Last American: 2002 ; Drums: Dylan Callahan ; Recorded/Mixed by: Steven Friedman, Melville Park Studio, Boston, Mass. ; Venue: Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass. ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017

Indian Summer: 2002 ; Drums: Dylan Callahan ; Recorded/Mixed by: Steven Friedman, Melville Park Studio, Boston, Mass. ; Venue: Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass. ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017

Jo’s Tires: 2002 ; Recorded/Mixed by: Steven Friedman, Melville Park Studio, Boston, Mass. ; Venue: Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass. ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017 

Surrender: c. 2002 ; Drums: Dylan Callahan ; Recorded/Mixed by: Jordan Tishler ; Studio: Digital Bear, Boston, Mass. ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017

Paint: 2005 ; Recorded/Mixed by: onstage recording to laptop ; Venue: Lilypad, Cambridge, Mass. Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017 

The War Has Come: c. 2004 ; Recorded/Mixed by: unknown (possibly onstage recording to laptop) ; Venue: The Point, Bryn Mawr, Penn. ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017

 

Notes

Volume One starts on a night in 2002. The show was at Club Passim in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My younger brother was late; it was a sleety, snowy night and we worried. But he arrived safely and the music was pretty good. That’s what you hear me talking about just before "Last American" starts up. The whole thing concluded with the audience and yours truly marching across the square through the cold and wet to the original location of the old Club 47. We finished up with a song there, in what was by then a convenience store. A number of the photos in the liner notes of 'Church of the Kitchen Sink' show the scene. We did return to Passim afterwards; I played “Colorado” sitting on the edge of the stage. Anyway, these first three tracks are from that evening. I wish I’d worked more with Dylan, the drummer on “Last American” and “Indian Summer” and "Surrender". He did great things for the songs and his harmonies are amazing.

“Surrender” is an outtake, unfinished, from sessions for 'Church of the Kitchen Sink'. We’d been recording and mixing the album for what seemed like forever. It was hard work, making those records. We canned it rather than debating any further whether to rerecord it or change our approach to the arrangement. The song does deserve a place in the catalog — it was a staple of the shows — so here it is, mostly standing on its own two feet after all this time.

I always felt that “Paint” was a bit shameless — wearing its influences on its sleeve too obviously — but in this recording it does sound like my own song and I’m glad this version exists. The Lilypad live track comes from 2005, after I’d pretty much put aside touring and playing concerts (which is another story for another time). This show was a one-off event at this little room in Inman Square, Cambridge. A scrappy venue, a good show, and you can hear that I’m pretty relaxed — post-ambitious you might say — just letting the song breathe and inhabiting it.

“The War Has Come” ends up being one of my favorites and this is a strong performance of it, in my opinion. You can't hear it on this track, but it was a contentious set at The Point in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. A few minutes prior to this recorded moment, a guy at the back offered his strong opinion about singers speaking about politics between songs. I was a little bit overwhelming in my response but there was still truth about art, and topical artists, and audiences, in my reply. I’m OK with what happened. If you were there, you saw it. Also, I loved shows that crackled with that kind of drama. I believe that listeners often did as well. After this song, and this show, I remember thinking that it probably didn’t get much better in terms of all the pieces falling into place — playing, singing, risk, positive response — and thinking that maybe I should stop while it still felt really good. I felt that way after the 2002 show as well, wanting to freeze what felt like a perfect feeling and never have to move past it.

All these tracks were mastered in 2017 by Matt Girard. 
The artwork is by Joe Kowan.

 

James O'Brien — Life Underwater Music (1 September 2017)