by request – here’s some info about the songs on Secret Canon, Vol. 1 – with some links to videos and such for you to check out some of the history.  xxdk

 

  1. Do I Love You – This is a Floyd Dixon song.    Born in Texas on the Louisiana border in 1929, he moved to Los Angeles in 1942 and was mentored by Charles Brown and toured with him as well.   There was a great post-war west coast scene that both men were central to that wound up being more influential on people like Ray Charles (Floyd is noted as a seminal influence of his) and Sam Cooke than became popular nationwide.  It was smooth blues and really early R&B, and it was a pre-cursur to the smoky, blues influenced cocktail jazz of the sort that Peggy Lee, Julie London, Nat King Cole , Ray Charles and scores of other artists made wildly popular a decade later.
  2. Don’t Fuck around with Love – This was originally a single in 1962 called ‘don’t play around with love’ recorded by a Boston acappella doo-wop group called the Blenders.  They recorded a  blue version with the word ‘fuck’ in the title– as a gag gift for deejays -which has been coveted and passed down for decades among collectors and engineers.    It’s adorable, you can hear the band trying not to giggle as they say a bad word.  It was 1962 after all.  I’m not proud of this, but I curse like a sailor.  I’d be much more likely to say ‘don’t fuck around with love’ in ordinary conversation.  I changed the word from ‘play’ to ‘mess’ in the radio friendly version we recorded because it sang better.
  3.    Not the Only Fool in this Town – the only original on the record.  I sometimes write period songs or genre songs as an exercise – I pretend I’m in the Brill building writing for the Ronettes or at Muscle Shoals writing for Aretha.  I’d been listening to a favorite singer of mine,  one that fell thru the cracks a little –early to mid 60’s Blues/R&B singer Mable John.  She was mostly known as being Little Willie John’s sister and as a back-up singer for Ray Charles.  She had deals on both Tamla/Motown and later Stax but neither amounted to a whole lot career wise.  She’s one of the best singers to ever come out of Detroit in my opinion. Both powerful and effortless, she had beautiful vocal runs that would give Johnny Adams a run for his money.  And she was really good at the ‘you done me wrong’ song, so I wanted to write one that I thought she would want to sing.
  4.    I’ll Close My Eyes –  this Buddy Kaye/Billy Reid gem is the only tune I bent the rules for.  It’s been around the block a little more than the others, and it was done by some really grand jazz names.    Athan sent me an early Mildred Bailey version, I promptly fell in love and was shocked that this wasn’t already a standard.  When I researched a little more after the session, it turned out  that both Sarah Vaughn AND Dinah Washington recorded versions as well.  Dinah’s version was so stunning I almost kept mine off the record after hearing hers.  But further research showed it was (shockingly) never a hit.  And I just love this damned song so much.  Why it’s not held in the same regard as ‘My Romance’ and ‘In a Sentimental Mood” and accordingly covered by every great singer of the last 50 years is completely beyond me.   Very careful ears may notice I choked up a little at the end of the tune a little, thinking about how often I miss my husband on tour (“and thru the years/those moments that we’re apart/ I’ll close my eyes /and see you with my heart”)  There was, I confess, a great deal of bourbon in my system at the time.
  5.    Sweet Lotus Blossom –  this is the oldest tune in the bunch, originally written in the 30’s, it showed up in an early talkie musical as a song called ‘Sweet Marihuana’ (sic), there’s a hilarious clip on youtube.  The version I was sent done by Julia Lee in the early 40’s I believe. (soothe me with your caress/sweet lotus blossom, lotus blossom/help me in my distress/sweet lotus blossom/ please do)  heroin seemed to be more a drug that would hold you in its arms when your lover won’t, so I slowed the song down to a drowsy nod.
  6.     Your Fool Again – Athan Maroulis sent me this, one of my favorites.  It matched on all counts; both the song, written by Bill Campbell, and its recording artist, Sarah McLawler, have been sorely neglected by history.   Sarah was a bad-ass hammond B3 player from Louisville KY, she made a few singles for the Brunswick label in New York  in the 50’s and toured a bit with people on the NY jazz scene.  Great musician.  And this song is killing, and it hasn’t been covered since. 
  7.  If Yesterday Could Only Be Tomorrow – this was a tune recorded initially by the King Cole Trio (Nat King Cole’s swing era combo) in the early 40’s.   It’s my favorite era of his, and the least well known by the public.  I thought this tune was uncovered, but then found out that Tony Bennett found it before me, and did a version for a film in 2002.  And he’s Tony Bennett, so of course he totally nailed it to the wall.  But the film soundtrack wasn’t a seller, (nor did the film do particularly well), so I felt ok in including this one in an album of lost gems.  But I have to give props, Tony B totally got there before me.
  8.  Come in Out of the Rain – this was also peformed by the king cole trio, and later by Carmen McRae. I initially thought I might make this a duet, but it sounded rather sweet as a solo.  I was surprised that Peggy Lee or any of the kittenish chanteuses of the 50’s didn’t find this one – it so suited that kind of coquettish delivery that I’d pretend that I was one of them.  This might have been near the last we recorded on that first long session.  I sound really tired and a little drunk to my ears, which I hope works for the song.  
  9.   Call Me Darling – first version I heard of this tune was on a Josh White (Sr) compilation.  Josh White was a great folk blues picker from South Carolina whose career was derailed for having been labelled a Communist in the McCarthy era for his work in civil rights.   My old friend, Jack Williams, wrote a beautiful song about Josh’s life and struggles and told me he was a formative influence when Jack was growing up in South Carolina in the 50’s .  I pulled this record off the shelf because of that song.  And when I heard Josh’s record I understood Jack’s being drawn to him –both men are a mesh of several different roots of american popular music layered over each other– you can hear folk, blues, country, and jazz in both men’s singing and playing.    Josh White influenced a lot of great pickers and singers, including Dylan and another one of my mentors, Richie Havens.  And Jack Williams influenced me.  It felt really good to keep that circle going. I think this song worked well as a duet.  And that’s Jack Williams playing the guitar and singing with me live in one take y’all.  Jack is another hidden American gem.  He tours constantly year round on the folk circuit and is one of the best damn guitar players in every genre he covers on the planet and a world class storyteller in the southern tradition.
  10. Take Me In Your Arms – I found and bought a Laurie Allyn re-issue of her sole release, Paradise, after hearing another on of her songs on WFMU, but fell in love with this song. She was a jazz singer in Chicago in the 50’s,  and her label, Mode, fell apart one week after her record came out and her career just died. It’s just a perfectly written ballad from the get go: take me in your arms/before you take your love away.  The original version was covered by a handful of artists in the 50’s, most noteably Perry Como and Abbey Lincoln, though Laurie’s version was by far my favorite.  No one ever made it a hit, and it never made it as a standard.  This was the last song we did during that first marathon session.  My voice was going, no doubt about it.  There were times that I was tempted to re-take the vocals, as I was a little flat.  But I grew to dig how beaten down we all sound, it suits the lyrics.