Another Cornbread Wednesday!

As with the last few posts, we’ve been going through the Native tapes from that hallowed era – 1996, when men were men, women were women, pants were optional, and Native was effing Native!

This week, to make up for being absent in our duties to bring you the best bloggage we possibly can last week, we give you not one, nor two, not even three, we give you four songs from the treasure trove of great McGovern’s tapes that were spun by our dear friend and manager, Paul Ducharme, and our equally dear aboriginal misfit/soundman, John Fitzwater.

We’d like you to think of these four cracking numbers as bonus tracks to our album, Live From Marmfington Farm, Vol. 1. For, lo! They emanate from the same time period that yielded the performances heard therein.

This particular night, many of the songs ended up incomplete on the tape that resides in our monolithic vaults deep beneath Mount Olympia in the garment district of Manhattan.

The tape is mind-bendingly incomplete – more songs are cut off than those that aren’t.

But, miraculously, these four astounding performances tell the tale of that fabled night. We begin as Mike Jaimes, arguably one of the greatest guitarists in the history of ever, teases the crowd with a small, delightful snatch of an iconic tune —

Interested Third Party (McGovern’s 6-3-96)
Big Boss Man (McGovern’s 6-3-96)
I Am (McGovern’s 6-3-96)
Corrina (McGovern’s 6-3-96)

Cornbread Wednesday

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Remembering Michael Jaimes (8/30/1967 – 10/13/2006)

Welcome to a special edition of our weekly Nativology blog.

Normally, we put up a song from our archives on Wednesdays, and, if you go to our Bandcamp page and see the albums-worth of gems from the Native Vault, you’ll see we did a lot of recording during our active years. Mainly, we endeavored to develop material for the band, but occasionally one of us took the step of working on tunes for strictly personal reasons.

Today’s tune is one Mike Jaimes started on in 1991, before Native was formed. Recorded in Dave Thomas’ room at The Clinton Arms Hotel (aka, The Hippie Hotel) on a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder, Mike was keen to make a demo of a song he’d written the music to, and which had beautiful, poignant lyrics by his good friend, Joe Rakha (5/2/1964 – 9/19/2002).

Years later, in 1998, Mike returned to the song. Dave did a really lousy mixdown from the 4-track to the 8-track Tascam that was used in all the recordings you hear in our weekly post. Mike then laid down a single vocal take, and there it remained in an unmixed state until today.

Dave has taken the instrument tracks from the earlier tape and combined them with the 1998 vocal to create a new mix.

We think it exemplifies a lot about Mike — his way with a melody, and his heartfelt delivery would be hard to match, even by the artists he admired the most.

We’ve long wrestled with the question of what to do with this singularity in our archive, and realized that today is the most fitting moment to share it.

We miss Mike more than could ever be expressed, but when October 13 rolls around it’s especially tough, and each of us finds that it’s been —

Rainin’ In My Heart

Digging Holes Again

Greetings Nativophiles! And, welcome back to our ongoing excursion through the musty corridors of the Native Tape Vault!`

Before we took a summer vacation (to work) we’d spent a year listening to the many splendid demos, rarities, and anomalies* found in our tape library, as curated, annotated, pixelated, and carbonated by our illustrious drummer, Dave Thomas, HBE**.

Back when Dave was what psychiatrists like to refer to, euphemistically, as “sane,” he undertook the massive task of going through the mountain of recordings we made in our salad years, when all we did was eat salad and make tapes in our studio that Woody built.Native Tapes Random

Under Dave HBE’s tyranny, Nativology has endured two iterations — Volumes 1 & 2. Now, the planet is faced with the even graver crisis of Vol. 3, and already the Untied Nations General Assembly has issued a statement saying, “Who needs salad when Nutella Hazlenut Spread can feed the world?”

Today’s example of John Fitzwater-engineered analogue-based goodness is a song we have visited already on Vol. 2, in a version from the John Epstein epoch which, much like the Jurassic era, ended in early 1995.

Following a brief, salad-munching summer, the effervescent John Watts joined the band, and a new round of demos were made on the trusty Tascam 8-track cassette recorder, which now sits enshrined in The Museum of Dave’s Storage Locker In Englewood, NJ.

Matt Hutt had come up with a dilly of a song that would eventually be the kick-off tune of our best-known album, Exhale On Spring Street. Woody collaborated on it, and Dave kicked in a line or two. Mike Jaimes and Matt Lyons kibutzed in the corner, and a landmark tune was regifted to the many varied nations of Midtown Manhattan, between Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, sorry, Clinton.

So, settle back with a quart of Sangria, a bowl of Nutella, and a big honking doobie! Click some keys on your favorite computer, and marvel at the majesty embodied in a little number called —

Digging Holes v.2

* A subtle reference to Dave’s current project, a graphic novel called ANOMALIES, which can be found here.

** Half-Baked Empire

Cornbread Wednesday

Older? Yes. Wiser? Perhaps. But, we’re all still kids in a Thunderstorm

Native was humming along on all cylinders in the fall of 1995.

We had endured the loss of keyboardist John Epstein, and a summer wherein we toured as a five-piece band. John Watts had come on board in the fall, and we hardly missed a beat — he assimilated our old material, even as we were coming up with enough new stuff to fill another two albums.

Speaking of albums, our first effort had floundered, due in no small part to a poor mastering job which nobody on our team recognized, but which kept radio from playing it.

We were hungry, hunkered-down, and humbled. We kept stumbling & rumbling along, oblivious to any muse but our own. The places we visited were farther-flung than ever, Buffalo, Rochester, all ports of call up the east coast, and of course — Bar Harbor, Maine. Aside from New York City, there was no place we visited more often, or felt more at home. The names of the bars there kept changing, but the faces of friends in that incredible place were as important to us as any we would ever know.

When we were back in NYC, our regularly-scheduled recording sessions kept us busy. The John Watts period saw us refining and improving songs we’d already demoed with the mercurial Mr. Epstein, and today’s song is among those on that list.

John Fitzwater, our erstwhile soundman, had developed a technique for recording the band on only eight-tracks. Since we were limited to that number on the Tascam Cassette recorder we were using in this project. Fitz would record the rhythm section of the band on DAT, and then transfer that to the first two tracks on the Tascam. We would then have six tracks left on which to overdub guitar, keys, and vocals. The hard part was getting a perfectly-balanced take of drums, bass, percussion, and rhythm guitar on the DAT. But, when we re-recorded today’s featured tune, an awful thing happened.

I was beginning to make demos of my own compositions on the same DAT machine, and one fateful day I accidentally recorded over a completed take of today’s song before it could be transferred to eight-track. The band was furious, Mat Hutt was ballistic (and, indeed, could not even talk to me for quite some time, such was his anger). I was devastated, and the event only made it harder for me to bring in material of my own creation.

Thunderstorm over NYC

source: imgur

For a time, I was quite isolated within the structure of the band, and a bit of a pariah. To make matters worse, when we re-re-recorded the song yet again — although it was a fine take, and the overdubs went well (with Mike surpassing himself on lead guitar), we did not take the care we had exhibited on all the other demos, and we found ourselves out of tracks and unable to do the harmony vocals.

At that point, lethargy and inertia set in. We took a break from recording, and the song languished, never getting a proper mix as all the other songs had done — which is too bad because it’s really quite splendid, as I think you’ll agree.

So, here it is — one of Native’s finest efforts, and a lost page from our playbook —

Thunderstorm v.2

Cornbread Wednesday

The Smallest Moon

Native’s chief songwriters are Mat Hutt and John Wood. Mike Jaimes wrote a few really good ones, and I was always champing at the bit with one of my little epics.

But, Matt Lyons very rarely brought in any compositions, being satisfied to contribute to the details of the various arrangements. However, there exists in the Native Vault one item that I’ve always loved — it’s a song that began life in the days when Anthony Ballsley was our singer, and we had a harder, more Rock sound.

It existed for a couple of years as an instrumental that only got played as we warmed-up during rehearsals, and was known informally as Ham & Eggs. It was never played at our gigs, but it was very strong, and we all thought it had promise.

Woody singingI asked Woody recently about the transformation the song underwent in the Summer months of 1995:

“The song, as I’m sure you’ll remember, was originally called Ham & Eggs. It predated me, and I don’t know if Matt Lyons wrote it, or if it was a collaboration. I always thought it would be a great song to try to write a melody for and I specifically wrote this song to go with the riff as opposed to how I usually write.

I had mostly always started with lyrics, then wrote the melody to fit. I learned a lot, writing that one. It was also very personal to me.”

When he brought the new lyrics in, renaming the song in the process, it was an immediate hit with the band, and for a brief time it enjoyed a regular place in our set lists. But, time and tide move on, and what was one day a sentimental favorite soon became a remembrance of pained separation and loss, and would be played nevermore.

Thus, the short lifespan of one of Woody’s all-time best lyrics, and Matt Lyons raging power chords was limited to a paltry few live tapes in our library. But, I cannot help feel a pang of nostalgia for those days, surely a golden period for Native, when the high point of our show would unquestionably be —

The Smallest Moon

Cornbread Wednesday

Smoke In The Desert

The summer of 1995 was a tumultuous time for Native. We had lost our keyboardist, John Epstein; we’d continued to tour as a five-piece and were not satisfied with our sound minus piano and organ; the album we’d worked so hard to achieve was now over a year old, and although it had garnered some radio play, it had not got us to the big goal of every band (back then) — a record deal; and the strain of constantly being cooped up together in a van was taking it’s toll – we were, for the first time, starting to bicker and get persnickety with each other.

In addition to that, my father, Hal Thomas, passed away, leaving a four-piece Native to struggle through a few torturous gigs without its drummer.

In short — it was the summer of our discontent.

Out of that tumult came some very good things, however — Mat, who had been growing by leaps and bounds as a songwriter and frontman, really took it to the next level; and, John Watts joined us to tickle those ivories that we were missing so badly.

By the early fall, we were recording again and had a new batch of songs featuring the stripped-down sound we had developed over the summer. Today’s song is one of the fruits of those sessions, and it’s a pip, in my opinion.

We’d been doing a lot of shows with a band called The GrasshoppersJason Appleton, Marcos Joachim, Chris Wilford, & Dave Hamburger – and they had a strong influence on us all, but Mat especially was drawn to their tight songs and cogent lyrics. It was a sound not derived as much from the jam band scene we were in as much as it was just pure, classic rock music of the highest order. We thought they were as good as The Beatles.

The affinity between to two bands would extend for years, indeed Mike appears on the cover of their great album, A Night At The Hoppera, and their influence would continue — but it starts right here with this great song from the pen of Mat Hutt.

Smoke In The Desert

Cornbread Wednesday

The Jazzie Hippie

Mike Jaimes

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.Cornbread Wednesday