Native Deals With It

After 8 years of pretty much glorious escapades, the first year of the new century had ended rather acrimoniously for Native. There were problems between Mat & myself, and looking back after all this time, I can see it objectively, and say that:

1) Mat’s beefs with me were completely legitimate.
2) My beefs with Mat were completely legitimate.
3) The two sets of beef had nothing to do with each other.
4) We were both a couple of big babies, and it damaged morale in the band.

But, we soldiered on into 2001, and somehow Mat & I worked through our differences, and our collaborations started clicking, the band breathed a sigh of relief, and there was great rejoicing.

We kicked off the year with a fresh round of rehearsals to work on all the new material we had, with Fitz at the studio controls – located clear across on the other side of the loft from the live room!

He was still working out the fine points of using the digital recording software – ProTools, and was loving every moment of it, except for the lack of ventilation or oxygen in my room, where the recording console was set up.

Amidst a general air of friviolity in the occasion, Mike suddenly goes bang into the wonderful Grateful Dead song that is this week’s submission for your approval. And, damn if we didn’t jump in and hang on for a perfectly splendid rendition!

As I listen to it, I marvel at how good we were, and *gosh-a-mighty* Mike was just the most talented guy in the world!

Added bonus – It’s kinda good to see how things can go if you work through your struggles.

Surely, we had grown stronger for having learned how to —

Deal

Cornbread Wednesday

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

Native gets Down… Really Down!

Being a member of Native is kind of like being from the sixties – if you can’t remember it, you know you were there!

As curator of the vast Native Tape Vault, I am constantly coming up with nice little rarities that I was unaware existed, or had forgotten about. Of course, once I’ve found a rare item, the old brain cells kick in and start pumping out a data stream of zero’s and one’s. Mostly zeros.

But, this much I do know about today’s audio offering —

It was a mix of a song we had demoed twice in 1992, first with Anthony Balsley (our original lead singer). In December of that year, after Anthony left the band, Mat Hutt worked with sound engineer, Rob Smith, to cut new vocals over the same backing track. A remix of this session has already appeared on Volume 1 of this Nativology series.

But, today’s track is different enough that we think it worthy of your precious time and sweaty ears. Here’s why —

As we prepared our album, And Then What, the first thing we did was get really stoned. The second thing we did was review old, unreleased songs that might make the cut. Indeed, two songs included were from those earlier, smoke-enshrouded years – I Am and Tell Me The Truth.

Why this beauty remained unfinished and left to languish in our vault is a mystery. Probably time constraints were a factor.

We had planned a double-cd release, but time ran out in June 2001, and we only had about enough for an album and a half when Mat moved to California. (Later that year, all work to complete the tracks was abandoned in the wake of 9/11.)

But, for a brief moment, this gem was deemed a contender, and this instrumental mix was prepared by John Fitzwater in the waning days of 1998. It needed new Mat Hutt & Woody Wood vocal tracks, some percussion and Chris Wyckoff’s keys, which it never got. What it does have are some amazing and awesome guitar parts by Mike Jaimes and Mat, and it contains a solo that is all angst and guitar fury – Jaimes in all his unfettered 1992 glory, playing his legendary Gibson Mary Ford guitar, with all its toggle switches!

Fitz’s splendid work on the mix (with very limited equipment) shows how good this would have sounded on the record.

So, kick back with a Nutella Daiquiri and enjoy a very rocking and jamming instrumental mix, and one of the few things in our vault with both of our soundmen’s fingerprints on it (other than a certain blow-up doll!).

Down (No Vox, Fitzmix – 1998)

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

Your Love’s Lost… And Found

Hey Native People of all stripes (including those with actual stripes!)

You’ve been such a well-mannered group, and your karma is at such a high level for not throwing brickbats at Dave (@davenav) for his choices in what to present to you in this, our on-going weekly blog celebrating the vast vaults of vivid, yet vainglorious variegation in our labyrinthian lair of little-known lore, that we’ve decided to throw ya’ll a bone!

We’re temporarily, and temporally, deactivating the chronological component of this exercise, and jumping into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine for a journey to that fabled year of 1993, when people had hair that covered their entire bodies, fashion trends had not yet been invented, and social media meant owning a Sony Walkman with a mono speaker plugged in. So, move over Sherman! Break out the tie-die tees, and Twizzlers!

Today, we unearth a lost song in the annals of Nativedom — one that was written in a fever-dream by Dave, with lyrics written in an overlit New School Classroom by Anthony Balsley, Native’s original lead singer. Ironically, it is a lost song about something that is lost.

A real fan favorite, the tune made the transition to the Mat Hutt Regency Era, and flourished until the Bronze Age, sometime around the discovery of the frock coat.

We played this song a lot, indeed, it appears on the cassette from which today’s version originates, twice. This unmarked tape was uncovered too late to include it where it rightly should be, on Nativology Vol. 2. It was recorded during one of our weekly stints at the mythical Wetlands Preserve, by the legendary archer and soundman, John Leteurza.

Later that same year, when John Epstein joined the band, and the great epoch of silly voices was born, that seems to be when this song fell into the La Brea Tar Pits of 26th Street, Manhattan. Left to lie undiscovered, with not even a tape cover to mark it’s passing, but perfectly preserved — until now.

This is the core five-piece Native. Mat Hutt – of Rhythm Guitar, Lead Vocal, and double-take-inducing stage announcements. Matt Lyons – of blockbusting bass, undying fealty to Stax Records, and strange northern sporting teams. Michael Jaimes, guitar god, mischievous imp, owner of three tee shirts. John Wood, of Percussion ensemble, fishing tackle, and Space Cadet Decoder Ring. David Thomas – of too many drums, and way too much cymbalism.

(But, don’t worry Chris Wyckoff fans! We’ll return to our regularly scheduled trip through the Wickedly Weird Wyckoffian Age, in next week’s ultra-thrilling edition of Nativology Vol. 4.)

So here it is — sit back with a hefty stein of Mead, and enjoy a stirring tribute to being left colder than yesterday’s lunch —

Love’s Lost

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

How Sweet It Is…

Greetings Native aficionados, and other strange creatures!

We’re back with another exciting go-round on the Native Vault merry-go-round, as trawl through the labyrinth of tapes with only our base instincts to guide us, and daft mixe-metaphors to express ourselves with.

As curator of said vault, I can avow to the difficulty sometimes encountered in this musty chamber of rusting relics, and mis-labeled tapes.

This week’s audio delights hail from a DAT tape that bequeathed far less than advertised on it’s front cover.

Brass Giraffe Logo

In the weeks and months that followed Native’s epic weekend at Brass Giraffe Studio, whenever there would transpire a session (like, say, when we brought in Catherine Russell for her mighty contribution to the background vocals) the effervescent and deranged Craig Randall would send us home with a tape of that night’s work, and other nifty mixes that he’d done.

The tape we are examining this week was filled with wonderful mixes from early sessions, and included things like Buddy Cage‘s additions to Outlaw, which weren’t used on the album, but would make for positively cracking bonus tracks (which is pretty much what these Nativology volumes amount to).

Alas, alack, and you gotta be kidding me! Having cued up the tape for transfer, it was a shock to hear, instead of those vaunted mixes, a crappily-recorded Native rehearsal from 1999.

Guess we never thought we’d ever be looking back in fondness of all the hard work that was invested in these sessions… live and learn.

NEVER RECORD OVER STUFF, people!

(Sorry for shouting….)

Anyway, here are two excellent Craig Randall rough mixes from early 1998.

The first one owes a lot to Chris Wyckoff, who goaded your humble narrator into one more take, when I was getting pretty pooped after a long first day. As it turned out, this was the only song from that day we kept. With that one gesture, Chris permanently certified his inclusion in our motley ranks.

The second one shares the distinction of having two keyboardists. On Sweet Intensity, John Watts returned for one last session – adding the tasteful piano part to a song he had done so much to bring to life. On Love Should Be Free, we had Pete Levin in the studio with us, tracking live, with Chris dubbing in organ later, and it’s as funky as you want to be!

Sweet Intensity (Alt. Mix)

Cornbread Wednesday