Markus Rill
talks about "The Price Of Sin"
by Markus Rill

MARKUS RILL talks about
"The Price Of Sin" (Blue Rose Records)

For a long time I’d been wanting to make a predominantly acoustic album. Some of my all-time favorite records are all-acoustic: „Train A-Comin’“ by Steve Earle, „The Ghost Of Tom Joad“ by Bruce Springsteen, „Crossing Muddy Waters“ by John Hiatt and „Solitary Man“ by Johnny Cash.
I felt confident I had matured enough as a performer and songwriter to pull it off. And the songs I had written quite naturally lent themselves to that sort of approach. Luckily, sound engineer George Bradfute was amenable to the idea and my dream team of musicians was available for the sessions in Nashville in October of 2005.
I really had the most wonderful time recording with Fats Kaplin, Dave Jacques and Bryan Owings. And then my good friend Dave Coleman came in to sing harmonies and backing vocals. Needless to say that George Bradfute not only contributed amazing guitar and cello parts, he’s also a great guy to collaborate with during the recording and mixing process. I can’t say enough good things about George & the guys.
A word on the title. The working title during the whole making of the album and the photo shoot was „Singing In The Cemetery“. However, as I listened to the album back home in Germany, it occurred to me that there was a common thread of morality and dealing with one’s imperfections in that regard running through every song on the album that the „Cemetery“ title didn’t quite capture. Hence, „The Price Of Sin“.

Started writing this one on August 6, 2004 and finished it on Aug 7, 2004, the third anniversary of my mother’s death. That’s where that line „I still feel like crying today like I cried for you three years ago“ comes from. George pieced together that intro from two different takes of Fats playing the pedal steel. I like how the album starts out with that ominous sound.

Quite possibly the best song I’ve written so far. However it’s quite a daunting task to record a song when you feel that way about it. I felt that Fats’s atmospheric steel guitar overdub was just what the song needed.

In early 2004 I saw a bunch of bluegrass concerts and was quite intrigued by the tradition to write songs about real-life scoundrels and gangsters. I came up with that chorus on Bonnie Parker before I had done any research on her life at all. Then when I did delve into her biography, I was quite surprised to find that there had really been a man in her life I could use as the song’s narrator. To the best of my knowledge, all the facts are accurate, including Bonnie’s tattoo and Roy’s prison stint.

Maybe my first ever real bona fide love song.

Well, then this is number two. A number of images in that song came straight from reading Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles”, the shooting star, the train whistle, the „pure as rain“ line.


A story song that almost would’ve fallen by the wayside, had not a journalist called it „a classic“ the first time he heard my demo of it. The band really played beautifully on that one and I was very happy with the live vocal. The only thing we added is George’s beautiful cello part. I love how the cello and the accordion create a mournful sound.

I’d had this guitar lick lying around for quite a while but I didn’t know how to use it in a song. Upon hearing Ray Wylie Hubbard’s „Growl“ album I realized I could turn this into a bluesy thing – and yet I still didn’t know how to arrange it. In the studio Bryan suggested what he called „a real knucklehead groove“ and Fats started playing this wild mandolin stuff and the song took on a life of its own. And then the next morning I came to the studio and George said he’d added a dobro part and, man, what he’d put on just blew my mind. I fondly remember mastering genius Jim DeMain calling this song „magic“.

Well, there you go. What started out so promising with „My Love Runs To You“ turned sour cause I screwed up. A pretty honest song, though.

I found this little lick on the guitar but it really felt like an old-time fiddle lick. This was the first song we tried Monday morning in the studio and it came out maybe a little stiff. When we were done with the whole album, we said we’d give this one another shot ... and weehoo, off we went.

The original lyric to this one was quite different, the guy acting all nonchalant. Well, that didn’t feel right to me anymore and I changed the lyric and came up with this chant at the very end. The boys played beautiful on that one. All live except for George’s cello.

Man, are these guys wonderful musicians or what? A real beautiful performance by every single one of the guys. The basic live track was pretty spectacular already and then George overdubbed some soulful guitar and my good friend Andi Obieglo recorded his piano at home in Germany and sent the track over. I love what the song says and how it came out.

True story, written the week before Christmas in 2004.