Nativology: A lost classic – Heavy Hearted

Native’s May 1993 demo-recording foray at Todd Turkisher’s studio on 18th Street in Manhattan produced two tracks we’ve shared in week’s past. And, now here’s a third.

Heavy Hearted should probably have been a single. It had everything — great Mat Hutt lyrics, an arresting melody, the harmonies of Mat & John Wood, the gorgeous chiming guitars… and speaking of guitars, Mike Jaimes laid down a pithy little solo worthy of the axe-wielding gods on Mount Olympus.

Karl's Bear LogoWe were all growing so fast that by the time the song was mixed on June 13, we had already moved on. New songs in the offing, an album in the planning stages, gigs galore, a new Bear logo by our artist-in-residence Karl Ottersberg… and poor, wonderful Heavy Hearted was cast adrift, never to be the staple of our live show it should have been, orphaned before its time, never to be what it now sounds like, the great, lost, first Native single.

Part of the problem might have been the length. At nine minutes plus, it was going to require a severe editing job. That was the opposite direction from we were going, with long explorative jams being the order of the day.

But, today it sounds to me like one of our greatest achievements.

Someday, I reserve the right to release the full-length version of it, with a second solo, as it was intended. But, for now, weighing in at six minutes; floating like a butterfly; stinging like the hippiest of bees — here’s one of Native’s greatest songs — Heavy Hearted.

Cornbread Wednesday


The Year of the Mat

By May of 1993 Native had been gigging and writing relentlessly for almost a year. Woody had joined in December of  ’92 and we hadn’t wasted a moment’s opportunity since then to work, develop, and move ahead.

No one worked or developed or moved ahead harder or faster than Mat Hutt. Having taken on the mantle of lead singer and frontman, he threw himself into the role. Plus, he was booking the gigs and was quickly becoming the band’s main songwriter. It was in this period that he and Woody really started to click as harmonizers.

It was an electric time to be in the band, I was thrilled to be part of it and challenged by the high standards we’d set for ourselves. There aren’t many live tapes from this period as we wanted to avoid having what we thought might be embarrassing performances enshrined in granite around our necks. We needn’t have worried. The few tapes extant from early ’93 show a band growing both musically and in confidence with every performance.

We’d landed regular weekly gigs at McGovern’s and Wetlands – gigs that would run for years and garner us our faithful and fervent following. Mike was blowing minds on a daily basis and Mat was the ringmaster for what was becoming a juggernaut. We couldn’t believe we were making money doing this!!!

The time had come to make a studio recording of our best new songs. And by studio I don’t mean our Radon Room but a real proper studio.

We didn’t find one. But what we did find turned out to be just the right place at the right time, with the right engineer.

My buddy and drum teacher, Todd Turkisher, was playing with Baba Olatunji and had a small project studio conveniently located two blocks away and on May 5 Native recorded five songs there — Carried Away, Heavy-Hearted, Tell Me The Truth, Water, and Island. Only the last two ever had a finished mix done (Water is track 15 in Nativology). Of the other three tracks, there were various reasons for their unfinished status – Carried Away was a bit of a frantic, harried performance, and I claim responsibility. I would quickly thereafter simplify the beat and thus render the studio version obsolete. Tell Me the Truth and Heavy-Hearted were completed in 1995, and will pop up in this chronology in future posts.

That leaves Island, which was our newest in a long line of water-related songs (hey, we just like water as a subject!). It was an instant Native classic, and would serve as our audition-tape which was sent to venues for booking. It did its job, too. We were booking lots of gigs on the strength of this mighty ode to small bodies of land surrounded by The Sea.

So, here it is — Todd Turkisher’s June 3, 1993 mix of Island v.1

Cornbread Wednesday* * *

Editor’s Note: Today is the birthday of our marvelous drummer, songwriter, and band historian, Dave (who is almost solely responsible for the fact that more Native is available to you now). Happy birthday Hollywood Thomas!!! Thank you for spearheading this project and may all of your endeavors bring people such joy.

The Year Of The Cat

Catherine RusselI first saw Catherine Russell in a small West Village club singing Meters songs in 1989. I was gaga over The Meters and instantly in love with her voice and commanding stage presence. I managed to talk her into joining a motley crew I had assembled at The Radon Room Studio on Mott Street for some sessions. We wrote some tunes and it sounded great, at least to my ears.

For Catherine, it was a bit of a trial dealing with the motley-ness of the crew and though she like everyone a lot she moved on with her career, and I went on to form other still-motley crews. But Catherine and I remained good friends afterward, and she was gracious enough to score me tickets to Grateful Dead shows which I did not have the money for. We had lots of fun.

Eventually, Native (still a motley bunch) was formed and Catherine started appearing with us every now and then. The recording you are about to hear is from a cassette recorded early in the evening of March 6, 1993. Later that evening, Native played Nightingale Bar and Catherine joined us to play it for the peoples.

I Don’t Care No More

Looking back, if I’d known that Catherine was singing with the likes of Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Al Green, etc., if I’d known her father was Louis Armstrong’s arranger—well, I probably would have been too scared to ever invite her down to a sub-level studio beneath Little Italy to play with such a motley crew.

Cat is on tour now, check out her webpage and give her a shout. She’s one of the greats, and we were damned lucky, and honored to have her join us on so many wonderful occasions.Cornbread Wednesday