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Monday, December 20, 2010

277. "Star of Bethlehem" by Neil Young

This is the second of the three aborted Skates & Rays Christmas tracks from the 2007 Heckman project. The third was a slightly sleigh-bell-laden version of my song "Double Blades", which I'd love to get before the ears of the listening public in some form, but can in no way justify as a cover, so this is it for vintage Christmas tunes, I guess. We're working on getting some new Skates & Rays stuff on a release schedule for 2011 as 39-40 winds down, though, and a superior version of "Double Blades" recorded with Bradley Cain is on deck for that.

This time around we have backing vocals by both Cliff and Derek. And interestingly, I didn't have to replace all of the guitar. I just added an acoustic and that was it. I retained the original guitar leads from three years ago for my own personal satisfaction: I really worked to be able to do those leads at the time, and it was literally the first time I made an effort to play something that came from a true place of "country" picking. I've done a great deal more of honing that style since then, firstly for a few tracks on the You Are My Home, then in a few rounds of intense learn-on-the-job effort as the substitute lead guitarist or Thunderhill, and recently on quite a few rootsier tracks for 39-40. Much to my surprise, this really early effort was pretty solid, especially when it trades off with Cliff's harmonica playing, so I was pleased to preserve it. The whole thing is still a lot murkier than I'd like it to be, but it's interesting as a Crazy Horse-like version of a non-Crazy Horse Neil tune.

Another small piece of trivia here: Derek's drum part on this tune was previously edited into another structure by me and used as the loops for the Dwight Yoakam tune "The Big Sandy" early on in 39-40, a tune I tackled in a similar fashion (electrifying an acoustic tune) with no real idea that I would resurrect this one at the time. I hope I may be forgiven... it's good drumming.

Rex Broome ~ Lead vocal, guitars
Derek Hanna ~ Drums, backing vocals
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass, backing vocals, harmonica

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