Recording Journals: The Making of the No Schedule Man CD

Recording Journal, Vol. 5: “Zac Brown, Green Day and Progress Made”

By July 5, 2009No Comments

Boy, was this a great week for music in my world. After sitting a little stagnant for a while, I became suitably jazzed thanks to two brilliant CDs, each by artists I’d never given any positive thought to previously.

The first was “21st Century Breakdown” by Green Day. Having heard from an acquaintance that the album was “a masterpiece,” I first thought, ‘A masterpiece, by Green Day?! C’mon.’

Sounded like an oxy moron.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never given the band any thought. They’re the punk guys who sing “Basket Case” and that “Time of Your Life” song (sort of like how I used to think that Extreme were only the guys who sang that “More Than Words” song; Springsteen was the guy who sang that “Born in the USA” song and Buffett was the guy who sang that “Margaritaville” song). Anyway, yadda yadda yadda … I bought the CD and, in my humble opinion, the thing is a masterpiece. I don’t like it – I absolutely, totally love it.

The other is “The Foundation” by the Zac Brown Band. You know – the “Chicken Fried” guys. Well, I “accidentally” heard a couple of other cuts from their CD, which were good enough to peak my interest. So I looked into them and very much liked what I learned. So I bought the CD.

Holy cow. The thing is fantastic, but in a totally different way than the Green Day CD. “21st Century Breakdown” is a wall of sonic emotion that twists, turns, rises and dips in and out of all kind of razor-sharp themes and lyrical content. It’s the kind of CD you turn up to ten and wish, like Spinal Tap, that your volume went to eleven (“one louder”).

On the other hand, the Zac Brown Band is an incredibly gifted group of players who know the art of what notes not to play, and which instruments to leave out. The Zac Brown Band CD is great from start to finish, and on every single track, the group gives each song only what it needs; exactly what it needs, and nothing more. It is a wonderful collection of songs. The tune “Highway 20 Ride” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this side of David Francey. Great stuff.

I’ve been listening to – and loving – all kinds of music for a long time now. I know the difference between hearing some good, catchy songs that I’ll enjoy for a little while versus experiencing something that just connects to me in a way that’s hard to explain. The two CDs I’ve described are the latter. My gut tells me that, five or ten years from now, I’ll still view them as being in another class than most of what I own.

Off the top of my head, I recall that had the same feeling when I heard “III Sides to Every Story” by Extreme, “Skating Rink” by David Francey, “Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays” by Jimmy Buffett and “Courage, Patience and Grit” by Great Big Sea.

On top of that, a little internet noodling revealed to me that the Arc Angels are working on another CD and are currently on tour! Those who do not own the band’s only record (“Arc Angels,” 1992) are cheating themselves out of one of the best albums of my generation.

Fire in a bottle is what that CD was. So, in my opinion, are “21st Century Breakdown” and “The Foundation,” in their own way.

Naturally, excited about all this great music, I took to my guitar as much as I could this week. I also managed to take advantage of my lone visit to Kevin Gorman’s studio to start fleshing out a couple of songs. It was the first time we’d played music together since last October, and it felt great.

Having already “ghosted” five of the songs we’ve chosen for the “No Schedule Man” project, I told Kevin to choose whichever one he wanted and we’d work on that. He chose a song called “Orlando” (which I wrote in 2002 and then updated, lyrically, in 2006). We had a total blast trying some different things and re-tracking it. I think we made some decent progress with it.

Next, he chose “Bagley Avenue,” a song I wrote in the summer of 2007. One of the few “story” songs I’ve ever done, it remains one of my favourites. It is more or less just autobiographical verses mixed with a metaphorical chorus. But let me tell you, when Kevin got to putting the emotional touches into the song with his piano … it broke me up. Whether or not we ever actually finish the CD, it is a complete rush and total honour to hear the song brought to life, if only for us to share in those few moments while it’s alive and breathing.

Our schedules did not allow us to stay at it for long, but Kevin and I both left the encounter feeling the same way; it not only felt great to play and work on songs together again; it felt right. It’s hard to explain, so I won’t try. It’s just a feeling of connectedness I get only from music. I guess you could say I felt “connected” all week.

What a great week.

– Kevin

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