How Sweet It Is…

Greetings Native aficionados, and other strange creatures!

We’re back with another exciting go-round on the Native Vault merry-go-round, as trawl through the labyrinth of tapes with only our base instincts to guide us, and daft mixe-metaphors to express ourselves with.

As curator of said vault, I can avow to the difficulty sometimes encountered in this musty chamber of rusting relics, and mis-labeled tapes.

This week’s audio delights hail from a DAT tape that bequeathed far less than advertised on it’s front cover.

Brass Giraffe Logo

In the weeks and months that followed Native’s epic weekend at Brass Giraffe Studio, whenever there would transpire a session (like, say, when we brought in Catherine Russell for her mighty contribution to the background vocals) the effervescent and deranged Craig Randall would send us home with a tape of that night’s work, and other nifty mixes that he’d done.

The tape we are examining this week was filled with wonderful mixes from early sessions, and included things like Buddy Cage‘s additions to Outlaw, which weren’t used on the album, but would make for positively cracking bonus tracks (which is pretty much what these Nativology volumes amount to).

Alas, alack, and you gotta be kidding me! Having cued up the tape for transfer, it was a shock to hear, instead of those vaunted mixes, a crappily-recorded Native rehearsal from 1999.

Guess we never thought we’d ever be looking back in fondness of all the hard work that was invested in these sessions… live and learn.

NEVER RECORD OVER STUFF, people!

(Sorry for shouting….)

Anyway, here are two excellent Craig Randall rough mixes from early 1998.

The first one owes a lot to Chris Wyckoff, who goaded your humble narrator into one more take, when I was getting pretty pooped after a long first day. As it turned out, this was the only song from that day we kept. With that one gesture, Chris permanently certified his inclusion in our motley ranks.

The second one shares the distinction of having two keyboardists. On Sweet Intensity, John Watts returned for one last session – adding the tasteful piano part to a song he had done so much to bring to life. On Love Should Be Free, we had Pete Levin in the studio with us, tracking live, with Chris dubbing in organ later, and it’s as funky as you want to be!

Sweet Intensity (Alt. Mix)

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

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

Exhaling On Spring Street, Part One

The summer of 1996 was a great one for Native.

We had put out a cd in late summer of live tracks from late spring that our manager, Paul Ducharme, had compiled. And it was selling like hot cakes. Which caught us off guard, actually.

Our self-titled debut record, released in ’94, had a big budget, was recorded at a mega-cool studio, was distributed heavily to radio, &c. But, it had not sold that well. To this day, we still have boxes of that ill-fated disc.

In the wake of that disappointment, we had gone DIY with Six Bucks, aka Ten Bucks, aka Live At Marmfington Farm, Vol. 1.

Done on a budget so low, the word ‘budget’ called and wanted its integrity back, distributed by nobody but us at our gigs, and kicking major ass – it was the little record that could! And, it did. (And, you can still get it at our Bandcamp site here)

We were playing well, and we got to do it often – 1996 was our most heavily-booked year. In our trusty van, The Silver Cloud, we traversed the northeast, and retraversed it. We were headlining Wetlands at least once a month, and if they needed some powerhouse players for the Powerjams they were putting on, well, they knew who to call.

But, there existed in the back of our minds the niggling thought that, given the success of the live cd, we really should make a proper studio album, only this time we should be produce it, and we should call all the shots, despite having no idea how to do these things.

After spending a long time way up in Maine, at Bar Harbor, where we had the luxury of extended gigs, and about as idyllic a setting as anyone could imagine, we returned rested, tanned, and rejuvenated. We also came back with a new batch of songs, and immediately starting gigging them – it was a moment that heralded the start of a production that would take over a year to complete, and turn out to be our best album – Exhale On Spring Street.

Today’s selections are from September 4, 1996. The first is an early rendition of a tune that was originally titled, Love Should Be Free, Or At Least Have Discount Coupons, but that was too long so we shortened it.

The second tune is the famous Stevie Wonder song, sung to perfection by a guy with his arm in a cast, John Wood. (Note that there is no percussion on these tracks, as Woody had broken his hand in a bizarre gardening incident in John D. Rockefeller’s potting shed.)

Love Should Be Free (McGoverns 9-4-96)

Livin’ For The City (McGoverns 9-4-96)

Cornbread Wednesday

A Native Tribute to Jerry Garcia

A few weeks ago, we shared a couple of tunes from this extraordinary tape, recorded on 8-14-96, four days after the first anniversary of the death of Jerry Garcia.

As a band, we were as indebted to Jerry’s legacy as any other band, for to be sure — his influence was almost omnipresent in the music of the day, and of the present, even with artists who might not be readily-associated in any way with The Grateful Dead.

We, having a certain Mike Jaimes in the band, were always going to have more than a touch of the Dead in our music, despite the fact that in the first four years of our existence, we had never covered a single song from the great American songbook of Jerome Garcia & Robert Hunter.

But, there was always the tacit understanding that Jerry was to Mike, what Chuck Berry was to Keith Richards – an all-pervasive influence. Mike assimilated Jerry so thoroughly that he was able to built on the influence, creating his own style which stands as unique from Jerry’s as, well, Keith is from Chuck Berry. And, Mike built a small army of fans who loved the connection whilst celebrating the evolution, and revolution of his mastery.

Despite all this, it was seen as a bold step for Native to finally step up to the plate and take a swing at a Dead tune. It was the event, and sad acknowledgement of Jerry’s passing that led to todays offerings, which include the song we deemed fitting for the event, and remains a treasured memory to this day. We returned to the tune a couple more times, always at a special moment or occasion requiring a life-affirming statement, of which it is a perfect example.

So, please enjoy this penultimate piece of Nativology Vol. 3, as we near the end of John Watt’s thrilling tenure with the band. We’ll have one more offering next week, and then we plan a little break before turning to the DAT shelf, and the onset of the fearsome Wykcoff Epoch, as will be found in Vol. 4, saints preserve us!

Now, kick back and get ready for a buttery slab of cornbread & Jagermeister, as we share four songs recorded deep within the hallowed edifices of McGovern’s Bar, located at the corner of Spring Street and the edge of the universe —

In Or Out
Love Your Love
Fragile Clown
The Wheel

Cornbread Wednesday

Another Cornbread Wednesday!

As with the last few posts, we’ve been going through the Native tapes from that hallowed era – 1996, when men were men, women were women, pants were optional, and Native was effing Native!

This week, to make up for being absent in our duties to bring you the best bloggage we possibly can last week, we give you not one, nor two, not even three, we give you four songs from the treasure trove of great McGovern’s tapes that were spun by our dear friend and manager, Paul Ducharme, and our equally dear aboriginal misfit/soundman, John Fitzwater.

We’d like you to think of these four cracking numbers as bonus tracks to our album, Live From Marmfington Farm, Vol. 1. For, lo! They emanate from the same time period that yielded the performances heard therein.

This particular night, many of the songs ended up incomplete on the tape that resides in our monolithic vaults deep beneath Mount Olympia in the garment district of Manhattan.

The tape is mind-bendingly incomplete – more songs are cut off than those that aren’t.

But, miraculously, these four astounding performances tell the tale of that fabled night. We begin as Mike Jaimes, arguably one of the greatest guitarists in the history of ever, teases the crowd with a small, delightful snatch of an iconic tune —

Interested Third Party (McGovern’s 6-3-96)
Big Boss Man (McGovern’s 6-3-96)
I Am (McGovern’s 6-3-96)
Corrina (McGovern’s 6-3-96)

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