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

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

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

A Tale of James McKinley

Native entered Brass Giraffe Studio in July of 1997 to record an album’s worth of tunes, and rewrite our destiny.

Our destiny, it had been foretold by all manner of business-folk, was to languish in obscurity for having the temerity to offend record companies with what we had thought was an ace up our collective sleeve — variety.

Yes, by the the mid-nineties, variety had become a pox upon the house of commercial radio, and by extension, no record executive in his overly-paid mind would think of signing an artist who, heaven forbid, actually performed anything other than the same song over and over again, ad infinitum. Just change the title, make it grungy, and don’t veer from the formula!

Native, of course, were never formula followers. So, the dilemma was this – either accept the fact that the band could never reach a mass audience who supposedly demanded uniformity and conformity in its entertainment, or we could go merrily on our way — writing for our audience who were anything but conformist, and whose bemusement at the shoddy practices of a soon-to-be-bankrupt music industry demanded that we strive eternally for that golden piece of wonder – inspiration – and that we never kowtow to marketing wizards with no soul or appreciation for anything but the almighty dollar, and endless replays of Stairway To Heaven, and Free Bird.

Thus, our insurrection began – we stepped blithely in the studio, fully knowing that our next record would fly in the face of the perverted accepted ‘wisdom’ of that bygone time, and we came up with an album that, while not a world-beating sales monster, was a winner in every other way.

Fitting it is, then, that today’s tune is about a malcontent, a rogue, an insurrectionist – James McKinley – Rover!

This is Native, with no overdubs, live in the studio, with new keyboardist Chris Wyckoff, engineered by Craig Randall, and Sean Brophy.

Rover (Alt. Mix)

Cornbread Wednesday

Nativology Vol. 4 Doth Commence!

 

Wyckoff_signGreetings, Nativologists!

And welcome to another chapter in the long and whiney road that I, Sir Dave of Knave, Corningshire, have humbly offered for, lo, these past two years.

In our previous chapter – late 1996 saw John Watts’ departure from our ranks. This was followed by a half-year sojourn in which Native was back to the core five-piece line-up that had formed from molten lava in ’92; back to basics, but with a twist.

We were better musicians; better at being a band; better as individual performers; most importantly, we had improved as songwriters to the point where we were now writing material meant to fit together as the larger whole of the new album we were planning.

All of the first half of ’97 was preparation for the second half. The new songs developed in the waning months of ’96 would now be honed to perfection over a period of 6 months, as Native gigs grew in frequency, and profile.

In the meantime, we kept a lookout for someone who could fill the void in the keyboard department, and (lucky for us) over the summer, we got to know Chris Wyckoff from playing together at McGovern’s Bar, our home base on Spring Street, New York City.

Chris’ affinity for New Orleans/ Professor Longhair/Art Neville funk was just what we were looking for, but he was adept enough to follow our many style mood-swings.

Chris’ inauguration came during our album sessions, which began in July, 1997, and we will delve into those sessions in upcoming posts. But, today, let’s jump to our first gig with Chris Wyckoff, from that same month.

Mary Had A Little Lamb (McGoverns 7-15-97)
Running Smooth (McGoverns 7-15-97)
Cissy Strut (McGoverns 7-15-97)

Cornbread Wednesday

A Hot Night At Wetlands – 1993

Hey Folk!

Cornbread WednesdayWith the final post for Nativology Vol. 3 last week, it seems like a perfect time to do something a little different for this Cornbread Wednesday. But, before we do, let’s point out that we now have three volumes jam-band-packed with rare goodies from the Native vault that chart the progress of… us! So, take some time to go back and check out all three volumes. They are there for you — free!

Today we offer a great bit of video taken by band friend Oren Ritterband. This is the unedited footage, and it’s a little over a half-hour long. But, this is prime Native!! We have a live tape of the show, but it would take an amazing video expert to edit it all together, so the sound is from the camera itself.

Guest cellist, Dave Barnhart was someone we really wanted to join the band, so it’s fun to imagine what we might have sounded like if he had not gone off in that dead-end classical direction. But, whatevers, we soon added keyboardist-extraordinaire John Epstein, and history was written in lightning!

The really great thing for us, is to see Mike Jaimes playing some absolutely smoking licks on his Mary Ford Les Paul – many thought it was a Gibson SG, but we say thee nay! It was a Mary Ford, with it’s white paint stripped off, and about a thousand toggle switches installed – none of which worked!

It’s neck was so warped, no one but Mike could play it. Therefore – not only is Mike playing these dazzling parts, but he’s bending the strings into pitch!

Shortly, thereafter, we would lose it somewhere in the wilds of New Jersey, and Mike would acquire his trademark Paul Reed Smith, which would serve him so well foreverafter.

So, without further ado —

Native – Wetlands 1993

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

Exhaling On Spring Street, Part Two

Special note: This week we got the sad news that our good friend, and Mat Hutt’s first wife, Rebecca Lyons, passed away after a courageous battle with breast cancer.

Needless to say, we are devastated by the loss of such a dear, beautiful comrade. Rebecca was there for so many of our exploits, it seems inconceivable she’s not here still.

Her heart was huge, her laugh contagious, and her spirit was infused with love.

So, with a misty eye, we dedicate this week’s post to her, and carry on as she would want us to. R.I.P.

The onset of winter, in November of 1996, brought with it a sense that the year had seen a lot of growth in the band. We had matured in our playing, and our songwriting, perhaps influenced by the sophisticated jazz leanings of our keyboardist, John Watts, was going to some very swanky places.

We were in a very much better state of confidence as well. Just a year earlier we were struggling to bounce back from the lack of success from our first album, and we were still adapting to the loss of John Epstein on keys. Now, as we looked forward to 1997, with a self-produced live album under our belts (Live From Marmfington Farm, Vol. 1), that was selling faster than we could believe, and an increasingly steady growth in our fanbase, there was a feeling we could do it all ourselves.

This was the dawn of the DIY age, for us. With even our management fighting amongst themselves, the band drew together – we relished rehearsing, and writing, and had learned enough about manufacturing a product so that it was all we wanted to do. To heck with producers, and trying to impress record company moguls who just didn’t get what we were about – we would undertake the production of our next studio album ourselves – or, rather, I should say I would take on the responsibility of organizing, funding, finding the studio, oversee the sessions, coordinate schedules, keep track of all the overdub sessions, invite the guest players, and all the leg work that entailed.

I didn’t realize it then, but I had become a Record Producer.

So, here we were, at the height of our powers, ready to undertake an album that would be a year in the making. Thank goodness, we had such a wealth of good material at hand.

With the debuts of today’s featured tunes, all the songs from the next album had been introduced, and were up and running well, thank you very much –with one big exception. But, that exception is a story for another day.

Right now, kick back on the alligator-skin sofa, sip a Black Velvet, or some other exotically-named libation, and check out the sounds of what were our latest songs in that fabled November, 1996.

Satisfaction (McGoverns 11-09-96)

Everything Must Happen (McGoverns 11-09-96)

Cornbread Wednesday