Larry Campbell produced the two cuts on my last CD (Use Me) that I recorded with Levon Helm. The first tune we did was a Chicago-style blues tune that I had written called “Tongue.” Larry wrote fantastic horn parts for it and produced the session, which went flawlessly. A few months ago I approached Larry about producing this CD. I originally intended it to be all Chicago-style blues, but to my surprise, Larry said he’d like to produce a CD like the ones that I recorded on Columbia, Fantasy, and Rounder; that is, a CD with all the genres of music that I like to perform. Everything but the kitchen sink. Larry is about the only person that I can think of who has a deep understanding of all these genres. I thought he would be the perfect person to produce the album he suggested, and I think this CD proves it. Working with Larry and with Justin Guip, the engineer on this CD, was an unmitigated pleasure and a privilege. We did the recording at Levon’s barn. Levon was an important person to all of us. This album is dedicated to the memory of Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and especially Levon Helm. I hope that you
enjoy listening to it as much as all the musicians on it, including myself, enjoyed making it.
1. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
I’ve heard this song sung in churches in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens, as well as in other
parts of the country. I think you can probably find it anywhere in the U.S. I love this song, and
recorded a version of it on a Fantasy album in the late ’70s. The band and I started to perform it
again recently without referencing the ’70s version and it became my favorite tune to perform.
Brian Mitchell plays beautifully on this. This version is rawer and sincere. The song speaks to
me and for me.
2. Keep On Drinkin’
I heard a version of this on a Big Bill Broonzy record from the ’30s. I’ve been unable to find an
author for it, and this is my arrangement. That’s John Sebastian playing great harp on it. His
range and versatility on the harmonica are, to me, unequaled. Thanks, John.
3. Drivin’ Wheel
This is a song that I’ve been doing live for a long time now. It was written by a very fine
Canadian singer-songwriter named David Wiffen. I had the privilege of recording it as an
accompanist to Tom Rush long ago, and the song stuck with me. Tom has a remarkable ability to
find great songs and this isn’t the first one I accompanied him on that I’ve later recorded myself.
Brian Mitchell plays great keyboards on this, as on everything else he played on. The rhythm
section is the best I’ve ever had. Mark Cosgrove’s rhythm guitar is a lesson by itself all over the
CD. John Firmin plays one of his burning tenor sax solos in the middle of the tune. What a
privilege it is to play with him!
4. I’ll Take You Back
Rick Estrin is the harp player on the great Little Charlie and the Nightcats recordings. This is
one of his songs that I love to do. That’s Brian Mitchell on the keyboards again. He adds a huge
amount to this track. The intro is Mark Cosgrove on Tele, and it kills me. I stumble through the
rest of the lead guitar on the track.
5. The Strongest Man Alive/Maydelle’s Reel/Jenny’s Chickens
The first part of what I guess is a medley is an old English drinking song that I wrote. Well, I
wrote it and it sounds like an old English drinking song. We took the title of the CD from the
lyrics, which are the best I can write. To get the right harmonies I asked John Roberts and Tony
Barrand. I’ve been proud to know them for years. I’ve always enjoyed their performances, and
now that I think about it, they may have been the inspiration for the song. Thanks, guys. The
sung part is followed by “Maydelle’s Reel,” which sounds quite English, but was also written by
an American, Kelly Lancaster. Mark Cosgrove plays the hell out it as he does with everything.
The last tune is called “Jenny’s Chickens.” It is a genuine traditional Irish tune, one of the first I
ever learned on the fiddle, taught to me by Aly Bain in the Jurassic Age. I admit to changing a
chord in the first part. I start it on acoustic guitar, and could never have done it without help and
encouragement from Larry and Justin. Mark plays mandolin on it, Nate Grower plays fiddle, and
Larry Campbell added some rhythm guitar. The bass part by Butch Amiot and the drum part
played by Josh Kanusky propel the piece last time through. Justin said that part sounds like
Braveheart and his army coming down a hill into battle.
6. Last Date
“Last Date” was a hit country instrumental by Floyd Cramer. It’s one of those iconic
performances. I learned the lyrics from a Conway Twitty recording. It’s country, but to me it’s
blues at the same time. Mark Cosgrove starts the instrumental on Telecaster and plays the
country lead beautifully. Larry plays some great pedal steel on it and Nate is soulful on the
fiddle, as always. I did some acoustic guitar on it, and the trio parts are sung by Butch, Mark, and
7. Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Mornin’
Alberta Hunter recorded this in 1921, but it has also been recorded by Louis Armstrong, Dinah
Washington, and Aretha. The trumpet solo in the middle of the tune is by Peter Ecklund, and his
playing on these tunes is always inspired. John Firmin plays a very soulful clarinet solo at the
end, before the ensemble with Peter and Harvey Tibbs on the trombone. I asked Peter who we
could find to play trombone on the track and he suggested Harvey. We all look forward to
playing with him again many times. The way these guys play this kind of tune is one of the
things about playing with my band that makes me love it.
8. The Fields Have Turned Brown
The Stanley Brothers. What more is there to say? John McEuen wandered into the studio and we
made him play banjo on it. It was a good idea and adds a lot to the track. Mark Cosgrove plays
mandolin and sings the baritone part. Butch Amiot, who is a deep musician who has held the
band and me together for years, plays bass and sings the beautiful tenor up in the stratosphere.
9. Cattle in the Cane/Forked Deer/Monroe’s Hornpipe
Here’s a medley of fiddle tunes. “Cattle in the Cane” is one that I remember playing with
Norman Blake when he was kind enough to let me stay with him in Nashville. It starts with a
glimpse of Nate’s brilliance on the fiddle, and then Mark and I play it a bit. “Forked Deer” (for
some reason pronounced “fork’ed deer”) has some great playing by Mark on the mandolin and
by Nate again on the fiddle. I play guitar. On “Monroe’s Hornpipe” the three of us all play
10. I’ll Rise Again
A friend recorded but didn’t release this tune, which the press assumed was an old gospel song.
It depends on your definition of “old.” It’s another one that I wrote. Brian Mitchell got the exact
feel that I wanted. For me, this song is in memory of Roebuck and Cleotha Staples, and in tribute
to Purvis, Yvonne and Mavis Staples, all collectively known as The Staple Singers. Their music
has never failed to lift me up. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
11. World Of Fools
This is another of my own songs. The guitar solo is by one of the best young guitar players in the
country, Johnny Duke (John Lippincott). It’s a scorcher, and I’m really happy to have him on the
CD. Brian Mitchell plays the keyboards. I did a short tour with Brian, and he was my first choice
to play on the CD. I couldn’t ask for better.
12. You’ve Got To Mean It Too
This is another one of my own quirky songs. My wife Nancy sings the harmony, and Larry plays
the pedal steel. Nancy once observed that I hadn’t written her a love song. This is one of two
that I tried to write for her. The other is “The Strongest Man Alive.” I know they’re both a little
eccentric, but so am I . . . and so is she. By the way, Laurie is Laurie Lewis, my wife is my wife,
and you’ll have to figure out who I saw on TV yourself.
– David Bromberg