Country music. My first country cd. No money. No co-writers. No studio and no studio musicians. It’s a true “recording artist” cd. Not to say that it’s great. Just to say that whatever you think of it is on me. If it sounds raw and homemade that’s because it is. You probably don’t know anything about recording unless you’re a musician. These days CDs are recorded in computer programs, the most common being ProTools. My Country Music CD was recorded on a Boss digital mixer from the 90s with one input at a time. The cd took months and has lots of quirks. The drums are all keyboard drums I played with my fingers. There is no voice pitch correction. If I sound flat I’m sorry, if I don’t, thank you.I had just started trying to make music for a living and needed a CD to sell to put gas in the tank try to get business. I’m proud of it because of what it is and what it represented for my life. Which was belief in myself and hope. There are some good songs on here. Thank you to anyone who bought this and still listens to it.
Midnight Auto Supply
This is the story behind the version of Midnight Auto Supply on Neil’s first CD Country Music.There is an updated story fro the version on his latest Cd Kiss Me Mama I Gotta Go. Click Here to see that version.
What is the story behind the song, Midnight Auto Supply? Where should I begin? The first thing to do here is answer a question that I’m asked every night: Is this song about you? And the answer is, no. I’ve yet to steal a car (Please buy lots of copies of my cd so I won’t have to). But I grew up with the man this song is about, and he could steal your car. He probably won’t now, he’s in his sixties and retired.
This song is about a bygone period in the history of the north Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee mountains. The mythology of Midnight Auto Supply is less mythology and more what I’d call “faction.” It was happening, everybody knew it was happening, but as you can imagine nobody was recording anything, and the only proof of its existence was that it worked. You could order a car and pay the money and you’d get it. From the first Model T Fords, choice horses back in the Civil War, and maybe even with camels back in the Bible, (definitely including wives) there’s been somebody who wanted what you had.
The whole thing worked because if you stole a car in middle of Cowpens, South Carolina, nobody was ever going to see somebody driving it in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Midnight Auto Supply would still be a thriving business today if it weren’t for computer databases and electronics in cars that, if the thieves knew how to use, they could get an honest job. But now that I think about it, they’d still be stealing cars, because it wasn’t about not having a job, it was about stealing the car. Being able to sell it to somebody else was an afterthought. A happy accident.
Broke but Free
Broke But Free came from driving a flatbed semi. I was very young, and needed a job. I was hauling loads of lumber, steel, hay, ceiling tiles, bulldozer blades, and one time the computerized band saw that cuts out prefabricated desks.
It’s funny how a thought will come to you at a certain time in your life. My song Lonely wouldn’t have occurred to me back in those days. I was alone ninety percent of the time but never thought about being lonely. Loneliness is a byproduct of mortality. The very young have forever to make all the friends they can dream of. Surround themselves with life and love. I wasn’t worried about being isolated. I was certain I’d do this job for a while, save some money, and start recording the songs I’d written. One of which was Superman, which I started after getting home from my pizza delivery job one night when I was twenty.
Broke But Free started in South Dakota on the way to inner city Los Angeles. I don’t remember if the music came first or the song itself, but I do remember that what is now the first verse, “I can see your face superimposed on the interstate and God only knows,” did not. The third verse was first. The face on the interstate was two faces, one of my nieces on her tricycle and a great one of Elizabeth Hurley in worn out blue jeans. I cut them out and glued them to a notebook and the notebook lay on the dash of the truck reflecting up in the windshield. I think this summed up the “stuck in the middle alone” situation of my life. It was the kind of woman I hoped to one day meet, and the little girl that was so close to me and yet not mine. I eventually met a woman much like Liz Hurley, but as it goes, didn’t get to keep her. Ironically, she loved this song.
I think this song symbolizes how most of us feel. We work, work, work, and for what? Wouldn’t we be happy with lots less money if it came with lots more time with the people we love?
I pictured a little old guy sitting on the sidewalk, maybe on Duval St. outside Starbucks, playing a guitar. If you’ve ever been to the Starbucks on Duval St., you know there’s often a guy sitting there playing a guitar. And they’re surprisingly good. So here it is.
It’s morning on the Key West island. The mosquito plane has been over and the air is sweet and hot and not yet barometer soup. The sky is light, but the sun’s not up. It’s hours before the cruise ships dump their loads and the gutters flow with tourists.
The guy tunes up and then,… doop do do doop do doop doop do…. The first run is tentative. He’s not sure where the lick goes from there, but he likes the happy-go-lucky feel. Cause that’s how he feels. It’s cost most of what he’s saved in life to get here and buy a few hundred square feet of the American Bahamas. And its worth it. He plucked out the end of the lick again, stretching his fingers to get the inversion on the four chord. It’s rough, but he knows it’ll get better. He plays it again from the top. This time it runs like butter on hot toast.
He plays it until his fingers warm up and then stops and smiles as one of the other not-quite-homeless guitars squats down. Jerry, he thinks. Jerry says, “Play me that first part again.” So our guy plays it again, and on the second run through Jerry has it and they’re playing in stereo. Jerry has an old guitar with no apparent name brand, but the strings are good and so is Jerry.
After a couple repeats of the intro, they both know it needs to go to a minor for some development. So they slide up the neck together and hit the six chord in different places. It sounds like more than two guitars, the thrums and twings are bouncing off the store front surrounding them.
Somebody comes out the front door with a muffin in one hand and a soy chai latte in the other.
The guitar starts in on the riff again. Doop do do….
A pleased, unguarded look comes over the face of the Soy Latte and he stands there for a moment, not sure where he was going. He’s forgotten everything but these two guitars playing a song he knows he’s heard before but can’t place. Whatever it is it’s from a better time in his life, somewhere decades ago he held his mothers hand and listened to this song. He starts to whistle and the guitars look up at him and smile. Soy Latte licks his lips to get some better english on the notes and follows them through the beginning of the new development. He knows he’s heard the song before but he doesn’t remember where it’s going so he’s picking up each new chord as they lay it down.
The manager of Starbucks comes out and starts to tell them to move on down the street. But then she just stands there, one hand one the door, the other on her stomach. She’s thirty seven years old with a kid and a mortgage. But when she opened the door, she was twenty seven again, standing in the bathroom of her one bedroom apartment in Eden Park holding a pee strip that’d just turned blue. Her first thought wasn’t “is this good? bad?” Her first thought was, “Hello.”
She walked back through the store, tossing her apron on the counter. The three kids making coffee stared at her like she was an alien. Which she now was. She wasn’t the girl they knew. She wasn’t their boss anymore. She was her. Again.
In the bag she called a purse, though it was really a bag, was a plastic toy flute. Her nine year old son’s.
She didn’t breathe again until she pushed the front door open. Then she heaved as though she’d been holding her breath like she did watching Kate Hudson looking for the treasure in the underwater cavern in Fool’s Gold.
She hadn’t played the flute since middle school, but had encouraged her son to try because she’d been pretty good. She fitted it to her rusty moue, and blew a C. The song was in D.
She felt weightless.
There were a few people standing around the guitars now. Most of them had been in Starbucks. They were all whistling, but thankfully not loud enough to cover up the real whistler. She fit herself in a third above his melody and…. Dooooo dowee do do da do booop do do do doo doo dooooo.
The sun’s up now. In an hour it’ll be too hot to hang out on the Duval St. sidewalk.
But for just this moment