Steve Earle
Sidetracks
Steve's song-by-song description


Steve Earle
Fairview, Tennessee
January 2002

Over the last six or seven years, I've made five records (I call them records because that's how I approach them as documents with a beginning, a middle, and an end).  They were all recorded in continuous blocks of time, usuallya couple of weeks for basic tracks, a week for overdubs, and a couple more to mix.  Sometimes this process can be disorienting and frustrating and I found myself wishing I could simplyrecord one song at a time from basic track to final mix in a day or two.  This, I told myself, was how The Beatles did it when they convened at Abbey Road every few months in the mid-sixties to record their singles, (which are) in my opinion, the greatest recording sessions in pop music history.

The problem is that my bass player lives in L.A., my guitar player in New York, and my dance card is way too full to make the process practical for the production of full length albums (there I go again, CDs are nearlyextinct and I've never been comfortable with the term it sounds so Wall Street).  As close as I get is when I'm asked to make music for a film or a tribute or benefit record.  With the exception of the instrumentals, which we left off of Transcendental Blues at the last minute (a decision I have often regretted), these are not outtakes.  They are, rather, stray tracks recorded at different times for different reasons that I am very proud of and are either unreleased or underexposed.

Sidetracks:  track by track

Some Dreams:  I wrote this for a movie called The Rookie, which is about Jimmy Morris who in his late thirties discovered he could throw a baseball ninety-eight miles an hour and did so for two seasons in the majors.  This is a move that makes grown men cry kind of like a chick movie for guys.

Open Your Window:  Two-thirds of this appears in Pay It Forward.  If I'd known they onlyneed two-thirds of a song, I could have saved us all a lot of trouble.

Me And The Eagle:  Wrote this for The Horse Whisperer.  Hated the book, liked the script, never saw the movie, but I'm pretty proud the song.

Johnny Too Bad:  I learned this the same place everyone else outside Jamaica did from the original by the Slickers on the soundtrack for The Harder They Come.  The basic track was recorded on sessions for the V-roys' first record.  Then we shipped it off to Birmingham, England where the vocal group RNT and toaster C-Fax put in their two cents worth.  This is the Jamaican equivalent of I Fought The Law.

Dominick St.:  This instrumental was recorded in Dublin with Sharon Shannon and her band, The Woodchoppers, the same day that we recorded The Galway Girl.  This is the sound of Joy..

Breed:  Another kind of Joy.  We need a "bonus track" for the Japanese version of Transcendental Blues.  Danny Goldberg said "just do a cover".  I chose Breed as a sort of surprise for Danny and his lovelyand brilliant wife, Rosemary Carroll.

Time Has Come Today:  The Chambers Brothers classic.  Sheryl was in L.A.  I was in Nashville.  Abbie was wherever Abbie is.  Technology rocks sometimes.

Ellis Unit One:  The solo version that appeared on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack was Tim Robbins' favorite.  I preferred this one featuring The Fairfield Four but, hey, it was Tim's movie.  Dedicated to the memory of James Hill.

Creepy Jackelope Eye:  My Brothers.  Recorded in Seattle the day Bill Monroe died.

Willin':  Recorded with the Bluegrass Dukes on the Transcendental sessions.  I love to sing with Tim and Darrell.

Sara's Angel:  Same day.  Same band.  The title comes from the hopelesslyuglylittle wooden angel that Sara adopted and that now greets me from above my backdoor every time I come home.

My Uncle:  The Bluegrass Dukes again, this time live in Fargo.  I consider this song to be VERY patriotic.

My Back Pages:  Based on Dylan's version rather than the Byrds', which to my ear are two completelydifferent songs.  This was originallya duet by Joan Osborne and Jackson Browne that we produced for a film.  We recorded the track in Nashville and then sent it off to L.A. and then on to Barcelona so that Joan and Jackson could add their vocals.  I always liked my "scratch" vocal for some reason, even though it was a little out of my range.  It makes it sound urgent like my head may explode at any second.

And it may.

© 2003-2007 Clint Harris  (clint@steveearle.net) – All Rights Reserved
© 1995-2003 Lisa Kemper  – All Rights Reserved

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