"When The Open Road is Closing In" is included as a bonus track in album download...
This EP, Country Charm, was going to be an LP. Well, really, a concept record. Probably best to describe it as a compilation. Or a sort of tribute album? It has taken a few years so the timeline is a dusty trail by now.
At one point we started to write the “missing” music from The Coen Brothers’ film No Country For Old Men (the score for which is famously almost “music free”), complete with covers of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” and the Pogues’ “Streams of Whiskey” but after some well-meaning musical stabs, that fell short (looks like Carter Burwell’s minimalist score wins again). Then we revived an old idea I had lying around for a country album comprised completely of songs written by openly gay writers, an idea that eventually evolved into a full band recreation of The Magnetic Fields’ forgotten country classic The Charm of the Highway Strip (it still shocks me that this isn’t his most loved work). Well that hit the ditch as well but we did salvage one song from that idea – an orchestrated duet version of “When the Open Road is Closing In.”
In the end the EP’s real theme and thread is where and how it was recorded - after hours with a group of musicians at the legendary RCA Studio B, where Elvis, Roy Orbison, The Everly Bothers and others helped mold modern music. The original mics, Floyd Kramer’s piano and the entire original atmosphere were intact. Ghosts guested on tracks throughout the two weeks we spent setting up after the daily tours were done and recording in true Nashville style with a group of musicians I had just met. And in true procrastinating collaborative style, we – Neilson Hubbard, Betsy Roo and Jason Moon Wilkins - ended up writing most of the record while we were actually recording - scribbling in notebooks and fiddling with guitars in the parking lot and corridors while portraits of Dolly Parton and Porter Waggoner stared down bemused. After wearing out our welcome there, we finished the album with the help of many talented friends at Neilson’s East Nashville studio Mr. Lemons and mixed most of it on a train ride from Birmingham to New Orleans (big thanks to Steve Jobs and ProTools). What we ended up with isn’t country in the modern sense, or really in the traditional sense, but it is hopefully something close enough to the spirit of the place that those RCA ghosts won’t haunt us for releasing it.
released 06 March 2012
About the songs on "Country Charm":
1. “Shake The Blues” - Neilson says this reminds him of The Vulgar Boatmen and there is no doubt I am child of the “college rock” years. This was written after a year where I saw a half dozen friends and fellow musicians pass away. This one is dedicated to Luke Valiquette and Jay Bennett.
2. “I Hope This Doesn't Work Out” - Neal Dahlgren’s steel guitar shines through on this one. The bridge definitely nods to those old duets crafted in Studio B’s heyday.
3. “This Is Not A Movie” - This is the only song where we made a conscious attempt to make a musical allusion to our surroundings at Studio B. We almost scrapped this one but saved it after a more Everleys-like intro. This is also an “answer song” to the track “Race to the Runway” from Black Eyed Soul. “Race…” was a desperate romantic plea and this is the pragmatic response.
4. “When The Open Road Is Closing In” – It is too bad some people still lump Stephen Merritt in with “indie” music as it sometimes diminishes the perceived value of his gifts. He is one of the best songwriters and lyricists of the last 30 years and he belongs in the Songwriting Hall of Fame. Let’s start a petition (or maybe write a song about it).
5. “I Wish I Was Gone” – The most “country” song on here and it features some amazing musical contributions from Danny Mitchel (aka D$), fiddle player Eamon McLaughlin and steel guitar player Neal Dahlgren. This was written on the way home from the Ryman after having spent the night backstage watching my friend Justin Townes Earle perform there for the first time.
6. “Kill The Clock” – Written with Betsy and Neilson. Betsy still thinks this one is too mopey but she wrote such an incredible melody that I couldn’t leave this one off. The ending really reminds me of how much fun it was just playing with all these guys. The process was the payoff.
Blue Eyed Blacks was originally a solo outlet for Jason Moon Wilkins, who had spent time fronting the band toybean in the
90’s as well as numerous stints as touring and studio musician for the likes of Josh Rouse, Garrison Starr, Kate York and Neilson Hubbard. After recording the first record for Chicken Ranch Records, Black Eyed Soul, with the help of producer and longtime friend Neilson Hubbard....more