DESOTO RUST talks about "Greene Country Towne"
DeSoto Rust is: Frontman Ray Hunter, Guitarist David Otwell, Dave Reeve on drums and cowbell and until fall of 2006 me, Mike Simmons on bass and guitar. We recorded our 2nd cd "Greene Country Towne" in early 2006 at my studio (Mars Audio). I recorded & produced the cd and wanted it to have a different feel from our first release. I didn't want the songs on the disc to be so tied to our live sound as the first cd was. We had talked a lot about adding keys or a good utility player/multi-instrumentalist to the live show and this cd is the result of that idea. We added organ & piano from Jim Poulicci, pedal steel from my good buddy/pedal steel god Dave Van Allen and some lovely and heavenly backing vocals from my friends Gretchen Schultz and Chris Havrilla. What we came up with is our sophomore release "Greene County Towne" named in a reference to Philadelphia founder Billy Penn's ideal of his new city. Philadelphia is our home and although none of us grew up here we've all adopted this great city as our own.
The disc is a collection of songs from 3 diverse songwriters and dubbed by guitarist David Otwell as our "Americana Rock Opera". Since there are 3 writers we'll each give our own background comments.
Trk 1 – "Day Like No Other Day" (Simmons): My buddy Bill restored a ‘67 Plymouth Satellite and we were driving around/bar-hoppin’ and listening to old Skynyrd tapes. It brought back a lot of memories of growing up back in Ohio for me and this is the result.
Trk 2 - "Backyard" (Hunter): A simple little rambling in G, with a nice little love story to accompany it.. Unique in its musical openness, the subtleties used by everyone help to fill it out worked quite nicely. A good little happy song, with a happy ending. Everyone sure could use a happy ending every now and then.
Trk 3 – "Dark at Five" (Otwell): My first winter in Philly I was struck by how early darkness came and how quickly a beautiful fall became a hard winter. It turned in to a sort of metaphor for the struggle of dealing as an outsider with a big, strange city. I had the riff and the title for a few years before I got around to conjuring up the rest of the song. I think the keyboards absolutely make the song, smoothing out the riff and holding it all together.
Trk 4 - "One Step" (Hunter): This ones’ from the vault. Originally written about four years ago, it was one of the songs Reeve heard during tryouts and was hooked on. It was going to be on the first album, but didn't make the final cut, and was forced into musical "limbo". The song stuck with us long enough to be re-recorded on the second album, and the rest is history. Intentionally written be a long slow quasi-waltz.
Trk 5 – "Far Side of Town" (Simmons): This is a song about the challenges and pitfalls of starting fresh and on your own. It's about how far you'll go to not have to rely on someone else.
Trk 6 - "Easytown" (Hunter/Otwell): A very difficult story to tell when only seeing it from the outside. I left out a series of lines because I felt it more appropriate for Dave Otwell to share his thoughts, being that he and his family are from and live in that area that was destroyed by hurricane Katrina. What I really liked about the track is the tension and conviction that is delivered. Short, sweet, and to the point with an aggressive punch and meaningful message, Easytown is my favorite.
Trk 7 - "Nice Enough Gal" (Simmons): This is a song about falling in love with your best friend after it's too late for her to see you that way.
Trk 8 - "Headin’ Down to Georgia" (Hunter): This was the first tune I brought in for the new album. It's got that "Hunter Length", but the dynamics are really solid and the song travels quite nicely. We had the benefit of time with this one, which helped with its overall flow. Another desperate story about desperate people, Georgia is a track that just has that true Desoto Rust feeling to it.
Trk 9 - "I'm Goin’ Home" (Simmons): I dedicate this to all the optimists who've driven hundreds of miles in the anticipation of love.
Trk 10 - "Last Time You Fell in Love" (Otwell): I’ll give her name: Rose Mary. We went broken up for as long as four years at a stretch, but kept getting back together even though it was always doomed. Love just ain’t enough sometimes. Mike always heard Roy Orbison in the song, so I even used a Gibson guitar like his to record the tune. Tremelo on the break was intentionally very 50’s. Christine Havrilla and Gretchen Schultz’s backing vocals seal the deal, particularly on the last line of the chorus at the end.
Trk 11 - "Swept in it Again" (Hunter): Going back to some days of old with this one. A little story about running into someone on a lonely road, and it not being so lonely after all. Another attempt to keep the tunes under the 3:30 time frame, ‘Swept’ just has a nice sense to it, and after David Otwell put in the final guitar arrangement, this one helps bring the whole show to a close.
Trk 12 – "John Young" (Simmons): This is about the crisis of middle times for a man, the decisions he makes and the bridges burned.
Here are links to buy the cd:
DESOTO RUST talks about first album "DeSoto Rust"
In 2002 the band was: Frontman Ray Hunter, Guitarist David Otwell and drummer Jane Sennet. I (Mike Simmons) was the new guy and joined on bass. At that point the band was called Heart Like Mine (a goofy name, I think they even dotted the "i"’s with little hearts) the name was a left over from a former member. The sound was a lot different then, some punk tunes and some long, rambling "Elvis Costelo-esque" songs and a few other twangy/folky songs. Eventually we focused on the twangy side of our sound, Ray re-dubbed the band DeSoto Rust and we recorded a demo to help get gigs. Things got a little too twangy for Jane and she left the band. Dave Reeve joined as drummer and we started gigging more seriously there after. By the time we went to record this first disc our live set was very polished and as the producer/engineer I wanted to retain our "live" feel. The basic tracks went down very fast, there was a little overdubbing but not very much. We were helped in the studio by my friends Chris Havrilla and Hollis Payer on vocals and fiddle respectively. I kept the production very, very simple because I was referencing discs made by my hero's in the genre; Flying Burrito Bros., New Riders and The Band. The disc was released to a deafening silence until Paul Kerr of AmericanaUK and John Conquest of 3CM gave us nice reviews and then the disc was picked up by indy radio in Europe and the States. (by Mike Simmons)
Since there are 3 songwriters on the first DeSoto Rust disc, I’ll let each give a little background on their own tunes.
Track 1: Morgan Rhule (Hunter):
This track almost didn't make it on the album. I had this pretty diddy, a descent story tied around my grandfather, but I couldn't make anything stick. I was so frustrated and close to just dumping it altogether. Simmons told me to shut up and just keep writing, working and putting it together, which I did in his studio. In the long run it really paid off. We put that bad boy down and it ended up being a really strong tune, nominated for song of the year.
Track 2: Austin Lights (Hunter)
Punchy, angry, dedicated to something pure. That was the simple message in this tune, and it struck well musically. I have been really concerned with this country of ours, and the way it has progressed over the past six plus years. From gun control, to being able to sing about what you feel and not be "black balled" for your effort, we have some real problems over here, and it doesn't look like its going to get solved anytime soon.
Track 3: For What it's Worth (Simmons)
This song is about looking back on how things might have been if different choices were made & different directions had been chosen. Christine Havrilla sings a beautiful duet here with me and Hollis Payer plays a fiddle that would work on any old Faces record.
Track 4: Recluse (Hunter)
What can I say about this that it doesn't already say itself? Much like Austin Lights, a concerning song about a very concerning time. Written from a perspective of having nothing, conflicting with those who have something, and deciding just what side of the tracks to be on. There is a lot more than possession to it, it's almost about a way of life.
Track 5: Kansas City, 6 AM (Otwell)
The song was inspired by an article I read about long-haul truckers. All the truck stop imagery ("grey diesel air") made me think of a really busy place where no one really knows anyone else or their stories. Being lonely in a crowd. The line "there you go", uttered amidst all the engines and airbrakes at the beginning of the tune, was actually me telling Mike that the level in the headphones was good. It became a "found sound" that Mike worked into the mix.
Track 6: Jim Beam (Simmons)
This is about my long and sometimes sordid relationship with bourbon.
Track 7: Make it Last (Hunter)
This recording had our original drummer Jane on it. Very early in our beginnings as DeSoto Rust, it was originally recorded as a demo, but the raw sense of it all had me siding with it as opposed to re-recording it with our new drummer Reeve. A beautiful use of the cowbell, Jane needed to be on this puppy as much as anyone of us.
Track 8: 100 Year Flood (Simmons)
This song is about people coming together in the face of adversity. It was inspired by stories of the 1913 flood in Dayton, Ohio that I heard when I was a kid.
Track 9: Can't Sleep at Night (Simmons)
....see track 6
Track 10: Stronger Than the Knife (Hunter)
I wrote this tune right around the time we we're deciding to go to war with Iraq. We as a country were just attacked, scary enough itself yes, but after 9/11 this country pulled together in such a way that I had never seen. We were united, and I had never been so proud to be an American. The rest of the outside world had their collective hand out, wanting, driven to help. For the two months after 9/11, I thought that if we played our cards right, as an entire planet of human beings, we could literally change the scope of our humanity, and change the way we exist, a monumental achievement.
Too much hate though, too much fear, not enough evidence, we shed the offerings of a planet, demanded unacceptable terms to a planet we had no business demanding, invaded a nation without any substantial reasoning, and successfully divided our own nation in the process. Stronger than the knife was a song about learning from history, not repeating it, unfortunately, no one listened.
Track 11: 5 on7 (Hunter)
Wanted to make a fun, quick diddy about lost love and getting back to it. Okay, so the song wasn't that quick, (another eight minute rambling from a man who can't get to the point in fewer than four minutes), 5 on7 is just a straight forward tune that has caught the ears of a lot of people. Great playing by all who were on it.
Track 12: Runaround (Hunter)
Simmons, Reeve , and I were in the studio putting the finishing touches on this one, when I started getting curious. I cranked the VOX to eleven, turned the Gretsch up, and layed this really weird feedback track that if you listened well enough, you could pick up and go, how did that happen? To this day I still don't know, but I think the Gretsch had her own ideas about that one. Sonically a little different than the rest of the album, Runaround has a great attack to it, provided by some wonderful playing from DSR.
Track 13: Close Up the Honky Tonks (Red Simpson)
(comments by David Otwell): If this Red Simpson tune isn't a country classic, then it's an Alt-country classic, covered by everyone from the Flying Burrito Bros. and Byrds to the Grateful Dead. Ours is a faster version. No matter how you play it, you gotta SWING!
Here are links to buy the first cd: