FRIENDS AND HEROES - FULL LINER NOTES
Produced and Engineered by Tom Hampton
All Instruments (Acoustic Guitars - regular and high-string, nylon string - Electric Guitars, Baritone guitar, Mandoguitar, Coral Electric Sitar, Weissenborn, Dobro, Resonator guitar, Lap and Pedal Steel guitar, Bass, Mandolin, Mandola, Bouzouki, Banjo, Drums and percussion) and vocals by Tom Hampton
Additional Drums: Mauricio "Fritz" Lewak, Tommy Geddes
Additional Vocals: Jayda Hampton (duet on "written in chalk"), Wendy Hampton (harmony on "half moon silver" and "call it a loan"), and Michael Tearson (final verse on "summerland")
No keyboards were harmed during the making of this album. In fact, no keyboard instruments of any kind were even used on the album. Not due to any kind of personal stance on the topic, but simply because I didn't have anything lying about
Cover Painting, Photo, Album Design and Concept by Wendy Gilbert Hampton
To the folks who share the road with me:
Dan May, Craig Bickhardt, JD Malone, Lizanne Knott, Michael Braunfeld, Skip Denenberg, Blake Allen, Charlie Degenhart, John Lilley, Nathan Bell, Jack Sundrud, Tommy Geddes, Dan Faga, Avery Coffee, Jim Miades, Tracy Grammer, Boris Garcia, Doug Gray and the MTB Family
To the folks who inspired me to follow this path:
David Lindley, Rusty Young, Buddy Miller, Paul Cotton, Dan Fogelberg, Stephen Stills, Jackson Browne, Toy Caldwell, John David Call, Lowell George, Ed King, Mike Campbell, George Marinelli, Ry Cooder, Danny Kortchmar, Jeff Pevar, Larry Campbell and a hundred others I'll kick myself for forgetting
Wish You Were Here:
T-Bone Wolk, Robert Hazard, Kenny Edwards
To everyone who contributed to our crowdfunding campaign:
You're holding the results in your hands. If not for you, this wouldn't be the case. You made a difference, and I'm grateful for your help, your friendship, and your support
To the family - A little peace and quiet from the basement for a while. Enjoy it while it lasts
Honorable mention to Andrew Wilson and Chris Gately for selfless loan of equipment
Extra special thanks to my friend, confidant, and chief co-conspirator, Michael Tearson - here's to you, partner
Disc One -- The Friends Disc
1. Summerland (written by Robert Hazard, never before released)
Tom Hampton - baritone guitar, acoustic high-string guitar, pedal steel guitar, bass, vocal
Tommy Geddes - percussion
Michael Tearson - guest vocalist on last verse
As some of you know, I was the last guitar player in Robert's band before he died in 2008. This was a song Robert had just introduced me to - brand new - when we were deciding what to play at a radio interview in Newark, DE that spring. He'd never recorded it, and were it not for the fact that someone had the foresight to tape the interview we did that day, this song would have died with Robert. When this project started to look like it would become a reality, it was one of the first things I recorded. Since Michael Tearson was also a dear friend of Roberts', I had to get him involved in this somehow - and he's a perfect fit.
2. Kind Woman (written by Richie Furay, originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar, bass, drums and vocals
There had to be a nod to Poco of some sort on this record - and for a while, I agonized over whether I'd cut a Paul song or a Rusty song, or maybe even a cover of one of Timmy's Poco songs from back in the day...but then at one point, it dawned on me that this song would really be the perfect tune for this record. It's the reason the band came to exist in the first place, and what better way to pay tribute than this one?
3. Sure Do Miss You Now (written by Craig Fuller and Irene Kelley, originally recorded by Pure Prairie League)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitars, percussion and vocals
This song surfaced on the last studio recording by Pure Prairie League, back in 2005 - a criminally overlooked record called All In Good Time. I actually recorded two of the songs from this record - this one and a song co-written by Craig Fuller and Curtis Wright called The Cost Of Doing Business - but this one seemed to fit the record better. The other song is still sitting in the warehouse...maybe it'll see the light of day at some point.
4. Savannah (written by Dan May, never before released)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitars, banjo, mandolin, dobro, bass, lead and harmony vocals
Tommy Geddes - drums
It could be argued that I might deserve a co-write credit on this one, but I wouldn't be the one arguing for it. It grew out of a riff that I played into a tape recorder for Dan at some point, and he went back and wrote the song without me. Dan has confessed to using my life as a vantage point for inspiration for the lyrics, and he's pretty much dead on. Again, when it came time to try to decide which one of Dan's songs to include on the record, there was never really any contest - especially since it's been sitting for so long and all. Hey, I'm just sayin'.
5. Holding On To You (written by George McCorkle, originally recorded by Marshall Tucker Band)
Tom Hampton - acoustic and electric guitars, pedal steel guitar, dobro, bass, drums and all vocals
When it became apparent that I'd be in a position to include an MTB song on the record, I gave it a lot of thought at first...trying to decide if I wanted to cover one of the hits or find something less popular. But I knew I wanted it to be something that featured Toy's pedal steel playing, since that (along with Doug Gray's voice) were the two things that always attracted me to their music in the first place. All my favorite MTB songs - Fire On The Mountain, Keeps Me From All Wrong, Melody Ann - were all pedal steel tunes. So I settled on this one.
6. Outta This Town (written by Mac Davis, Jeffrey Steele and Chuck Cannon, originally recorded by Chuck Cannon)
Tom Hampton - acoustic and electric guitars, baritone guitar, bouzouki, lap steel guitar, bass, drums, all vocals
I met Chuck before I'd ever heard his music - he came to a show I was playing at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville during the AMA conference a couple of years ago, and we became fast friends. Not long after that, he was on tour with Shawn Mullins and I went with a mutual friend to the show, and they did this song together at the end of the night. That version is the one that I think of when I think of the song, even after having recorded it myself.
7. Window Painted Blue (written by J.D. Malone, never before released)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, coral electric sitar, mandoguitar, lap steel, bass, all vocals
Tommy Geddes - drums
I've been playing with JD now for a long time. He and I are almost exactly the same age, two weeks apart. (I know that would come as a shock to some folks.) We've gone through some interesting stuff together over the years - getting completely lost in the woods in NJ ( thanks to Google maps), playing to tons of people and playing to nobody, long rides in the car spent trying to keep me awake, or by singing random snippets of songs from the 70's - and our friendship has endured...and has paid off in a mutual respect that transcends words. I'm not certain that this is my favorite JD Malone song, but it's the one that I think I most relate to.
8. Beautiful Goodbye (written by Don Henry and Mike Moran, never before released)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, all vocals
Tommy Geddes - drums
I met Don courtesy of Craig Bickhardt, who'd invited me to accompany him on a series of shows he was doing with Don and Julie Gold (of "From A Distance" fame) some years ago. In the time since, we've done many more shows together, and Don has become a good friend, a class act, and - obviously - a great songwriter. Like so many of Don's songs, there's a sincere beauty to the lyrics...not only in the content, but the cadence. Don has a way of making you feel like everything's gonna be alright without coming out and saying as much...it's a nice gift to have.
9. Giant Steps (Written by Craig Bickhardt, never before released)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, dobro, mandolin, bass, percussion, all vocals
Tommy Geddes - drums, djembe
Craig and I met, ironically, at a "writers in the round" gig in the suburbs in 2006, and we've been playing together ever since. We've played from Nashville to Maine, done sessions and shows and albums together - he's a good friend who also happens to be ridiculously talented. He posted a demo of this song on his blog a while back, about the time that my daughter was graduating high school. It struck a nerve at that point, for the same reason it's managed to find ways to strike nerves at various other points in the time since. When Danny was born, his first show - at the ripe old age of nine days - was a Poco/Idlewheel show in King of Prussia at their summer outdoor concert series, and Craig dedicated this song to Danny as he sat on the side of the hill with his mommy and grandparents. It's finally going to see its own proper release by the writer on his upcoming album, The More I Wonder, due out this spring as well.
10. Rust (Written and originally performed by Nathan Bell)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, mandocello, baritone guitar, lap steel, bass, all vocals
Tommy Geddes - drums
I've probably spent more time with random customers from my IT day job than I have with Nathan, and yet I feel like I've known him all my life. He is the Real Deal - he's what every "trucks & beer", BroCountry cardboard cutout of a country singer in Nashville wants to be when they grow up - the genuine modern personification of the Waylon/Johnny Cash asthetic. Of all the songs on his Blood Like A River album, this one hit me the hardest - especially at the point in my life that I first heard it. It's as perfect a picture of this stage of the Life of Everyman as Jackson Browne's "The Pretender" is of the earlier, coming-of-age path. And coming from me, that's pretty high praise.
Disc Two -- The Heroes Disc
1. Distant Sun (Written by Neil Finn, originally performed by Crowded House)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, mandoguitar, bass, all vocals
Tommy Geddes - drums
Crowded House were, to me, the last great hope of pop songwriting and craftsmanship of the modern era that you could draw a line back to the Beatles from. They were adventurous yet tuneful and melodic and their records were just wonderful. And this song, of all the great songs in their catalog, was always my favorite. So much of what I do and the artists I tend to associate with is steeped in Americana and Roots music, but I wanted to take a stab at this song - just because I loved it so much. I didn't really have very high hopes for it when I started tracking it, but it took on a complexion of its own after I started piecing it together.
2. Your Bright Baby Blues (Written and originally performed by Jackson Browne)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, lap steel guitar, bass, all vocals
Mauricio "Fritz" Lewak - drums
I've been playing this song for so long that it almost felt like cheating to include it on the record.
When Jackson went on tour with David Lindley in his band again a few years ago, Tommy Geddes called me to tell me that he had tickets for the Tower Theater show and asked me to come along. I was working on an IT contract at the time, and didn't manage to sneak out until the last minute to get to the show. When I got there, the acoustic set was over and they'd just come back out with the band...they were in the middle of "Giving That Heaven Away" when I sat down next to Tommy, and then went right into "Your Bright Baby Blues" and a thin, blue silhouette of light shone down on David when he played the first notes in the middle of the first verse - and I stopped breathing for a minute. When he took his solo after the second chorus, I actually felt tears well up in my eyes...I thought I'd never see this again in my life.
The version of this song I hear in my head now is the one I heard that night...over and above the album version, even.
3. Written In Chalk (Written by Julie Miller, originally performed by Buddy Miller)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, electric guitar, baritone guitar, lap steel, bass, vocal
Jayda Hampton - duet vocal
Tommy Geddes - drums
This is another one of those songs that embodies musical serendipity - the right voice singing the right song, nestled among the right instruments playing the right notes. I remember seeing Buddy the first time playing behind Emmylou Harris at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1997, with my 5 year old son Dylan sitting on my lap on the hillside in front of the main stage. They opened with "Where Will I Be" from her then-latest album Wrecking Ball, and Buddy was playing his mandoguitar and making the coolest noise I thought I'd ever heard. He made a deep impression, and I've been a fan ever since. I've followed his career as a sideman and as a solo artist, and I have a huge amount of respect for him.
A couple of years ago, I was waiting to play a set at Douglas Corner in Nashville when Buddy walked in with Greg Leisz and sat down at the bar. I walked over and stood a few feet away until they ordered and passed a $20 between them to the bartender to pay for their drinks. Buddy protested, of course, but I told him that as much as I'd stolen from him musically that it seemed like the least I could to would be to pay for a round at the bar.
4. Long Distance Love (Written by Lowell George, originally performed by Little Feat)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, lap steel guitar, bass, drums, all vocals
I was in a band during my high school years that was the best possible education I could have gotten - all musicians who were significantly older than I was, and they took me under their wing and gave me the grand tour of the rock and roll farm system. My road buddy was Jerry Opdycke, or "Opie" (as we called him), and he introduced me to a ton of great music, including Little Feat. I wasn't really ready for it at the time, and I was too entrenched in other stuff to fully appreciate it, but it took root. When I became a disciple of slide guitar later in life, the lessons all came screaming back to me. Still, the first time I heard this particular song was on a bootleg album recorded in Philadelphia at the Main Point featuring Jackson Browne and David Lindley, and they played this song at the show that ended up on the record. It's a great song on multiple levels - it's poignant, it's got a simmering groove, and it just plain feels good to sing.
5. Let Them In (Written by John Gorka, recorded by many other artists)
Tom Hampton - weissenborn hawaiian guitar and vocal
On Friday, December 14th, 2012, I had two shows booked with folksinger Tracy Grammer - we were playing a Free At Noon show for WXPN at World Cafe Live (at noon, obviously) and later that night at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville, PA. When we'd finished our set at World Cafe Live, we'd walked into the green room and - as is typically customary for me - I took out my cellphone to check for messages and saw a CNN text alert: "At least 20 dead in elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT". I just stood there for a minute or two and collected my thoughts for a moment and packed my gear - I just wanted to go home to see my son.
I played the show that night in a bit of a fog, and when I got home, I went down to the basement studio in our house and put up a pair of microphones and recorded this song.
Gorka's original version was written as a prayer for soldiers who'd fallen in the prime of their lives...I altered the lyrics in a couple of places to reflect the change of circumstances that inspired the recording. I hope Mr. Gorka will forgive me.
6. Brand New Tennessee Waltz (Written and originally performed by Jesse Winchester)
Tom Hampton - nylon string classical guitar, all vocals
Once upon a time, during the Great Country Music Revival of the Early Nineties, there was an amazing TV show on the Nashville Network called American Music Shop. They had a crack house band, and the people who programmed the show seemed to go out of their way to book acts that weren't necessarily part of the upper Nashville echelon - for instance, they had Faith Hill on before she'd had a hit record, playing "Piece of my Heart" with the SubDudes.
And on one of these shows, amidst the band playing like hell behind any number of folks, out walks this gentle looking soul wearing khakis and a sweater and carrying a classical guitar- and he proceeded to step up to the microphone and shut the entire room down - you could literally hear how quiet the audience was through the television.
Jesse Winchester walked onto the stage and had that entire audience eating out of the palm of his hand - and this was the song he was playing. I fell in love with it on the spot.
7. Childless Mothers (Written and originally performed by Darrell Scott)
Tom Hampton - resonator guitar, acoustic guitar, mandocello, mandolin, bass, all vocals
The first time I heard Darrell Scott was playing his song "Great Day To Be Alive" on a sampler CD some years back- it was far and away the best song on the disc, but it didn't tell the whole story. In fact, I went for quite some time without knowing what a monster musician he was.
When Michael Tearson and I begain working on Michael's record, Stuff That Works, one of the first songs he chose for the record was Darrell's song, "This Beggars' Heart". Working up that song led me to rediscover Darrell's catalog, which had grown quite a bit. He was also becoming a much higher-profile musician, having done the Band Of Joy project with Robert Plant and such - and his double-album "A Crooked Road" had been out a while at that point. He's phenomenally talented, and everybody knows it, really...this song just happens to be one of my favorites, and it was an easy pick.
8. Call It A Loan (Written by Jackson Browne and David Lindley, originally performed by Jackson Browne)
Tom Hampton - mandoguitar, baritone guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, lead and harmony vocal
Wendy Hampton - harmony vocal
Mauricio "Fritz" Lewak - drums
Hold Out has always been my favorite Jackson Browne album. As a collection of songs, it's probably his most powerful work from a lyrical standpoint...and when you consider his body of work, that's saying something. Hearing those songs at the point in my life when I did (I was 15 at the time the record came out) was pretty transformative for a kid from rural western Tennessee whose entire world view came from glimpses outside his surroundings provided by TV and radio - and the songs on that record just killed me. David Lindley's tone on "That Girl Could Sing" remains an untouchable holy grail to this day...his solos in "Hold On Hold Out" and "Of Missing Persons" were every bit as important as the lyrics to me, even years before I decided to take up the trade. This song is the only known instance of a co-write between Jackson and David, and I used that technicality to squeeze two Jackson Browne songs onto the record, because I HAD to give a nod to Mister Dave, somehow...and this seemed like a good way to do it without resorting to throwing more steel guitar on the record than there already is.
And besides...it's a great song. And let me just say what an honor it was to have Fritz Lewak contribute the drum tracks to these two songs - he's become a good friend over the past couple of years, and it makes me very happy to have him on the record.
The original plan was to have a whole handful of cameos from folks on the album, but eventually I had to face the fact that it would've been impossible to coordinate, and that my window for working on the record was just too limited to get some of the folks I wanted to join me lined up.
9. Half Moon Silver (Written by Marc Phillips, Tommy Calton and Lee Bargeron, originally recorded by Hotel)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar, lead and harmony vocals
Wendy Hampton - harmony vocal
I remember hearing a snippet of this song on a radio station that was drifting out of reach and struggling to keep it tuned in, with the hope that they might actually say who it was - if they hadn't, it would've never made it onto my radar. I heard it then, and never heard it again on the radio. A few years later, I was in the attic of a radio station I was working at, going through old 45's, and miraculously found the song on a 45 in the attic of the radio station - and remembered having heard it on the radio just from seeing the title on the label. It went home with me, and made its way onto countless mixtapes that eventually followed me out of town when I left to join the military out of high school. It remained a favorite song of mine for my entire life after that - it became one of those "soundtrack songs"...hearing it would flash me back to standing on a bluff overlooking Keflavik, Iceland on any one of the long walks I used to take with my Walkman, just to clear my head...I have no idea how many times I've heard this song in my life, but it's got to be in the thousands.
At some point, many years later, for some reason it occured to me to try to figure out whatever had happened to the band - so I opened my browser to Google and started poking around. Lo and behold, I found that the lead singer of the band, Marc Phillips, had a studio in Birmingham with a phone number - so I called him. We had a great, hopefully non-creepy conversation, and I asked him what tuning the song was in...he said he didn't know, but he'd give me Tommy Calton's phone number and Tommy could enlighten me. So I called Tommy and left a message on his answering machine...and he called back and left a message for me later that afternoon (I saved the message for a long, long time after that) and we finally connected not long afterward. He told me that he'd be happy to chart the song out and send it to me. A few days later, true to his word, the tablature with a very nice note showed up in the mail, and I finally learned to play the song from the guy who wrote it.
I recorded this version and sang all three (occasionally four) parts, but the top part was so far up and almost out of my range that it just didn't have any authority whatsoever, so I asked Wendy to double the high vocal part, and it made a huge difference.
To my ear, it's not even in the same league as the original, but it's closer than I'd have ever hoped to get it. It's a simple song, and doesn't require any extensive re-interpretation. It's perfect to my ears the way it originally appeared, and I got it pretty close.
10. Pass This Way (Written and originally recorded by B.W. Stevenson)
Tom Hampton - acoustic guitar and vocal
B.W. Stevenson is criminally overlooked, with the exception of "My Maria" and "Shambala" - I was aware of those two songs growing up, but that was really about it...until one morning during my stint in Iceland, I got up and stumbled into the Rec Room in the barracks where I lived and found an absolute mess that was clearly the aftermath of a late night hang...and someone had thrown three cassettes into the trash, where they were sitting atop a bunch of beer cans.
They were Tusk by Fleetwood Mac, Bustin' Out by Pure Prairie League, and My Maria by B.W. Stevenson. Granted, none of them are really what anyone would consider party music, I guess. But I promptly fished them out of the trash and kept them (still have them to this day, in fact).
Looking back, that was obviously another moment of serendipity in my musical development, because all three are seminal records to me. There were two songs on Stevenson's record that felt like contrived attempts to be uptempo that I always fast-forwarded past, and a lot of them ended up on mixtapes, as well. This song is a short, minute and a half wistful farewell that closes out the album. It's proof positive that less is more - it's a simple melody with a short but unforgettable lyric...and if it was good enough to close that record, it's good enough to close this one.