Welcome to Raker john's CD liner notes page! First, let me say that this is a work in progress as the selection and recording of the songs is currently taking place. This means that there may be many additions/subtractions along the way and I ask your patience (or forgiveness) as the effort continues...
Some time ago I put together a summary of my musical history which presents the different stages in chronological sequence. This also describes the various places I was living and (some of) my personal relationships and professional situations at the time - all part of the influences effecting my music. It may be a little long for some but it became my way of putting it down so I wouldn't forget it - sort of like a memoir. (More like a string around my finger...) Used in conjunction with these liner notes, it should give you a pretty complete picture of "where I was" at the time these tunes came to influence me. I hope you enjoy the experience...
This site is a general collection of thoughts, comments and trivia related to my first and second CDs, How I Got To Here... Volumes 1 & 2. This started out to be a single CD but, as the song list continued to grow I knew I wouldn't be able to eliminate enough for just a single CD without feeling the result was incomplete. At that point I simply resigned myself to the obvious solution of producing a 2-CD review of a partial list of the songs that had a lasting influence on my musical tastes and writings.
I feel lucky to have been able to include some of my dear friends, including Don Burger, John Carter, John Austin, Heidi Witmer, Tommy Powell and Bradford Carson, in this project since many of them so often joined me at the bakery on Friday mornings or in other musical groups that I participate in locally. I am also honored to have a group of other local musicians who contributed their talents to several of these tracks, namely, Mike Guggino, Tim Gardner and Mark Wingate. All bring a totally new dimension to many of these tunes. Each contributor created their own parts with only minimal input and direction from me (can you believe that?). We hope you have fun with these thoughts and abstract ramblings as well as the detailed instrument listings for each tune. For the sake of brevity (and when did that ever become an issue with me?) I have attempted to identify the artist and album from which I first learned the songs; I encourage you to seek these examples out for more complete song information and to hear the version that inspired me in the first place. Most of the information I provide is to the best of my ability to remember. Things get a bit hazy after 50 or so years... Enjoy!!! Raker john
Volume 1 is my first recording and is composed of songs by other artists that were influential in the early stages of developing both my style and, in many ways, my taste in music. Not here are all the wonderful rock and jazz tunes that, while influencing my musical sensibilities, are well beyond my capabilities as a musician! Alot has changed over the years, including perspective, but these songs are still among the ones I play from time to time just to bring it all back and remember...
In making this recording I became aware of all the songs and artists that should be represented here but aren't due simply to the sheer number of them. There are none here by Phil Ochs, Tom Rush, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Len Chandler, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Simon & Garfunkel, Peter, Paul & Mary or The Kingston Trio; all these artist had profound effects on my musical development. But, who knows - maybe that will be another volume in itself...
God did not bless me with a great voice but He did grace me with a deep regard for music and song. I can usually figure out chord changes and grace notes and even if I can't play stinging lead riffs I can offset that with an appropriate arrangement to compliment the song rather than impress the listener. So, while I don't pretend to perform these songs as well as those I learned them from, I can present them for your consideration. If you enjoy the song, I'd hope that you might seek out the version of the tune I heard that made me want to learn it in the first place. If nothing else, let this be a list of "recommended listening" for those of us that enjoy that type of thing. I'll try to supply album titles where I can so that the original versions can be found more easily...
The CD Tracks Themselves
Volume 1 - The Early Years
Coal Tattoo - Billy Ed Wheeler
This is one of the finest coal miner songs I have ever heard. It serves both the struggle and lust of the coal miner back in the early unionization days. I always loved the passion in the lyrics and sorrow in the music - learned from the Judy Collins album In Concert around 1965. Just recently I learned that Billy Ed lives "just up the road a piece" in Black Mountain, NC and subsequently saw him when we both attended a Tom Paxton concert in Asheville....
Reason To Believe - Tim Hardin
When I first heard Tim Hardin I was struck by how his lyrics cut right to the point and didn't rely on the mystic imagery that was popular by some artists of that period (1965-6). His love ballads were some of my favorites but I lacked his vocal talents (and still do, unfortunately). His are still some of my favorite songs. This is from his album entitled Tim Hardin 1.
Devil Got My Woman - Skip James
This is a tune I heard Geoff Muldaur do when he was with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and can be found on the 1963 Elektra album EKS 7264 entitled The Blues Project by an assortment of early folk and blues players. They played a concert at a small hall in Tallahassee in 1966 and we then spent the bulk of the night at a small club where they had a DJ. I had the incredible fortune to spend most of my time dancing (if you can believe that) with their fiddle player and female vocalist Maria D'Amato. Later in the evening I was listening to Bill Keith playing some great banjo in the kitchen and happened to mention that Geoff had been giving me the "stink eye" all night and I wasn't sure why. Keith then laughed and said, "Well, you've been dancing with his wife all night - what'd you expect?!". Unknown to me, they had been recently married so she was now Maria Muldaur... She was evil... but she loved to dance...
The vocal on this is channeling one part Geoff Muldaur and one part my blues persona (named using the standard process of an affliction, followed by the name of a fruit, followed by the name of a US president - like Blind Lemon Jefferson...), Asthmatic Mango Fillmore...
The Hermit - Oscar Brand
I don't really remember who I learned this tune from but it was during my early college days when sung limericks and other "racy" tunes (for that period) were in favor in the coffee houses of the day. I enjoyed it for its understated nature while still getting the "point" across, as it were. Who knew I used to do songs of this sort?
Handsome Molly - Traditional
This is an old English ballad that I originally learned from the Ian & Sylvia album, Four Strong Winds. Their version is done in a sort of country style almost bordering on bluegrass, back-beat and everything. For some reason I started playing it in drop-D tuning and slowing it down a little; over the years it evolved into the version you here on this CD. I have included more of the original lyrics than Ian & Sylvia did as well.
Jug Band Music - Gus Gannon
This is a tune I learned from the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and can be found on their album from 1965, The Jim Kweskin Jug Band. It was another byproduct of the meeting referenced in the previous discussion. What fun music to play - especially with wonderful musicians like Mike Guggino who contributed the mandolin on this recording!
The Prostitute Trilogy
There are three songs that compose what I refer to as my "Prostitute Trilogy". It is composed of the following song, Grand Hotel, Louise, and should actually include Darryl Scott's Rhonda's Last Ride but, alas, I don't have the vocal chops for that so I use Tecumseh Valley instead. Maybe, someday, I can make it a four-song set...
Grand Hotel - David Blue
This song was done by Jim&Jean on their 1965 album Changes along with several others that are among my favorites. Though they were more "pop" than most of the folk artists I was following, the driving beat held stead by bassist Harvey Brooks and the lovely intertwining harmonies of their vocals made them one of my favorites. This song uses the imagery of the period to express that age-old longing for acceptance and love - regardless of its source.
Bad Dream Blues - Dave Von Ronk
I first heard this song done by a friend of mine, John Pearson, in Tallahassee Florida while attending FSU. Later I heard it sung by the composer Dave Von Ronk on the Blues Project compilation album. I like both versions and this is somewhat a combination of both. I play this in DADGAD tuning for those keeping track of that sort of thing...
Last Thing On My Mind - Tom Paxton
And, speaking of Tom Paxton, he has got to be one of our nation's mose prolific songwriters - and one of our best. This tune appeared on (I think) his first album, Tom Paxton, in 1965 and was the tune I listened to for hours on end to learn how to Travis-pick the guitar; the simple accompaniment of the song made it a perfect example for the fingerpicking style to be clearly heard and understood. My trio (Rita, Rail & Raker john) made it one of our "standard" tunes that was always done in our set list, regardless of the audience (mostly FSU students and Tallahassee "townies"). In the spring of 1966, when it came time for us to play our last song together before Rail and I left for California, Rita said, "Somebody just pick a tune." and this is the tune I picked - for obvious reasons.
Bottle Of Wine - Tom Paxton
Another one of Tom Paxton's tune - this time from the 1966 Ramblin' Boy album. Many play this as a sort of bouncy, happy tune but, after really thinking about the lyrics, I think there was more to the story - and that's how I present it here...
In The Hills Of Shiloh - Shel Silverstein
Judy Collins did this version (more or less) on her 1965 In Concert album with only banjo and cello for accompaniment and it has haunted me ever since then. As unlikely a source as Shel Silverstein seems to be, he was well-respected as a songwriter and this, to me, is one of his best - I only hope I do it justice... Special thanks to Tim Gardner for the mournful fiddle part!
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away - John Lennon & Paul McCartney
This is one of the few Beatle's songs in my repetoire. I watched John perform it in the movie Help! and really connected with it even though I was a radical folkie at the time. I got semi-blank stares when I spontaneously performed it for Rita and Rail during one of our performances at FSU (a sorority house, as I recall). Anyway, it's a good song, regardless of genre...
Royal Canal - Traditional
This is another tuned I learned from the Ian & Sylvia Four Strong Winds album back in the early days of the folk music revival. I love the sense of yearning that Ian projected through the entire song and hope at least part of that comes through on this version. I play it in DADGAD tuning for those keeping track of that sort of thing...
Ten Degrees And Getting Colder - Gordon Lightfoot
I heard this on Gordon's first album in 1968 and loved the feel and texture of it. There was a lot going on in my life at the time and the thought of being on the road, drifting from place to place, appealed to me at the time - regardless of the consequences.
Six Black Diamonds - Tommy Powell
Tommy Powell was a friend of mine in Fort Myers, Florida, introduced to me by Rail Guthrie back in the 60's. This is one of his songs that I have always wanted to do but (until recently) did not have a recording of to learn it from. Fortunately, before Tommy's passing in 2011, I recieved a rare copy of him doing the song. It seemed only fitting that I should record his song using the guitar it was probably written on so I used the Martin 000-18 I got from him in trade for my Martin D-35 back in 1982. Thanks, Tommy, for everything.
The View From Ward 3 - Marty Cooper
This song was learned from the group Hearts & Flowers who were the "house band" at the Troubadour on L.A.'s Sunset Strip around 1966-67. They have been widely credited with being the first of the "California Country Rock" bands that so many now associate with The Byrds, Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers and, ultimately, The Eagles. Hearts & Flowers was a trio utilizing guitar, banjo and autoharp to present folk-flavored country-inspired tunes penned by themselves and other notables at the time such as Waylan Jennings. This particular tune is about what all musicians that migrated to California to become discovered experienced; while we were focused on the music, the producers, managers and other beasts of prey were focused on the money to be made - and if they didn't see any, you just didn't exist... This first appeared on the album Now Is The Time For Hearts & Flowers.
Bob Dylan's Dream - Bob Dylan
This is not the first Bob Dylan Song I learned, nor is it the last one - but it is the only one that has stayed with me over all these years and still rings as true as it did the first time I heard it. My rendition has changed a bit over the years, as I gained more experince in life, and now it has that authentic sense of loss that, I think, Bob felt when he wrote it. I hope you enjoy it.
Volume 2 - The Later Years
I Was A Square - Verlon Thompson
This is a tune I learned from Verlon Thompson, the composer, during a songwriter workshop at the Florida "Springfest" weekend. He said it all started out as a simple play on words and ended up being a heartfelt emotional confession. Hmmm, I guess that's why sometimes you just sit down and write. I owe special thanks on this recording to Mike Guggino for his wonderful mandolin part which really sets the proper mood. You can hear the original version on Verlon's 2004 CD Everywhere - Yet - it's worth the effort...
Love's A Word I Never Throw Around - Robert Earl Keen, Jr., Universal Music Publishing Group (BMI)
This song appeared on The Blue Ridge Bakery Boys' first CD Half-Baked which was released in 2012. I've ebnhanced the sound a bit by adding a bass part and having Mike Guggino work his magic on the mandolin.
I first heard this song done by The Greencards as, basically, a bluegrass tune done in a somewhat upbeat tempo with mandolin and fiddle driving the tune. The more I listened to the lyrics, the more I thought of it being more of a love song, requiring a more thoughtful rendition. About two years ago I re-arranged it for DADGAD tuning and, while I liked the suspended chords this brought, it made it more difficult to do as an ensemble piece so I changed it back to standard tuning but kept some of the suspended and added ninth chords I so dearly love; that's the version you'll hear on the CD. The funny thing is that I recently saw a YouTube video of The Greencards' current lineup doing this tune and they are now doing a version that sounds closer to mine than their original arrangement. Go figure... John R.
Wisteria - Richard Shindell
I loved this tune from the first time I heard it on Richard's CD Somewhere Near Patterson because it conjoured up images of my first house at 97 Clark Street in Wilmington, Massachusetts when all the bushes and trees were in bloom. It was a sight that always brought me joy and I remember returning there almost 20 years after I sold it and barely recognized it because the new owner(s) had added another whole side to the house and the Christmas trees I had planted in the front yard were now over 20 feet tall! But the other trees and bushes remained and I think of that original house every time I play this. Interestingly, it only occurred to me some 30 years after I left the house that it was Forsythia (yellow) blooms that I so clearly remembered and not Wysteria; oh, well, a bloom's a bloom - no matter I suppose ...
Drunk Lullaby - Jeffery Foucault, Marrowbone Music, ASCAP
I learned this from the self-titled Redbird CD and loved the harmonies and general sentiment of the piece. It's pretty sparce and reminds of some of the early pieces Tom Waits wrote for guitar and voice... Again, thanks to Mike Guggino for the tasteful mandolin accompaniment!
Everybody Wishes - Paul Thorn/Raker john
This one I heard one morning on my way to work while listening to The Bob & Tom show out of Chicago. Their guest was an ex-boxer turned singer/songwriter/band leader from Tupelo, MS and he played this song as a solo acoustic piece; it was fantastic! So I went to Amazon when I got home from work and played the sound bite of it off the CD - not good! With the whole band behind him it was a far more rocking number and all its subtle nuances were missing. So I tried for some time to get a copy of the broadcast where Paul did it acoustically but to no avail. So here it is the way I think I remember hearing him play it that morning. And, oh yeah, I wrote an extra verse for it but I'm not saying which one it is - you'll just have to guess. I hope you like it.
Take It Down - John Hiatt/Raker john
I heard this done by the Wailin' Jennys on their 2004 CD 40 Days and loved the simplicity of the arrangement but regretted that there weren't more verses because I liked the tune so much. So I fixed that...
By Now - Richard Shindell
This is just possibly the darkest tune I know. When I heard Richard Shindell's rendition on his wonderful CD Sparrows Point I was struck by the stark, matter-of-fact attitude of the singer. I could easily picture him as one of my childhood friend's father or, even more disturbing, one of my friends today. Each of us has a darker side; some just get darker than others - you decide...
Stuff That Works - Guy Clark & Rodney Crowell
This is a song that hit me the first time I heard Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson do it at Springfest in Live Oak, FL in 2004. It first appeared on Guy Clark's CD Dublin Blues in 1995. Everything about it is just right...
He Left The Road - Verlon Thompson & Pat Terry
Another of Verlon's songs that got the eye's watering for me. I asked him about this song and when he knew it was "completed". He said, "Interesting you would ask that because I had been performing it for over a month without the last paragraph when I started asking myself about how his daddy must have felt and how his mama took it too. So I wrote the last part - then I knew it was done."
And done very well...
The second song in my "Prostitute Trilogy", this is Leo Kottke's arrangement of Paul Sebol's anthem which appeared on his album My Feet Are Smiling. It has always been my favorite version (though Bonnie Raitt's version is right up there as well) and is maybe due to the fact that this was the version I heard first. You never know...
Pamela Brown - Tom T. Hall
This is Leo Kottke's version of this song that appeared on his Ice Water album from 1976. I somewhat relate to the story line as my life could have turned out so much, uh, differently had I married early. Just good luck I guess...
Tecumseh Valley - Townes Van Zandt
And the final song in the "Prostitute Trilogy" is this one, learned from a Nanci Griffith CD, Other Voices Other Rooms, where she did it with John Prine - a great song done in a great arrangement. This follows the somewhat normal pattern of other tunes of this genre but goes a bit more into the back-story.
Archaeology - Chris Rosser
I heard this song on Chris' CD by the same name after seeing him in concert here in Brevard. Coincidently, it was also just after I attended my 50th high school reunion (a somewhat traumatic event in many ways) and it resonated within me - I hope it does the same for you...
I Don't Love You Much, Do I? - Guy Clark
This is a song from Guy Clark's Boats To Build album, released in 1992. He sings this as a duet with Emmylou Harris on that album so this version is a little different, in that regard. It's a great sentiment and one that I hold as true in my life - this is for Rocky... Many thanks to the rest of the original members of The Blue Ridge Bakery Boys on this song.
I Will Come Back Again - Verlon Thompson
This was another tune that Verlon did at the songwriter workshop at Springfest in 2004; however this one brought me to tears and didn't give me much warning. Verlon describes the song as "coming to him" in about 20 minutes and says he feels he was more of a scriber of the song than the composer. He had recently read the books "Look For Me On The Mountain" and "The Education Of Little Tree" and feels that was the main inspiration. Inspiration is where you find it, I guess...
Fiddle And Bow - Traditional
This is a song I first heard on Jonathon Byrd's 2002 CD The Waitress and it reminded me of other songs played in a similar manner by Tome Rush, Geoff Muldaur and others in that modal sort of key. Yet this had more yearning to it than Tom's "Poor Man" or the others. It also came at a time when I had started playing with Bradford Carson in the group "Chicken-Fried Possum" ( www.tinyurl.com/CFPossum ) and I was playing a lot of tradtitional tunes. So here it is for your listening pleasure..
Found On The Cutting-Room Floor (possible outtakes)
Banks Of The Ohio - Traditional
The first version of this I heard was on Joan Baez's first album, Joan Baez and it has stayed with me over the years. I do this song today with Bradford Carson as the duo "Chicken-Fried Possum"...
Diamond Joe - Traditional
This is a song I learned from Tom Rush's first album, Blues, Songs and Ballads. It turns out that this is a mating of two separate musical pieces - the lyrics of the traditional song "Diamond Joe" and the melody from the tune "State Of Arkansas" which was done back in 1942 by Lee Hays for a radio show by The Weavers.
Roll, Turn, Spin - Len Chandler
This song appeared on Len Chandler's first album, To Be A Man. His back-story on the song involved having recently read the biography of Mata Hari, the alleged spy during the second world war, and some American history regarding the Revolutionary War with England. The tune certainly has that English harpsichord style and the lyrics match perfectly. One of my all-time favorite songs.
Pallet On Your Floor - Traditional
This is another song I learned from Tom Rush's first album, Blues, Songs and Ballads. He played it in an open tunings, with a slide (which I sometimes use) but here I play it in standard tuning; I'm not really sure how the original was played but, then, that really doesn't matter that much does it? I do this song with Bradford Carson as the duo "Chicken-Fried Possum"...
Drifter - Fred Neil
Fred Neil was a folk singer originally from the Miami area and I heard this tune of his done by Oz Bach at the Beaux Arts coffee house in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1962. Oz was also a 12-string guitar player and had a great, resonant voice (though not as resonant as Fred's) that really carried the tone of this song. I was struck by the wonderful imagery of the lyrics as they were so simple and contained many of the sights I had personally seen, living as many places around our country as I had. I still love the line of "I've seen a June bug in July...". Thanks, Fred, for such a wonderful song. From the album Tear Down The Walls by Vince Martin and Fred Neil.
St. James Infirmary - Traditional
I'm not sure where I first heard this traditional song of weariness and woe - it may have been Burl Ives (or Howlin' Wolf...). In any event it is timeless and never gets old for me. Hope you feel the same...
As always, I'd like to thank Rocky for hanging around and taking pictures for me while I attended to the business at hand.
I thank her for her patience and understanding when things didn't go as planned and took longer than I'd originally thought
they would ... I admire her patience with me, letting me undertake this incredibly ego-centric exercise of painfully recording
songs that very few will want to listen to. It's more of a musical memoir for me - I have to record it so I don't forget the
way I once was..
Please remember that your comments and suggestions are always welcomed. I take requests; I won't promise to play them but I'll take them, none the less... Keep those electronic cards and letters comin', folks!
Send comments to: Rakerjohn@comporium.net
Changes last made on: Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at 10:02am