Obrien_ABI40_vol6_cover_1000px.jpg

Jesus: 2001 ; Recorded/Mixed by: Jordan Tishler ; Studio: Digital Bear Entertainment, Boston, Mass. ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017 ; Artwork: Joe Kowan

You Are the War: 2001 ; Recorded/Mixed by: Jordan Tishler ; Studio: Digital Bear Entertainment, Boston, Mass. ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017 ; Artwork: Joe Kowan

Colorado: 2000 ; Recorded/Mixed by: Matt Smith ; Venue: Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass. ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017 ; Artwork: Joe Kowan

After the Prom: c. 2003 ; Recorded/Mixed by: Ari ; Studio: WRBB 104.9 FM, Northeastern University, Boston, Mass. ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017 ; Artwork: Joe Kowan

Church of the Kitchen Sink: 2003 ; Recorded/Mixed by: Chris Darling ; Studio: WMPG 90.9 FM, Portland, Maine ; Mastered by: Matt Girard, Transference Audio, 2017 ; Artwork: Joe Kowan

 

Notes

There was a pocket of time, moments between Life Underwater and Church of the Kitchen Sink, in which everything else that might have been had its own moment. I mean this in terms of the songs and the styles that might have existed, but for the vortex of time, place, influences, circumstances of collaboration, the notion of a marketplace (!) in which the material that I wrote might live or die — which is an overstatement stemming from a kind of ignorance that clearly consumed me, given that we’re talking about a songwriting “marketplace” that existed in a crusty old port city on the virtual edges of New Hampshire and Maine. 

In the end, I was a young guy with a guitar in a mix of many things. “Jesus” is an indicator of one of those other directions, and it’s one I like a lot. Even now, though, listening back to it, I can hear that it needs a whole other context, an album of songs that could surround and build upon and support it as a way of approaching persona and subject matter. It’s interesting to me, the falsetto that comes and goes throughout these recordings. I was unconscious of the trick of it, then. I wonder if it is still down there, in me, in the tissue and folds. 

The urgency and clarity of voice are what strike me about “You Are the War,” and I am also struck by the major and the minor in the workings of the guitar parts. Not that I could have told you, back then, about majors and minors. Everything I played was self-taught, dug up by ear. I am, listening these days, conscious of what I wrestled from the guitar’s neck against the odds.

Late, late at night, one night at Club Passim, in Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we recorded this one take of “Colorado.” It couldn’t have been more than a week or two from the time I wrote it. At least that’s how I remember the event. “Colorado” was the first lyric that directly opened my mind to the possibility of writing topical material. You can hear my subway hand on this one, strumming with fingertips and not a pick. A tequila and bourbon fueled performance, it came out all right and I can’t sufficiently thank the good intuition of Matt Smith for putting in a tape and making this recording of the evening in an empty club at around two in the morning.

“After the Prom.” This is what the start of Church of the Kitchen Sink would have sounded like in a different life, different circumstances. The harmonica, in this case, is not half-awful, either.

Finally, there were mornings that, at an unearthly early hour, my future wife would pack me into her station wagon and drive me north from Boston to Portland, Maine. There is a college radio station up there, and a very kind disc jockey would give me time to play and promote the concerts that I booked in Portland. This recording of “Church of the Kitchen Sink,” one of my very favorite sung lyrics, happens to be my very favorite recording of the song (that I know about). It’s just organic and clear-headed in the delivery, purposeful in the singing, open-eyed the whole way through.

We’re almost done. I hope this revisitation and resurrection has meant something to you. It’s not over yet, but Volume Six is also the first of two intended culminations. Hope it carries across. One more to go.

 

All these tracks were mastered in 2017 by Matt Girard. 

The artwork is by Joe Kowan.

— James O’Brien (1 February 2018)