Polishing Diamonds

And Then What was planned as an album, knowing that it would be our last one. We wanted to get all the latest material, developed during Chris Wyckoff‘s reign on keyboards, circa 1997-2000.

But, we also wanted to do a few tracks of songs that had fallen between the cracks, so to speak. As seen in this Nativology series, we left a lot of songs on the cutting room floor.

Good songs, we were thinking, as with today’s entry, which we offer as proof that we were a very good band in the studio -tight, but without rigidness, or semblance of restraint.

Listen to how Mike, knowing he will redub his guitar later, plays around with several musical ideas and motifs, switching like a gadfly from one to the next.

And then there Mat Hutt‘s startling- spine-tingling, powerhouse vocal!

Mat really dug deep when he wrote the song, based on an experience from some year’s hence, but no less painful for time’s passage.

In this passionate take, Mat summons up everything he was feeling when he wrote it, and in the process gives us one of his best-ever performances!

This song would see it’s final form take shape during the sessions at Marmfington Farm in 2005, when Mike would finally redub his guitar, Woody would add his harmony, Chris would add piano, and Dave would roll the doobies!

But, here it is in the rough mix John Fitzwater did the day we recorded it in late 2000.

Diamonds

Cornbread Wednesday

And Then What? Mat Gets Mellow!

This week’s goodie from the Native Cookie Jar is a sterling example of what I’ve been saying about this period in our evolution as a band – that we were getting better and better as songwriters (as borne out by the Cookie Jar – which just keeps giving and giving).

Mat Hutt, more than any of us, was always brushing up on his songcrafting skills, which by this time were Mad Songcrafting Skills!!

Case in point – this lovely piece was recorded very quickly by John Fitzwater on our brand-spanking new Protools rig, using a single microphone – and, just as quickly, it was lost in the shuffle of all the great material we were coming up with for the next album.

We had a saying in Native – “I’ll be mellow when I’m dead.”

And Mat, party animal that he was, lived up to that credo as well as any of us. He could work all day, party all night, jam till the cows came home, and still find time to come up with this inexpressively pretty piece of wonderful, evocative, enchantment.

With that, there’s not much else to say – only Mat knows what the vocal melody might have been, or what the title was!!!

Fitz simply called it, rather aptly —

Mat’s Mellow

Cornbread Wednesday

And Then What – Episode 3 – Annabelle

Today’s lost Native song comes from an extremely fertile period in our evolution. This was supposed to be the part where we were breaking up, and yet we were writing songs faster and furiouser than ever!

Case in point – if you listen to this amazing song, recorded live at Wetlands, you will be asking a very pertinent question — How, in the name of all that is good and worthy did Native not make an official recording of this great tune????

The answer is rather prosaic – we had more than we could handle. We knew Mat Hutt was moving away, and that would be the end of the band, so we spent six months trying to jam in as many songs into the digital domain as we could – but there just wasn’t enough time!

(And this is why I’ve always maintained that we never really broke up, we just lived too far apart to do any playing!)

As it turned out, working with our Producer, John Fitzwater, we laid down enough tracks to compile an album and a half – and that’s what became And Then What (finally released in 2006), and our EP – December Roses (2012). Both are featured on our Bandcamp site, which you will be whisked to in a blink of an eye when you follow the magic linky thing below —

Annabelle (Wetlands 1-10-99)

Cornbread Wednesday

The Long Road To ‘And Then What’ – pt 2 – Zozo

Why you want to be the one who comes and darks out all the sun?

Well, quite!

Who wants to be that person? You know, the one who shows up at a party and bums everybody out?

No one knows the answer to this timeless question. But, we do know that we had some timeless parties at Marmfington Farm – better known to friends and foes as The Loft.

No one is sure who Mat Hutt was talking about in this song, and so it’s probably safe to assume it’s you. Which is what many of us did. Certainly, I did.

I was always convinced was about me, as I could be rather thorny at times. But, the argument that it could be any of countless other folks is a cogent one. I can surely think of several other suspects.

Whoever it’s about, Mat has always kept it under his hat, in a closet, under a pile of old, embarrassing jumpers.

All I know for sure, is — this recording from Wetlands, in January 1999, is the first time we played it, and it’s a great song. (And if it’s about me – I take no offense.)

Or, as Groucho so touchingly put it —

It’s better to have loved and loft, than never to have loft at all.

Zozo (Wetlands 1-10-99)

Cornbread Wednesday

The Long Road To And Then What! Part One

If you are puzzled by this week’s blog title – it refers to Native’s biggest, most ambitious album project. The title, And Then What, was derived from something once said by Sam Hutt (Mat’s dad – better known as Hank Wangford), whilst on a visit during the early days of Native’s existence.

We were watching a serial (you know, the pre-television episodic cliffhangers that thrilled movie audiences in those days of yore when everything was better?), I believe it was Dick Tracy, starring the great Ralph Byrd, made by my favorite studio – Republic Pictures.

In the serial, there was a moment where the evil ringleader of The Spider Gang, tells a henchman something like this – “Go down there, catch that guy, then take him to the river and drown him.” The incredibly compliant henchman nods in obeiance, and off he goes on his murderous task.

Sam’s cogent question was, “Why do the henchmen never say ‘And then what?'”

We had not yet recorded our first record, but the long road to And Then What began at that moment.

Jump cut to early 1999, Native has been touring for a year in support of our second studio album, Exhale On Spring Street (on which we churlishly got Sam’s credit for Wild Atlantic Sea wrong!), Keyboardist and botany expert Chris Wyckoff had settled in as a full member of the band, Woody had built a spiffing studio for us to rehearse, and the often-acerbic John Fitzwater had outfitted that space with a Pro Tools set up.

We were now fully capable of producing our next album, and had built up a large reservoir of new material, so we immediately set to work with surprising alacrity and slothfulness.

One of the very first songs we undertook was written by your humble narrator, and played with great vigor by my bandmates.

I don’t remember writing it, but the lyrics are at variance with those on my own demo of the song, so there must have been an great deal of collaboration on it, which I assume I enjoyed.

Get ready for quite a few more oddities like this in the next few week’s thrilling chapters – we wrote way more than what ended up on the album, and like this submission, the material was very strong, and the henchmen were compliant, and unquestioning.

(Note: The vocals start out quiet, but get louder on this demo – there is nothing wrong with your system!)
Everyday

Cornbread Wednesday

Native – The Cover Band

Hey ho! I’m back from my journeys (and quite bemused to have missed the Native reunion dinner that took place while I was gone!!!) and ready to undertake the long descent into the tertiary layer of Earth’s crust, where Native Tape Vault resides in all its infamous glory.

Today’s selection continues the examination of songs we performed, but didn’t write – informally known as ‘covers’.

When I think of all the covers Native had in our arsenal, it almost makes me weep – in the good way.

We had a lot of diversity in our individual tastes, and that was reflected in the songs we occasionally chose to play.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of – Train In Vain, Gonna Paint My Mailbox Blue, Corrina, Magic Carpet Ride, Oye Como Va!, Stone Free, White Lightnin’, and some really odd choices – a U2 song (which title I can’t remember), and even Hava Nagila!

But, I think we can all agree that today’s submission is truly our strangest cover. And it’s unique in the sense that we even went to the trouble of recording it, ostensibly for a compilation album that never materialized.

The recording was also a good warm-up for a new round of songwriting demos we were about to embark on in mid-1998.

The first part of that year had been spent getting the formidable Chris Wyckoff up to speed on our old material, with a real focus on the Exhale On Spring Street songs. Having accomplished that, we then set forth on addressing the pile of new songs we’d been stacking up in one of the dusty corners of Marmfington Farm.

But, as I noted, we first had a bit of fun with this little ditty from the pen of the Madcap Syd Barrett, the leader of The Pink Floyd (I put ‘The’ in their band name, because that’s what they called themselves on their first couple of albums).

I find it interesting that we seemed to focus on songwriter’s early songs when we chose our covers, and this is, in fact, the earliest Floyd song – their first single, to be precise.

So get ready for a fun, and weird Native version of —

Arnold Layne

Cornbread Wednesday

One Way Or Another… This Darkness Has Got To Give

Last week, we served up a rare live track from a multi-track tape of an undated Native show at Wetlands.

We see no reason why we shouldn’t continue on with another stupendous Catherine Russell performance from the same night.

Native was not prone to do a lot of other folk’s material, but this tune just seems like it was made for us to play and for Catherine to sing. And, since the Grateful Dead hardly ever performed it in their shows, we can safely say that this is (in all humility) one of the best versions you’ll ever come across.

So, enjoy!

I (Dave) am off like a prom-dress, for a couple of weeks, to play some shows with my family band – The Blue Lick Victory Club – in Louisville, KY. As much fun as this blog is to do each week, I do sometimes have to pry myself away from the Davecave, see some sunshine & do some pickin’ & grinnin’.

So hang tight — we’ll pick up where we left off when we resume in July. There’s lots of Wyckoff-era Native rare goodies left in the vault that we will be exhuming for your listening pleasure.

Thanks to everyone who follows us, and who have made this blog so much fun to prepare. You are the reason we do this, and we love you!

See you soon!

New Speedway Boogie (Wetlands 1997)

Cornbread Wednesday

Steer-Ropin’, Saddle-Bronc, Riding Events!

In our years as a band, we covered a lot of territory – rock, funk, reggae, folk, blues, rockabilly, ska…

But, I remember quite clearly the day I suggested to the band that we try our hand at a Country – or, more precisely – a Western song. I wanted us to be able to say, as the Blues Brothers did, that we play both kinds of music – Country *AND* Western.

But, my interest in old westerns, particularly the singing cowboy oaters of Roy Rogers, was a big part of my suggestion.

Having written a script about legendary film director, John Ford, and in the process uncovering significantly arresting material on the equally legendary stuntman, Yakima Canutt, I endeavored to take bits & bobs of Yak’s early rodeo exploits and cram them into a song in a genre I had, until that moment, avoided – Country Rock.

To my enduring surprise, the band not only responded in the affirmative, after an off-the-cuff recital of the lyrics on the way to a gig in Maine, but the alacrity with which my song was thrust into our set lists was, considering the lack of success I’d had with so many preceding composition-offerings, it left my head spinning!

But, I should not have been surprised. It’s a great song, if I do say so myself.

The speed with which it was assimilated into our repertoire meant that it represents a departure from our normal modus operandi when it came to the recording process. Usually, we would play a song for months, if not years, before we set it in stone, so to speak.

My rodeo tune was recorded in that hot August of 1997, just weeks after I wrote it, when we spent a feverish weekend laying down tracks for the Exhale On Spring Street album.

It went on to become a tentpole in all our future set-lists. Now, it’s a part of the soundtrack to my play, Barnstorm, and I’ve written many C&W songs since then.

But, none mean more to me than this ode to a rodeo rider whose impact was such that he is even listed in our album credits as Stunt Co-ordinator!

Here it is, just the way it sounded before adding Catherine Russell and Woody on vocals, and another legend – Buddy Cage on Steel Guitar. It’s a good example of how tight we were, that this was laid down completely live in the studio — heck, we were so good, we could have maybe played in Bob Fletcher’s Famous Mounted Round-up Band!

Pendleton Roundup (Alt. Mix)

Cornbread Wednesday

Will I Find Satisfaction?

The question is a rhetorical one, for it comes with a presumption of what the heck ‘Satisfaction’ actually means.

For your intrepid vault plunderer, having the Native tape trove transferred to digital and archived has been seen as a mission that might perhaps end with a sense of being satisfied; a feeling of conclusion; a closing of a book.

That can never be, of course, because I will always be struck by the lack of larger success that was to be the fate of this fabled band that I was in called Native.

Case in point: today’s Cornbread Wednesday offering.

Everything that was great about Native is on display here: Mat Hutt’s sinuous lead vocal is a thing of purity, with soulful conviction by the ton, and his lyrics never veer off into the woods of the prosaic as they ask an eternal, burning question. John ‘Woody’ Wood‘s harmony vocal is like a sports car with rack & pinion steering, in the way it follows the Highway 1 twists & turns of Mat’s beseeching lead. Mike Jaimes – are there accolades enough for this guitar colossus? The rhythm section is just dead on the money, with Matt Lyons‘ percolating bass nailing way more than the one beat. My drumming is, IMHO, very good here, as I basked in the new technique I’d been working on with that drumming master, Todd Turkisher. And, let’s not overlook Woody’s contribution on percussion! His singular approach is akin to a rock skipping over water, except it goes on and on and on!

Finally, applause please for Mr. Peter Levin on Wurlitzer piano. His deft touch is resplendent here, and soul galore is infused in that very understated solo!

Craig Randall‘s mix can hardly be called a ‘ruff’ as it was so often described on the DAT covers from these sessions. Each mix variant has it’s qualities, and unique moments, but they are invariably wonderful, with little if any adjustments needed in order to bring them to you in these highly satisfying Wednesday posts.

Satisfaction

Cornbread Wednesday

The John Watts Era Comes To A Close

It was a sad day, indeed, when John Watts took the decision to leave Native.

He loved the band, but the schedule was punishing. And, it has to be said that, at this time, there was a bit of friction in band – some of which is my fault, so I bear a piece of the blame for driving him out.

When I met John, I was chuffed and delighted to bring him in for an audition with the band, and when he joined the band kicked up another notch in tightness, and our sound became even more musical and rich.

He was our most joyous, upbeat member, and that’s saying something considering we had the sparkling Mike Jaimes in the band.

On a personal level, he encouraged me to take my writing more seriously (to the bemusement of other members, who, I think, would have rather well-preferred I take it a lot less seriously!)

One example of how he helped me, was when he championed my newest song, Sweet Intensity, over the disinterest it had received when I played it for the guys. I really don’t think it would have become a Native song without his support.

I’ll readily confess – my general displeasure over how my material was being judged led to a bit of a bad attitude on my part in the later days of 1996, but there was another music-related factor that led to some inner-band conflict which disturbed John a lot.

I had started to feel a pain in my hands, stemming from my vice-like grip on the drumsticks. My punk-rock drumming approach had been getting more streamlined and sophisticated, but I retained the too-tight grip that, after long gigs, was leading to an aching soreness in my thumb joints.

John suggested I see a drum teacher he knew, and I very quietly started to take instruction which gave me all kinds of insight into how my grip was defeating my intent – why my drum fills were heavy-handed and sloppy, and how it contributed to an overall laxness in my playing, despite my high energy-level. I was working twice as hard for half the effect! Finding a better grip not only transformed my style, but the lack of pain was an enormous relief.

The problem was, I didn’t tell anyone else in the group about my lessons, and rather than increase my ability, the immediate result of my new grip was a drop in precision. It was going to take some time to get used to it, and in the meantime, I was playing very sloppily.

Then came a big band meeting, where I was confronted about my playing. Having already made moves to up my technique, I was angered by the interference. I sort of reflexively reacted to being provoked in a very confrontational band meeting, and was appalled that my playing had obviously been the subject of discussion behind my back.

The tensions in all this ultimately pushed the always convivial John Watts away from the band, and his era came to a sad close. The following months were what Chris Wyckoff has dubbed, ‘The Scary Time’, where Native soldiered on as a 5-piece. Fortunately, the first six months of 1997 saw very little taping at our shows, so there is scant evidence of my progress with the new grip.

The good part of the story is that I got my drumming problems sorted, and Native went on to continue our schedule of a hundred or more gigs per year, constant song-writing (which I was able to be a larger part of, thanks to the success of Sweet Intensity), and the recording of our best album – Exhale On Spring Street. During the recording of that epic, the reserved and tranquil Mr. Wyckoff joined our ranks, and all was well in the little town of Inisfree, once again.

So, the ending was happy, but when it comes to the subject of John Watts’ departure – I can’t think of anything funny to say about it. I wish he had stayed, and lord knows how we might have evolved if he had.

Bottom line — today’s tune brings Nativology Vol. 3 full circle. It began the era with a brilliant demo tape, and ended the era with a masterful performance at our home base – McGoverns Bar. We were much better than we were giving ourselves credit for.

Digging Holes (McGoverns 11-09-96)

Cornbread Wednesday