WHEN THE ROSES BLOOM AGAIN SONG BY SONG
1. Too Late for Tonight (Laura Cantrell/Francis MacDonald)
This song was mostly written in the middle of the night. Except for the bridge chords that I couldnt quite get, no matter what time of day. Francis (my Glasgow-based drummer and label head) helped out with those on a lull one afternoon while touring the U.K. This song has been in the live set for the last year or so.
2. All the Same to You (Joe Flood)
Joe is a great writer and fiddle player who I've admired since his days with Mumbo Gumbo, a N.Y.-based roots band from the early '90s. We previously tapped his "Pile of Woe" for Not the Tremblin' Kind. This one originally appeared on his 2001 album Cripplin' Crutch, and Jon came up with the great electric 12-string intro.
3. Early Years (Laura Cantrell)
One of my new originals inspired by those California-based country artists of the '50s and '60s, like Merle Haggard, Bonnie Owens, Tommy Collins and Wynn Stewart. Jay and Jon traded off on the acoustic guitars, and Robin and Jay sang it real sweet.
4. Don't Break the Heart (Amy Rigby)
I've been a fan of Amy's since I heard her band the Last Roundup playing live on the radio in the mid-'80s. She was one of the first writers I was aware of playing country music from the perspective of a young person living in New York. "Don't Break the Heart" was included on her debut album, Diary of a Mod Housewife, in 1996.
5. Wait (Jay Sherman-Godfrey)
Jay has produced (and played guitar on) these last two records for me and contributed the lovely "Little Bit of You" to Not the Tremblin' Kind. He describes this song as his "country Badfinger" effort. It has a beautiful melody and Jon played some sweet pedal steel guitar to keep it country.
6. Mountain Fern (Laura Cantrell)
"Mountain Fern" is probably my favorite of the original songs on this album. It is based on the story of Molly O'Day, a popular radio performer and recording artist of the late '40s and early '50s. She struggled to balance her musical career with her fervent religious beliefs, and ultimately decided to abandon the secular music business altogether. Her real name was Laverne Williamson and she had several stage personas before settling on Molly O'Day, among them "Mountain Fern" and "Dixie Darling."
7. Vaguest Idea (Dan Prater)
Dan was a member of the storied Beat Rodeo, a long-running country rock band that played every Monday night on the Lower East Side. Singer and bass player, he also wrote great songs that fit nicely between their Buck Owens and Beach Boys covers. We also did his "Do You Ever Think of Me" on Not The Tremblin' Kind.
8. Yonder Comes a Freight Train (Ray Pennington)
I first heard this song on an old radio show by Jim & Jesse, one of the important "brother" duos in bluegrass music. I am almost certain this is the only bluegrass song with a New York City subway reference! We've been doing "Yonder" in our live show for a long time, since it gives the band a chance to play real fast.
9. Broken Again (Laura Cantrell)
This is an older song of mine that was written as I watched a friend wrestle with some bad habits that I wanted no part of. Robin and I used to do this in an acoustic group we had called the Watchbirds; then Robin, Jay and I performed it as a trio before we added the rest of the band.
10. When the Roses Bloom Again (A.P. Carter/Arr. Wilco)
I first heard this song sung by Sally Timms (of the Mekons) on her album Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments. She played it live on a visit to the Radio Thrift Shop and I sat rapt, forgetting that I was supposed to be running the show while she sang. Sally explained that Billy Bragg and Wilco discovered the lyric in the Woody Guthrie archives and Jeff Tweedy had written a beautiful melody for it. They subsequently realized that the lyric was probably a traditional song copyrighted by A.P. Carter of the Carter Family, and couldn't include it in the Mermaid Avenue project for which it was recorded (the Wilco version finally surfaced on the Chelsea Walls soundtrack). I learned the song to sing on a tour of the U.K. and recorded a solo version for my first Peel Session. I love the idea that an old song passes through so many hands and becomes new again.
11. Conqueror's Song (Dave Schramm)
Dave Schramm is one of my favorite songwriters and guitarists, and leads a great band from Hoboken called the Schramms. This song was featured on their 1994 album Little Apocalypse. I couldn't quite figure out which oppressor Dave was protesting with this song; unfortunately, it could have been one of many candidates. But for me the song could be political or personal, a statement of resistance against untruthfulness.
12. Oh So Many Years (Frankie Bailes)
This is a quintessential country song from the 1950s recorded by Kitty Wells and Webb Pierce as a duet, and also quite beautifully by the Everly Brothers on their back-to-the-roots album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.I listened to a lot of Everly Brothers as a child and have carried this song around since then for lonely rainy evenings.
Jackson Heights, N.Y.