hERE aND nOW is the first new collaboration in almost two decades by Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, the acclaimed songwriters of the dB’s. Scheduled for release June 9 on Bar/None Records, the album features legendary saxophonist Branford Marsalis on two tracks: the single “Early in the Morning” and Peter’s ode to New Orleans, “Begin Again.”
Drum aces Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Son Volt, the Mountain Goats) and Logan Matheny (Roman Candle, The Rosebuds) and percussionist Gary Greene (Hootie and the Blowfish, Big Head Todd) bring power to tracks such as “Some of the Parts” and “Widescreen World,” and the dB’s’ rhythm section Gene Holder (bass) and Will Rigby (drums) join in on the atmospheric “Santa Monica.”
The acoustic side of the duo, reminiscent of their 1992 Rhino/RNA album Mavericks, comes to the fore on tracks such as “Long Time Coming,” one of several that feature Greg Readling (Chatham County Line, Tift Merritt) on pedal steel. The lead track, “My Friend the Sun,” is a cover of a classic from the legendary British prog-pop band Family.
Holsapple and Stamey grew up together in Winston-Salem, NC, and started playing music together in middle school — and have really never stopped. Through countless bands along the way — including Rittenhouse Square, Little Diesel, Sneakers, the H-Bombs, the dB’s, Continental Drifters, and the Golden Palominos — and recording sessions and sideman stints with the likes of R.E.M., Bob Mould and Hootie, the two have maintained a deep musical connection. Having relocated to Durham, NC, from New Orleans in 2006, Peter is writing songs and blogging as well as playing locally and afar, while Chris produces and records at Modern Recording, his home base in Chapel Hill, NC, where this record was made.
According to Holsapple, “The first duo record we did in 1992 (Mavericks) was recorded and mixed in one fell swoop; this one took a couple years and a hurricane to complete. We had a few days to get some rhythm tracks completed and then spent the rest of the studio time getting the vocals and overdubs to sit correctly with the songs."
“Peter and I think of this as a band without a name but still with its own distinct style and sensibility,” says Stamey. “We tried to pick songs that would not seem out of place with the vibe of Mavericks, that could sit alongside the uncynical exuberance and unblinkered romanticism of the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Beach Boys, and the Everly Brothers. We kept the recording process as natural as we could, without click tracks or engineers, just friends playing in a room together . . . We shared with Big Star a teenage Anglophilia: Family’s ‘My Friend the Sun’ was a hit in our world, although pretty much unknown to the greater U.S.”
Commenting on his songs on the album, Stamey adds, “At a rehearsal with the dB’s, I showed the newly-penned ‘Santa Monica’ — and that initial one-take ‘reading’ is the same basic track that was used here; sometimes the first take is the best. In spring 2005, we huddled together and pored over lyrics in a little writing room at Piety Street Studios in New Orleans, covering the floor with multiple revisions of ‘Widescreen World.’ We were in the process of returning there for sessions when Katrina rewrote our plans.”
Holsapple says his song “Begin Again” is about “watching the news reports about New Orleans flooding from far away, and the kind of reconciling one has to do when one’s life is forced to change dramatically because of the destruction of a hurricane. It’s hard to walk away from a city that embraced me for thirteen years, but that’s what I did physically, moving back to North Carolina where Chris and I are from. Spiritually and mentally, I don’t think you can ever really leave New Orleans after you’ve lived there for any length of time; the lessons I learned about myself and how I fit into the world at large are ones I learned there and are deeply rooted in me forever.”
Holsapple, Stamey, Holder and Rigby are continuing their work on an eventual dB’s album. This year, however, Holsapple and Stamey are focusing their attentions on what is hERE aND nOW.