute + mega-jam. Still, even in its’ nascent state, Something Worth Remembering was kinda epic.