This was my first professionally produced recording session, produced by a recently Grammy nominated songwriter, New York musician JC Hopkins. The band featured guitarist Steve Elliot, Tim Luntzel on bass, Tony Leone on drums, and JC on the Hammond and harmonica. From the start, I wanted a fully mid-sixties band sound. So JC booked the session at The Maid’s Room in New York, where we analog recorded the session on 4-inch tape and mixed it down to 2-inch tape. The album was mastered at New York’s famed Avatar Studio.
Cold Winter Day (McTell)
I used to play this tune at open mic’s in the ‘90s. So when “Cold Winter Day” was struck up by these incredible musicians I sang into the mic without the lyrics in front of me. I still knew them like the back of my hand. I used old postcard images from EBay for the video, plus Bob Crabb’s fine illustration of the the man-with-a-suitcase from the CD booklet.
Take It To the Water (Cogley)
I wrote my first songs back when I was 20. I’d write out my words and chords in a notebook which somehow I saved and still have today. I remember writing this tune when I lived in Summerland and enrolled at Santa Barbara City College. It’s the first song we did at the recording session.
JC suggested that I not include “Standby Blues” in the American Hill album because it didn’t fit in too well with the other tunes, so I left it off. Yet I don’t think the American Hill album would have happened if it weren’t for this tune. That November I had taken JC’s songwriting workshop. One day an early snowstorm hit. WIth the snow still piling up, he and I were the only ones who showed up for the workshop. I had written Standby Blues to fulfill our assignment and so we honed it that morning. Before we parted ways we agreed to collaborate on what would be the first American Hill recording session a few weeks later.