Historic Times

Historic Times is available now as a free download, and vinyl is now available!

Historic Times is a collection of songs from my best studio and live recording efforts over the past few years, plus several brand new tracks recorded in a studio for the first time.  If you join my email list (scroll down) you’ll get a free download.  If you join my CSA you’ll get a free download and a vinyl record, too (and more).

If you order a copy via the “Add to Cart” button above, you’ll get a vinyl record in the mail when it’s out.  If you’re from the US, postage is free.  If you’re outside the US, postage is only free on orders of $50 or more — so buy two, or else it’s not a very good deal.  All CSA members get the new record in the mail, but if they’re outside of the US they’ll have to either pay for the shipping cost or pick up a copy at a show next time I’m in town.

Note:  If you donated $50+ to the Ballad of a Wobbly crowdfunding campaign with the expectation of eventually receiving a vinyl record in the mail, you will be receiving a signed copy of Historic Times in your mailbox (unless you really don’t want one).

Liner Notes

I’m sure there’s some modern term for liner notes when they’re not in the liner, but anyway, here’s information about the record which you may or may not now or eventually be holding in your hands.

Historic Times is my first vinyl record.  For CSA members it also exists as a download (along with everything else I’ve ever recorded in a studio).  The album consists of brand new material recorded at Big Red Studio in July, 2018, songs from my recent studio albums, Ballad of a Wobbly (2017) and Punk Baroque (2017), as well as ample material from Live in Rostrevor (2016), remastered for the album.  (Audiophiles will notice the difference…)  For all but one of these songs, this is their first appearance on a physical album of any kind.

You can read more about the other albums from which these songs were taken by following the appropriate links, but basically all of the songs here that weren’t recorded live in Rostrevor were recorded at Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon with Billy Oskay and I co-producing.  Billy is also the chief engineer on everything and the main person who did the mixing and mastering, assisted ably by Pete Wells, who also plays the piano part on “Names and Addresses.”  If you hear a violin, it’s being played by Billy.  If you hear a harmonica, it’s Elona Planman.  Arcellus Sykes played bass on everything, unless it’s a cello, in which case I played that.  Harmony vocals on Live in Rostrevor are Lorna McKinnon.

I’ve recorded several albums, at great expense (and many thanks to all of you who made that possible) since the last time I put out a physical release (a CD) back in 2015, The Other Side (which is also online).  Before that CD, there were many albums I only released online.  So, knowing that the vast majority of my songs would never be released on physical media, I set about to put together a collection of songs that would fit together well thematically and musically, and would also represent some of the best of what I’ve written and recorded in the past three years.

Having said that, there are many songs on all the albums from which these songs were taken that are just as good as the ones you’ll find here.  Vinyl records are very short.  This record could just as easily be a collection of 15 totally different songs from the same albums, to be completely honest, and it would be just as good, in my humble opinion.  But you have a certain amount of time and space to work with, and, just as with the art of writing a song, you deal with the strictures of the medium, and you make something as beautiful as you can under the circumstances.  That’s what I hope we have done here.

Perhaps the most impressive part about it is the cover art.  I wrote the “articles,” graphic artist Kalindi Jackson put them together in artistic “newspaper” form.

The Songs

Side A

Just A Renter  The coolest cello riff I ever came up with for a song is on this one from Punk Baroque.  A song about the class war, from the perspective of a renter.

Failed State  USA.  That’s Elona on stompbox.  From Ballad of a Wobbly.

Gather Round  Another cello-based song from Punk Baroque.  My best effort at writing a contemporary labor song.

Names and Addresses  A song for Grenfell Tower from Ballad of a Wobbly.  That’s Elona making weird guitar noises.

East Kilbride  A fine act of solidarity, when the engineers at the Rolls Royce plant in East Kilbride, Scotland, refused to work on fighter jet engines from the Chilean Air Force after the CIA-backed coup that had recently occurred in Chile a few months before the engines arrived at the plant.  Recorded for Historic Times.

1933  I spent much of the spring of 2018 touring around Europe.  In the car I’d either listen to news podcasts or audiobooks, one of which was William Shirer’s memoir from the 1930’s, Berlin Diary.  There are many parallels.  Recorded for Historic Times.

Mawda Was Her Name  Another song written in the summer of 2018 and recorded specifically for this album, this is about a Kurdish toddler who was killed by a Belgian cop who was ostensibly trying to get a van full of refugees to pull over on the highway.

Side B

Letter to My Landlord  This version of this song about my unresolved, festering feelings of resentment towards my landlord is a remastered version recorded for Live in Rostrevor in 2016.

If This Were A War  One more piece of musical proof that I never get tired of the “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” theme.  Dallas, 2016.  From Live in Rostrevor.

St Patrick Battalion  This is the only song on the album that’s been on a CD before.  I first wrote it around 2000 and first recorded it in 2001.  This version is from Live in Rostrevor.

Send Them Back  One more from Live in Rostrevor, this is a song about how much of the English-language press in many countries was covering the refugee crisis of the day (1939) — the Europeans trying to get out of Europe, and often failing to do so.

Leila and Majnun  For Omid, who died a prisoner in an Australian concentration camp in 2016.  From Ballad of a Wobbly.

ICE  For the children separated from their parents.  Recorded for Historic Times.

Cheese and Bread  The last armed rebellion in Britain was in Wales in 1831.  In true British colonial fashion, it was put down by a Scottish regiment.  This uprising was also possibly the first use of a red flag as a symbol of revolution.  From Ballad of a Wobbly.

Ballad of a Wobbly  The title track of the online album, a song about the Palmer Raids of 1919 that largely broke the back of the greatest labor union in US history, the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies.