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

Cover Versions

Mat and Matt

Photo by Mike Lyons

Cornbread WednesdayEvery band does cover versions, i.e. songs they didn’t write.

An effective cover version is a song that not only compliments the sound of the band, but also imparts something trenchant about the band itself. A good cover song is one where the audience not only hears something familiar, but also learns something about the band – what its’ stylistic leanings are, and the aesthetic it will employ when creating new masterworks of its own.

As Native moved into the year 1993, composing new masterworks was the main item on the agenda. January saw a furious amount of activity to this end. New songs written this month would comprise 90% of our first album. Only Interested Third Party and The Sea from our pre-Woody days would make the cut.

At one amazing rehearsal on February 3, Native recorded all the new music we’d written since Woody joined — Carried Away, Go, Fall Away, Tell Me The Truth, Down To The River, and Island were added to our set lists and would remain staples of our shows for quite a long while.

It was an exhilarating time — we were really exploring our sound and what we were capable of achieving. We were growing by leaps and bounds, not only as a performing unit, but as writers and arrangers.

Today, however, we are focusing on three songs we chose to cover at that session. Because, they speak as loudly about us as our original songs do, in fact, maybe moreso.

(Two slight caveats: 1) The following tracks were recorded straight to cassette, so the mixes are what they are, including a china-cymbal that is way too loud. Not much I can do about it. 2) These are rehearsals, we were very much in the learning stage on these tunes – so, you will hear a bit of sloppiness, i.e. occasional bum notes, and a somewhat fluid approach to time-keeping.)

Now, without further ado — on to Native, the cover band!

Mat remains a big Bob Marley fan to this day, and his choice of Caution was an inspired one, as it’s not one of the more well-known Marley songs which allowed us to really put our stamp on it, and have the coolness factor of doing Bob Marley.

Mike brought in a wonderful Taj Mahal song, Corinna. His vocals would become more assured as time went on, but at this point getting Mike’s voice on tape represented a challenge to soundman extraordinaire Rob Smith. Simply put, Rob had to raise the level of Mike’s singing to a point where it was on the verge of feedback. Mike’s vocal, therefore, is a little low in the mix. But, it’s worth it to hear the first version of a song we would continue to play throughout the rest of our performing years.

And then there’s a cover picked by the whole band — Santana’s Hope You’re Feeling Better. Stylistically, a throwback to our hard-rocking Anthony Balsley period, but hey — it’s Santana! And, it’s badass!

Who doesn’t like badass? Nobody!