The tenth CD from David LaMotte, Change, offers thirteen previously unrecorded songs and a new approach to production.
Listeners, press and DJs have been enthusiastic about this latest offering – it debuted at #11 on the Folk-DJ charts in September when it was released, and it took four awards at the SAW Mid-Atlantic Song Contest at the end of 2006, including the Silver in the Instrumental category and the Gold in Folk. Crawl Inside also won runner-up in the 2007 International Acoustic Music Awards.
The production concept for the record sprang out of a conversation David had with his part-time manager, Kari Estrin, who asked him what kind of band he would take on the road if he could take a trio with him all the time. Without hesitation, David answered that he would take a strong percussionist and a versatile cellist. Kari followed up with “Why not make a record like that?”
At first, David resisted the idea, not wanting to limit himself to those aural colors and textures, but the more he considered the versatility of the instruments involved – voice, acoustic guitar, percussion and cello – the more attractive the challenge became.
David contacted his old friend and favorite cellist, Stephanie Winters (currently on tour with Richie Havens), to see if she would be available for the project, and percussionist Derek Murphy (whom he had seen on tour with Willy Porter), and both signed on enthusiastically. Chris Rosser, who produced David’s children’s record S.S. Bathtub and co-produced his eighth album, Spin, agreed to take the producer’s chair, and the team was in place.
The production on this record is markedly different from any other David has done, and not only because of the strict interpretation of what instruments could be used. The way David and Chris approached the project was to work through the songs and plan out how they would produce the song if they were using broader production (keyboards, electric guitars, etc.), then go back through that production plan and figure out how to get those sounds and textures from the instruments at hand. The result is that along with the emotive single-line and orchestral cello parts, harmony vocals and shimmering acoustic guitar that you might expect, there are cello leads where electric guitars might go, pads of voices instead of keyboards, funky bass lines played on the cello, etc. David used several acoustic guitar sounds, including a resonator guitar for one instrumental piece, a classical guitar, a couple of Taylor steel strings and even what John Cage might have called “prepared guitar,” i.e. weaving plastic and paper through the guitar strings to alter the sound.
Then came the guest vocalists, including a local gospel choir, Tish Hinojosa, the Dreamsicles (Tom Prasada-Rao & Cary Cooper), Holly Figueroa, Tom Kimmel, Beth Wood, Chris Rosser and John Gorka.
The end result is that though there are only four colors on the aural palette, the album is sonically lush and rich, and quite surprising in places.
And then there are the songs. David has been playing some of them in public for a year or two, and others have yet to cross the stage. Among the ones he has been playing, Your Smile, which he wrote for the Special Olympics, is in high demand, as is Keep the Change, a song about aging that David plays with a piece of credit card stuck in the strings to alter the string timbre. There are two cover songs, Mi Luna, a song in Spanish by the late Nicaraguan songwriter Salvador Cardenal Barquero which features Spanish guitar by Juan Benevides and harmony vocals by Tish Hinojosa, and a percussion-driven track written by Sting and recorded by the Police, Walking In Your Footsteps, featuring David on percussion and a gospel choir supporting the choruses.
This text is in the inside cover of Change…
For me, naming a record is usually one of the last steps in making it. The song Keep the Change, which I suppose is the title track for this one, was sparked by something my brother-in-law Eric said to me in my dining room last year,“Change is optional… as long as dying is an option.” There’s no avoiding change, but for the most part I’m grateful for the changes that have come in recent years, and there have been no shortage of them. The biggest and best change has been my marriage to Deanna, which has lent a deep solidity and steadiness to my life, usually made of so much asphalt and fluid time. There is the set of changes addressed in that same song: those associated with growing older. It’s hard to believe that this is my tenth CD, or that my musical career now spans fifteen years, or that I can speak of ‘old friends’ who I met as an adult and I’ve known for twenty years. Incredible. Musicians (especially jazz players) often use the word ‘change’ to refer to the chord progression of a song, i.e.“What are the changes?”
And then there’s the money left over from a purchase, which strangely applies here too. Two years ago Deanna and I founded PEG Partners(.org), a non-profit that works with Guatemalan schools, and is primarily funded by donations at my concerts. It’s common for people to buy a CD and put the change toward…well, change. And it’s amazing to see how far that money can go in the third world (or the two-thirds world, as some of my friends more accurately call it). The idea of “changing the world” is often spoken of with eye-rolling derision, but the simple fact is that we’re all changing the world a little bit whether we like it or not. It’s not naive to think we can change the world, it’s naive to think we can avoid changing it.The question is which changes we choose to make.
On a more musical level, this CD represents a change in production approach.A conversation with my part-time manager, Kari Estrin, sparked the idea of making a CD with no sounds on it other than acoustic guitars, vocals, percussion and cello, and though I was originally resistant to limiting the production choices like that, I later fell in love with the challenge of creating all the aural textures, tones and emotions I wanted with only these four colors of paint on the palette. The cello, in particular, is such an emotionally versatile instrument, and Stephanie and Derek both brought extraordinary sensitivity and skill to their performances. Then some of my favorite singers offered their voices. The result is a project that seems to me to hold some contrasting qualities comfortably in the same hand. As I write these words I’ve just received the finished CD from the mastering studio, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Thanks for listening and thereby making this work worthwhile.
Produced by David LaMotte and Chris Rosser
David LaMotte – acoustic guitar and vocals, percussion on Walking In Your Footsteps
Stephanie Winters (.com) – cello
Derek Murphy (.net) – drums & percussion
All songs by David LaMotte, © Lower Dryad Music/ASCAP except for: Keep the Change by David LaMotte and Deanna LaMotte, © Lower Dryad Music/ASCAP, Walking in Your Footsteps by Sting, EMI/Blackwood Music; Mi Luna by Salvador Cardenal, Boyoy Music.
- Beth Wood (bethwoodmusic.com): vocals on Crawl Inside
- The Dreamsicles (.com – Tom Prasada-Rao & Cary Cooper): vocals on Your Smile
- Terry P. Letman, Dr. Horace J. Maxile, Jr.,Kelsie Kee, Jennifer Letman (protainment.com): gospel choir on Walking In Your Footsteps
- Chris Rosser (.com): African guitar on Walking In Your Footsteps and vocals on Ten and a Half
- Holly Figueroa (.com): vocals on Power of Pride
- Juan Benevides: Spanish guitar on Mi Luna
- Tish Hinojosa (mundotish.com): vocals on Mi Luna
- Tom Kimmel (.com): vocals on History Teacher
- John Gorka (.com): vocals on Let Me Go
All photos by David LaMotte except: facing page by Dave Wilder (wilddave.com); this page by Christian Dörr; inside back cover and back cover of booklet by Vicki Burick.
Design by Sheri Lalumondier, Indigo Design, Asheville, NC.
Mastering by Dave Glasser, Airshow Mastering (.com), Boulder,CO.
This CD also contains MP3s of instrumental versions of most of the songs, accessible with your computer.