As January and February of 1993 rolled by, Native was avoiding the winter cold down in the always humid environs of The Radon Room, located conveniently four stories underground. Here, in our secret lair far beneath the unsuspecting tourists of Little Italy, we jammed heavily and constantly. We had written, demoed, and redemoed nearly all the songs that would appear on our first album.
During that time, Mike Jaimes made a tape at home as he tried out an old standard, and two songs which would become staples of our shows for the rest of our touring years. Here is that tape, motor noise and all.
Trouble In Mind is a wonderful 1924 blues tune written by jazx pianist Richard M. Jones. There are many famous versions of it by everyone from Dinah Washington, to Sister Rosetta Tharp, to Eddy Arnold all the way to Hot Tuna and Jerry Garcia. The latter two undoubtedly influenced Mike’s version, although he may have heard the tape of Janis Joplin and Jorma Kaukonen doing the song whilst Jorma’s wife hammered away on a typewriter in the background. This is my favorite version of them all.
Next, Mike worked up an original tune called The Jazzie Hippie. Native would give it an epic arrangement, and it served us well over the years. From day one, it was a real crowd-pleaser, and it was a handy opener if there had been no sound-check. It gave the soundman a chance to dial in the instrument levels, and wait to get the vocals later. Native finally got around to doing a proper recording of it on the And Then What album. If you compare that version you’ll hear that this early demo is missing the uptempo middle jam. That’s because Mike wrote it later. Mike was great at writing middle jams.
The next tune is the very first recording of what would become Mike’s most famous song — Down To The River. I think you could say it’s his signature tune. It’s the rare Native tape, indeed, that does not include it. Interestingly, Mike had not yet worked out the incredible finger-picked intro to the song, but he had a good idea about the stop-start pauses at the finale.
Trouble In Mind likely served as a jumping off point for what Mike would write — it even has the line, “Going down to the river.“ But Mike took it and made it indelibly his own. For me, these are the best kind of rare tapes, where you get to hear the process of genius using that genius to create works of genius. Did I mention genius? That was Mike Jaimes — The Jazzie Hippie.