THE MAKING OF...

As the Lockdown Sessions required a different way of working to what we normally do, I thought it might be interesting for you to hear how some of the tracks came about. I was not sure whether it would be possible at all to get things to work. I assumed a number with just guitar, vocals and harmonica would work but would it be possible for numbers involving more musicians? How do you start, with which instrument, how do you explain what you are looking for etc.? Here is the story behind some of the numbers.

Lockdown Blues
Germany, Belgium, USA, Finland

This was a challenge! I had the idea for a mid-tempo swing a la T-Bone Walker. Tough at the best of times but would it work under Lockdown conditions? I asked Micha Maass to record the drum track with vague guidelines about what was planned, mostly as I didn’t know where it was going exactly - a thankless task as you have no idea what is going to happen and have to imagine everything :-)

I then passed it to Marion on the piano who decided on structure, chords, key etc. and added that swingy R&B piano. Then off it went to Belgium to Jack O Roonie, who put on his fantastic double bass.

Then off to Gary Winters and Tommy Schneller. I first met Tommy Schneller in the early 90s and still remember him singing T-Bone Boogie on the stage at Talking Blues, Cologne. So I asked him to write a text and put his infectious vocals down a la T-Bone. Great job Tommy! As well as being an amazing trumpet player, Gary is the premier address for horn arrangements, and you can hear both on this track. Tommy added his beautiful sax.

Then I sent the track to Finland, where the ridiculously talented Tomi Leino added the guitar. Tomi plays with various formations, including the amazing Trickbag and is the name behind his own trio, The Tomi Leino trio, where he plays both guitar and harmonica as well as being the lead vocalist. He is a multi-instrumentalist who also produces top quality CDs in his studio. If you don’t know Tomi, it is time you did!

Then it can back to me for pre-mixing, then to Abi Linden for more fine tuning, mixing and mastering. Done!

The results are astounding and so good that I decided to open the CD with this track. Hope you like it.


Hey Sweet Marie.
France, Belgium, Spain and Germany

I had the idea for a mid-tempo Rock ‘n Roll for the great Nico Duportal and asked. Werki (Andre Werkmeister) to record one and think of a cool beginning and some interesting stops etc. He only had HIS SMARTPHONE to record on!! It came back. And off it went to our hard-working Jack O Roonie in Belgium for the double bass.

Back to me and off to Nico Duportal in France for his amazing guitar and vocal work. Werki thought of the lyrics with a bit of help from me and back to Nico for the vocals. Then off to Victor Puertas in Barcelona for some great rock ‘n roll piano. Pre-mixing, then to Abi Linden for more fine tuning, mixing and mastering. Done!

When I sent this to Jack in Belgium, he didn’t recognise himself in the track and wrote back “Who’s that?”
“You!”
“No way! AWESOME!” ????

Come See About Me
USA, Italy, Spain, Germany

I was thinking of how to get a song together to feature the amazing vocals of Big Daddy Wilson and woke up with this idea one morning! True enough! So I then asked Marion to work out a piano version with the speed, structure, chords etc. Marion recorded a piano track and sent it off to Werki, who put his SMARTPHONE drums over top ????

Back to me then this time off to Spain. Victor Puertas not only plays harmonica but also piano and ukebass (as well as other things…..). Victor put his ukebass over top and THEN he played piano to the drums/bass track. Marion thus disappeared and was replaced by Victor, so thanks to Marion!

Back to me. In the meantime, Big Daddy Wilson had thought up a text and recording his soulful lead vocals as well as some background vocals over the drums with Marion’s piano track. The vocals returned to me and I send everything off to Italy, to the amazing Veronica Sbergia, who put her beautiful “Wilsonettes” backing vocals over top ????

At the same time, however, I had sent the base track to the inimitable Gary Winters for some horns. This track got the full treatment of tenor sax, trumpet, flugelhorn and baritone sax in an exquisite arrangement. Wow!

I had originally planned for a guitar to take a slot and solo but decided the horns should do the job (thanks for waiting in the wings Kai…!)

Everything came back to me and I had to decide how to put it all together and what should be left out.

Pre-mixing, then to Abi Linden for more fine tuning, mixing and mastering. Done!

So no sign of me and Marion in this track ???? What you hear in this number is an amazing example of what can be done if you have the right and talented musicians willing to work together. Amazing!


World Crisis Blues
Germany, USA

Kai provided this number and recorded guitar and vocals together on one track, all recorded live at one time. Not an easy feat - thanks Kai!

I thought Aki Kumar’s harp would be a great addition to this acoustic track so off it went to the US. Aki is not only a great singer, harmonica player but is very active on social media with his wicked sense of humour – follow him and you will see what I mean. He managed to squeeze the recording into his busy schedule ????.

I thought the track sounded great but wondered whether a piano would add. After discussing this with Kai, we decided to have the ever-patient Marion play over top to give us an idea of whether it would work or not. This was a feature of the Lockdown Sessions – sometimes I asked musicians to do something to see if it worked, with me then using it or not. So again, thanks to all!

We decided the track would be better with piano so I asked Fred Kaplan if he would put some piano over top. Fred needs little in the way of introduction and has tickled the ivories for many, many blues greats over the years! He agreed and duly recorded the piano part, despite facing considerable challenges due to the Covid-19 crisis himself. Thanks Fred!

Pre-mixing, then to Abi Linden for more fine tuning, mixing and mastering. Done!

BLUES LYRICS UNDER LOCKDOWN

It has always been typical of blues singers to sing of “moving on”, of trains and railroads, and in fact numerous blues songs are about the desire to travel or being on the road. This can be traced back to the days of slavery. When the slaves were finally freed and the urge to travel seized them, they packed, got on a train or a steamboat and cleared out. Some African Americans were simply seasonal workers going wherever there was work illustrated in such songs as “Hobo Blues” (John Lee Hooker) or Robert Johnson’s “Rambling on my mind”.
In stark contrast, on the Lockdown Sessions album a lot of the lyrics deal with our current predicament of being forced to stay at home. This is painful for all of us on many levels: the sudden loss of income, not being allowed to travel or even leave our homes or visit family members. Skimming through the song titles of the CD’s track list, you have probably noticed a lot of references to the current Corona crisis (Low-down Lockdown, Home Alone Stomp, Personal Shutdown, Can’t Get Too Close…). The lyrics range from serious and dark to humorous, and a lot of people will be able to recognize themselves in them in one way or another.

Take a look at some of the lyrics below, and if they have sparked your interest, make sure you get a copy of the CD and listen to the great music that comes with the lyrics!

Everything has changed
Lyrics by Roger C. Wade

Everything has changed,
now that money’s so hard to find
Everything has changed,
now that money’s so hard to find
Good folks ain’t got no job,
every day is just the same old grind

There’s a line at the welfare office,
way down on Mission Street
I see a line at the welfare office,
way down on Mission Street
Good folk looking for some comfort,
just trying to make ends meet

They still gotta pay their rent,
buy them groceries too
Still got to feed their family,
Lord I just don’t know what they’ll do
Everything has changed,
now that money’s so hard to find
Good folks ain’t got no job,
every day is just the same old grind


Fuck you, Mr. Virus
Lyrics by Michael van Merwyk

Fuck you, Mr. Virus
You brought darkness into our lives
Fuck you, we got a right
Walk out of the darkness into the light

Fuck you, Mr. Sickness
You messed up our health way too long
Next time you knock on our door
We'll bust your face, don't want to see you no more

Fuck you, Mr. Lockdown
You shut down our lives for a long, long time
You hi-jacked every nation
You put us all into isolation

Fuck you, Mr. Poverty
We pinched and scraped way too long
If you ever put your hand on our money again
You'll lose your teeth and feel the pain

Fuck you, Mr. Virus
You messed up our lives just once too much
This time was the last
We'll unite and kick your ass


Get Me Outta Here
Lyrics by Roger C. Wade

I been sitting here thinking, got nothing to do
The TV’s bust, I ain’t got no view
Won’t you get me outta here
Yes, get me outta here
I’m goin’ crazy, get me outta here

I painted the walls, I cleaned the floors,
I tidied the house, I even mended the door
I wanted to cook, I got no food
I ran out of beer, then I knew I was screwed
Get me outta here
Won’t you get me outta here
I’m goin’ crazy, get me outta here

I called up the doc, I couldn’t get through
I lost my job, now my rent is due
The mailman came, he had a letter in his hand
I opened it up, it was just the taxman
Get me outta here
Won’t you get me outta here
I’m goin’ crazy, get me outta here

 

Low-down lockdown
Lyrics by Michael van Merwyk

Walls are closing in,
the ceiling is getting low,
TV sucks,
got no place to go
It’s low-down, low-down lockdown
I believe old no. 7
takes me to heaven,
low-down lockdown

I started eating like a hobbit,
eight times a day,
after the lockdown left,
my excess weight is going to stay
It’s low-down, low-down lockdown
Just a few bottles of wine
and everything will be fine,
low-down lockdown

Can‘t be with my girlfriend,
my wife is getting on my nerves
Can’t stand my family one more day,
think i‘m heading for divorce
It’s low-down, low-down lockdown
I believe a few shots of gin
will really ease my pain,
low-down lockdown

I‘m worried about my future,
got no food to feed myself
Feel my soul’s in so much pain,
don’t know if I’ll be the same
It’s low-down, low-down lockdown
I believe a lot of liquor
makes time move a little quicker,
low-down lockdown

Can‘t go to work,
Dow Jones almost hit the ground
No end in sight,
I wonder what it‘s all about
It’s low-down, low-down lockdown
I go for a little moonshine
and everything’s gonna be fine,
low-down lockdown

Fools and morons in the news
They lie and they’re cheatin’ too
I’m confused, don’t know what to do
It’s low-down, low-down lockdown
After a few cans of beer,
everything is crystal clear,
low-down lockdown


Lockdown Blues
Lyrics by Tommy Schneller

Strange times we live in,
just keep keeping to yourself
Strange times we live in,
just keep keeping to yourself
You’ve got to stay on your own,
that‘s the only thing that helps

The world stopped turning,
there’s a virus going on
The world stopped turning,
there’s a virus going on
In order not to crash the system,
take your time and stay at home.

It‘s like living in a prison
without committing any crime
It‘s like living in a prison
without committing any crime
Just for solid selfprotection,
everybody’s doing time

Lockdown,
stay at home and watch the news
Lockdown,
take your time don‘t blow a fuse
If you feeling sad and lonely
you got that Lockdown Blues

Personal Shut Down
Lyrics by Maddy Arlt

I got to stay right here
I can’t go nowhere
got nothing good to eat
no more clean clothes to wear
that’s my personal shut down baby
yeah that’s my personal shut down
ain’t nothing good seems to come around
that’s my personal shut down

I can’t embrace my mother
I can’t meet my friends
I can’t hug my brother
that’s how it all ends
that’s my personal shut down baby
yeah that’s my personal shut down
ain’t nothing good seems to come around
that’s my personal shut down

they were building up
the highest skyscrapers
now you can’t even buy
some new t.-papers
I’m in the middle of a shut down baby
yeah that’s a shut down baby
ain’t nothing good seems to come around
that’s my personal shut down

no blow no show
that’s what people say
no gigs no dough
seems to be my way
that’s my personal shut down baby
yeah that’s my personal shut down
ain’t nothing good seems to come around
that’s my personal shut down


World Crisis Blues
Lyrics by Kai Strauss

Can’t leave my home, can’t leave my country,
I can’t even make a single cent
Can’t leave my home, can’t leave my country,
I can’t even make a single cent
Yes, the world is in a crisis,
we need your help, Mr. President

They shut down all the schools,
shut down public living too
Yes, they shut down all the schools,
shut down public living too
Baby, the world is in a crisis,
The biggest one since world war two

Now the word is on the street
everybody hurry home
Yes, the word is out on the street
everybody better hurry home
You know, the world is in a crisis,
from Houston, Texas down to Rome

I hear scientists are struggling,
to find a cure for me and you
Yes, scientists are struggling,
trying to find a cure for me and you
Yes, the world is in a crisis,
but I believe somehow we‘ll make it through


Can’t Get Too Close
Lyrics by Aki Kumar

I’ve got to love my baby
from six feet away
I’ve got to love my baby
from six feet away
No, I Can’t let her get too close,
she’ll steal my breath away

Yes, they tell me my baby,
she’s been around (the whole wide world)
Yes, they tell me my baby,
she’s been around
I can’t get too close to her,
she’ll put me six feet in the ground (way down deep)
Six feet in the ground ……

Copyright 2020 Michael van Merwyk. All Rights Reserved.