New arrangements of songs by the dB’s as a digital release to benefit the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
The Recording Academy’s charitable foundation provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in time of need.
Our Back Pages is a digital-only release of dB’s music re-imagined by the band’s Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey. The collection, featuring new acoustic versions of some of the duo’s favorite dB’s songs, will benefit the Recording Academy’s MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Stamey explains, “Over the years, Peter and I have evolved acoustic versions of a number of our songs from our days together in The dB’s. While working on a duo project in my studio a decade ago, we took some time to lay down some of these arrangements, which are often quite different from the normal electric presentations. We are both always more concerned with making new music than with looking back, so it stayed in the archives. But it seemed like the time was right, so we finally completed and mixed it all over the last two weeks, just for this. We’d like to offer it now as a small contribution, a little bit of light in these dark days.”
Signature dB’s songs, including “Black And White,” “Big Brown Eyes,” and “Happenstance,” are ably propelled here by lyric and guitar energy alone, and the hooks remain—it’s easy to find one’s self singing along. Tunes such as “Dynamite” and “From a Window to a Screen” are revealed as precursors to the music the two made together later, as they feature “dual lead,” close-harmony vocals as essential elements. Others, such as Peter’s “Today Could Be The Day” and “Molly Says,” were originally recorded by the band after Stamey’s departure, so this marks the first time he’s gone on record with them. When going through the material in preparation for mastering, they even discovered a forgotten track, “Depth Of Field,” and completed it for this release; although a version had appeared on a Stamey solo record, it fits in here because it was originally written and rehearsed contemporaneously with the rest for The dB’s’ second album, Repercussion.
Another song, “Picture Sleeve,” is both old and new. A song by this title was in the band’s sets circa 1978, but all that anyone could remember, years later, were the first few lines, some chords, and the subject matter. Using those elements as a jumping-off point, it was rewritten for a Record Store Day single release three decades later, and a duo version is part of this release. Peter’s classic ballad “Nothing Is Wrong,” a staple of their live duo sets, was overlooked during the original sessions and sadly missed. Fortunately, it’s included on this new collection in a version The dB’s themselves recorded during a rehearsal in Hoboken, New Jersey in 2006.
“We’re still proud of the electric versions of the songs,” Stamey insists, “but a sturdy song should be able to handle a bit of reinvention from time to time, and it was fun to get under the hood and see what was there even without the charm and power of Will Rigby’s explosive drums and Gene Holder’s nimble bass runs. In most cases, it’s a trip back in time to the songs’ origins of being written on acoustic guitars in apartments or hotels, then strummed to the others in much the same way these recordings sound now.” Peter adds, “These stripped-down versions add a credence to our belief that a truly good song can stand up without a lot of bells and whistles.”
A few special guests joined Holsapple and Stamey on the sessions: John Teer (Chatham County Line) and Libby Rodenbough (Mipso) both contribute violin, and Andy Burton (Little Steven, John Mayer, Cyndi Lauper) plays keys on “Nothing Is Wrong” with, of course, Rigby (drums) and Holder (bass). The mastering by Greg Calbi and Steve Fallone at Sterling Sound is a homecoming of sorts as legendary mastering engineer Calbi had previously mastered the pair’s influential Mavericks outing as well as Falling Off the Sky, the last dB’s album. For the most part, it’s Peter and Chris around the campfire at Modern Recording in Chapel Hill, N.C., grabbing whatever was in the room at the time: a toy piano, a ukulele, a banjo, a harmonium, an upright or an old Silvertone bass, and of course, guitars, guitars, guitars.
In addition to 1991’s Mavericks (RNA Records), Holsapple and Stamey also paired up for 2009’s hERE & nOW (Bar/None). For more insight into the genesis of some of these songs, see A Spy In The House Of Loud: New York Songs And Stories (University of Texas Press), Stamey’s 2018 “songwriting memoir.” Be on the lookout for A Brand-New Shade of Blue, Chris’s new audio-and-songbook collection, currently slated for a summer 2020 release.
From Omnivore Recordings’ Cheryl Pawelski: “Omnivore is grateful to the mastering engineers, graphic artists, photographers, and all who enthusiastically gave of their time and talent to help realize these projects. MusiCares has always been an important safety net for our music community, perhaps never more so than now. We are fortunate to call Chris, Peter our friends, and proud to assist them in getting this music released in support of the MusiCares COVID–19 Relief Fund.”
Donate, here’s why:
MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in time of need. The COVID-19 Relief Fund has been established to help our peers in the music community affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Proceeds from these two projects will be directed to the COVID-19 Relief Fund. For more
Today Could Be The Day From Window To A Screen Black And White Dynamite Molly Says Happenstance Big Brown Eyes She’s Not Worried Picture Sleeve Depth Of Field Nothing Is Wrong