Run Against You And Win
The basic track for this was cut on the day I was filming a scene for Treme so Matt handled the band.
Though I had intended for Herman to be drummer on every track, it turned out to be very representative of New Orleans that we wound up with over a half dozen drummers. I could have used a different drummer on all 24 songs and never run out of good drummers in New Orleans.
Matt had hired Doug Belote for this session. The song is a scene in the book where Frank Minyard decides to run for Coroner. The scene begins as he and Father Theriot hand out methadone to junkies, shifts to the office of Sheriff Heyd and again to the office of Coroner Rabin who is so apathetic that he angers Frank into running against him. Because there were three scene shifts, Colman and I had written three different sections for the song which made it three short songs really. Matt had done a very nice Abbey Road/The Beatles/ style job of stringing the bits together with instrumental interludes but the arrangements were complicated, especially for the drummer who was responsible for the difference in groove and volume along the way. Doug did all of these things seamlessly, the song flows as Matt intended and as it sounded in my head when I found the melody. Tom McDermott again set the tone and creates the mood with his incredible knowledge of and dexterity within any style of New Orleans piano playing.
Tim Laughlin brings in the clarinet with his echoes of Pete Fountain’s playing which are part of Frank’s character in the Dan Baum’s book as Frank is proud of his friendship with Pete who is a “real” musician. Rick Trolsen, from the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, on trombone adding the – take – to Tim’s – give – in what sounds like a sustained conversation between the trombone and clarinet throughout the song even as the melody and mood shifts.
The backing singers were the “house choir”. The need for speed and the complexity of Matt’s vocal arrangements made us decide to stick with one group of background singers for the bulk of the record. Debbie Davis, Arséne DeLay, Tara Brewer and Vatican Lokey were there, working hours a day in order to sing a few minutes of music for a track. This particular vocal arrangement had some torturous intervals which Matt had written in the “junkie chorus” section and the singers exhausted themselves getting it to where Matt was satisfied. We added a few voices to these on this track. One was Deb’s father J.B. Davis., an opera singer with a gorgeous bass voice. He was to be in town for the holidays so we saved this part for him. J.B. is a serious professional who came in completely prepared and knocked his part out easily. I was happy to have more family on the record and Deb was sweetly grateful to have a chance to appear on a record with her mom, dad and husband. Dad was singing this time so she didn’t have to worry about him trading theater stories with anyone.
My pal, Mark Adam Miller, from the rock band Dead-Eye Dick, agreed to sing backup and one of the featured lines in the junkie chorus. Mark is an ironic voice for the junkie chorus because he doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs but he has been an actor for years and ran with the idea. Mark had also been the first of my old rock friends to call me after I left The Mouth and moved to Belize. He had heard I was coming home for the holidays in 2006 and he kindly insisted that we do a Christmas night show at Carrolton Station, something I have done for twenty years before the flood, from original owner, Tom Bennet, to current keeper of the flame, Eric Orlando. I was in still in shock from what had happened to New Orleans, from leaving my band, losing my “friends” of fifteen years. I suppose like thousands of people I was looking for a nudge in any direction and Mark gave me that nudge.
This vibe was surrounding me and the making of Nine Lives and the sessions were glowing with energy, respect and friendship. My buddy, Eric “Shoeless” Pollard, and my brother, John Sanchez, had come out to help sing harmonies on a few songs. My budget was gone and I couldn’t sing all of the baritone parts myself so both of these men, who had followed Nine Lives since Colman and I started writing it two years ago, started showing up to sing for free because they dig the work and care about me. Both are wonderful singers and you simply can’t replace that kind of love from a friend and devotion to the project. I smile with real appreciation whenever I hear their voices on the record.
I was again singing the voice of Frank Minyard as he converses with Father Theriot who was being sung by Caleb Guillote. Caleb was the singer, songwriter and guitarist of Dead-Eye Dick along with Mark Miller and Billy Landry on drums. They had a gold record with their debut album, songs placed in films and toured the world. Caleb and I used to have an informal songwriters club when we were young and trying to make our way as writers. He has remained a friend and supporter as he has gone on to work in the film business. He still performs and I have always dug the power and control he had with his voice He was also a Jesuit High graduate who has delighted at casting himself in a different mold than the average Jesuit graduate so he had fun playing with the notes as well as role of Father Theriot. I think he got a kick out of being a priest for Nine Lives, I know I dug the irony and it was great to have a chance to sing with him again.
The part of Sheriff Heyd is sung/acted by my brother George, who did so playfully and wonderfully using all of two takes. George is 70 and has been an actor for all of his adult life on stage, television and film. He is a director, writer, actor and true lover of the arts. He is one of the reasons I wanted to perform when I was a kid.
We were a poor family, my father was a longshoreman who died leaving a house full of kids for my mom to raise in The Irish Channel. My brother had just graduated college and he became an actor. I would see the clippings my mom collected of him performing in Detroit and a favorite clipping of him performing Auntie Mame for Southern Rep in New Orleans in a cast which included my brothers Joseph and Andrew. Later, he became director of the Boston and Washington Pops and would come home with stories of meeting famous musicians and singers. He met The Beatles record producer, George Martin which was a big deal for me knowing that my own brother had come close to The Beatles. He showed me that there was another life waiting out there beyond the poverty and brutality of where I was and I knew I would find a way to get to that life. I wanted him for these reasons but also because he has been a part of the New Orleans theater scene for all of his career and I really was trying to tie in as many elements of the music community as possible.
We all approach how we play very differently, jazz guys, rock bands, brass players, theater performers, we all follow different rules and chart a different course to arrive in similar places. In the four years since the flood I had learned this from my guitar teacher John Rankin, I learned it when I had the chance to sit in with Boutté’s band, Shamarr Allen’s band, Glen David Andrews’ band. Crossing that distance is like learning to say the same sentence in a different language, it feels good when you make the connection and I wanted to share that feeling of connection and community with as many performers and hopefully as many listeners as I could. I was no longer just making a record. I was putting my life back together by creating a new community of all the different aspects of music that created me in the first place.
The final singer on this track is one of my dearest friends in the music business, Rob Savoy, who was one of the five bass players in The Mouth during my fifteen year tenure. We slept across the aisle of the bus from each other for 7 years, saw the best and worst moments of our lives and each others lives together and shared more laughs than should be legal. Rob was one of the funniest cats I ever had the pleasure to share space with and still is, in fact he is in a band full of guys who tell jokes as much as they play songs with Creole Stringbeans. The part he was to sing involved singing, acting and comedy. Rob Savoy is a singer uniquely suited to that moment and I had seen him give over the top comedic singing performances many times backstage so it was great to give him a chance to be silly for the listening public. Rob did not let me down and we performed this vocal looking at each other through the vocal booth and big studio room because the timing was tight and it had to be a tense conversation. It worked great but every time we got to the part where Rob is supposed to be funny he kept cracking me up so as producer I had to chastise myself as a singer and focus. I think that fun comes across on the track as does the growing feeling of coming together to celebrate friendship, love, mutual respect and this city we love so much.
Run Against You And Win is a snapshot of New Orleans, drug problems, some good and some questionable people in charge of solving things.
Comedy in the face of the absurdity of it all.
~Paul Sanchez – April 18, 2011