Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun \ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.
Welcome to the second installment of the Lagniappe Sessions in which we invite some of our favorite artists to cut exclusive covers paying tribute to some of their favorite artists. This week’s entry with Roadside Graves is especially fortuitous as it finds the band covering one of their heroes, Mickey Newbury, whose material just recently received a long overdue vinyl reissue via Drag City Records. The influence of, and deference to Newbury’s songwriting is peppered throughout the Graves’ catalog, none more so than their new full-length We Can Take Care of Ourselves.
Session notes and details after the jump from the Graves’ John Gleason and Jeremy Benson, and if you’re in the NYC area look for upcoming Benson solo dates.
MP3: Roadside Graves :: Saint Cecilia (Mickey Newbury)
MP3: Roadside Graves :: People Are Talking (Mickey Newbury)
MP3: Roadside Graves :: Why You Been Gone So Long (Mickey Newbury)
MP3: Roadside Graves :: Interlude (Mickey Newbury)
John Gleason: When I mentioned to my wife that we had been asked to do a few Mickey Newbury songs she said, “Oh, I know that guy. You would always play him when you wanted to make out”. It’s true. He’s my Barry White. A bottle of red wine, an omelet, and Mountain Retreat’s criminally out of print Newbury Collection (10 records spread among 8 discs) constituted a cheap date.
Mickey Newbury is too talented. Similar to Phil Ochs, Richard Buckner, Harry Nilsson, and Damien Jurado he belongs to a select group of songwriters who are underappreciated by the general public, but held tightly by those serious listeners who take the time and the musicians themselves who wonder at their craft and consistency. His music seems uncharacteristic of any one genre. It’s an intelligent combination of folk, country, soul, and weary loneliness. In his own words: “How many people have listened to my songs and thought, ‘He must have a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a pistol in the other’. Well, I don’t. I write my sadness.”
As a band we are continually influenced by the music that we listen to and by writing these articles or covering these songs it provides us with an opportunity to show our appreciation. There are many times where we have to ask ourselves, “What would Mickey do?” The violin end of our song “Ruby” is a direct homage to his song, “Leavin’ Kentucky.” I love Mickey Newbury. I hope you will too.
Jeremy Benson: Home recording: the basic tracks of these songs were recorded in a air-conditioned basement in NJ onto a Yamaha MT4X 4-track cassette recorder, using a Roland VS-1880 16 track digital recorder as a mixer, and for reverb. Overdubs and mixing happened in Saranac Lake, NY, in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, drinking Saranac pale ales and lighting candles. The 4 track was a gift from an ex girlfriend who hated Mickey Newbury. She laughed and made me turn it off when I put it on once thinking his lush orchestration would inspire some touching. The sounds are from a totally uncool cheap Yamaha porch-style acoustic guitar that I bought ten years ago for $80 at New Jersey Guitar Center, and a Fender banjo I got for Christmas from my parents. Everything else is from a Nord Electro 3- an expensive bastard but it’s got string synth sounds that I think Mickey Newbury would use if he were around today.
Post script: John and I wrote our little sections separately, and found out after sharing that we’d both written about unsuccessfully trying to use Mickey Newbury for romantic enhancement. That and acne scars, part of why we’re best friends.