Steve Harlan-Marks / Blog
Okay. This time I really mean it!
Regular blog readers (I may have overestimated in the past when I wrote "all two of you.") will note that I swore after "House of Cards" I was going roots for the next CD, but my involvement in a rock band (Flight Risk) got me headed in the opposite direction. The resulting CD, "Welcome to the Dance" has several tracks featuring drums, bass, at least one but sometimes two guitars, and two or three vocals. While I am proud of the songs and their arrangements, the engineer could use some fresh ears and hands. I am reminded of the moment in Wilco's documentary "I am trying to break your heart" when band members admit they should not mix "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" themselves. I saw the movie but did not take the hint.
Anyway, I am currently writing only songs that can be easily reproduced on stage with an acoustic guitar or a banjo, two to three voices, and bass guitar. The best of the bunch so far is "Wade in the Water" which had its inspiration when my dog Ayla and I were tromping around in a rushing mountain stream in New Hampshire last June.
I will do my best to stick with my roots music only resolve. It will provide some useful perameters for song writing and will make recording, mixing, and booking gigs way less complicated.
I know that garlic cloves and crosses keep vampires at bay. If anyone can suggest a suitable defense against rock n roll, let me know.
Hide and Seek
If you have been following along, and I do mean all two of you, the new CD is a concept album. Not exactly a "Tommy" or even a "Hadestown," but a concept album none the less, my first. It will trace the arc of a life from birth (the title song) to old age. Well, at least the start of senility which actually makes me and most of my friends "old," I guess. Those two songs--"Welcome to the Dance" and "The Attic of My Mind"--are written as are a few other teenage through adult years tunes. I set out to write about childhood games and got going on hide and seek, but when I remembered my youthful Catch 22 discovery about the game--hide poorly and you get ridiculed but hide too well and no one will find you--the lyrics suddenly started veering into the adult range. I'll leave it at that. There is a demo recording of the song on this site, if you're interested in hearing it. (It's there even if you aren't.) There is personal history in the song, but I took a bit of artistic license to make the story fit the metaphor.
Welcome to the Dance
I have added what I suspect will be the title track for the new CD. It's called "Welcome to the Dance." Chris Johnson will add a bass part and he and Jen Urbach will provide the two vocals I'm overdubbing myself in this version. With luck I'll also surrender my roles as sound engineer which I've noticed tends to create restrained performances. I'm pretty happy with this arrangement. I just need a real drummer plus the stuff I've already mentioned. The new CD will trace a chronological arc from birth (this song)to old age. Other songs already written are: "The Horse Song" "Pinky" "Old Keys and Other Things" and "The Attics of My Mind." Chris and I will try them (well maybe except the one we need Jen to sing) at 42nd Ave. Station on Julyh 9th.
Old Keys and Upcoming Spectator Gig
Flight Risk had a March gig all lined up but Kelly's Corner say they are no longer booking live music. Too bad as they have a nice stage there albeit a bit small. From what I understand, The Spectator Bar and Grille's stage is even smaller. I think we may have to put Terry's drum kit in the parking lot and communicate by short wave radio. However, last night the three singers--Bill Kesselman, Jen Urbach, and I--had a mainly acoustic rehearsal to tighten up harmonies and try a few new songs, and I am pumped for this show. I am hoping it will, among other things, provide the Flight Risk debut of one of my new songs written expressly for the band. It is called "Old Keys and Other Things." Jen will sing it as it is written from a woman's point of view. It is the story of a young woman with a controling father whose over protective nature has prevented her from being successfully independent. The title comes from the hook: "Take back these broken wings/Old keys and other things/You gave me when you said you set me free." My wife says the three of us should forsake rock n roll and do acoustic only shows. Actually, she didn't say Paul (bass) and Terry shouldn't play with us in the future, only that she hadn't realized how pretty our vocals were until they were exposed without the din of our usual rock/country rock arrangements. She was not alone in that thinking. If you come, expect to hear some stripped down performances. (I said "hear" not "see" by the way. Keep your shirt on, Terry!) Info and directions for the March 26th gig is located elsewhere on this site.
Gearing up for a rock n roll album
After finishing, "House of Cards" (2008) I made up my mind that my next CD would be a bare bones affair of the sort Rick Rubin has created for Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and others.Then came Flight Risk. My roots are actually in rock n roll as my bio suggests. From Elvis, to Rick Nelson, to The Beach Boys, to The Beatles, to the Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Cream. About then (1969) I found myself playing at a house party in Jamestown, RI stuffing tissue paper in my ears to protect them before The Leftovers final set. That propelled me into acoustic music which has been my mainstay ever since. With that in mind, I have written three of four new songs in a style that fits the musical strengths of the band I have joined. We are for all intents and purposes a "cover band," but I cannot help but have higher aspirations. Whether my band mates embrace them or not will determine whether the new album will be a Flight Risk album or will be like past Steve Harlan-Marks albums but with more rock made possible with contributions from Flight Risk members and other side men/women. I will add to MP3s a live Flight Risk rehearsal tape of "The Horse That I'm Riding," the first song for the new CD. The little Tascam portable recorder overmodulates a bit, but not so much that you will be unable to imagine a Flight Risk album of original music. PS The song has another verse: "So, if you're a travler, a smeller of roses, saddle your horse up and ride. We'll weather the storms and follow our noses. I'll be never in doubt with you by my side." We'll get this song right eventually. :)