Saturday, 17 October 2009

We Are Only Riders – The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project

We Are Only Riders – The JLP Sessions Project

Here's news of a JLP-based project that's released 11th January on Glitterhouse. The following is all lifted from the press release.

A musical collective of artists who have come together to interpret and in some cases, complete unfinished skeletal works by Jeffrey Lee Pierce

Featuring Nick Cave, Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, Mick Harvey, Mark Lanegan, Isobel Campbell, Barry Adamson, Johnny Dowd, Dave Alvin, The Sadies, The Raveonettes, Kid Congo Powers, David Eugene Edwards,

We Are Only Riders is more than just a 'various artists' compilation. It’s a musical collective of artists who have come together to interpret (and in some cases, complete) unfinished skeletal works by Jeffrey Lee Pierce, an artist they were friends with or whose work they admired. Artists featured on the album include Nick Cave, who has done his own solo track, as well as duetting with Debbie Harry, and playing piano on Debbie’s solo track, and added backing vocals on the Cypress Grove track. Mick Harvey contributed to two of the Nick Cave tracks and has recorded a solo track. Barry Adamson plays bass on the Nick Cave solo track and also on the Mark Lanegan solo track, who has also recorded a duet with Isobel Campbell. Dave Alvin is the driving force behind 'Walkin' The Streets' together with Lydia Lunch, a song which The Blasters and The Gun Club jammed on together in the studio after a drunken night many years ago.

About three years ago while clearing out his attic, Cypress Grove came across a bag of dusty old cassettes. He started to sort through them and found one marked 'JLP Songs'. As soon as he put it on he remembered what it was; Cypress Grove & Jeffrey rehearsing material for the album they made together in the early 90’s. (Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee and Cypress Grove with Willie love'). The album was initially going to contain country songs, but it gradually evolved into a full blown blues album. It was recorded on an old boombox in Cypress Grove’s bedroom, just the two of them on acoustic guitars. The sound quality was terrible, but was good enough to make out the songs, which were excellent. The three country songs were ‘Ramblin’ Mind’, ‘Constant Waiting’ and ‘Free To Walk’. In addition to the terrible audio quality, there was also no level of performance on these recordings, as Jeffrey was merely showing Cypress Grove the material. Releasing these songs from the cassette was therefore out of the question. But if Cypress Grove could get them properly recorded, that would be different. Also, because there were no definitive versions of these songs, and there was no idea how Jeffrey himself would have envisaged the completed work, then why stop at one version? It would be fascinating to hear how different artists might interpret these songs from this most basic and crude of templates – the cassette!

Cypress Grove initially started to contact musicians through their myspace pages. Mark Lanegan was totally into it and was in the studio at the time, so was able to record his stuff quite quickly. Cypress Grove then asked if Isobel Campbell would duet on 'Free to Walk' with Mark, which of course she did. She was so please with it that she added the song to their live shows. Cypress Grove then e-mailed Jim Sclavunos and asked if he thought Nick Cave would be interested, who also agreed.

This would have been impossible without Digital technology, with artists adding their parts all over the world - London, Melbourne, Glasgow, Barcelona, Los Angeles etc. Once word of the Project started to get out, more material became available through family and friends. Jeffrey’s old friend Phast Phreddie Patterson provided a copy of a home made cassette recording he made of Jeffrey doing ‘My Cadillac’ and ‘St. Mark’s Place’, which were actually pre – Gun Club recordings. Also, Cypress Grove was able to obtain the two inch master tapes of some song ideas they had recorded at the end of the 'Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee' sessions.

One of these was 'The Snow Country'. All they had was Jeffrey’s guitar part and the drums; but no vocals. Cypress Grove had no idea what Jeffrey had in mind for this song but he had acquired some hand written lyrics that Jeffrey had never used, so they matched ‘The Snow Country’ lyrics to the track. Gene Temesy and Mick Harvey came up with the vocal melody and they had a brand new Jeffrey composition from beyond the grave! With the exception of 'Lucky Jim', all the songs on the album are brand new Jeffrey songs.

'Lucky Jim' was on the end of the 'Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee' tapes and was the very first time Jeffrey recorded this song. In Cypress Grove’s opinion, this version is better that the one that ended up on the ‘Lucky Jim’ album. So although Cypress Grove had a policy of 'no previously released songs – only new material', he felt he had to make an exception for this one. The only problem was the tape ran out after about one and a half minutes. But thanks to digital technology, Cypress Grove was able to 'stitch' an entire song together and then add bass and guitar parts. Debbie Harry added vocals and Chris Stein played Guitar, with Nick Cave’s piano to top of it all. The track listing is as follows:

1 Nick Cave – 'Ramblin’ Mind'
2 Mark Lanegan – 'Constant Waiting'
3 The Raveonettes – 'Free To Walk'
4 Debbie Harry – 'Lucky Jim'
5 Lydia Lunch – 'My Cadillac'
6 David Eugene Edwards – 'Ramblin’ Mind'
7 The Sadies – 'Constant Waiting'
8 Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell – 'Free To Walk'
9 Lydia Lunch – 'St. Marks Place'
10.Crippled Black Phoenix – 'Bells On The River'
11.Cypress Grove – 'Ramblin’ Mind'
12.Johnny Dowd – 'Constant Waiting'
13.Nick Cave & Debbie Harry – 'Free To Walk'
14.Mick Harvey – 'The Snow Country'
15.David Eugene Edwards & Crippled Black Phoenix – 'Just Like A Mexican Love'
16.Lydia Lunch, Dave Alvin, And The JLP Sessions Project – 'Walkin' Down The Street (Doin' My Thing)'

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