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

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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

Don’t Go Thinking Too Much About Love!

That was my advice in 2001.

I still think it’s a pretty good way to go about things, even though my outlook on life is less jaded than it was then, in my post-divorce mood.

Hey ho!

This is Native in our studio, Marmfington Farm, totally live. This was done in preparation of recording the And Then What album.

Hope you’re enjoying the weather, and not writing love letters to the one that got away. It almost goes without saying that love will leave you —

Mystified (2001 Demo)

Cornbread Wednesday

As The Calendar Pages Fall Away…

2001 is rightly remembered as a traumatic year. But, for Native, the year was traumatic long before September 11.

As Mat Hutt prepared a move to join his family in California, the band carried on in the only way we knew how to do – gigging, rehearsing, and writing songs for our upcoming album. In other words, we were a bit in denial.

All good, though, because we were at the peak of our powers, and with Chris Wyckoff now firmly established and entrenched on the keyboard bench and so much great new material flowing out of us, there just wasn’t any other way to handle the situation.

Our third studio album was the result, and what a fine album And Then What turned out to be.

Since it was meant to be a compendium of both new and older material that had not made it onto our earlier efforts, we found ourselves delving into our past. Today’s song is one that we revisited and refurbished with a spiffing new arrangement.

Since it was already on our first eponymously-titled album, it didn’t make the cut. Little did we know that this very fine rehearsal recording would end up going out to the world in an anthology such as this!

I like it much better than the album version, except I wish Catherine Russell was there with her breathtaking vocals.

All we could do, was keep on doing all we could do, and just let the days we had left –

Fall Away (2001 Arr.)

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

Letters From California

After a furious six months of writing, recording, and gigging – Mat Hutt joined his family in California, where they had already relocated, in June, 2001.

At the time, we didn’t see it as an end, but rather a new aspect of Native‘s trajectory. We continued working on our ambitious two-record set, with producer John Fitzwater, we continued to put out band newsletters, we had plans. We never considered ourselves ex-members of this extraordinary band, and we still don’t to this day.

To that end, Mat was working on new songs in the sunny climes of northern Cali. He sent us a tape that sounded promising, and we added it to the queue of tunes we intended to develop.

However, when Mat returned for a week to delve into the project in August, there was so much to do that we never got around to those tunes. Indeed, they have languished as lonely orphans in our vault – the least listened-to songs of our 10-year run.

Until now.

Today’s selection finds Mat pondering the life of a simple local man he’d seen at a school crossing. Something about the man’s lonely existence must have clicked a button, because this is one of Mat’s most heart-felt lyrics.

Even in its nascent, never-to-be-fully-realized state, Mat really puts it across about what it must be like to be an —

Invisible Man

Cornbread Wednesday

 

Our Defining Hour

By the summer of 2000, with the Y2K fears long subsided and the long lazy days of summer having slowed New York City to a crawl – Native had put the finishing touches at converting its studio, Marmfington Farm, into a self-service recording studio.

One of the earliest tracks we used in the new-to-us format of ProTools, was a song I’d written that everybody seemed to really like. I remember the time between first bringing it in and when the band had perfected it was quite short. Although its Latin lilt was a bit outside of our style, it suited us to a tee, especially with Mat & Woody’s thrilling harmonies sailing over the top.

We were basically defined as a jam band, although we billed ourselves as “Funky Fried” and all manner of other hype-oriented genres, it really came down to songwriting first, and jamming second for us. Although, we were influenced greatly by The Grateful Dead, I think it’s safe to come out and say that our main influences were The Meters and The Beatles. In fact, I used to refer to the band as The Beaters.

This song was a watershed moment for me in another way — it’s my first mix.

Although, I had produced our second studio album, Exhale On Spring Street, I always trusted and relied on engineers to see to the details of mixing the music. Craig Randall had done a wonderful job on Exhale, and now we expected John Fitzwater to do the same. To that end, he engineered today’s offering beautifully, and would continue to do so throughout all the tracking that took place in the latter half of 2000, and onward to June 2001.

But, it was early days for the project and I wanted to get my hands wet. After I dried them off, I made a mix, and that’s what we’re going to hear today.

Please note that Mike Jaimes would not get around to cutting his lead guitar tracks, nor would Chris Wyckoff get to lay down his keyboard licks, until 2004. The reason for this will be covered in a future installment of this epistemological tome.

Until then, here is the splendor of our rough mix of a very polished tune —

My Defining Hour (Demo)