COACH HOUSE BLUES
01. Murdering Blues
02. Through Train Blues
03. Watching You
04. T.V. Momma
06. Talkin’ To Myself
07. Blind Man
08. I Don’t Got You
09. 2 + 1 Blues
10. Statesboro Blues
11. Full Moon Blues
12. Home For Christmas
13. I Wonder
14. Medley: Stomp Down Rider / You Done Told Everybody
LINER NOTES: Writing the liner notes on your own recording is comparable to mourning at your own wake. But because this recording was such a special event, you all need to hear the details from me.
We recorded the disc in my good friend Ray Sanders’ coach house. Ray restored it to resemble 1920s Mississippi juke joint, and he keeps it that way 24/7! I have seen many folks come and go from the coach house and response is always the same: “This place is amazing”, and indeed it is.
Built in the 1890s as a stable, the coach house is situated on the alley behind Ray’s main house. Downstairs has a huge kitchen complete with a working antique stove, ice box, butcher block tables, stained glass windows and rows of shelves lined with preserves in Mason jars. Upstairs in the loft where we recorded, is a vintage wood-burning stove, antebellum farming tools, and several comfy old couches and chairs. Black history memorabilia lines the walls and hangs from the rafters.
We chose the coach house over a sterile studio because I felt so at home there. I spend a lot of time in the coach house playing music and discussing and solving many of the world’s problems with Ray. The coach house is where I rehearsed for my gig at the 1997 Chicago Blues Festival. It is also where Ray introduced me to Mr. Hammie van Hall. As you may already know, I recorded my first disc, “Just A Dream”, on Europe’s renowned Black Magic Label. Through Hammie, and his connections at Black Magic and the Crossroads Blues Agency, I have traveled Europe many times playing in blues festivals and clubs. So you see, the coach house is very significant to me.
Now in the preceding paragraph when I say “we chose”, I mean Brian Johnson and yours truly. In fact, I think it was Brian’s original idea to record in the coach house. I could very easily turn these liner notes into the Brian Johnson and Ray Sanders story because this project simply would not have happened without them.
The evening of June 5th was perfect. Our guests had been told in advance and again at show time, that there were to be no applause, no clinking of shot glasses, and no sucking-of Bar-B-Que-out-of-teeth sounds. Everyone complied without a hitch. The only one I failed to tell were the birds. In fact, if you listen carefully, you can hear them after almost every track.
1. Murdering Blues. This is a Robert Nighthawk tune which has an old blues man’s refrain, “I’m gon’ murda my baby, if she don’t stop dis cheatin’ and lying'”. We’ve all been there. Not a pretty situation to be in, either as the cheater or the cheatee.
2. Through Train Blues. The great Hudson Whittaker, aka Tampa Red, wrote and performed this tune in the 1930’s, with just his National Steel Tricone guitar and a Tuba. I really love the music of Tampa Red; he was a slide player without compare. Like Red’s original, my version has just my National Steel and big Gary’s Tuba.
3. Watching You. This is an original tune. At the recording session someone remarked, “It’s about time somebody immortalized Larry King in a blues number!” I almost fell off of my chair laughing so hard. It’s not about King, I just use his name because everybody watches him. Don’t they?
4. T.V. Momma. This is one of those real delta style guitar pieces, ala Son House, Charley Patton, Willie Brown, et al. Johnny Winter wrote this one and its about a man whose tube (if you know what I mean) is worn, but then, perhaps through the power of adult video tapes, (pre-Viagra) he gets his tube back up to par and is eager to show his woman. Check it out.
5. Ramblin’. This tune is such a crowd pleaser and I lover performing it. This is one of my favorites. Rambin’ is of course a tune written by the late great Robert Johnson. I have had the privilege and honor of visiting the living and great David “Honeyboy” Edwards at his home on the south side of Chicago, not too far from where I grew up. Mr. Edwards was a contemporary of Johnson’s who traveled with him during the ’20’s, and ’30’s. Every time I play a Robert Johnson tune, I can’t help but think of Honeyboy and some of the great stories he has shared with me.
6. Talkin’ To Myself. I love playing this Blind Willie McTell tune, where Willie talks about playing Mumbly Peg. Do you remember how to play? Sure you do, but in case you have forgotten remind me at my next gig and I’ll refresh your memory.
7. The Blind Man. When I was a little guy, about 7, I was on my way home from school, walking down Ellis Avenue on Chicago’s south side. I saw this blind man standing on the sidewalk playing a National Steel guitar, very similar to the ’31 Style ‘O” that I’m playing on this track. There was a big crowd of adults around him, begging him, “Ooowee, play that again blind man, play that again!” Very coolly and matter-of-factly, the blind man said, “Naw, I just cain’t keep playin’ this stuff for nothin’ now, this is how I make my living'”. So the crowd began to dig deep into their pockets and they overfilled the cup that was attached to the lapel of his suit coat with half dollars and quarters. The people gave him so much money, that many of the coins fell onto the ground. I remember that on this particular day, there was an old woman whom I anxiously assisted in retrieving the change from the sidewalk that had fallen from the blind man’s overfilled cup and stuffing them in his coat pocket. I will never forget that day as long as I live. That blind man was Arvella Gray and this disc is dedicated to him.
8. I Don’t Got you. I believe that there is someone for everyone in this world. We each have that perfect exact opposite number, some call it our soul mate. That special someone will appear in your life when and where you are perfectly ready to give that person your very best; it will not happen any sooner by our forced efforts. That is the underlying lesson of this song.
9. 2 + 1 Blues. Past life fantasy. I ain’t lyin’.
10. Statesboro Blues. This tune was written by Blind Willie McTell, whose main axe was a big old Stella 12 string guitar, which had 28 inches between the nut and the bridge, and man, what a sound he got! This is a tune that I used to do a lot, but have not played that much live until very recently, since acquiring a different 12 string. I hope you like my version of Mr. McTell’s classic.
11. Full Moon Blues. About 10 years ago, way past midnight, and semi asleep in my bed, I became paralyzed with fear. I literally could not move and was afraid to even breathe. I couldn’t see what was in my room. It appeared to be in the distance yet close to me. Whatever it was seemed to be daring me, prohibiting me, from taking another breath. This experience happened several times over the next two years. I have no doubt that my night visitor was some sort of spirit and judging by the paralyzing fear it brought, it was undoubtedly evil. I told my friend “Washboard” Annie about my experience and she advised that the next time it happens to ask its name. Well, since speaking with Annie, I have come into a greater knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ, consequently, it has never returned long enough for me to ask it its name. But in the song, I do ask…
12. Home For Christmas. This is a Kate Bush tune that I completely rearranged from her original recording. This is the only tune not recorded at the coach house. It was recorded in a “real” studio. But don’t hold that against it. It sounds great!
13. I Wonder. For those who dream of loves gone bye or dwell on present love ins peril. If you have to ask yourself: “Does she ever think of me?”, then you have just answered your own question.
14. Stomp Down Rider/You Done Told Everybody. This Blind Willie McTell/Mississippi Fred McDowell medley is played on an amped 12 string. I rarely plug in any more, but I couldn’t resist Ray’s Fender Twin. I hope you like this tune as much as I do.
Diamond Jim Greene: vocals and guitars
Rick Sherry: harmonica (1), washboard (7)
Matthew Skoller: harmonica (5, 10)
Gary Shepers: tuba (2)
Mike Grenz: stand up bass (7)
Meg Guttman: harmony vocals (13)
Produced by Jim Greene & Brian Johnson
All tracks were recorded (analog), mixed and master by Robert Marshall. Through Robert’s talents and great ear, we were able to realize the vision of recording at the coach house. Track 12 was recorded by Steve Yates at his studio. Editing by Brian Johnson. The package and label design, as well as the photography, are also Brian’s work. I would like to thank the following musicians for putting their time, their talents, and their souls onto this disc: Rich Sherry, Matthew Skoller, Gary Shepers, Mike Grenz, and Meg Guttman. I would also like to thank guitarist Paul K(Kolodny) who was scheduled to appear courtesy of BloodShot Records, but due to some scheduling conflicts, we could not connect. Finally, I would like to thank all the folks who came to the session for their support and encouragement. Without you we could not have pulled this off. -Jim Greene, October 1998