Cave, Lunch, Harry for J.L. Pierce Trib

 

Featuring Nick Cave,
Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, Mick Harvey, Mark Lanegan, Isobel Campbell, Barry
Adamson, Johnny Dowd, Dave Alvin, The Sadies, The Raveonettes, Kid Congo Powers
and Wovenhand/16 Horsepower’s David Eugene Edwards.

 

By Fred Mills

 

Germany’s
long-running Glitterhouse label will be releasing a tribute to the late Gun
Club mainman Jeffrey Lee Pierce on January 11. Titled We Are Only Riders – The JLP Sessions Project, it features the
above-listed all-star cast of musicians, many of whom were friends of or
collaborators with Pierce in his lifetime. (Thanks to Bucketfull of Brains for
the heads-up on this.)

 

Apparently Britain’s Cypress Grove (a longtime Pierce fan
and friend who had worked with the vocalist on the 1994 album Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee; he subsequently appeared
in the Hard Times Killin’ Floor Blues JLP documentary) came across a trove of nearly-forgotten tapes he and Pierce
had recorded in the early ‘90s, and while the sound quality was deemed too poor
to release, the idea arose to approach other artists about recording their
versions of some of the material. Once word got out in the music community
about the project, folks quickly lined up to volunteer their services,
resulting in an extraordinary 16-song album that includes not only artists’
solo tracks but some tantalizing duets and collaborations as well – Nick Cave
and Debby Harry, anyone? (Fun fact: in his pre-Gun Club days, Pierce operated a
Los Angeles-based Blondie fan club.)

 

Here are the details and tracklisting, courtesy
Glitterhouse:

 

 

We Are Only Riders is
more than just a ‘various artists’ compilation. It’s a musical collective of
artists who have come together to interpret (and in some cases, complete)
unfinished skeletal works by Jeffrey Lee Pierce, an artist they were friends
with or whose work they admired. Artists featured on the album include Nick Cave,
who has done his own solo track, as well as duetting with Debbie Harry, and playing
piano on Debbie’s solo track, and added backing vocals on the Cypress Grove
track. Mick Harvey contributed to two of the Nick Cave
tracks and has recorded a solo track. Barry Adamson plays bass on the Nick Cave
solo track and also on the Mark Lanegan solo track, who has also recorded a
duet with Isobel Campbell. Dave Alvin is the driving force behind ‘Walkin’ The
Streets’ together with Lydia Lunch, a song which The Blasters and The Gun Club
jammed on together in the studio after a drunken night many years ago.

 

About three years ago
while clearing out his attic, Cypress Grove came across a bag of dusty old
cassettes. He started to sort through them and found one marked ‘JLP Songs’. As
soon as he put it on he remembered what it was; Cypress Grove & Jeffrey
rehearsing material for the album they made together in the early 90’s. (
Ramblin’
Jeffrey Lee and Cypress Grove with Willie love’). The album was initially going to contain country songs, but it
gradually evolved into a full blown blues album. It was recorded on an old
boombox in Cypress Grove’s bedroom, just the two of them on acoustic guitars.
The sound quality was terrible, but was good enough to make out the songs,
which were excellent. The three country songs were ‘Ramblin’ Mind’, ‘Constant
Waiting’ and ‘Free To Walk’. In addition to the terrible audio quality, there
was also no level of performance on these recordings, as Jeffrey was merely
showing Cypress Grove the material. Releasing these songs from the cassette was
therefore out of the question. But if Cypress Grove could get them properly
recorded, that would be different. Also, because there were no definitive
versions of these songs, and there was no idea how Jeffrey himself would have
envisaged the completed work, then why stop at one version? It would be
fascinating to hear how different artists might interpret these songs from this
most basic and crude of templates – the cassette!

Cypress Grove initially started to contact musicians through their myspace
pages. Mark Lanegan was totally into it and was in the studio at the time, so
was able to record his stuff quite quickly. Cypress Grove then asked if Isobel
Campbell would duet on ‘Free to Walk’ with Mark, which of course she did. She
was so please with it that she added the song to their live shows. Cypress
Grove then e-mailed Jim Sclavunos and asked if he thought Nick Cave
would be interested, who also agreed. This would have been impossible without
Digital technology, with artists adding their parts all over the world –
London, Melbourne, Glasgow, Barcelona, Los Angeles etc. Once word of the
Project started to get out, more material became available through family and
friends. Jeffrey’s old friend Phast Phreddie Patterson provided a copy of a
home made cassette recording he made of Jeffrey doing ‘My Cadillac’ and ‘St.
Mark’s Place’, which were actually pre – Gun Club recordings. Also, Cypress
Grove was able to obtain the two inch master tapes of some song ideas they had
recorded at the end of the
‘Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee’ sessions One of these was ‘The Snow Country’. All they had was
Jeffrey’s guitar part and the drums; but no vocals. Cypress Grove had no idea
what Jeffrey had in mind for this song but he had acquired some hand written
lyrics that Jeffrey had never used, so they matched ‘The Snow Country’ lyrics
to the track. Gene Temesy and Mick Harvey came up with the vocal melody and
they had a brand new Jeffrey composition from beyond the grave! With the
exception of ‘Lucky Jim’, all the songs on the album are brand new Jeffrey
songs.


‘Lucky Jim’ was on the end of the
‘Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee’ tapes and was the very first time Jeffrey
recorded this song. In Cypress Grove’s opinion, this version is better that the
one that ended up on the ‘
Lucky Jim’ album.
So although Cypress Grove had a policy of ‘no previously released songs – only
new material’, he felt he had to make an exception for this one. The only
problem was the tape ran out after about one and a half minutes. But thanks to
digital technology, Cypress Grove was able to ‘stitch’ an entire song together
and then add bass and guitar parts. Debbie Harry added vocals and Chris Stein
played Guitar, with Nick
Cave’s piano to top of it
all.

 

Tracklisting:

 

1 Nick Cave – ‘Ramblin’ Mind’
2 Mark Lanegan – ‘Constant Waiting’
3 The Raveonettes – ‘Free To Walk’
4 Debbie Harry – ‘Lucky Jim’
5 Lydia Lunch – ‘My Cadillac’
6 David Eugene Edwards – ‘Ramblin’ Mind’
7 The Sadies – ‘Constant Waiting’
8 Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell – ‘Free To Walk’
9 Lydia Lunch – ‘St. Marks Place’
10.Crippled Black Phoenix – ‘Bells On The River’
11.Cypress Grove – ‘Ramblin’ Mind’
12.Johnny Dowd – ‘Constant Waiting’
13.Nick Cave & Debbie Harry – ‘Free To Walk’
14.Mick Harvey – ‘The Snow Country’
15.David Eugene Edwards & Crippled Black Phoenix – ‘Just Like A Mexican
Love’
16.Lydia Lunch, Dave Alvin, And The JLP Sessions Project – ‘Walkin’ Down The
Street (Doin’ My Thing)’

 

JLP doing “Alabama Blues”:

 

 

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