Sunday, January 16, 2011

Favorite Track - Unfulfilled Desires

I was sitting around with some buddies after the So Much Closer New Year's Eve show at Luna Lounge, just talking music and motion, women and whiskey. Typical night. One of my friends was saying how impressed he was that we pulled off 3 hours of original tunes. Being that So Much Closer is barely a year old, and we only did 3 songs from my previous bands, it is pretty cool. However, after making some humble appreciative remark, my mind was thinking three hours is nothing. If we did every song every band of mine has done, we are talking an easy 5 to 6 hours. Then the question came, "Of all the songs you have written, which is your favorite." Wow!

That question is daunting. I have probably written close to 75 songs, maybe more. I know I have 4 notebooks filled with song breakdowns and lyrics. To pick a favorite seems impossible. So, I decided what I could do is pick a favorite by album and make a blog series out of it.

Before I dive in a few caveats. I am not starting with my first recording but the first CD I sunk money into. The first CD that I bar coded and someone else did the duplication and production. That CD was Unfulfilled Desires, recorded in 1999 and released in 2000.

Yes...yes, make fun of the uber cheesy photo shoot. I was barefoot and in a sports coat. I was confused, fragmented, a Cali kid that thought to be a singer/songwriter and appeal to a more mature demographic I needed to be upscale. Remember this was 1999. There were very few singer/songwriters getting attention around St. Louis. There was one production company that was bringing in solo performers for shows out at the Viking, and the crowds were older, so I thought that was the demographic I was trying to court. I did show more of myself on the inside, however.

Shorts and a button up. If you see me play tomorrow, that is pretty much what you are gonna get. Although I wear shoes now, after an incident at Cicero's with a broken bottle on stage. OUCH!

Unfulfilled Desires was recorded by my good friends Rob Woerther. I met Rob when he was hosting an open mic at Sally T's. There was instant chemistry between us and shared musical appreciation. At the time Rob was doing a lot of home recording. He had a nice ADAT set up and good mics, so I traded him a Gibson ES-120 for some recording time, and we went to town. There is a warmth on this CD that I have never been able to duplicate. This is also the only CD I have recorded where Pro-Tools or some form a digital program was not used. It is pretty sparse. I really just wanted something clean that I could use to book shows. For the most part it is me on guitar and vocals, Rob filling in the bottom with synth bass, and we brought in Ryan Spearman to play mandolin on a couple of tracks.

As I was going through the CD, listening to each track, reliving those moments it was a struggle to pick my favorite song. Part of me gravitated to "The One" primarily because the opening line, "You could have been the one, coffee eyes and careless curls." I can instantly see my subject, and I know the lyrics were soundly inspired by Tom Waits and his magical use of everyday images as descriptors...and the sky turned the color of Pepto-Bismol. But, as I listened to the song, I realized I had no idea what I was playing, there was no way I could play that song today. How could my favorite song from a CD be one I didn't even care enough about to remember. With that concept firmly ingrained, I decided to go with my go-to song, "Railroad Affair."

For years this was the song that I would play when I couldn't think of what to play. It holds a very special place for me because of its back story, the significance of influence, and the return to simplicity that it represents. As a young songwriter that had never really learned to play guitar, my first songs were very creative because I had no idea what I was doing, just moving fingers to make new sounds. Then as I learned more everything got extremely complex...lets finger pick, arpeggiate, and flat pick all in one song, AND let's throw meter completely out the window, each song must have a verse, a chorus, and a bridge, and lets go ahead and make all three completely unrelated. "Railroad Affair" is 4 chords. The entire song is 4 chords. There is no bridge, and the chorus and verse are the exact same progression, just a different attack. Yet, it works. Also, this is also the first song I wrote where St. Louis was represented as my home. Enjoy!

Railroad Affair by S. Eric Ketzer (1999) by SoMuchCloser

Railroad Affair

Three hundred nights I sleep alone in this broken down bed
These tracks are long and winding and they end in you

I hear the whistle blowing it’s not my stop
I peer through the cabin window, and I envision you

So many days I feel I am losing time
Seduced by the land and this railroad affair

Mile high in Denver and on to the San Diego coast
I see the lights rollin’ by, and I am calling out to you

Next stop the Frisco Bay, I wander these streets beside myself
I look in every storefront in search of you

So many days I feel I am losing time
Seduced by the land and this railroad affair

Across the empty plains I see the buffalo roaming
I watch the clouds form pictures of you

As the midnight moon descends upon Rivercity
I step from train and I hold on to you
Yes I hold on to you

Unfulfilled Desires was a short run and soldout quickly. It was the first CD that gave me hope that one day this would be my life. That has yet to happen, but the hope still burns, and I still love playing "Railroad Affair."

Inside cover shot at Sally T's at one of my early shows.

Back cover, more cheese.

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