And Then What? Mat Gets Mellow!

This week’s goodie from the Native Cookie Jar is a sterling example of what I’ve been saying about this period in our evolution as a band – that we were getting better and better as songwriters (as borne out by the Cookie Jar – which just keeps giving and giving).

Mat Hutt, more than any of us, was always brushing up on his songcrafting skills, which by this time were Mad Songcrafting Skills!!

Case in point – this lovely piece was recorded very quickly by John Fitzwater on our brand-spanking new Protools rig, using a single microphone – and, just as quickly, it was lost in the shuffle of all the great material we were coming up with for the next album.

We had a saying in Native – “I’ll be mellow when I’m dead.”

And Mat, party animal that he was, lived up to that credo as well as any of us. He could work all day, party all night, jam till the cows came home, and still find time to come up with this inexpressively pretty piece of wonderful, evocative, enchantment.

With that, there’s not much else to say – only Mat knows what the vocal melody might have been, or what the title was!!!

Fitz simply called it, rather aptly —

Mat’s Mellow

Cornbread Wednesday

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

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

Catherine Russell wants some action (and Native’s got it!)

20140604-015659-7019782.jpgThere are a lot of great singers in this talent-filled world, but one thing we all agreed on in Native, was that Catherine Russell was our favorite singer. Catherine had briefly been in a band with Dave and Mike, before the Native epoch began in 1992 a.d. Dave had seen her singing with a cover band in Greenwich Village, and was wowed by her powerful voice, and marveled at how such a big sound could emanate from such a petite lady. But, it was her performance on several Meters tunes that sent him scurrying to curry favour, convinced she was destined for the big time. And, besides… Meters tunes. (The Meters are a constant factor in the Native chronology, but Dave & Mike were already playing quite a lot of their material.) She agreed against all better judgement to come down to The Radon Room, Dave’s studio on Mott Street, and meet this motley assemblage called The Illbillies (aside from Dave & Mike, there was Craig Robison, Sean Pace, and Grant). Catherine played with the band for a few weeks, and we have some pretty great tapes in the vault from this time-period. But sadly, she then decided that although she liked us all personally, we were indeed quite motley, not just in appearance, but in our playing. We just weren’t tight. But, she encouraged us to keep going, and we did. The Illbillies would burn through two more singers before calling it a day without ever playing one gig. Chastened by the gigless end to that band’s journey, Mike & Dave intrepidly trudged onward, recording a demo of a song that had been a stalwart entry at every Illbilly rehearsal – Dave’s Something Worth Remembering (as heard on Nativology Vol. 1). And with that, history was written in lighting! In the coming years, Native got tight, and Catherine returned for the occasional guest spot in our shows, and they were all a highlight. Believe it, when she sings, it’s magic time! Our favorite singer – Her Royal Majesty – a true Lady of Soul – the ever-amazing Catherine Russell.

Action (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