Pop quiz – who was the first musician to record an alt. version of Blind Willie Johnson’s incredible gospel anthem, Dark Was the Night – Cold Was the Ground?
It was me, goddammit, and I have the proof, which is on this CD, recorded in 1993. I also do a version herein of Elvis’ Sun Records’ version of Rogers and Hart’s Blues Moon (sans bridge, like Elvis, who recorded it with Scotty Moore on guitar, did it), accompanied here by the great dobroist Stacey Phillips. And I also do a version of Skip James’ Devil Got My Woman – who else was doing this in 1993 (that’s a trick question)? I should mention that I made Dark Was the Night and Blue Moon in a small room in my house in New Haven, to my Tascam TSR 8 open-reel machine. For Dark Was the Night I first recorded myself playing guitar with a kitchen knife (I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing), next overdubbed the sound of a toy that my son owned, a large hose that, spun in circles, produced a high-pitched whine, and then added, by overdub once again, myself ontenor sax. Blue Moon was simply a “live” to two-track recording with Stacey and myself.
This CD includes some of my favorite stuff with the always great Roswell Rudd, re-worked standards which we recorded in a storage room at Verna Gillis’ house in upstate New York. I used my 8 track Fostex with Dolby C noise reduction and a bunch of good microphones (I had an RCA 77 in those days, 2 Beyer ribbons, and a very nice Shure condenser) and, I am proud to say, Ros told me later that it was the best that anyone ever captured his sound (the room had nice acoustics and I used NO compression, which I think is one of the reasons for this; also, I gave Ros a ribbon mic, which was able to take one of his trademark blasts without overloading). I wrote heads on Body and Soul and Tea For Two and we did a version of Dizzy Atmosphere.
The other component of this CD is taken from an outdoor park concert we did in Rhode Island with Roswell and the Wesleyan contingent, largely of the Louis Armstrong stuff. It includes a King Oliver piece (Mabel’s Dream) that we had successfully performed at Sweet Basil. I should also mention that I played the entire concert with a broken finger.