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

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

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

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

Ladies & Gentlemen, Mister John Watts!

This weeks Nativology excavation is, as far as we can remember, the only song John Watts wrote and sang lead on in his entire amazing 2005-07 tenure. Our memories of those smokey, smokey, drinky, drinky days are hazy at best, so don’t quote us on that one. As drummer Dave ‘Hollywood‘ Thomas continues to unearth rarities from our vault, we may yet find another example of his way with a melody. We sure hope so.

John is very good at arranging, which was the great boon of having him in the studio when the songs were in their nascent stages. Things like the middle bits of as tune — the solo, the breakdown, the bridge, or just the good old bog-standard one-note jam — all these things and more were John’s stock in trade. For the most part, Mat Hutt & John Wood were the songwriting dynamos, with Dave bringing in a tune now and then. Every great once in a while Mike Jaimes would bring in a song, but that was becoming more and more infrequent – he, like John, loved to delve into the arrangements. And if all that talent was stymied for an idea, we could count on Matt Lyons for that crucial way out of a musical painted corner.

It was a hothouse atmosphere of creativity at Marmfington Farm in the year of 1996, when Native ever so briefly added this really great tune to our setlists.

Listen for the excellent harmonies, the metaphor-laden lyrics and playful vocal of Mr. Watts. And, don’t miss the show-stopping solo by Mike.

Most bands would kill to have a song like it in their repertoire, but with a songlist bursting with riches, today’s featured tune suffered a very short shelf life. So far, this is the only recording we have of it.

So, thank goodness it’s a fantastic recording made by the staff at Wetlands — Dave Nolan and John Laterza.

Ladies & Gents — here’s John Watts schooling us all about the beast within, the —

Tyrannosaurus

You Keep Me Running Smooth

Hey Native People!

Dave Thomas here (just back from my successful negotiation of a peace accord between Mongolia and Peru).

Just to bring the Novatates up to speed — when I’m not saving the world from itself, I’m the drummer in the band. Yeah, by day I’m Mister My Brain’s Larger Than Yours, and I speak only in Minutiae; by night, I’m Animal from The Muppets with an I.Q. like a black hole. In between, I harness the music that lies dormant and petulant in the Native Vault, located far below Fort Knox, Switzerland.

As curator of this vast rubble, it has been my solemn task to present a rare Native performance each week in this blog which you now hold between your sweaty thumb and aorta.

We are currently up to Volume 3 of the epic Nativology series, wherein we investigate the mysteries of Native’s oeuvre by making new mixes from these things humans once called cassette tapes, some of which have been unplayed for tens of years.

Usually, we have put forth recordings that emanated from multi-track tapes, produced in our luxurious studio, Marmfington Farm in sunny Mid-Town Manhattan. All the previous tracks in Vol. 3 have been the product of overdubs and weed.

Now, we sadly bid adieu or orderve to that era. All our mighty, unfocused super powers would be slightly more focused on preparing for the recording of a proper album. But, we also were reminded from time-to-time by that wonderful Leprechaun, Gigs O’Plenty, that we had to go play music in public, and it had to be good, and it was!

But, live gig tapes can be a frustrating menace to endure. The first song is almost always going like a flesh freight train, full steam ahead, before the record button was finally engaged. And get ready for vast sea-changes in volume thoughout the next three to ten songs. Bemusedly, I’ve lost count of the face-palms I’ve made as my and Woody’s carefully unscripted drum solo ends mid-cowbell-triplet with the premature end of side one. Side two, yep, we’ve lost the beginning of that song, too.

DAT tapes came along eventually, and ended the practice of making sure we had no complete drum solos (except one – found on Live From Marmfington Farm Vol.1), but these tiny VHS-like tapes had their own set of peculiarities — brittle, digital sound, and the life-expectancy of an ant with a low white blood-cell count.

So, I’m concentrating on Cassettes for now, as we ease full-bore into the second half of Vol. 3, and the John Watts era is encapsulated by the abundance of what I call ‘orphan’ recordings — great performances found on tapes that are otherwise filled with cut songs, drop-outs, & other sound-related issues.

Here’s a tune from our first album, which stars the affable and bizarre John Watts, in a stirring exercise of ivory-tickling —

Running Smooth

Cornbread Wednesday

You’ve got me restless…

Native’s eras are delineated by who was playing keyboards at the time — there’s the John Epstein era; the era we are currently examining — the John Watts era; there’s the Chris Wyckoff era (which will serve as an upcoming Nativology Volume unto itself).

Today’s Watt’s-era tune is derived from the last of the analogue multi-track demos we made, circa 1996-97. Like all the demos of this period, it began life as a stereo recording of Mat, Matt, Woody, and Dave playing live, and captured on DAT by the esteemed John Fitzwater. Mike Jaimes and John Watts would wait nearby, presumably mixing up some quality refreshments.

Despite Woody’s called-out ‘Take 1’, the band replayed the song again and again, until a balanced recording was achieved — in other words, if the band performed flawlessly, that did not mean the recording was a “keeper.” If the bass was too quiet, or the guitar too loud, the whole rhythm section had to do it again. Another facet of this style of recording was that Mat could not sing the song or that would end up on the tape as well. The band had to know the song well enough to get by on visual cues, like hand-waving or consternated expressions of disapproval & guilt.

The next part of the process involved Fitz transferring the now-completed backing track to channels one & two of the trusty TASCAM 8-track cassette recorder, presumably while the band indulged in the aforementioned quality refreshments.

Once the transfer was complete, Mike & John would add guitar & keyboard parts — each one being granted a generous *single* monophonic track. This means Mike’s rhythm track and lead track were one and the same.

This accomplished, Mat & Woody would return from the refreshment stand, zooted and resusitated, to lay down their always amazing vocals. If we were left with an open track, that could be used for a harmony from Mike or John, but there were rarely such open tracks. Almost all of the demos from this period feature two-part harmony exclusively, which is sad because Mike & John were adding more to the harmonies all the time, but the space limitations of only 8 tracks meant those performances could not be saved for posterity.

With all overdubs done & dusted, Fitz then set about achieving a final mix, using equipment Barney Rubble would describe as ‘archaic’. The result is the mix you are about to tap on the link below to enjoy — but, first…

Let us say how enjoyable this journey through our multi-track demos has been. Dave started on this project two years ago, and has worked on it continuously ever since, with brief breaks for air and Nutella Hazelnut Spread — now with cocoa!

We’ve come to the end, but only of this chapter — there are loads of rarities in our vaults that are not multi-track, and we’ll start unloading that load on you good folk in short order. Next week, though, we’ll have one more multi-track surprise to spring on an unsuspecting world, with a recording started in 1993, but unfinished until 1998, the story of which will be annotated by one of the band memberpeople who sang it (hint — not Mat). The week after that we’ll hear a demo by Dave that went on to become a stone classic in the Native songbook.

But, for now, smokey smokey, drinky drink — settle back and click the link!

Restless

Cornbread Wednesday