And Then What – Episode 4 – Beat Generation

Nineteen hundreds and ninety-nine ones – add them together and you get one of the craziest years on record —

Massive earthquakes killed tens of thousands in Turkey.

Two sitting presidents (American & Russian) were under impeachment trials.

John F. Kennedy, Jr., Stanley Kubrick, and Joe DiMaggio passed away.

Y2K fears had gripped the world in a paroxysm of fear.

Taylor Swift was born.

It was a crazy year.

For us who were stuck in this thing called The Music Business – we had gone beyond crazyville, and it was scary times indeed – corporate mergers had left Universal with 25% of the marketshare, which was confined to about three musical acts, all of whom were named Britney Spears.

For Native – the dream of a record deal had turned into a reality where we had been judged by the men in suits to have too much variety — we crossed genres, we experimented with new styles, and we failed to follow the dictates of the marketplace. In short, we had evolved into something the corporate heads didn’t want, and we did not want to change – we liked being Native.

So, we followed Prince’s dictate, instead. But, not only did we party like it was 1999, during 1999, we would continue to do so right up until our last gig at Wetlands in late spring 2000. It was an on-going party at Marmfington Farm, night and day, seven days a week, in perpetuity.

Amazingly, whilst partying our selves silly, we also were often sat in our studio, working out new songs. Today’s tune is one I hadn’t finished the lyric for when this rehearsal took place. Perhaps, I was weary of all the bad news, I had regressed back to my college days, and my love of Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy, and the San Francisco Beats. Now, I was about to rhyme Ferlinghetti with confetti.

All I know is that during that tumultuous year — having this on a tape to listen to gave us a lot of joy, and it went on to be one of the best tracks on the highly under-rated Native album – And Then What.

(BTW – we know Taylor Swift wasn’t born in 1999, that would make her fourteen, and we all know she’s sixteen!)

Beat Generation

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

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

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