A track-by-track description of the songs on MY TURN NOW (2016).
Crazy Dance (track one). It's what I call a jazz-blues. The melody is bluesy, the chords are jazz-tinged and the groove is 100% blues shuffle. It's a song about taking a chance on love, spinning that wheel, throwing those dice, following your heart. Like many of you, I know what this is like. I love starting my concerts with Crazy Dance because the lyrics mean a lot to me. "Lucky me, you are here tonight." And I mean that! This one is simply a trio: my voice and resonator guitar with A. Murray's (little bit of Stray Cats) bass and Chris Pepper's drums. Wanna play this one yourself? TAB, lyrics and chords are here!
My Turn Now (track two) is an anthem for the under-dog. It’s the Locker Room Pep-Talk, it’s the Hail-Mary pass, it’s the Last Chance Saloon. And it’s my absolute favourite kind of music: riff driven guitar rock/blues. The initial inspiration came from the famous T.T. motorcycle race on the Isle Of Man. I was doing shows out there for a few days and as my host for the mini-tour, Jonno, drove me around the island, I was thinking about the racers and was compelled to write the song. It’s in open-D tuning (DADF#AD), played with a slide on my resonator guitar. It’s a 3-chord rocker and features a “power” trio of me on slide resonator guitar and vocal, the amazing Richard Gates (of Boston USA) on bass and Chris Pepper on drums. I played the electric guitar solo on a borrowed 1940s Gibson ES-175, loaned to me by Joe Castro, through an old Fender Deluxe Reverb amp. Pretty nice combination. Get ready to rock! TAB, lyrics and chords are here.
Nine Day’s Wonder (track three). A “nine day wonder” is all hype and no substance; it’s a short-lived excitement; an over-blown prediction; an over-egged cake. Today’s big news but tomorrow’s take-away food wrapping. It’s in open-D tuning (Sammick Strat-copy through Fender Champ) and I sing it as a duet with the great Sally Barker. The rhythm guitar (National Resonator in standard tuning) has that finger-picked swagger I learned from Tim O’Brien and Ry Cooder. A.Murray gives us a bit of the funky Framus bass and Chris Pepper gives us the back-beat to keep it all going. Chords and lyrics here.
Darkness (track four). A late night road song. Darkness isn’t something sinister here, but rather a companion for the journey. There’s a distinctive “old time” feel to this one with the resonator slide guitar, along with the drums (Chris Pepper) and bass (Richard Gates), playing the riff, but laying low when the I’m singing. The solo features the soaring sound of a cigar-box guitar through a Big Muff. It’s in open-G tuning. Get the TAB, lyrics and chords here.
Year Began (track five). An homage to the late, great Evel Knievel and his attempted jump of the fountains at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on New Years’ Eve, 1967. The 141 foot motorcycle jump was the daredevil’s longest attempt. His crash and long recovery made him more famous than ever, as ABC-TV bought the rights to the film of the crash after the attempted jump. The music has a decidedly “Americana” feel with it’s almost-country backbeat, flat picked resonator guitar and voice, Richard Gates’ bass and Chris Pepper’s drums, and the harmony singing of Sally Barker (of The Voice & Tom Jones fame). TAB, lyrics and chords here.
Your Mind Is On Vacation (track six). I was heading for home on the A1 motorway after a run of gigs when I heard this song on Jamie Cullum’s BBC Radio 2 program (one of my favorites!) and knew I had to cover it. Mose Allison, a great pianist and singer-songwriter in the jazz tradition, also possesses a fabulously wry sense of humour. And I’m guessing we all know someone like the subject of this song. I’ve taken my arrangement pretty far from the jazz world and brought it more toward a slightly-wonky 12-bar blues. There’s a chord figure on the E chord and a chord figure on the A chord. It’s in standard tuning, capo 2, with Chris Pepper drumming like nobody’s business and A.Murry Kahn thumping a bass groove through the floor. The resonator guitar on the solo is tuned to F# (I have no idea what it actually is as I made it up on the spot) and Keith Warmington is blasting away at the harmonica. From the very first take this was a keeper. Play along if you want! Lyrics, TAB and chords here.
Joker’s Wild (track seven). A guitar riff-driven minor blues with what I call a “climbing” chorus. Musically, there’s a little bit of the East Texas-Oklahoma sound in the groove, think J.J. Cale and Freddie King, alongside an almost “South of the Border” Mexican feel to the chord changes. The seemingly effortless guitar figure belies something a bit more sinister under the surface. Like the subject of the song, The Joker. Lyrically, it’s a word of warning: beware the painted face for the shadow that lurks behind. Paint can be removed and when the mask is gone, well, it’s not a pretty place to be. I play this one on acoustic guitar (and double the guitar riff on mandolin). Sally Barker and I are doing the vocals. I asked her to “shadow” my melody as if we were doing an old Everly Brothers song. The rhythm section is Richard Gates from Boston USA on bass and Chris Pepper on drums. I kept this one “acoustic” because I like how an acoustic song can rock! Chords, lyrics and TAB here.
Rosalyn (track eight). A story of fated love. Only the main character hasn’t figured that out yet. We can see so clearly what the situation is, but the fella in love with Rosalyn, well, he sees something completely different to the rest of us. How come? If we knew the answer to that we’d have this humanity thing sussed! In my head I’m thinking Hearts & Bones era Paul Simon with the acoustic and the resonator guitars alternating between lead and rhythm. Richard Gates’ bass and Chris Pepper’s drums keep that Americana shuffle going, driving the rhythm forward. TAB, chords and lyrics are here.
Hesitation Blues (track nine). A jazzed-up version of this traditional classic blues standard. I arranged it with a definite swing-feel, heading toward Dan Hicks territory, with resonator guitar, cigar-box slide guitar, Richard Gates’ bass and Chris Pepper’s drums make this one sail along. TAB, lyrics and chords are here.
Nobody Wins (track ten). I first became aware of this Kris Kristofferson song, about love’s losing hand, while driving across Zealand (in The Netherlands) a few years ago. He sings, “The loving was easy, it’s the living that's hard.” I lost track how many times I hit ‘repeat’ on that drive. Something about that line just got me. Still does. I arranged my version to be sung in that classic country way, like a conversation, with me singing the first verse and Sally Barker singing the second verse, and then us singing together the rest of the song. The rhythm guitar is my resonator tuned to open-D. The chord shapes are pretty cool (have a look!). One of these days I’ll be able to afford a real electric guitarist, but for now that's me playing all the twangy electric guitar parts. A.Murray Kahn’s lonesome bass and Chris Pepper’s drums complete the sound. Lyrics and chords are here.
Sitting On Top Of The World (track eleven). In winter 2015 quite a few dates of my USA Tour were cancelled due to snowstorms and icy roads. That’s how I found myself hanging around Washington, D.C. for a couple of days with nothing to do. Thankfully the good people at the Smithsonian Folkways music archive invited me to stop by on one of my day's "off" to listen to some vintage recordings of early country and blues. While pouring through old reel-to-reel tapes and records, I was especially drawn to versions of “Sitting On Top Of The World,” the country, bluegrass, old time, traditional song initially made famous by the Mississippi Sheiks. With all these different versions ringing in my ears it occurred to me that the song is as much a blues as it is a country song. Hence, my bluesy power trio arrangement with sultry electric slide guitar (in open-G tuning), the bass of A.Murray Kahn and Chris Pepper’s drums. TAB, lyrics and chords here.
A track-by-track description of the songs on MY TURN NOW (2016).