Monday, November 2, 2015

7 - The Honor Roll, and Heart-felt Thanks

I wanted to make sure credit was given where it's due in regards to this project, an 'Honor Roll' ala Dr. Thompson, if you will, though I'll try to be a bit more informative than just a list of names, and cheebus help me if I forget anyone who helped in any kind of direct way.

Mike & Karen Achenbach
Old friends of mine from the Reading jam scene back in the day, and more importantly the parents of the projects' drummer Zak Achenbach. Zak was 17 when we first started with the band, not much older at the time of the basic track recording, which was done in Mike & Karen's garage. As a matter of fact, those two allowed us to gather in their garage every week, affording me the time to develop my guitar and writing skills and actually produce the music we eventually captured there in their garage outside Mohnton, PA. We were loud, and it was the first year of my infant daughters life so I was continually tired and ornery, and it went on and on for years, and those two were nothing but gracious, helpful and supportive. I cannot thank them enough for their kind generosity, support, warmth & good vibes and of course providing a great place for a bunch of very loud musicians to get down to business and create without distractions - I could not have done this without the Achenbachs. 

Chris Kew (Q)- 
I've talked about Q's involvement and importance to this project previously here in the blog, but I just want to state how comforting and helpful it was to have someone I know, trust & respect, both personally & professionally, be there for me constantly & consistently whenever I needed advice, help or just someone to think something through with. And let's please not forget his world-class playing on display throughout the album, which he donated with grace and aplomb. His involvement instantly doubled the depth and quality of all the proceedings, took it all to another level and that point is never lost on me. (read Q's thanks below)

Cory Heller- 
...and speaking of donating world-class playing with grace and aplomb...I've also spoken here about Cory's involvement too, and his importance to Telectro but really, he came in and did his takes, on every track, in one run through. He so totally got what was needed in the music and performed it intuitively, adding the most beautiful colors in the process. Although we've known each other from around the Berks County music scene for many, many years, I don't typically work with Cory, sadly, so for him to commit himself to the project in such a complete way is a bit more than astounding.

Ray Hoffman- 
Ray helped me start the Magnetic North Project. We got together weekly at his house in Kutztown for quite a while to play and plot, and we collected a solid line-up over time. He also held the groove on all those far-out jams the band would do, and created a solid place for our minds to wander.  Some of those jams burned new ground for me, and that whole experience was completely creative and organic, culminating with Telectro. It wouldn’t have happened without Ray Hoffman. 

Julie & Liliana Kehr- 
My wife and daughter gave me the endless supply of love needed to make this kind of music, they make my whole life music and help me be me. I can't type the right words here. 

Casey Shearer-
I'm not sure this album would have happened without Casey, who started booking shows for me in the greater Berks County area. Even starting out he produced results
for me, and as The Magnetic North Project became ready to start playing out and needed gigs, Casey hooked us up in spades. And it was those gigs that enabled us to move forward. Casey's always been there for me when I needed help, and I will always appreciate his belief in what I do and willingness to listen.

Tom Flannery
Part way through the beginning of album production my old musical pal Tom Flannery and I started hatching a plot to write and produce a duo album together, a grand idea that I’m still partial to (and looks like will happen very soon.) We actually wrote a nice chunk of material together online, but over time it became clear I did not have the time or concentration to see the project through to its organic, natural end. I was kind of tethered to the general area I lived in the first couple years of my new daughters life, and confined at night to either a more local gig or into my basement studio to work, a process that went on for about a year and a half longer than I originally thought. I am indebted to Tom for his patience, and for wanting to pick the thread back up and work on in the time after Telectro is released. Tom is a great & talented writer that I'm lucky enough to call a friend. 

Bill Stetz-
My old compadre, Bill and I just had our 20th anniversary of playing music together, I never take for granted the luxury of having Bill in my life, his love, laughter & playing have been consistently there for me every time; one of those people who just makes your life better by having him in it.

Scott Murawski & Anthony Hannigan- 
File under 'donating world-class playing with grace and aplomb' - I'm so lucky to play with musicians of this caliber, it makes me a better musician myself, and they're both so much fun to hang out with. Their largely improvised parts on Telectro bring a clarity & propulsion to the music at hand and large I could find nowhere else. 

Zack Roth & Zak Achenbach-
-These great young players from the Magnetic North Project were key to this material being written, developed & ultimately rendered to tape. Zack's guitar playing & Zak's drumming were endlessly inspiring, and there is absolutely no way this album would have existed without them. 

Charlie Borruso-
Q brought Charlie in to do the mastering and I'm so glad we got him. Not only is he world-class at his job but I found out he had been enduring a lot of personal heaviness during the process and still delivered perfection, I am very thankful for his involvement. 

Chris Kew would like to thank-

Meg Eisenhower, upright bass luthiers Wayne Holmes and James Condino, Keith Roscoe of Roscoe Basses, Acme Cabinets, Jack Trifiro from Victor Wooten's Productions, all the people who had to listen to the bass tracks of this album over and over and over again, and finally, in Memoriam, Billy Constable, whose friendship and musicianship has and will continue to effect, inspire and shape my playing forever. Billy, you will always be missed. 



Honorable Mentions- 

Dave Light - Co-pilot #1, always, always there for me.
Bob Coons - donated some beautiful & interesting guitar, though I never met him. 
Matt Cullen - local musical compadre of great talent & support
Mitchell Roth - warm & supportive extended band family that filmed & photographed the us, and well, and went above and beyond. 
Josh Meshley - brother in arms who lent a helping hand more than once during album production. 
Tom Moran - Tom deserves a nod, he's provided me with some nice professional opportunities in my life that I will always be thankful for, as well as the sweet gig and support he gave MNP at a time when it was needed.

Monday, July 27, 2015

6 - Songs, lyrics & musician credits

Once I went through all the recordings I had made in Achenbach's garage I picked out all the keepers and started fitting them together like a jig saw, which was surprisingly easy. Once it was all together I couldn't help notice it was approximately 1 hour long with a break right around the half-hour mark, so I went with that. Here are notes on how the first 'half' goes, and who plays what...*

1)   Traveling>  (Kris Kehr)   -6:09

Kris Kehr/vocals, electric & acoustic guitar, banjolin
Cory Heller/organ
Chris Kew/upright acoustic bass
Zak Achenbach/drums

-This started out as more of a straight-up rocker when Magnetic North Project started playing it early on but became more layered and textured before it was committed to tape. The song was always about questioning the road taken, what it’s shown and where it’s going, but through 7 rewrites detailed how the romance about it can get left behind and new priorities take precedence…

I was traveling, just moving along 
Everything seemed to be fine 
I was rambling, way past the dawn 
And then rolling along down the line

I got to wondering how and where I went wrong
When I sat down to take in my time
'Cuz it was happening now, and it was all very strong
And it seemed to be strangling my mind 

Now there ain’t nothin’ wrong with a good set of wheels
And a fire burning down below
But when you’re in and you’re wired into how you should feel
The scenery starts moving too slow

So I was traveling light, and at a pretty good pace,

Sowing my oats in the field

But I was wondering why I was losing the race
When I reached down to grab hold the wheel

I’m too sensitive or so I’ve been told
But that’s what they wanted to see
They kept testing it and it got pretty old
So I went where I needed to be

Everything is nothing and life is a joke
Laughing is half the way there
But no one is laughing when it goes up in smoke
And nothing and no one is spared

It was eminent, just a matter of time
An oncoming fixture of fate
They were ending it with a similar mind
And the same predilection to hate

It got permanent, goaded by age as a
Pillar to life on a limb
But like firmament, eroding away
Lost to the rain and the wind

Well time catches up and beauty is lost
We all will go down by & by
But as I’m getting older I’m learning the cost
Of a lifetime of saying goodbyes

So I was traveling on, still singing my song
Trying to keep it in time
I was rambling along, I was already gone
I was already far down the line
 bmi pincushionman publishing

2)   La Duna Veta>  (Kris Kehr)   -2:42

Kris Kehr/harp, resonator guitar, electric guitars & bass
Zack Roth/electric guitar
Ray Hoffman/electric bass
Zak Achenbach/drums
-an instrumental segue piece featuring all of Magnetic North project. I over-dubbed some resonator guitar flourishes & harp.

3)   Poison in the Well>   (Kris Kehr & Chris Kew)   -7:49

Kris Kehr/vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitars & harp
Scott Murawski/electric guitar
Cory Heller/piano
Chris Kew/electric bass
Zak Achenbach/drums
      -This was a song originally called “I Gotta Gun” that I had written with my partner in Lowdogs, bassist Chris Kew. As the meaning of this collection of songs started coming into focus it became clear I needed to include Q’s bass playing on this, and rewrite the lyrics to tell this part of the story- how what you used to see in a certain light becomes tarnished or spoiled or disfigured, something else when something new is added to the picture. It was so good to be working with Q again he did most of the rest of the album after this one. 

Big ball of fire out on the highway between the Freebird and the bay

That’s when I started realizing we weren’t all travelin’ towards the same place

It was poison in the well, shadows ‘cross the floor

Once it’s gone it’s gone and you can’t get it back no more

It used to be so sweet but now it just seems rotten to the core

It started out like all the others did with some faded hopes and narrowed dreams

I found out the hard way people keep it hid and really nothing’s as it seems

It was poison in the well, the moment when it changed

You wake up one fine day to find your whole life rearranged

There hasn’t been clean water since the heavy rains fell

You better not get thirsty when there’s poison in the well

Things just don’t turn out the way you want them to be, and things like that don’t ever change

On best behavior through chaff for the wheat, harvest comes and things get strange

Cuz there was poison in the well and the seeds all went to rust

Relying on the promise just to overlook the trust

I once knew who my friends were but it’s got too hard to tell

You never see it comin’ when there’s poison in the well 

I can look back now and try to make some sense of a thousand times where there was none

It was big old disaster in the present tense; it was reckless abandon for the long run

Yeah there was poison in the well, the wolves were at the door

Something in the shadows I had never felt before

I used to call it home but I don’t think I can go back anymore

It was poison in the well, like losing innocence

Kinda happened gradually ‘til one day it was spent

Tried holding it together but it all just went to hell

Nothing is for certain when there’s poison in the well
 bmi pincushionman publishing

4)   Long Way from Home  (Kris Kehr w Zack Roth)   -12:39

Kris Kehr/vocals & electric guitars
Julie Kehr/vocals
Cory Heller/electric piano
Bob Coons/electric guitar
Zack Roth/electric guitar
Chris Kew/electric bass
Zack Achenbach/drums

-This song came directly from Tuesday jam night with MNP. I recorded Zack playing with a riff he made up which set the tone, then went deep inside and wrote this story that seems to resonate with a few people I know… 

I’m a long way from home
Ain’t got no place to call my own
I's traveling hard and put away wet
Long way from home but I’ll get there yet

I didn’t know where I was going wrong
Thought I was planting righteous seeds
I guess I took things just a bit too far
And lost the grip on what I need

Lost at the crossroads on a one-way turn
Things got too difficult to see
Not many choices that I had not burned 
It made no difference to me
Mixed-up confusion always lit my way 
Yet somehow always brought me home 
I walked in circles ‘til I faced your way 
Sucked in your black-hole vertigo 
I crossed the demarcation long ago 
Kept drifting further out to sea 
The sun is setting on some distant shore
My love lies waiting there for me 
 bmi pincushionman publishing 

5)   Anymore> (Kris Kehr)  8:17
Kris Kehr/vocals, mandolin, acoustic & electric guitars
Julie Kehr/vocals
Scott Murawski/electric guitar
Cory Heller/piano
Chris Kew/electric bass
Zak Achenbach/drums

-I used to perform a different version of this song in State College back around 2000 with my old band Stone Poets but never released a studio recording of that; musically it was a bit simpler and lyrically it talked about something else entirely from a completely different perspective

I still remember how you used to call my name

Forever after nothing seems to be the same

Too much time spent out staring at the sun

Lost the trail and lost the way

I still remember when you used to know my name

Just an illusion, was it ever real at all?

From fits of laughter to the drown of teardrops fall

I shouldn’t worry about the way that things are

And beat my head against the wall

It’s just an illusion, it was never real at all


Have you ever heard that sound?

The sound you make when you take that fall

And there’s no one else around

No one left to help you up at all anymore

The windows rattle as the winds begin to howl

The darkness gathers and the rain comes pouring down

It doesn’t matter where you hang your head

‘Cuz it will find you anyhow

The windows rattle as the winds begin to howl

Some seek redemption after losing all control

But best intentions will not satisfy the soul

Like inspiration when it flies out through the night

And you have to follow where it goes

Chasing redemption past the dark end of the road


Down in the bottom I kept wondering what it means

I found finding answers isn’t always what it seems

It all started whirling around inside of my head

Was it a curse or remedy?

Down in the bottom I was halfway in between

Have you ever heard that sound?

The sound it makes when you take that fall

You pick yourself up off the ground

‘Cuz there’s no one left to help you up at all

Have you ever heard that sound?

The sound it makes breakin’ through that wall

Tear it all down to the ground

Cuz you don’t need no ones help at all anymore

-BMI Pincushionman

 6)    The Morn in the Morrow> (Kris Kehr w Zak Achenbach4:19
Kris Kehr/mandolin & electric bass
Cory Heller/electric piano
Anthony Hannigan/fiddle
Chris Kew/upright acoustic basses
Zak Achenbach/drums
Q's baby -
This is an instrumental piece constructed around a recording of Zak's drumming captured during an album session jam. First I wiped all the other instruments then edited it in at a good spot, then improvised a mandolin take over it which was easy, 'cuz that's some nice spirited drumming from Zak. I can't say enough how much Zak's style and work in general has flavored this whole album. Cory Heller as well, who contributed beautiful piano work next in the process back in the Kitchen.  Anthony Hannigan, my partner in Garcia Grass and one of my favorite expressive soloists on many stringed instruments anywhere, did two takes of fiddle which were edited together for the playful and expressive version on the finished album. The masterful Q broke out his carved French 1892 upright bass down near Asheville, NC for the second time on this album to tie things up nicely with a loose yet authoritative take.

-BMI Pincushionman

7)    Shining Through>  (Kris Kehr)  17:47
Kris Kehr/vocals,  acoustic resonator & electric guitars
Julie Kehr/vocals
Scott Murawski/electric guitar
Bob Coons/electric guitar
Zack Roth/electric guitar
Cory Heller/organ
Chris Kew/electric bass
Zak Achenbach/drums

-This was written very quickly, the only one on the album that happened that way. Some people believe songs are better written when pored over and perfected while others prefer the quick bursts of inspiration or as the late, great Townes Van Zandt once said, 'They come in through the window, you better be ready to catch 'em and write 'em down."  Honestly, I think they're both valid methods. There's certainly something more mysterious, magical about the latter and I felt that about this song at the time. I also think there's something to the process of collecting thoughts into some order and developing them into a coherent, likeable song over time. They're both about impossible to do, so whatever!  This did feel close to the truth for me right out of the gate, maybe that had something to do with it...

Time is tight and time is flying

Flying right but I keep on trying holding on

As time goes flying by

But the time is right I keep on finding

Finding right where I was trying to hold on

Holding on to time

Fools rush in where shadows fear to tread

I rode that line wherever that it led

I just kept driving on & on & on & on & on

Shine a light & keep on shining

Shine it bright and keep on finding where you are

As time goes flying by

But night will fall all around you

Keeps you still and where it found you in the light

When the day turns into night

Darkness shines like a mirror to the soul

Looking in on all those miles on the road

Too much time spent wondering where the whole thing goes

Here we are in the moment

Time has passed and keeps on rolling down the line

Further down the line

A warm embrace, a sudden smile

I see your face through the miles, there you are

I've been waiting a long time

Misdirection wherever that I turned

Cross those bridges just to stop & watch them burn

It’s a long & twisted dirty road that leads back home

Daylight breaks and finds me staring

At the door and I can barely stand the light

Shining in my eyes

Watching out from my castle on the hill

Many years I've wasted there until

I’ve seen your face come shining through

And found my way back home to you
-BMI Pincushionman 

8)   Pasture  (Kris Kehr)  3:21

Kris Kehr/12-string acoustic guitars & mandolin
Anthony Hannigan/fiddles
Bill Stetz/upright acoustic basses

-I wanted to bring things home with some sort of acoustic coda but didn't have anything on my band session tapes so I started with a 12-string track, played mandolin to that for a while then added a finger-picked track then a third guitar track. Bill Stetz came to Wooobie Cat Kitchens and laid down a bunch of bowed upright tracks and a beautiful plucked centerpiece. Brother Bill has been playing with me for over twenty years now. He has, more than any other player I've worked with, helped me find my musical footing with not only the zillions of gigs we've done together as an original music duo but helping me form the original Stone Poets out of that relationship, which set the tone for that band furthermore. Both Bill and Anthony play in Garcia Grass with me so it was especially nice to have both represented.

-BMI Pincushionman

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