Native Live At Wetlands June 1995

Hey folks!

We here at Native International Headquarters have been pretty excited ever since I, Dave Thomas, the drummer, made a big discovery deep in our labrynthian vaults.

If we were to wish for a particular gig to have been recorded in such a way that it could be remixed as a proper album, this show would be high on the list.

After months of touring to promote our eponymous first album, we had built up an armada of new songs for the follow-up release. And fortunately, that’s exactly what happened.

The headliner that night was Robbie Krieger of The Doors and special recording gear was brought in to capture that occasion. As the opening act, Native took advantage of the opportunity to do some capturing as well!

And, it’s a good thing. Little did we know that very shortly thereafter, John Epstein would leave, and our album plans would be shelved indefinitely.

Months went by before we settled on a new keyboardist – the effervescent John Watts – by which time we had accumulated even more new songs.

The fallout from all that was that several prime Native tunes never made it to the studio. Indeed it would be three years and a live album before another studio effort was done.

So, out of the past we find this golden treasure – a wonderful night with hardly a wrong note or forgotten lyric, and several extremely rare songs for you to feast upon! Mat Hutt and John Wood were so on you might forget the word off even exists! Mike Jaimes is on fire on every tune, especially his rarely-played Rolling Thunder which has an immaculate performance here.  John Epstein’s Hot Day should make everyone lament that his tenure could not have been longer. And let’s mention Mat Hutt again because his rarities are sublime, and criminally under-represented in our archives. It’s just an astounding set list.

However, there is a caveat – isn’t there always a caveat?

The tape didn’t start rolling until about thirty seconds after we’d begun playing. I, Dave Thomas, the drummer, took it upon myself to blend in bits of a recording made two months earlier at the same venue. Many of the songs from that night matched up with the night we are presenting, with one major difference. I, Dave Thomas, the drummer, was in California. Which means that the drum chair was helmed that night by the incredible Roy Mayorga.

So, the opening bars of “Carried Away” are from that other tape, but also something extra and special. The version of “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” is also from that earlier night, so here’s our very belated tribute and thank you to Roy for sitting in while I was off trying to make a movie in Hollywood.

So, here you have it — our Christmas gift to you —

Native Live at Wetlands June 1995

 

 

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Mike Jaimes Took Us All Down to the River.

When Native was preparing our first album, we were trying on a lot of different musical styles. With Anthony Ballsley as lead singer, we had rocked hard. But with his departure, the various tastes and temperaments of Mat Hutt, John Wood, John Epstein. Matt Lyons, Mike Jaimes, and Myself all came to the forefront and many an hour was spent in our Mott Street basement studio, The Radon Room, trying to find our signature sound.

We’ve heard in the past few weeks, as we’ve reviewed side one of that album, that we were capable of spanning a lot of differing aesthetics – from the powerful rock of Carried Away, to the straight pop of Go, to the funky groove of Trying, to the candle-lit folky vibe of Shed Some Light, to the psychedelic Mood Swing – Native’s versatility was so all-encompassing that we were in danger of being impossible to categorize.

While, being uncategorizable might seem pretty cool, in the world of big record labels it is a major negative. “How the hell do we market this?,” was the feedback our management got from all quarters of those high offices.

The record never got picked up by a major, and we were plenty bummed out.

In today’s environment an album like ours would probably have a much better chance of finding an audience, so we take a bit of solace in that.

But, back then – when things were bleak – we rallied around the one song Mike had brought in. A rollicking little number, with a gentle groove, a heartfelt sentiment, and a soulful vocal. In many ways, it rallied us, and we persevered through the fallout of failing to get a deal, even as our studio-mates, The Spin Doctors, and the other bands in our scene – Blues Traveler, Phish, God Street Wine, and others all went on to have successful, multi-album runs and radio hits.

For Native, it was management upheavals, John Epstein‘s departure, and the long slog of being everyone’s opening act, but rarely the headliner.  It was a crucible, but we went through it and came out swinging.

And a major reason why we didn’t capsize was because of one song.

It would become the song we always played at every show, with requests coming in before we could get to it.

Even as I type this, I’m humming the easy-going melody and find myself smiling in the face of yet another set of dark times. The eternality of Mike’s deceptively simple invention will never cease to amaze me, and can never grow old.

Folks, in times like these you gotta go —

Down To The River

It Doesn’t Matter How You Get There

Editor’s note: This past Monday was Dave’s birthday and after all his hard work making it possible to still have new Native tracks (more to come! Really! Just wait!) and telling stories from the heyday of the band, we’d like to give him a big round of applause and gratitude. So, Dave, wishing you a very happy birthday and a fantastic year filled with music, comics, and new stories worth sharing!

As Native prepared for our first album, we rather rashly jettisoned quite a few songs that would have been real corkers.

I suppose it was because of two things: 1) We were writing a lot more collaboratively than before, and wanted to ride that thang! 2) Many of the older tunes were meant for a different singer, and Mat Hutt was having to adjust to keys that weren’t right for him. If we changed the key, oftentimes the feel of the original was lost. 3) We now had John Epstein in the band on keyboards, and we felt we were in a new era. (Indeed, to this day Native’s eras are demarcated by who was on keys)

Okay… three reasons why great songs like Something Worth Remembering, Blue Room, Down, Love’s Lost, Water, and Balloo never had studio versions. In many ways, this is a pity because an album with just those songs would have been terrific!

There are two notable exceptions – Interested Third Party – the song that drove Anthony out of the band for being “too cute,” (which it was!), and the epic, magnum opus, grande finale – The Sea.

But today, let’s focus on a song written specifically for the album.

Today’s tune could be accused of falling into the ‘too cute’ category, indeed I have been in that camp for many a year. But, the new mastering job by our ace engineer, Jonathan Vergara, has revealed subtleties that the old cd kept hidden, and I find myself dancing, and snapping my fingers to it now, which never happened before!

Although, it only has one verse, I remember everyone pitching ideas, and riffs, so that it became a truly collaborative effort and although rather slight in content and length, I can see how it paved the way to so many Native masterpieces down the road.

Let’s see if my earworm becomes yours?

Put your finger on a globe, or the button on a CD player, and —

Go

Native Was Carried Away

Hey ho, folk!

Dave Thomas here, back from summer vacation, batteries totally recharged, tan firmly fading, underwear on backwards, and standing ready to delve once again into the history, myth, lore, facts, figures, and apochyphal nonsense pertaining to everyone’s favorite band that’s called Native!!

As we saw in the vast archive of rarities left behind in the vast Native vault (and compiled in Nativology Vols. 1-4), there are many hitherto unheard songs, untold tales, and unsung heroes & villains in this band’s legacy, and I, as curator of the vault, have the solemn duty to shine a light on the highs, explain the middles, and not be shy of exposing the low’s.

Today, I want to take us back to the storied year of 1994, when the Clinton in the Oval Office was a sax player named Bill, cars got 3 miles to the gallon, phones were the size of canteloupes, and the ink was still dry on Rudy Guiliani’s pact with Satan!

For some arcane reason, I, your humble narrator, was tapped as lyricist for the song that would serve as the opening number on our eponymous first album.

I filled it with wonderful angst-riddled wordplay and rhymes as I wrote about my favorite subject – myself. The suspicions in the pit I found myself in the middle of harked back to a previous band, a previous love, a previous job, and all the devilments found therein.

Even more incredibly, I was allowed to vent my frustrations in another song that would lead off side two of the cassette version! (Remember cassettes? Remember side twos?)

It was a task I quite enjoyed, so fittingly – I was not to do it again for quite some time, when Sweet Intensity appeared on our third album, Exhale On Spring Street.

But, in hindsight and to be utterly fair, my verbal misgivings would not long be needed as Mat Hutt and John Wood rose to the task of lyricification with great ease and alacrity. And after all, they were well-supplied with all the angst, and teeth-gnashing frustration required for great rock’n roll verbiage. And, they were soon joined by John Epstein and Michael Jaimes who penned their own opuses, which we will address in future missives.

What you are about to hear today is a much-improved, remastered version of this epic tune. Actually, ‘remastered’ might be a misnomer since the original album does not seem to have been mastered at all! Last year Jonathan Vergara, lord of the dark art of mastering, lent his touch to the album, and it bloomed like a perennial after a rainstorm.

Anyway, enough of these word-things, click the link below and wrap your earworms around what would be the opening salvo of Native’s claim to a seat among the heirarchy of toppermost of the poppermost talents in the Pantheon of A-listers.

I think I can safely say, you’ll be —

Carried Away

We Will Soon Have Our Day, Hey Hey!

As we revived older songs for the And Then What project, this tune – perhaps the oldest in the Native canon – was dusted off and given a new coat of paint.

This is a warts & all version which we unashamedly share here – hey, we were learning it, and you are a fly on the wall!

Very soon afterwards, we recorded the track as heard on the album here.

I’ve always loved this tune, maybe because we so seldom dealt with issues as big as the one Mat Hutt addresses with enviable passion – the environment, and what we’re doing to it!

On a purely musical level – It’s great hearing how tight we were as a live unit. The only real ticks are slight. And if the tempo is gonna rush, it might as well really rush! 

But, listen and smile as Chris Wyckoff and Mike Jaimes nail the solos! Marvel at Mat & John Wood’s equally nailified vocals. In my judgement, you’d be quite justified to say the whole thing is nailienated! 

It’s immodest to say, but F it!

Native was awesome!

I Am (2001 Demo)

Cornbread Wednesday

Love Is LIke Saturday (All Week Long)

In 2000, when we embarked on the Protools Highway to a planned double-cd set called And Then What, Michael Jaimes didn’t have any new songs.

We had his sublime instrumental, Jazzy Hippie, and his heartfelt Just Want To Love You on the proposed track list, but these tunes were from previous years (and early versions of them can be heard in this Nativology series).

Mike was an amazing tunesmith, but his real passion was arranging the songs Mat Hutt, John Wood, & I were so diligently pumping out. He would encourage us to create something unique, and then he’d apply his magic hot sauce, and heaping amounts of Leprechaun Fairy Dust, and generally go about elevating our music to unimagined higher levels.

Which was great, but he had stopped coming in with new material of his own, and this did bring him a bit of consternation.

Thereupon, he was delighted when I told him I’d written a little number especially for him to sing, and he was doubly-delighted when I said there would be no guitar solo.

The album was shaping up to be quite the elaborate affair, with epic songs all over the place, so my thought was to write one that would serve as a kind of cleansing of the palette after a longer, much more involved tune. And, we would do something we’d never done before – bypass the by now obligatory solo section.

I was very impressed with the simple pleasures and joy found in Mike’s Just Want To Love You, and had the feeling that my latest efforts were a bit on the dark and heavy side. So, I endeavored to lighten things up with a simple ode to things I liked – bagels with lox, films by Howard Hawks, and beds made of brass.

Still, nothing is ever that straightforward with my tunes, and there are ruminations on mortality and the inevitable collapse of all hope, but for the most part it was a light-hearted excursion, on a bright and sunny day.

My favorite lyric is one that Mike rewrote. Where I’d written, “… in a broken down bar downtown,” Mike switched it to, “… in a broken dive bar downtown.” A reference to his preferred uptown watering hole, The Dive Bar (which is still there – Matt Lyons and I had a couple of tall, frosty brews there just last week!).

The recording was remarkably easy, with few takes needed, and the accompaniment was fine – with a rollicking piano part by the effervescent Chris Wyckoff, spiffing slide guitar from Mike, and fun backing vocals, featuring Mat, Woody, and myself (a first!).

When Mike & I returned to the project in 2005, and finished it with the able partnership of Craig Randall, today’s featured offering needed no additional work. We got it down perfectly in the original sessions.

I think this tune is a little gem, and Mike’s performance hits just right mark every time I hear it – especially in this stripped-down alt mix. He sang it from the heart because he really believed that love is a lot like the best day of the week —

Saturday (Alt)

Cornbread Wednesday

Native’s Anti-Drug War Song

Native‘s tunes are mostly about the usual song-type subjects – love, loss, hurting, joy, lying – we plowed those fields real good!

We never made the conscious decision to avoid politics, and issue-related subjects; writing from the heart is just how we roll. But, every great once in a while, Mat Hutt would take on a topical issue and address it in a song.

The first time was a little tune called I Am, which Mat wrote before Native officially constellated (and, in true Native perverseness, it appeared practically last on our records!).

The next one, by my count, came years later when he faced the issue of the harsh drug laws that have filled the prisons of America, and stigmatized even more folks, senselessly.

Writing the tune, Mat put himself in the place of someone who has just been put behind bars, and in so doing, he was able to feel that prisoner’s pain. The feeling he was left with was that this soul might have been imprisoned for only a few hours, but he or she has already lost something sacred – innocence.

And For What? There is absolutely no excuse for the extreme drug sentencing that has gone on for decades; that has saddled a generation with undeserved criminal records; that has crippled the courts and prisons; and has sapped a nation of something that same sacred innocence.

We were proud to play the tune, and it became a setlist favorite with great alacrity.

This song would be one of the last we recorded as a band. Indeed, Mat had relocated to the great state of California almost immediately thereafter. We were left with a great, but unfinished track. So………….

Mike Jaimes stepped up and did something quite amazing ; something that had never happened on any other Native recording – he wrote a horn arrangement!!

Mike’s dad – Oscar – was a horn arranger, and a deft musical talent, so it really should not have been so surprising when he did it – but, it was!

He contacted the super-talented trumpet-man, Richard Boulger, who was playing with The Allman Brothers at the time, and brought him in for a session – singing the parts he wanted Richard to play.

It was beautiful, and I was the only witness to this singular moment in Native history – basically the only time that Mike took charge of anything. But, he knew what he wanted, and it came off perfectly – all I had to do was fiddle with the knobs on the mixing board.

But, to hear those lovely horns with Richard playing all the parts, you have to go to our excellent record, And Then What. Today’s offering is the track the way it sounded when we ran that session – and it’s pretty excellent, too!

Jailtime