“I’ve known Pete Grant for years and he’s always scared me whenever he plays. It's not the fear of spiders or fear of death, it's the fear of not practicing enough to be able to play the same things that Peter can play. And it’s not technique for technique’s sake either, it’s just good and scary stuff that comes directly from the heart by way of his brain. He's the master of the “snapper”—when you're onstage playing with him on some tune he’ll do something so mind-blowingly amazing that your head snaps around automatically to see what he just did. I would recommend buying anything he records. Get scared.” -- David Lindley (www.davidlindley.com)“Pete Grant is a great player, equally at home on dobro, lap steel, Weissenborn, pedal steel—this guy does it all, and does it beautifully, with heart and soul.” -- Mike Auldridge (www.mikeauldridge.com)
I'm delighted and honored. Thank you, gentlemen.
This album began in 1985, when I wrote many of these tunes and recorded them in my home studio, playing all the instruments. My friend John Pearse introduced me to a fellow who was starting a new record company. In early 1986, based on the tape I made, I signed a recording contract with that company. I was to sign away all the publishing to my tunes. Since there would be, presumably, promotion and distribution, the idea is that I would get lots of exposure. Usually my approach to that is, “If I want exposure, I’ll wait ‘til it’s winter, then go up in the mountains and take off all my clothes.” But, since I’d written several of the tunes in the space of a few weeks, I could write lots more. I’d go for the exposure. One reassuring part of the contract, however, was that, if the company failed to release product in 18 months, I would own the publishing. Well, I now own the publishing. The company went belly-up after the final mix was done, and just before album art was commissioned.
Incidentally, I like calling this CD an ‘album’— it’s no more an album than a long playing vinyl record was an album. The term goes back to when companies would bundle a bunch of 78 rpm records together in an album much like a photo album. One dictionary definition of album is that of a collection of selected works. We certainly have that here.
The album had four incarnations. The first was when five artists newly signed to the company recorded twenty-four hours a day for two days at Different Fur in San Francisco, three of us sleeping on studio couches while waiting our turn. Since my sleep schedule was then based around nightclub hours, I was the one most likely to begin recording at three or four in the morning. It was quite a marathon.
Since my recording was the only one that required multiple overdubs, my project was minimally complete at the end of the allotted time, so a month later we went in and I recorded tracks to fill out the arrangements. I was fairly happy with the project, considering I had played on all the instruments, and could only be considered a bass player by a serious stretch of imagination..
Thankfully, two things happened to bring about the third incarnation. One was a serendipitous meeting on an airplane. The fledgling record exec met my friend David Campbell and got him involved as producer. The other was that the exec had played my tape around and the consensus was that my bass playing was OK, but not really interesting. Cool! Let’s get a real bass player. We got Jamie Faunt. What a treat! Jamie was a monster bass player (not to mention an excellent teacher), and gave a whole new dimension to the project.
David Campbell (www.davidmusic.com) is a great viola player and arranger, and does strings for the likes of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and Lee Ann Womack, to name a few. At the time, he ‘only’ had 31 Gold and Platinum albums. Now he has over 300 and 29 Grammies and three Oscars! No one is more deserving. He’s just a magical fellow. He brings a lightness and joy to everything he does.
The fourth and final incarnation—the one you’ll be hearing—is when I finally got custody of the master tapes and John Jacob expertly transferred them to the digital domain. I then did the rough mixes at home on a Digidesign Pro Tools Digi 002 system.
TECH TALK: If you’re thinking of buying a Pro Tools setup, the very best place to get it is from Sweetwater (www.sweetwater.com). Their tech support is awesome and more than supplements Avid’s exclusionary and often inaccessible tech ‘support.’ My Sweetwater rep is Ben Porter (800-222-4700 x1275), who is more than knowledgeable and helpful. There have been times where he sent me elsewhere for a product because another company had more of what I was looking for than they did. That’s my kind of rep.
When a got a few rough mixes finished, I went to San Jose, where John Jacob and I went for the final mix. We had great fun cleaning up the sound and mixing. It was really fun choosing the Altiverb room sounds. I have high respect for John’s artistic sense and his meticulous attention to detail, two things essential in getting a good product. It’s not often that you find both characteristics fully realized in one person.
Rene Topalian came up with the title for this tune. It does reflect comfort and home. I intentionally wrote it so that it would sneak out of the key without anyone noticing it.
To a Dancer
A great many years ago I was attracted to a comely blond-haired lass, who at one point decided for whatever reason that she would no longer speak to me. So I wrote a song and sang it to all the dancers in the club. I’m sparing you the lyrics in this version.
Smoke Tree Lane Suite (Yeah · Hyr · Dwee)
My namesake, the late Peter S. Hurlbut, lived in Woodside and was gracious enough to allow me to stay at his place while I recorded in the city (San Francisco). He was one of my dad’s two best friends and a master craftsman, much like his father, Fred. We’d often have Thanksgiving at Fred and Susie’s farm in San Mateo. Imagine that, a farm in San Mateo.
On these tunes I play a Weissenborn guitar (Yeah and Dwee) and a koa wood pre-Depression Stella Hawaiian (Hyr). They are both tuned D A D F# A D (low to high).
There’s no reason an open-tuned instrument has to always play in the key it’s tuned to. This one’s in D, but goes to Bb for a while, then comes back.
I called this Hyr because it’s hymn-like but is about a her. We used a reverb of a cathedral.
A playful romp.
The zany nature of this tune brought back thoughts of my late friend Steve Libbea, who was an exceptional musician and great fun to play with. His nickname was “Pie Face.” On Pie Face, and all the tracks that had 6-string dobro, I used my very first dobro that I bought in 1964. It was an early thirties Royale, made by Dobro for Montgomery Ward. I borrowed it back from Bob Freimark to do the sessions. He bought it from me in 1966. At the time, I was using what I called “High G” tuning (G D G B D G ).
Another zany tune. I wrote this shortly after I first heard a recording of Roy Smeck, who started out playing in vaudeville. My playing isn't as zany as his but it is fun. Originally the record exec vetoed it off the album. My friend Rod Brown, when he made a CD of the only extant cassette tape of the mix, added the tune (from some other recording) as I had originally intended. This time I recorded it in 2004 at John Jacob's studio in San Jose, California with my new National Model D (www.nationalguitars.com). It's a wood-bodied single cone spider for all you resophiles out there.
I Saw Her Again Today
I’m honored that David liked this solo pedal steel tune enough to write some delightful string parts for it. I tried to stay true to his original mix, though I’ll have to admit nudging up the parts just a little.
Sometimes I Dream of You
This tune actually has lyrics which Juli England and I wrote. It’s about missing someone you’ve lost touch with.
On this tune, the rhythm instruments are done on 12-string slide.
This melody came to me on the way home from a gig in Newhall, California. I sang it all the way home to Eagle Rock, then sat down at the steel—glad I had one waiting at home besides the one in the van—and put it down on tape.
This one started as a banjo instrumental, but, to make it a little more seamless in the album, I made it a reso instrumental. I play my second 10-string Dobro, built for me in 1978 by Ron Lazar. I tuned it to a variation of the pedal steel E9th tuning ( E B E F# G# B E G# D# F# ). I now tune my 10-string a whole tone lower ( D A D E F# A D F# C# E )
I wrote this tune to cheer up my friend John Pearse, who was getting over a fairly serious operation. I put together a tape of instrumentals on resonator guitar and acoustic slide for him and, in the process, needed something cheery and whimsical. I wanted to make the non-pedal acoustic instrument sound like a pedal instrument, so there was extensive use of forward and reverse slants. When I went into the studio, I made it a sort of a duel between the pedal steel and the resonator guitar.
In Spite of it All
This is the solitary electric lap steel slide piece. I wanted the backup band to be different, so I chose autoharps for the rhythm section. I played a way cool instrument—called a Melobar—that’s a stand-up-to-play ‘lap’ slide. It has two pickups, a big strong neck, and a body that is not at all unlike a couch cushion, complete with velour cover. I’m forever grateful to David Lindley for providing me with it. Jamie Faunt gives wonderful support and counterpoint.
2. To a Dancer
3. Smoke Tree Lane Suite (Yeah · Hyr · Dwee)
4. Pie Face
5. The Cartoon Song
6. I Saw Her Again Today
7. Sometimes I Dream of You
8. Desert Rain
9. Steel Waltz
10. Skippin’ Stones
11. Steel Crazy
12. In Spite of it All
Pete Grant: Pedal Steel Guitar, Resonator Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Melobar Slide Guitar, 5-string Banjo, Autoharp, Hammer Dulcimer, Bass (on track 9, Steel Waltz).
Jamie Faunt: Bass (except tracks 5 & 9)
David Campbell: (www.davidmusic.com) String Arrangements & Violas (Tracks 2 & 6)
John Jacob Digital Recording Engineer (Track 6), Analog to Digital Transfer, Mixdown Engineer, Mastering Engineer.
Produced by John Pearse, David Campbell & Pete Grant
Original Producer John Pearse
Mixed by John Jacob & Pete Grant
All songs composed by Pete Grant, Fast Idyll Music, ASCAP
I use and heartily endorse John Pearse Strings and John Pearse® Thermo-Cryonic™ Tone Bars (www.jpstrings.com), National Reso-Phonic Guitars (www.nationalguitars.com), Deering Banjos (www.deeringbanjos.com), and Shubb Capos (www.shubb.com).
Pete Grant uses no Gibson instruments made under their current predatory regime.
© 2017 Pete Grant