Blue Sky Sliding is my first time out of the house in 18 years. Blind Dog Barking was my last time out in 1992. I wanted to see if the sun was still shining.
I sang and played through some tin cans and string into a British console (Had to edit out the accent) and recorded into a 24 bit American hard disk recorder. At times, I used Apple Logic Pro 9. Then, I mixed to digital two-track at 24 bit/44.1Hz. (Old school language: DDD). I tried to do the project on tape, but my cassettes kept getting stuck in the player. I started the project on a PC and crashed it every eight minutes. So, I bit the Apple and planted the seeds.
Mics: Some Shure mics, a Studio Projects C1, and an Audio Technica AT4040.
Preamps: Focusrite ISA One, Joe Meek OneQ
I used Snow Leopard interfaced through Apogee Duet.
Guitars: Some Taylors, a Takamine EAN10K, a Gibson LG-1, an Epiphone FT-79 Texan (one from the USA), a Gibson Les Paul Studio and Melody Maker, a Fender Stratocaster, Chandler Lap Steel, Fender Precision Bass.
Most guitars processed through a Line 6 modelers, SansAmp, and BOSS stompboxes.
Mastered in Apple Logic Studio 9 and Waveburner.
Transferred to Green Tune CD media and duplicated at Oasis Disc Manufacturing.
I sang the vocals, played the guitars, bass, keys, various percussion, programmed some loops and beats, and washed the dishes.
Some friends helped me. Also featured are:
Smitty Price - kickin’ keys on Gotta Serve Somebody
Dean Christensen - vocals on Gotta Serve Somebody
Wendy Hinkle - vocals on Gotta Serve Somebody
Dianne Jackson - vocals on Gotta Serve Somebody
Teri Goodwin - vocals on Gotta Serve Somebody
Julie Wuertz - vocals on Tomorrow on Her Mind, Every Good Gift and When You’re Not Here
Julie Stewart - vocals on Tomorrow On Her Mind
Mike Heil - vocals on Tomorrow On Her Mind
Steve Sanchez - guitar solo on Tomorrow on Her Mind
Kevin Moore - vocals on A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Dan Bathauer - low vocals on Elvis on a Greyhound
The “I Ain’t Dig a Pygmy” Orchestra conducted by D. Richard Henrys.
I also used Apple Logic Studio 9 / Instant Drummer™/ Drums on Demand® / AppleLoops® / Orchestral samples are from Garritan Personal Orchestra® and World Instruments / Drums: Instant Drummer™ or Drums on Demand® imported into Apple Loops. Some of the early tracks were Instant Drummer and I found that they were not as crisp as the DOD stuff and Apple Loops, but I kept them anyway.
Cross the River (For Tim Hunt)
During the summer between sixth and seventh grade, Tim Hunt, Rick Lovett, and I took our guitars to summer camp and learned three songs-- Gloria, House of the Rising Sun, and Rain. We instantly formed The Red Barons (We all had red hair!) and played a talent show and two Sunday school parties. We listened to Beatles records and learned every Beatles song. We learned to play in the cracks. We played off and on through junior high school-- the last time getting together to rehearse the chord changes for The Beatles’ Revolution.
In the early nineties, I got a call from a childhood friend that Tim had died in a tragic car accident. I started writing the song that night. A little while later, I saw a funeral procession on the freeway and noticed that the other cars rushed by at their usual raceway speed, seemingly apathetic to the pain of the mourners. For some reason, the song came back into my mind as did all the memories of that week near the Bear River in California when I was twelve.
Tim lived on the north side of the American River in Sacramento, and to rehearse, one of us had to cross the river. As well, the dying words of Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson were "Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees." I treasure that image of the hereafter.
Rick Lovett passed away in Hawaii a few years later. I am the sole surviving member of The Red Barons.
A Distant Friend (for George Harrison)
The Beatles taught me how to play guitar; I listened to the radio and their records and learned every chord in every Beatles song. The George songs taught me how to play diminished chords (root + minor third + minor third.) On the day that George Harrison died, the line “A distant friend is gone” stuck itself in my head. At the most surprising moments, I still find myself singing his songs, especially the weird Indian stuff. (I paid tribute [ripped off] to the intro to “Taxman.”)
Tomorrow on Her Mind
I sent this to four country singers looking for songs. Then I sent it to the good folks at Nashville Songwriters Association, who looked at it seriously, considered it for their publisher’s luncheon, but sent it back to me. I told myself if they sent it back I would record it myself and release it.
I always saw it as a car commercial for Chevy. An ever-popular theme in country music-- escaping the little town and exploring beyond personal borders. The Silverados, the country band in which I have performed for 18 years, are featured in the background vocals and Steve Sanchez plays the lead guitar part.
BGVocals: Julie Wuertz, Julie Stewart, Mike Heil, Doug Hanks.
Electric guitar solo: Steve Sanchez.
Elvis on a Greyhound
I wrote this for my sister, Squid. She is a conspirator in the Elvis Didn’t Really Die theory and she loves Priscilla. After a gig in Pasadena, CA, I actually met the Memphis school bus driver for Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
BG vocals: The Blackstone Bros. (Dan Bathauer and me.)
I Remember the Night (8:46 P.M. on 9/11)
On the night of 9/11, I stood in my front yard, stared into the incredibly clear southern California night, and listened to the unusual and curious silence. I live about six miles from Ontario (California) International Airport, but that night the sky was ominously still. While I was outside, a military jet flew by about 2500 feet off the deck. Its air space was unrestricted. When I went back inside, I realized that I had been outside exactly twelve hours after the attack in New York. The bell toll at the end of the song is spaced eleven seconds apart - one for each plane that went down that fateful morn.
When You’re Not Here
A friend of mine on Facebook talks about her fiancé who is stationed in Afghanistan every chance she gets.
The BG vocals: Julie Wuertz and me.
This Love I Have for You
A simple one for Mary. She likes the raspy voice.
Watch the Lions Play (Sunday Morning, Lyon, 177 A.D.)
Many consider Rome to be a great, ancient civilization, yet it had its dark side. People gathered to watch gladiators maim and kill each other and animals tear each other apart. At a few times in history, followers of Jesus were placed into an arena with wild beasts and devoured. This certainly happened at Lyon; a memorial stands in the arena to those who lost their lives.
Some promoter made money on the horrific spectacle. So I asked myself, What did a person have to do to get a ticket? And did he take a date? Were tickets available through Ticketmaster or did you have to go through a scalper? (Scalper could have a more literal meaning in the second century.) With the spread of pop atheism and the polarization of religious belief, the atmosphere towards those who follow Jesus has become slightly more hostile in these civilized times. All of this led to this song... and reading Foxes Book of Martyrs at bedtime.
A Mighty Fortress / A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Psalm 9)
Julie Larson’s arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress” on Revelation inspired me to do a similar arrangement. Her B section contains the descending bass part against a relative minor six chord which is so prominent in my songs. And I was listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack at the time of my arrangement.
I led my first orchestra when I was 21. There is nothing that equals that many musicians playing together. However, here the tiny musicians are all inside a computer because they would not fit into my minuscule recording studio.
Martin Luther did not write the music (only the lyrics), so he cannot collect licensing fees. And about the lyrics... No, I could not find a way to fit the word “bulwark” into the rhyme scheme!
High tenor: Kevin Moore
More of Ms. Larson’s music at www.julielarson.com
Gotta Serve Somebody
(Words and music by Bob Dylan. ©1979 Special Rider Music. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)
The debate raged for months in the late 70s about Dylan and his new-found belief. God is the ultimate judge of a man’s heart, so I’ll leave that part up to Him. In the meantime, I get to sing this great music from the master wordsmith.
In 2010, I sang this at Hillside Community Church, Alta Loma, CA where I serve as part of the worship ministry and music director Smitty Price nailed the vibe, so I asked him to lay this down for me.
Korg keys: Smitty Price.
BGVocals: Wendy Hinkle, Dianne Jackson, Teri Goodwin, Dean Christensen.
Dean’s vocals were recorded in Beaverton, Oregon and FTP’ed to me. I imported them into Apple Logic Studio and re-recorded them into the hard disk to match the others.
Anyone But Jesus
Download the first episode of CBS’ Survivor:China. During a welcoming ceremony, the survivors are asked to receive a gift and bow to some Buddhist idols in a temple. A woman named Leslie states that she cannot. After the host, Jeff Probst, reassures her that it is not a religious ceremony, Leslie states that the only one she will put her face to the ground for is Jesus. And this song was born. Thanks, Leslie!
Every Good Gift
I wrote this in 1983 and used to do it with my band in Portland, OR. This is a slightly milder version.
BG vocals: Julie Wuertz
Look at All the Children
I traveled to Kenya in 2006-2007 and spent a fortnight among the people at the SamRoc School and the Children’s Home in Ilula near Eldoret. Every one of the 96 children there were orphaned by AIDS. AIDS is so rampant in Africa that it is the same as 40 Boeing 747s crashing each day. Malaria, which is preventable with a simple $10 net, continues to devastate the population.
Daffodils at the Resurrection
Sure, they were there! It was Passover, after all, in a Mediterranean climate!
The last minute features eight different acoustic guitars.
Ode to the Penguin Café (instrumental)
Inspired by “Perpetuum Mobile” by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. I knew about them in the 70s, but when a girl used it as the soundtrack for her viral video of self-portraits over 200 days, I had to pay tribute. When the founder of PCO, Simon Jeffes, passed in 1997 the world lost a truly creative talent. The group is eclectic and not for all, but their music was clearly unequaled at the time of its inception and is definitely hard to classify. Most of you have heard a guitar arrangement of their “Ode to a Found Harmonium” in Napoleon Dynamite.
Keep Your Eyes on the Sky
After he [Jesus] said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their [disciples] sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:9-11
Will it really happen? Some people think it was a spiritual resurrection and that His return will be a metaphorical, metaphysical one. It really doesn’t sound like that in the Acts passage. Jesus said something and people heard it well enough to write it down. People on the scene of His ascension are looking up into the sky. It’s pretty difficult to imagine a cloud hiding a ghost (since they look alike!) And then two men show up and give witness to the entire situation.
Keep looking up... that’s what faith and hope are about after all.
The hidden track: The Joker Isn’t Laughing
I wrote it when I was 19 or 20. I thought I would finally get it laid down.