Shoulda Known Better
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about this recording is that the original title was We Meant to Do That, the old cover-up line for those situations where a dumb move or careless slipup results in a better outcome than correct action. I wanted to make a CD featuring some of the funnier and livelier songs I'd written. These seemed to be the favorites among our audiences. The second most important thing to remember is that this is a truly collaborative effort, with contributions from some wonderful musicians who all delivered great performances on these songs. I believe this CD is a truly a product of a "music scene" in the Houston Heights that has spawned more than one generation of great players, bands, and songwriters. It's not a scene that is limited to one genre, but includes folkies, bluesmen, funksters, punkers, jazzmen, metalheads and some rock en espanol. Here's some further info on each of the tracks: 1. Waiting for You The Song: This was an attempt at ending a cycle of unhappy love songs I'd written a few years back. Some of the other songs in the cycle showed up on my solo CD Life is Good. The Recording: I think Michael Farber's bass playing is what makes this cut stand out. Jason Jackson's cool sax in the second verse & Chaz Nadege's piano solo are also stellar. That's Michael sounding like Leonard Cohen on the bridge. 2. Every Woman in the World The Song: The idea for this song came from listening to a guy I know one evening at the Kerrville Folk Festival. He was so inspired by the natural beauty all around us that he wanted to marry every woman who walked past. If I play this song in a room of men with no women to overhear, I find the sentiment is familiar to all. Of course we know how impractical, impossible, and actually undesirable it would be to attain this goal, but there's a little bit of hardwiring in our psyches that identifies with it. We don't really mean it (at least not all the time). The Recording: Sounds like a 60s pop record that should have been made, with Chaz's Augie Meyer style organ and Jim DePitt's Roger McGuinn 12-string both going on. Nothing wrong with cheerful. 3. A Dream About You The Song: I'd been playing mostly funny, bitter & sarcastic songs at my shows, and a young lady who'd heard the older CD wondered why I wasn't writing any romantic songs anymore. Made the attempt here to do one with no traces of irony or sarcasm. The Recording: This song was a late addition to the CD, I wanted something simple and clear in the midst of these heavily multi-tracked productions. 4. Shoulda Known Better The Song: This has been a favorite of many of my friends for a long time. Opie Hendrix even put a version of it on his CD, San Jacinto. (Buy it. It's great!). It's about learning things the hard way. It's about how a simple evening's entertainment can leave a permanent mark. Tried to write a Tom T. Hall song and got carried away. The Recording: I always thought this song would sound better if the woman's lines were sung by a female, so you're hearing Rebekah Dahl here. And the third chorus ought to get nominated if anyone has a "best psychedelic sequence in a country song" award. That's Jason on the sax; two tracks, one of them backward. 5. Dead in a Ditch The Song: The first time I heard Opie do this I knew I wanted to sing it. I thought it was too short, though, and asked him to come up with an extra verse. Eventually I got tired of waiting and made one up myself. The Recording: I always thought this song had the feel of a real gospel tune. I know it comes from a genuinely spiritual place, so I threw in the church intro. That's Opie joining in on the vocals. There's also another great Chaz solo and sweet slide guitar from Gary Clark. 6. Jack & Ethel The Song: I think this is a song Robert Service could have written if he'd ever spent any time in Houston strip clubs, or as in my case, listened to a guy I know tell me about them. I tried to keep the music interesting enough so listeners would wait around for the punch line. The Recording: That's Teri Greene playing the incredible guitar solo on the intro, it's got a lifetime of rock'n'roll in it. The instrumental section features Susan Jackson, Gary, and Jason. Another one with additional voices, including Rebekah, Opie, & Michael. 7. Clara Dancing The Song: The tune for this had been in my head for about a week, couldn't think of an appropriate subject. Then I was all alone in a hotel room in Oklahoma and had just finished reading Isabelle Allende's The House of the Spirits, and thought of these characters. The Recording: Jim's guitar & Jason's sax catch the '50s R&B thing that I was aiming at. Susan's violin intro and Chaz's marimba kick if off gloriously. But my favorite bit is Carrie Ann Buchanan and Susan's harmonies in the last chorus section, the prettiest 10 seconds on the whole CD. 8. Jolly Science The Song: Sitting in a now-defunct Mexican restaurant, La Jalisciencia, at 1am after many margaritas, demonstrating that a songwriter must work with the materials and characters in front of him, I made up the first few verses imagining the personalities the condiments would have if they were human. The Recording: Another track with some character voices from Rebekah & Michael. Chaz's organ sounds roller-rink cool. 9. I Told Martha The Song: I love noir fiction, especially the hardcore guys like Jim Thompson and James M. Cain. If you like the song, check out Pop. 1280 for the real deal. The narrator in the song knows he's messed up, is trying to save his ass. The Recording: Went for spooky with the violin / organ intro. Jim lays in some great rhythm guitar. Dru's trombone is textbook tasteful. 10. Sometimes I Miss Her The Song: I think of this song as a second visit to the same character we hear in "I Told Martha." The guy here has had some time to deal with his guilt. He's gone on to attempt to live a regular life, learning to live with his guilt, which he prefers to punishment. Not a very introspective fellow. The Recording: Tried to do a straight country cut. That's Jimmy Deen playing that slick acoustic guitar lead. He's also the one that misses her all the time. 11. Don't Try This at Home The Song: Originally dedicated to Hunter S. Thompson, with a nod of the head to Z.Z. Top's "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide." Total exaggeration of the "I'm a badass partying mofo" school of songwriting. A tale of unwretched excess, the road "to the palace of wisdom." The Recording: This is the kitchen sink cut on the CD (as in "everything but the"), which I thought was appropriate, given the chorus. I think we almost found out how much is too much, but I could have taken more, especially more of the Teri Green moments like the bit after the third chorus. Would have liked about 20 more instruments and voices on the final section, but we made do. 12. Did You Lose Any Nothing? The Song: Peter Rowan was an instructor and I was a student at the Kerrville Folk Festival's Songwriting school just after Dylan's Time Out of Mind CD came out. As I remember it, he claimed that one or two songs on that CD were written with lines or titles from many of the traditional folk & blues tunes that Dylan knows and loves. I never could spot them myself, but when putting together a Dylan tribute show a couple years later, I thought it would be interesting to write a song where all the lyrics come from the titles of songs Dylan either wrote or performed. This is it. The Recording: Had to do a harmonica solo on the Dylan tribute song. 13. She Believed Me The Song: Trying to write a traditional-sounding folk tune, I still don't understand what the chorus means. The Recording: Some more Jimmy Deen lead guitar, this time electric. And sweet harmonies from Susan, Michael, Jimmy & Chaz. Roger Tausz thinks this is the prettiest song on the CD. 14. Tired of It The Song: This is a relationship song, coming from kind of an angry place. Whenever there are couples in the audience and one of the people laugh, the other one gets angry. If they both laugh, they're not sitting very close together. There's a word I use in live performances that is not on the record. Shouldn't be a problem to figure it out. The Recording: Got Opie in to do the heavy-tremolo guitar. That's Susan on the cool oo-wah harmonies. 15. Easy Women Polka The Song: Trying to write a polka like the ones I heard as a kid (and played on the accordion then). It seemed like the best ones are all about simple pleasures. Tried writing about food or beer, but got no inspiration there. If you listen close, you'll hear affection and respect. The Recording: My favorite moments here are when the guys join in on the first chorus and Chaz's on-the-money faux accordion solo.