Liner Notes: Country Casuals

Mark, the puppetmaster, in MSSS

Mark the puppetmaster at the wurlitzer in Muscle Shoals. In the background, Bob Wray puzzles over his instructions…

I’m Your Puppet
A classic from the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham songbook, popularised by James and Bobby Purify. My friend Marcel has always hated this song, so I recorded it as a joke present for his and Sarah’s wedding. The reason for the slow reveal of the actual tune was just so I could puzzle him a bit more when I played it to them. Me, I love the song. It was finally finished when I asked Mark to replace my, frankly, hapless bass playing. He then added a whole other tension/release thing by descending where all else ascended…

Finally Come
Mark sent me a group of tracks that he’d recorded, mostly using a Portuguese steel-stringed parlour guitar that he’d bought from a junk shop for a song, literally. It

swr-cc-cm1

has a great tone, a little like a dobro. This smoky little riverbank ballad caused me to actually write lyrics for the first time in ten years. Here’s my Cold Mountain compilation, and Anthony Minghella’s nice note.

Anthony Minghella’s note: Martin Just wanted to thank you for taking the trouble to send me your selection of songs for ’Cold Mountain.’ Great listening. I’ll be sure to play them to Charles Frazier when I next see him and the tracks will be part of my day when I get down to write the screenplay. Thanks again Anthony Minghella

Bring It To Me
One take of made-up-on-the-spot lyrics over Mark’s lazy slide song. Bobby Charles via JJ Cale, apparently.

Bobby & Eddie

See Heading South for more details on our time in the Shoals. I guess that growing up with jazz and blues playing constantly at home fostered a connection to the American South. I certainly always feel relaxed there. Bobby Womack’s The Poet II was a very important record for Hot!House in terms of songwriting and feel, and he had played with Eddie Hinton in the Shoals. Find Eddie’s Very Extremely Dangerous if you can, it’s just terrific. Listen to Get Off In It. Robert Gordon once wrote that Eddie’s voice “expresses what words cannot” and Eddie entangles it around the obtuse and strange lyrics (although containing one of my all-time favourite lines – “Poverty will attack you like a robber in the night and catch you bare naked“). Double tracked in the style of Al Green or Womack himself, Eddie wrestles with his demons and bears down in an extraordinary performance that peaks with him screaming “why don’t you try to get off in it…” before he spits out “One more thing I’m gonna say” as the track vanishes into the ether, leaving both performer and listener high and dry. We sort of had the chance to work with Eddie when we were in the Shoals, but we were out of our comfort zone and it seemed impossible to make it happen. His manager, John Wyker was keen, but Eddie had been pretty reclusive for a while by this point… The reference to Parallel Fourths—Mark was playing with Hot!House on a British TV show and Don Was [Was (Not) Was were also on] walked over and said “Dig the parallel Fourths, man.” Mark said “What?” and Don explained that it was a country guitar technique used by both Reggie Young (and Bobby Womack) that gave their accompaniments such grace and beauty. Generally the fourth and six strings are played in unison up and down the neck… We asked Don to produce us, he said yes, the record company said to Don that we needed hits, we wrote songs, Don said he liked them lots, but none of them were hits (he was right). End of story.

A Thousand Miles From Kind
This is a demo, really. Jordan worked out the melody and we sang over an mp3 of the song that Mark had emailed me. We need to move the accordion solo so that it appears after the first female verse, and re-record the vocals. But if anyone knows Robert Plant’s management…swr-cc-cm2

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