"Songs of Love, Death, and Trains"
(Proud Mountain Records)
Here’s a little background on how the recording of the album came about. I met Kevin Suggs a few years back when we both lived in the same apartment building in Seattle, Washington. Kevin was working at a recording studio around town and I had been writing songs and was just starting to play my music out as a solo singer-songwriter. It was a few years later when I came across Kevin’s pedal steel credit on the Shins song "Gone for Good" and I knew we needed to work together.
The majority of this album was recorded live. All of David’s vocals and acoustic guitar were keepers from the live take with the band. It’s a good way of working because the end result is a very honest sound that works well for David's type of music. Any rough edges are an asset to the songs. There are two different rhythm sections on the record that we did in two separate sessions a few months apart. The two pieces that are common to all the songs are David on acoustic and Travis on electric guitar. The pedal steel, keys, cello, and banjo were all added later. It was really an organic process. We didn't get bogged down in the overdub stage and didn’t want to refine the feel out of things. (Kevin Suggs)
"ALL THE TRAINS" was the first song that I wrote for the new record and I just knew that it needed pedal steel from the very first note. Brady Hall, who plays drums on this track, asked me if he could sing a little harmony. I hadn’t really known that he could sing in a falsetto voice, but I was blown away with the result.
"JULIA" has the most rocking guitar track on the whole record. I thought the track had a little too much distortion at first until the keys were recorded, adding the perfect amount of texture to the song. Once again, that’s Brady singing on the chorus.
"IF THE WORLD" is the song that bridges the first record with the second. It just made sense after hearing the rough mixes to have Taryn Webber come in and record a cello part. Taryn also played on the first record and she can put down a flawless track on the first take.
"NO LONESOME TUNE" is one of my favorite Townes Van Zandt songs and I hope we did the song justice. I love Bob Congleton’s bass part, which brings to mind that classic 70’s style country bass line.
"WILLOW TREE" is my take on an Appalachian murder ballad. I asked my old friend Nick Reckhart from Pennsylvania, who plays in the bluegrass family band The Reckharts to record a banjo part. Living so far apart, we couldn’t get into the studio together, so I sent him the rough mix and he went in to a studio in Pennsylvania and sent me his track a few days later. One of the most fascinating elements in recording technology in the last few years is the ability to record anywhere in the world.
"RAINDROPS" I figured that a record about trains should have a train rhythm song, so I wrote “Raindrops”. Once again Kevin Suggs adds some country twang and Mark Walters keeps the train rolling with those snare rolls. When I play live with the band, this is one of the most crowd-pleasing songs that gets people on their feet.
"HEAVEN AND HELL" is one of the longer songs that I’ve written, and Cathy Castell’s keys give the song a nice dreamy feel that I was looking for. I play a shorter version of this song live, but I was glad to include the extended version on the record.
"NAIL ON THE WALL" I’ve actually released two versions of “Nail on the Wall”. First was the version that I recorded for a 7-inch single about a year before the full album came out. The guitar track on the 7-inch has distortion through the whole track. For the album version, we only brought the guitar track up during the choruses. And on the album version, we let the upright bass playing of Kevin Millard come through a little more, which I felt made the verses more intimate and the chorus have a bit more impact this time around.
"CIGARETTES AND BOURBON" is another rocking number. This one is a great showcase for Travis Hartnett’s guitar playing with a solo intro and outro. When I brought this song to the band I wasn’t sure it was going to make it on the record until I heard Travis’ guitar part. His playing really brings the song alive. I also love the inter-play between Travis’ guitar and the pedal steel on the choruses.
"I DON’T HEAR YOU" Travis and I showed up early for a session and recorded “I Don’t Hear You” while waiting for the other band members to arrive. I wanted the album to go out on a contemplative note, so it seemed appropriate to have just the two of us play. Travis has an acoustic baritone and I love how it sounds on this track. We thought the baritone almost sounds like a piano.