The Wild Atlantic Sea

There are times in your life when you remember right where you were, and what you were doing when you first heard a bit of music. This is the case for me with the song we are featuring in this week’s edition of Nativology Vol. 2.

Mat Hutt’s dad, Sam Hutt, sometimes known as Hank Wangford strolled into the apartment Mat & I shared on 16th Street, told us he’d written a song on the flight over from the UK, picked up a guitar and played us this brilliant tune. It was full of wistful, faraway chords, haunting melodies, and the loveliest poetry.

I was sitting on our couch, quite probably with my mouth hanging open in sheer awe at the effortlessness Sam displayed in his performance, especially in light of the fact that he’d had no guitar on the plane. That moment forever defined the the long road I’d be on to be a real songwriter, not just somebody poking around with some chords and random words.

It was also at this the time of this visit that Sam asked a very cogent question as we viewed an old gangster serial — why do gangster’s henchmen simply accept their orders to go knock off an adversary? Or, as Sam put it, “How come nobody ever asks ‘And then what’?”

Years later, that question (sans question mark) would become the title of our third studio album.

I tell that story, not as a digression, but to illustrate how long we’d hang on to good ideas before incorporating them into our work.

It would be years before Native took up the song. But, once we did it became a tentpole of our shows, often popping up at the end. And there was little that could follow it.

When I produced the Exhale On Spring Street album, I somehow left off Sam’s writer credit — a fact that I regret every time I hear it. So, let me publicly apologize to Sam for the egregious oversight. It was not a slight, but rather a mistake made by someone just a bit over his head on his first album production. I’m truly sorry for it, Sam!!!

This version is our demo from 1996, featuring Mr. John Watts on keyboards. And, just as it served as a closer to our sets, the same is true today as it will be the final song in this volume of Nativology.

We will resume our scouring of the Native Tape Vault with Vol. 3 in the coming months. In the meantime, we are preparing a live album release, the details of which will be disclosed soon.

But, for now, sit back and enjoy a tour of the beautiful, rocky shores of —

The Wild Atlantic Sea

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Twisting, turning, flying, burning…

Adding John Watts to the band had really paid off and, by the summer of 1996, the band was really running smooth on all cylinders. Constant, relentless rehearsal and gigging resulted in a band that was air-tight, confident, and armed with the largest playbook of our existence!

In the midst of all the chaos, we continued to write new material, and we were sure-enough of ourselves to play the new music in public, letting it grow and evolve before laying down the demo on our trusty Tascam 8-track recorder.

This week’s tune is a very impressive Mat Hutt composition, inspired by a comment made by our manager, Paul Ducharme.

Paul, ever vigilant against the incursion of fake-hippies into our real-hippies scene, had coined the term ‘krevelers’ to describe those who look, sound, and dress like hippies, but who were actually predators — taking advantage of the naiveté exhibited by so many of us flower children.

Paul’s comment came in the early hours of morning after a gig, when most folks have gone home, but there were a few still hanging around that seemed to have an awful lot of energy considering the hour. “It’s just another junkie sunrise.”

That was all Mat needed to put on his dramatist’s hat and put himself in the place of a lost soul, on the brink of destruction, living not from day-to-day, but score-to-score. He envisioned that soul having a moment of clarity, perhaps the only one of the day, as a stark colorless sun rises overhead.

I’m pretty sure he got some help from Woody and Paul along the way, but however it came about, and whoever helped develop it — it’s a Native masterpiece, in my opinion.

This version comes from August, 14, 1996 and, appropriately, it was the last song of a long set which puts it at the right hour — around four a.m.

Our good buddy and compatriot, Kregg Ajamu, can be heard trading off with Mat at the end.

The band would pack up, go home and sleep, but for some tortured souls in the room, what awaited was a —

Junkie Sunrise

It Really Is About The Music

Editor’s Note: For the past 10 months we’ve been using the same format almost every week, a song from the vault and a post about that song by the always informative and entertaining Dave Thomas for an inside look at the creation and evolution of their music. This week we’re coming from a completely different perspective with our first guest post by Rechavia Berman, one of Native’s earliest supporters. Check out his blog or give him a follow on Twitter if you enjoy the post!

Sup y’all? If you’re reading this, chances are you know Native or are getting to – and congrats on a most positive addition to your life in that case.

I’ve been following this band longer than most. Not to brag, just to explain why I’mma bother you, dear reader, with my thoughts on this band from a time and place 20 years in the rear-view mirror.

It was… spring or early summer* of 1992.  I had recently moved back to the States from Israel, and was shacking with my cousin, Dr. Dean Weiss, pending the acquisition of my own rented digs in Brooklyn. Doc Dean, then still a med student,  told me about a buddy of his who was a drummer in this band and let’s go check them out.

The gig was at Nightingale’s, on 14th and 2nd in Manhattan, and probably my first taste of a hardcore New York rock club. It was Native’s 6th gig ever and Anthony Ballsley, he of the majestic rock singer voice, was still the front-man. Most of the set from that night has probably accumulated on Nativology, but I can effortlessly list 4 songs or more that I still like and probably first heard on that night – The Sea, Something Worth Remembering, Blue Room, I Am. I’m not a music-maven now and was far, far less of one back then, but I liked what I’d heard enough to tell cuz Dean to keep me posted on chances to see his buddy’s band.

The more we checked them out, the more I liked them, and quickly the number of original songs they had that I really liked far exceeded an album or even a double album’s worth. But almost as rapidly, a question of objectivity developed: Do I dig these guys so much because of their music, or because I happened to meet them and was kindly made welcome to hang with them to the point that they and their friends became one of, if not the major part of my social life? I mean, not that they were so successful as to warrant it being a highly-sought privilege, but I’d met musicians before who were equally away from stardom but had the attitude down pat.

Anyway – was it the music or the friendship? In sports terms, was I being a homer? Now, I was never so star-struck as to not be aware of the band’s limitations. If I was, my cuz, a harsh critic with perfect musical hearing and high standards, was there to talk me down. I knew that the only thing the band had to put against the best in the world, or even just its capital of New York City, was the Late, Great Michael Jaimes on guitar. But sometimes the whole really is greater than its parts. Mat and Woody (and Dave when he insisted enough) are great songwriters, Mike was a master musician and not just a boy who could strum with the rhythm that the drivers make, and led the crafting of beautiful compositions and riffs. But the doubt still nagged, despite all the wonderful nights at McGovern’s, Wetlands, Flannery’s and the festival road trips. Was it just those hours when the guys were on stage and me and the rest of fans were groovin’ down below, or more the ones at the loft watching football, shooting the breeze and just chillin’?

In late 1997 I moved back to Israel for a job offer that started my translating career. I had some cassettes of Native plus the first two albums on disc, and tried to get people here to show even close to the pleasure I got from the music, even after the actual companionship of the band and members of the Native family were left behind a sea and an ocean. Very few came close. There are objective reasons for this – the traditions of music Native is most prominently influenced by are not at all big here. There are Dead fans here but not many, funk is enjoyed but not heavily followed, and only people seriously into rock/blues know who Stevie Ray Vaughan was. I firmly believe that I am the only dedicated Israeli Native fan. I know I was the only Israeli in the family (shout-out here to family member George, who is of Palestinian descent. May the wrongs my people did to yours be recognized and corrected to the extent possible in our lifetime).

Even people here who knew music, while unable to deny the skills of the guitar player, failed to find the whole enough to be wowed by. I was fine with it being my private thing and with the possibility that it’s more the memories than the music, but 5.5 years in NYC hanging with knowledgeable musicians did rub off. I now worship at the altar of SRV, and wanted to believe that I was right in thinking Mike could have held his own with the great Texan on stage. And with God (AKA Eric Clapton), and with… alla those guys. And that Native as a whole could have opened for them strictly on merit.

In late 2006, while on the phone with Native’s drummer Dave Thomas (who was always my closest friend in the band), I got the terrible news: “Have you heard?” – heard what? – “(pause…) We lost a brother.” The death of my mother at 68, although naturally even more painful, didn’t come close to this news in terms of sheer shock.

With Mike’s untimely passing at age 39, the Native story seemed ended for good, despite a NYC jam-band-community-star-studded memorial concert that brought everyone together one more time from all around the country (and which I was of course unable to attend). Even in the age of the Internet, all that was available were some low-quality live videos uploaded by Native’s master soundman John Fitzwater. These, though enjoyable to me, were of no use in convincing my friends what a great band this was.

Then came the blessed invention of social media. One day I come across tweets about a band called Native. Sure enough, it was none other than my old buddy Kassandraa, a lil redheaded font of inexhaustible energy who began following and working for Native in the mid-90s before she was legally supposed to be at the gigs…

Soon came re-connections with various fam members on twitter and facebook, and joy of joys – Native’s new bandcamp site with full albums; then 20 years after those first gigs, the wonderful Nativology initiative, which brought back great songs never released on the band’s CD’s, such as the seminal Santana-style jam “Water”, the lovely “Heavy Hearted”, and many more.

And now, after several opportunities to use cookout guests as a captive audience, I finally had my answer – it was totally the music. The friendships were just a wonderful bonus. On Independence Day 2012, halfway through “Exhale on Spring Street”, a guest asked me “Who are these guys? They sound really good.” Then a couple months ago, after another 4 hour cookout during which I played 2 full Native albums and almost all of Nativology Vol 1, offered to switch after a couple of hours to different tunes and was told “no no, this is excellent,” I no longer had any doubts.

So go to any of albums accessible through the “music and more” link above this text, kick back and let the notes wash over you. Even if you don’t know these guys personally, it doesn’t matter. Oh my but these boys could play, and now we have the fruit of their talents for as long as the World Wide Web will stand.