TRACK by TRACK (Edward Abbiati)
Intro (& Outro): This land is your land…Woody’s most famous (and covered) song. I felt we could add little to this tune but also felt uneasy about not including it. I asked Francesco, our piano player, to simply play the melody. I wanted to bookend the record with it. He sent me 14 takes, 7 for the intro and 7 for the outro. We used the very first two takes respectively for the intro and the outro.
This Train: Sooner or later I had to record a train song…and I have always loved this song. I heard Johnny Cash sing it first. I bought Woody’s Bound for Glory in a used book store in Shepherds Bush in the mid 90s. Roby’s guitar was the first to give the train sound and whistle which was followed by everyone (piano, harmonica, slide). Nicola’s haunting background vocals were the last to be added and gave me the impression that this train is full of ghosts too.
Heaven my Home: I fell in love with Joel Rafael’s version of this. We gave it our slant, took some chains down from my roof and Furio used them well. Liz Petty’s vocal chorus was so perfect I was scared to use it in our crooked and dusty take on it. Of course, she fits perfectly and makes us all sound in the right spot.
I ain’t got no Home: One of my favourite Woody songs ever. I wanted this to sound like a travelin’ song and Chino’s harmonica gives it the exact right pace. The lyrics balance out loss and hope, rage and irony and always convey a deep sense of reality and realism yet it leaves space for one thought….it ain’t over yet, and the best is yet to come.
More Pretty girls than one: Our piano player liked this song and felt he could do something with it. I asked him to send me a quick demo. He taped this using his mobile phone…we loved the sound and tone and asked him to stay at home and play all piano parts in that room with that phone! From the moment I heard it I knew I wanted Tamboo’s voice to be on this track… a man who has a voice and soul that has truly rambled around (and knows more pretty girls than one). The final touch was to add that loose trombone. Daniele came into the studio without even knowing why he was there….he heard the song and nailed it on the 3rd take
Better World Coming: an open D tuned guitar lying around in the studio and those lyrics jumping off the page at me…I took the guitar into my hands and played it. Like this. I told Roby, this is it. Go play it and he just said: no, you play it. So I did.
Deportee: a song which could (or should) be a national anthem or a hymn. A song about the US/Mexican border but could have been written last week about fortress Europe and immigration from the east and the south. I wanted this to be the centerpiece of the album. I wanted each character of the song, each immigrant, to have his or her voice, I wanted this to build like a chorus of ghosts. So I called some friends, and local heroes and musicians, to lend their voice. They each chose the verse which they felt closer to. Betty was in tears by the end of her take. Alex’s mandolin is stunning. Stefano Olla’s mix allowed the song to grow theatrically as I had imagined it to…everyone’s soul made this song ring true and new. I am so grateful for everyone involved here: Jimmy from the Mandolin’ Brothers, his partner in crime Gnola, Paolo Terlingo of Rude Mood.
Going Down The Road: a few years ago, 1996, I was in Dublin on St. Patrick’s day watching Joe Ely play live. Bruce Springsteen, on a night off, turned up for the encores. They played songs written by Joe, by Joe and Bruce, Buddy Holly and finished off the wild set with this song. Two guitars, two voices. Fingerpicked (unlike other versions I had heard). It was mesmerizing and ever since then I wanted to record this song. Last summer we played Dublin, at Whelans, right next door to where the Mean Fiddler once stood. That is where I started thinking about making this record.
Lonesome Valley: about 2 years ago we were supposed to headline a local festival but due to “internal differences” I was momentarily without a band. I turned up on my own and asked to open the night solo. I got on stage, feeling so lonely, none of my band mates with me, and I sang the first verse of this song before going into one of ours. I was down…but not beaten. The band got back together and I have played this song regularly ever since at our acoustic shows.
Hard Travelin’: We needed a good farewell song to end the record and this was always gonna be the one. The live “til we outnumber them” was always a favourite of mine. Pretty much all involved help sing and play on this one. A musical curtain call! And right at the end of it all…my good friend Claudio Raschini leads us all into This land is your Land. I did not want a singer or a “name” to sing this…I wanted soul. Claudio has it. Everyone who helped out on this record has it and have been generous with it.
Woody, hope ya like what we did to your songs….we tried to treat them as if you had written them 2 hours ago by bending and bouncing them around.
Thanks for the songs!
There’s a better World Coming!
See ya Out There