Summertown (2004)

summertown.jpg

  1. Stay On Track
  2. Accidents Happen In The Home
  3. Any Fool
  4. Try To Save Your Song
  5. Something’s Right
  6. Sunday Morning
  7. One Chance
  8. Sleepwalker
  9. I Love You But
  10. It Doesn’t Work That Way
  11. Heartache
  12. Here And Now

Musicians: Deborah Conway, Willy Zygier, Gerry Hale, James Black, Shannon Birchall
Additional musicians: Dave Williams, Toni Collette, Paul Kelly, Kim Wheeler, Michael Barker.
Produced by Willy Zygier and Deborah Conway. Co-produced by Gerry Hale.

Something’s Right, video

Something’s Right

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Heartache

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Summertown

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About Summertown

The last 3 albums had revolved around making music out of essentially non-musical components, (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but when it came time to do it again, I don’t know – I guess we had both gotten tired of torturing electric guitars and using atonal samples. Those sounds seemed everywhere.

We started talking about songs we liked from a pre-electronic era; artists like Simon and Garfunkle, The Mammas and the Pappas, Jimmy Webb, James Taylor & Carole King all came up in our conversations along with many others. We didn’t want to recreate them (as if we could) but we wanted to evoke that spirit, that approach to song-craft; beautifully realised verses, choruses and bridges that seem to have always belonged together even before they came into being. Also a certain gentleness and warmth that we hadn’t explored seemed like the path that was beckoning. We’ve been angst, brittle, pissed off and depressed, let’s give peace a chance.

During the writing period for this album, I broke my arm. I got some good material out of it but it severely cramped my guitar playing and confined Willy to rhythm only. This had its own knock-on effects for Gerry Hale (mandolin, cittern, fiddle, slide, Dobro, charango etc) and James Black (piano & organ) and the amount and intricacy of the various parts on the record. In the end maybe it was a bonus, forcing us to comply with our blueprint to simplify.

We expressly wanted to make an acoustic record and upright bass was the obvious route to take. Shannon Birchall (moonlighting from The John Butler Trio) brought a big, fat, warm, bottom end to the project, while Michael Barker (also from JBT) on percussion and Dave Williams (from Augie March) on drums put the engine into it.

With the vocal talents of Paul Kelly, singing a duet on “It Doesn’t Work That Way” – an examination of gender delineations as filtered through an IKEA experience; and Toni Collette trilling on Sunday Morning in the perfect counterpoint of girly vocals, we found two more outstanding contributors to Summertown.

In some ways Summertown sounds like my most mature record to date, ironic given the circumstances it was recorded in. My parents announced they were going on a cruise for a couple of months, leaving an empty house. I knew the answer would have been ‘no’ if I’d asked, but the thing is nature abhors a vacuum. They departed at 12.30 on October 6th – at 1.30 we had started loading in a van full of gear and set up a studio in their lounge and dining rooms. It’s unlikely at this point in life to get the kind of frisson usually reserved for 14 year olds deliberately disobeying their parents, but I have to say it was a sweet feeling and the vitality of youth flowed in the blood of all the tracks we subsequently put down.

Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier