Recording a new CD this winter

Sand Mountain Coffee House in Houston c. 1965

Frank Davis – Sand Mountain Coffee House in Houston c. 1965

I’m working on a new CD to be recorded and mixed in my home studio this winter. The songs are all acoustic. Most will be recorded with a single guitar in a single take. If I had to pick a genre for it, I would call it Texas Folk.

My musical taste vary wildly. I like most anything live if it’s done well. The music I favor tends to be rock, R&B, blues, some jazz and some country as well. The songs I’ve chosen for this CD are all mine except one. They’re fingerpicked, many in the Travis-style. People I’ve played for in clubs say they’re reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt songs. I take that as a great compliment, though it doesn’t surprise me.

Like Van Zandt, I grew up in Houston in the 50s.  As a child I listened to pop on KILT during the day and fell asleep (eventually) to sensational blues and R&B on KYOK. I was barely in my teens when folk revival hit the airwaves. I saw Townes, Guy Clark and many others folk musicians at Sand Mountain, a coffee house in the Montrose district – not far from my grandparents’ house on Audubon Place. It was 1964-5, near the end of the revival. I was in high school but not old enough to drive. I was absolutely floored by what I heard at Sand Mountain.

As with any fashion most folk songs were uninteresting.  Finally the weight of so many bouncy, mediocre pop-folk hits and the excitement of the British Invasion killed the movement – or rather pushed it into folk rock, and later country.  Many of the enduring folk songs were written and sung by those who raised their voices against social injustice and war. Others were personal.  Many of my favorites were dark road songs about people who longed for companionship but driven to wander alone. This was Townes Van Zandt’s milieu – songs like

Pancho and Lefty
If I Needed You
To Live Is To Fly
For the Sake of the Song
Waitin’ Round to Die
Nine Pound Hammer

Like Townes’ mine are not completely dark. In many I offer the hope of humanity. The Poet of Santa Fe County, Boys Town, The Door in the Dark, and Gulf of Mexico are story songs. In St. James Infirmary I add several verses to flesh out the old blues.  To Life is my ballad to a friend as he lay dying. (Even that leaves a small light in the window.)  Like a Stone and Broken Not Beautiful are about the lifelong effects of early trauma. Call is a love song unanswered. Bueno the Roan is about trying to regain the happiness of youth among the hills of northern New Mexico.

I will try to portray a sense of truth and intimacy in each of them. Stay tuned.

 

 

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Last Days of Chez Nous

Last Days of Chez Nous

I heartily recommend the film The Last Days of Chez Nous (Australian, 1992) . It’s a fine film available for the moment on Netflix. The characters are sharply drawn, the acting is superb and the story pulls you in immediately.

You know where it’s going from the pitch:  “Successful writer Beth’s tepid marriage and home life face a new round of challenges when her footloose younger sister arrives for an extended visit.” But the way the director, writer and actors take you there is breathtaking and shows you what binds us together as humans.

Last Days of Chez Nous

My friend Clay Lindley, the funniest cowboy poet I ever met

clay-linley-and-other-cowboys-smaller

Leading the string of horses in this photograph is Clay Lindley: cowboy, poet, actor, comedian, husband, father and friend. I knew Clay only briefly. He passed in 2005. My friend Joanna Cowell, a leader of the Alpine drama community, recommended him as an actor for the Texas Dick trailer. (Click on image below to see trailer.) Clay was one of those rare celestial people who could instantly brightened a room with his warmth and humor. A true comedian, he produced humor from thin air, sometimes it was one’s own expense. I felt the sting of his wit, but it was always delivered with a gleam of laughter that made you like him even more.

I’ll write more about Clay and the trailer. Please click on the first link below to watch his performance.  He has the first lines 25 seconds into the trailer.  He’s talking to the sheriff of the fictional town of Little Bend, Texas about how – in the manner of a Shakespearean play – the planets are in alignment signaling a portentous event. Click on the image and the trailer will begin:

clay-lindley

Here’s more about Clay from his obituary:

Clayton M. Lindley was born on July 21, 1959 in Del Rio, Texas to Jane and Buster Lindley. He graduated from Silver City, N.M. High School, where he excelled as a swimmer. Clay graduated from Sul Ross University in Alpine, then followed his dream by cowboying in Montana. He later became a Range Specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Clay earned his nickname, Cletus, while working for NRCS in Spur, Texas.
Clay was a rare survivor of childhood leukemia and made it a point to enjoy everyday of his life. He possessed the ability to make everyone around him laugh and smile, and he loved doing it.
Cletus was called home on Thursday, September 1, 2005 following a battle with stomach cancer. Services were held at the First United Methodist Church in Mertzon, Texas on Monday, September 5, 2005. Burial was in the Sherwood Cemetery just down the road from Mertzon.
Pall bearers were Mark Donet, George Ramsey, Marty Donet, Charlie Donet, Robert Gibbons, and John Zeuberbuler.
Honorary pallbearers were Gil Prather, Donnie Franklin, Sonny Fry, Steve St. Clair and Bill Whitley.

Recording a Demo at Electric Wall Studios

Demo at Electric Wall Studios 3

Last Sunday I spent over four and a half hours recording a rough demo of twelve of my songs at Electric Wall Studios in Seattle’s Capital Hill district. I want to thank my friend and recording engineer Brendan  Mills-McCabe (shown above) for his skill and patience during the session. The shot on the right was taken from behind the microphones where I sat, facing the control room.

I haven’t heard the mix yet. But when I do, I will post one or two cuts. The purpose of the demo is to gauge how close I am to recording a CD, this winter perhaps.

Here’s a link to the commodious studios.

Electric Wall Studios

 

New Song – Bueno the Roan

Bueno the Roan2

Bueno the Roan
©2015 Sperry Hunt

1. The telephone rang deep in the night tearing me from my dream.
The earth was the sky and sky was the earth; nothing was as it seemed.
I looked at the number;
It was you again,
Calling your only friend,
When you’re near the end.
It’s what you do
When it’s them.

2. I remember as boys crossing the tracks at the reservoir.
We followed the creek through the woods to Bayou Noir.
We fished with the kids of the maids and the yardmen
Side by side.
Dreams of the riverside.
Boys of the riverside.
Boys you now decide
Are Them.

Chorus. Long ago we rode the hills of New Mexico
On Pablo, the paint, and Bueno, the roan –
Caught in the rains with only our ponchos for shelter
Deep in the trees two mountains from home.
Now you shelter behind the mighty walls of your fortress
Where everyone fears you and leaves you alone.
Let me take you back to the hills of New Mexico.
I will lead you home like Bueno the roan.

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Twenty feet from the Kennedys

The Kennedys, Johnson and Stevenson

12/6/1962 Kennedy Foundation Dinner in the Hilton ballroom. Left to Right:U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, President Kennedy, First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson

This is the story of how my father came to be twenty feet from President and Jackie Kennedy. Like all Southern stories, this one begins a while back. I’ll be brief.

My father’s father,Wilmer Sperry Hunt, came of age in the 1890s as the son of a doctor in poor little Ripley, Mississippi, where opportunities were scarce. When he was nineteen, Sperry, as my grandfather was called, was invited to Austin to live with his sister while he studied law at the University of Texas. After receiving his degree, he moved to Houston, opened a law office and married my grandmother, a bright, well-to-do girl named Lucy Brady, who once bragged to me that she had a (corseted) nineteen inch waist on the day of her wedding. Ouch.

Born in 1903, my father Wilmer Brady Hunt was the only boy of three children. By all accounts he grew up to be a funny young dandy who was as comfortable at a black-tie party as he was hunting and playing cards. In 1928 he too received his law degree from UT. He returned to Houston where he joined his father’s firm and married a lovely, artistic woman named Eugenia. Five years later, in the midst of the Depression, my father took over the firm, following Grandpa’s unexpected death. What I skipped over were the four years from 1921 to 1925 when Dad earned his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. My father took me to DC in early December of 1962. It was the only trip my father and I ever took alone.

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Searching for an illustrator for The Inventors’ Daughter

Searching for an Illustrator

Searching for an Illustrator2

My two novels are finished, and I’m considering hiring an illustrator to create a few images to help me market them. I’m familiar with the argument that publishers choose illustrators from those they regularly work with. But my feeling is that if I show up with very fine illustrations that really tell, or should I say, show my story, the discussion will never occur.

So, how to find an artist who portrays my stories the way I see them?  Just looking above at six of the thousands of images I’ve examined, you can imagine how daunting the process can be. None of the illustrators seem like the one I’m looking for so far. My Inventors Daughter series lives between the middle grade and young adult genres. My main character and her best friend are young teenagers (13-16). Taken as a whole the novels are a coming of age story. They’re not graphic novels, but they have a graphic, even cinematic quality. The first is a gritty urban rescue story,  set partially underground, with a fantastic invention, a kidnapping, a train chase toward an unfinished bridge and Men with Bulldog tattoos. The second is a time machine/pirate epic with a bit of steampunk sandwiched in the middle. They’re science fiction/adventure stories for the kid who wants to feel older and the older person who wants to feel younger.

And so continues the search for an illustrator able to portray an earnest, brave young woman who, as the slug line states, saves her parents from the world and the world from their inventions.