What's Old is New Again  Podcast

The birth of our band stemmed in a very organic and unplanned manner. In late 2010, Mark and I expressed a desire to perform the classic blues catalogs we had been immersing ourselves in.  As we listened to the works of the greats like Muddy Waters, Son House, Howlin' Wolf and Freddie King, we noticed a singular thread... complete unabashed release of emotion.  These artists performed with utmost confidence but at the same time a balance of ego.  The music was the motor.  No gimmicks, no guise, just pure passion and punch.  It was our desire to play music of this spirited intensity within the community of close friends and talented musicians that led to the inception of Blues on TuesBlues on Tues became a monthly series hosted on Tuesday nights at the Parkside Lounge in Manhattan.


Our aim was to set up an environment in which there was no pressure, no perfection, and no pretense.  We chose a differing charity each month and all proceeds from the tip jar were donated. The result was beyond our expectations. Not only did we build a unique connection and energy onstage, but the reaction from our audiences was shocking. The blues have the innate ability to move people of all kinds and all musical preferences.  It was a wonderful way to give back to our community and bond with our peers.  As Blues on Tues progressed, we realized that our desires had evolved to focus on writing original blues music.

Mark and I had been looking for a way to collaborate in terms of songwriting.  We met in 2006 when I hired him to be in my band for my solo project, but despite years of playing, producing and arranging together, we had never co-written.  We found the blues to be a natural, well-matched genre for our talents.  It wasn't long before the songs were flowing.  Blues on Tues became a easy opportunity for us to test new material. And just like that, the Blues on Tues crew had evolved into Fife & Drom and we were booking shows as an original act.

Despite the focus now being on our original music, we often throw a cover or two into our set lists. The blues is a genre where you will find countless recordings and versions of songs by multiple artists.  It's almost as if these songs are communal and open to individualized interpretation.  We find that covering a classic tune not only pays homage to the backbone of blues, but allows us the opportunity to have creative license and perform the music in a way it may not have been heard before.

One of our staple covers is Elmore James, "Stranger Blues".  The tune is gritty, driving and strangely hypnotic with its repeating riff.  We found it a perfect way to inject our original flair, while keeping true to the core components of the original.  Have a listen:

The Way of the Web: Spinning "BLACK WIDOW"  


Old habits die hard.  In life, both Mark and I have a tendency to be last-minute types. Ya know, perpetually non-punctual?  I suppose the same is true in song.   It seems like it is only within the time just before a show that inspiration really stirs. There's something about a deadline that lights the proverbial fire under the ass.

Our writing process is partially this way out of necessity. Sharing a home, a career, and a business does not always leave ample creation time. So, it is in the nooks and crannies of our everyday lives and travels that we compose.

For example, the music for "Ghosts" was written during an hour lunch break between teaching and rehearsals.  I finished off the lyrics at a coffee shop an hour before the gig, in which we made our good sport bandmates learn/perform it on the fly.

Don't get me wrong, working under the clock can be pressure-filled.  However, we've found that actively creating an environment conducive for art-making is the key. Carrying baggage or expectation into your creative space is a thrill-kill. It is about embracing a moment and opening oneself up to becoming a channel for the music. Then you just flow, baby!

Our newest song, "Black Widow", began in an odd old hotel in Pennsylvania .  The hallways were straight out of The Shining and as we choked on the smell of cleaning products, we started to wonder what scent they might be hiding.  After initially being annoyed that we had accidentally been given double beds, we decided to make use of them and do a little head-to-head songwriting brainstorm.





Mark approached me with a riff he had been hashing out.  It was haunting in its monotony: an eerie repeating progression leading to a doomsday climax. It was devilishly alluring.  

The riff was evocative of "I Put a Spell on You".  For years, I had immersed myself in Nina Simone's hauntingly beautiful take, but more recently, Mark and I had become spellbound (wah-WAH) by Screamin' Jay Hawkins' original. His delivery, dynamics and drive steer the song to manic, animalistic territory. It's ferocious!

We agreed that presenting a song with the same raw and ravenous feel but from a woman's perspective would be totally captivating.  Mark casually suggested, "It's like the spider catching the fly."  That's all I needed.

The following day I furiously scribbled lyrics and ideas at every spare moment. I researched old fables, scanned Wikipedia for spidery details, watched clips from "Misery" and, of course, revisited Screamin' Jay's monumental performance.

As we drove back to NYC from PA, we solidified the details. We were a little too squeezed to whip out the guitar, so Mark transposed the riff to his iPad piano.  As it looped, we yay and nayed lyrics, melodies, and performance qualities.  It had to be theatrical, but not precious.  We also agreed that there should be no "B section" to the song. Just a steady incline of intensity, resulting in complete release of certifiable crazy.

We arrived home, hurriedly unpacked the car and headed out to rehearsal where we presented our new creation to our band mates. We knew they would be able to elevate the song to dangerous heights.

We debuted the tune the following night at Arlene's Grocery on Oct. 29th. The pre-Halloween excitement added to our spook factor. It is always exhilarating to deflower a virginal song in front of a live audience. There's novelty, there's risk. It's quite the rush.  View the performance below: 


 


BLACK WIDOW


The web I weave
Is easy to believe
No tricks up my sleeve
No reasons to deceive

So, come to bed
Come rest that weary head
Wise eyes, it's said
Aren't easily misled

Do not protest
This innocent request
Though I'm impressed
You need your beauty rest

Don't make a peep
I'll sing you sound asleep
On silken sheets
You'll fall into the deep

What's that you say?
You must be on your way?
Be that as it may
You have a role to play

You wouldn't want to upset me
Jump start my evil tendencies
I got this raging temper, see
For those who try to fly and flee

Better watch your back
You better watch your back
I'm known
I'm prone
I might attack

Best watch yourself
I just may crack
Loose my cool
And break you, Snap!

You sure would make a tasty snack
My belly burns
My lips, they smack

Cause I'm coming for ya!
Comin' to get ya!

Cause you're mine
You're mine
Mine, all mine

Yes, you
You're mine
A lovely dish to dine



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