Hey – the day has arrived! The Fence Sitters first album, More Blue Than Green, is now available on all major streaming services like Spotify – worldwide – and downloads (and a few of the remaining copies of the physical CD) are for sale through CD Baby.
In recognition of this occasion, I have decided to launch a series called Listen Along, which is basically live blogs of my favorite albums. I think of it as a DVD commentary track – or like that VH1 show where they told you stuff about the songs and videos. Anyways….
I am not an expert! But I do know some stuff about things.
More Blue Than Green was recorded at The Library on Springdale Road in Austin, TX, on January 3rd and 4th 1998. The Library is Allan Gill’s space, and we used his equipment and mics and invited a bunch of friends to hang out, and played some music and captured it all on ADAT (I think it was ADAT – might have been DA38, but I don’t feel like digging out the masters) and then we took the tracks to Barbara Kay’s Studio in Tarrytown for mixing, mastered at Jerry Tubb’s place when it was just off Bee Caves Road, and released it late spring/early summer as I recall.
Jeremiah Ball was the engineer and co-producer for the project – ran the cables, checked the levels, made decisions on our behalf, and helped us make decisions.
More Blue Than Green by The Fence Sitters
01 – “After All” – The Fence Sitters 2:03
A great song by Dave. He needs to write more songs. Shelly in lock-step harmony. we didn’t have extensive practices for this – in fact pretty much just drank the night before and had quick run throughs of some of the songs. I assume we printed out the lyrics mostly – Shelly probably still has those printouts in her binder. Denman is playing banjo, I’m playing slide. I hit the fretboard a couple of times with that slide, which is what the knocking sound is.
02 – “Not This Time” – The Fence Sitters 2:07
Dave helped me write this one. He was living in Tennessee at the time so I would send him cassette tapes with ideas and he would send me back much better versions. I really enjoy the song, but like many of mine, I think “why didn’t I write a bridge?” I do like the brevity of it, though. If memory serves I believe I may be playing Tim’s Gibson Hummingird. The night before we recorded we had our only rehearsal – at Shelly and Kurt’s place over on 39 1/2 street, and I remember we arranged the ending with the stops and felt very clever.
03 – “You Didn’t Know” – The Fence Sitters 2:59
Tim Ziegler is a very fine songwriter, and if you doubt that just listen to this here song. We had Dave’s very fine lead vocal – he is so smooth. And the big group punches of harmony are very nice. That’s me on slide, Denman on banjo, and then Tim playing guitar during the solo break.
04 – “Highway Signs” – The Fence Sitters 3:40
Another Tim Ziegler tune. He pulled inspiration from a line in The Band’s “It Makes No Difference”, and then created this stellar, moody piece. This is one you should probably learn to play – it has a drop C on the E string. I played it over and over again for years. I especially love Denman’s banjo playing on this track, and Tim and Shelly sound so lovely together.
05 – “Almost Grown” – The Fence Sitters 3:11
Denman Shelton wrote this song back and high school, and we continued to play it every chance we got. Shelly nailing the harmonies on that fast delivery – wow. None of these tunes had many takes, so safe to say this was take one or two. I’m guessing that was George’s mandolin that we had borrowed – it sounds pretty good.
06 – “Freight Train” – The Fence Sitters 3:16
Our good friend John Howard couldn’t make the trip out for recording, but we were so used to playing and singing his excellent songs that we just helped ourselves. We tried to do this song live after Dave left, but could never pull off the smoothness and pace.
07 – “Bandera Waltz” – The Fence Sitters 3:44
Shelly takes the lead on this one. So pretty. Dave and I co-wrote this one as well. So anyway Shelly was always pretty resistant to singing lead – she loves singing harmonies – but we set this tune up and she knocked it out of the river. Dave’s “Do you love me” is a very fine moment, as is Tim’s mandolin playing.
08 – “Old Man” – The Fence Sitters 4:28
Oh yeah, fun with drop-D tuning. I was listening to Kiko over and over around this time, and that one song “Peace” has the drop D, so I tried to do something with that level of drama (and failed, but not too bad). It’s hard to say I love you in person, but this song is a love letter to my dad. Fence Sitters love stacking in in harmony, and it is so lovely on this song each time. I’m playing my dad’s 1953 Epiphone Zenith on this – what a great chime and chunk that guitar has.
09 – “Devil Born Again” – The Fence Sitters 3:10
Mama the pain is gone, indeed. This song sticks with me (and “You Didn’t Know”, to be honest) and comes to mind every time I am sitting around thinking of a song to sing. John Howard knows things. We have Dave, Shelly, and Me all singing harmony on those choruses, and solos from me on slide and Denman on Banjo. Which reminds me, can I borrow $5?
10 – “At The Dance” – The Fence Sitters 3:55
This was the song that got us our big break! Or rather, John Aielli like it a lot when we went on his program the first time. again John Howard at his finest – great chord progression, compelling, simple story, beautiful melody. I’m playing the Epiphone. I got a little chromatic in the solo. We tracked another version with Dave singing instead of me, and of course, it is better, but you get this one.
11 – “Blue Hawaii World” – The Fence Sitters 2:47
Barbara Kay produced this one. We did the mixing for this record in the studio behind her house over in Tarrytown, and since she was in and out helping with a few details here and there we, we asked her if she would help us with this track. and oh what a lovely track – Tim Ziegler sure knows how to write a song with an atmosphere. I’m playing slide on a resonator guitar that Chip picked up right before recording. if you listen closely you can hear Denman picking little harmonics on his banjo.
12 – “Fine Line” – The Fence Sitters 3:30
“…a fly on the wall of the world….” Denman’s songs are refreshingly different in form and flow than most of our other material, and just so damn good. This one has a nice lope, and I hope it makes you smile as much as it does me.
13 – “Don’t Leave Me Behind” – The Fence Sitters 2:46
Dave and I wrote this. I remember wanting to write a song with all the major chords, and then it turned out being kind of catchy and fun to play. I had figured out an Em minor voicing that reminded me of John Hartford’s riverboat whistle call on Mark Twang, that I liked playing at the end there.
14 – “Blind Stretch of Highway” – The Fence Sitters 2:35
I had an uncle who lost his atm card in a machine, so he went home and got a pistol, returned, and shot the atm. Also, I had some shoes fall apart and I wished they had been from LL Bean. I played Chip’s resonator guitar for this. Super fun.
15 – “Jesus Walk Me” – The Fence Sitters 3:50
Dave was the Alpha and Omega songwriter for the record, and he brings us home with this great little ditty. I remember later on our friends Part of the Problem covered it. We had a choir of friends and family in the room singing along on the chorus, and if you listen close you can pick out some of their voices. It was the last track we recorded and a great way to finish out the weekend.
That’s it – thanks for listening along – you can subscribe to my periodic email on the right nav, or read more about The Fence Sitters. Extended Play will be released on August 14!