Album: The Long Way Home

Release Date: 2009-11-30

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about the album



The story of THE LONG WAY HOME isn't that incredible if you kept an eye on the Skip Heller stuff on Ropeadope. I started out trying to play country, folk, rhythm and blues, and punk rock before I ever found my way to jazz.

The two trio records -- MEAN THINGS HAPPENING IN THIS LAND and ALONG THE ANCHORLINE -- had little to do with whatever else was going on in jazz at the time (2006/07). First off, we toured a LOT, and we listened constantly, whether to music, talk radio, comedy records, and all kinds of news.

We didn't do the normal jazz stuff. And these two discs -- as well as one we made with the amazing singer Lisa King Christian -- owed at least as much to The Band as they did to Herbie Hancock. The cover tunes we played came from Hazel Dickens, Charlie Rich, John Hartford, the Stanley Bros, and Tony Joe White. When you're trying that hard to get your jazz group to embrace country music, it might be time to start playing country music.

My father got sick (he's well now) in early 2007, so I moved back to Philadelphia and formed a jazz trio there. But I also fell in with folk and bluegrass guys and started out playing songs I'd loved since I started learning the guitar. Lots of Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, John Hartford etc.

The first new song I wrote was "Duke Ellington In Tears", which was a true story about Duke playing high schools for small audiences as a way to keep the band on the road in his last years.

After my dad had his heart surgery, I moved back to California, and Julie Shine at Narducci's Cafe in Bakersfield asked me if I wanted my old gig back up there once a month. I said yes. Dale Daniel had been playing drums in the Hacienda Bros, but the death of their singer Chris Gaffney (a dear friend of mine) meant that Dale was looking for something to do. I called my friend Paul Eckman to play upright bass. Pretty soon, we had enough original material to make a disc to sell on the gig.

We recorded stuff to that end-- mostly live with my friend Tom Eaton on mandolin -- at Paul's rehearsal studio, thinking that would be it, but DJ Bonebrake (the drummer from the legendary punk band X) heard "Too Hot To Sleep" and volunteered to play vibes on it. Soon enough, there were a few overdubs, and things sounded a little more professional. I mixed it over at Ryan McBride's studio, and I gave a copy to Dave Alvin, Grammy winning folk guy and founding member of the Blasters. He played it for Mark Linett, the producer/engineer (also grammy-winning) most famous for his work on the recent Brian Wilson stuff. Mark called me shortly afterward and told me he liked what he heard but it needed to be remixed. I told him I couldn't afford him. He said I could, just bring the masters over. So that's how I got him.

That's pretty much the story.

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