Tony Furtado and I have been working together since the early 90’s when he asked me to produce an album for Rounder Records. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful musical relationship. Recently, Tony posted on Facebook about a particular memory of recording a song that I had forgotten about…. Boat’s Up The River. Hearing the story and song again brought me right back to the day and experience as Tony told it….
From Tony Furtado’s Facebook Post:
Was just reminded of this and wanted to share…THIS song, from THIS album is, without a doubt, THE most memorable, otherworldly experience I’ve had in a recording studio.A little background first…It was 1994 and I had recently befriended the great Kelly Joe Phelps after he showed up at a house concert I was playing in his home town of Vancouver WA. I was already a big fan of his, so he surprised me after the show by playing one of MY tunes for me that he had worked out on a dobro (Tysons Dream). Soon after, we decided to play some gigs together and collaborate on a few songs for a new album I was preparing to record. We each dug through some old Roscoe Holcomb and Dock Boggs albums and decided “Boats up the River” would be one of those songs we would lay down, with Kelly Joe singing and playing slide and me on banjo.
Fast forward to recording day. My producer for most of this album was to be the inimitable Cookie Marenco
I’m at a loss for words to describe her amazing talent for hearing what no one else can! So Kelly Joe and I and the rest of the band met up at Cookies’ place in Belmont CA…the rest of the band was legendary acoustic bassist Todd Phillips (Todd Phillips Music) and a young upstart, future legendary drummer – and founding member of Brazilian Girls (Aaron Johnston). We all took our places in various corners of Cookies’ studio. Then we all decided to just practice the song while Cookie dialed us in and set headphone mixes – we had NEVER played together as a band. Kelly Joe starts off playing, Todd joins in…then Aaron and I layer in following Kelly’s vibe and Todd’s groove. After a couple minutes something feels strange to me, like something else is in control… like I couldn’t play a wrong note… we were all locked into something on another dimension! I decided to test it… I swear, I remember thinking to myself that I was going to try and play something “wrong”. It didn’t work, it was what was needed at that moment. So I just kept my ears and mind wide open and listened to the WHOLE band, which was easy! I felt like we were surfing some wild free jazz/folk and roots wave! You can hear later that there’s a kind of banjo solo that just kinda bubbles up from cacophony, then the whole thing kinda exhales and relaxes. We finish when we are finished – 8:13 later! I remember asking Cookie if she was recording, “YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I WAS!”
Take a listen. Might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and maybe my memory of it is more amazing than whats here, but its a session that shaped and shook me for years to come, and man was that an amazing ride that could have easily just been a rehearsal! Thanks Cookie Marenco!