AUL EDELMAN of JANGLING SPARROWS is on a mission to make music that saves lives! When he pointed out to me that rock n roll used to save lives when I spoke to him for an interview, I was immediately reminded of the emotional impact that this country's greatest musical invention was able to deliver. You no longer hear and feel that impact on today's pop radio or on any of those singing contests that deliver the ratings. On JANGLING SPARROW's latest album BOOTSTRAPS AN OTHER AMERICAN FABLES, EDELMEN emerges as a roots rock troubadour with an emphasis on 'rock' and a knack for telling a story - a trait that has been lacking in rock n roll since SPRINGSTEEN started getting a little too big for Asbury Park. ROCKWIRED had a chance to get re-acquainted with PAUL EDELMAN of JANGLING SPARROWS regarding their new album. Here is how the interview went.
It's been three years since I interviewed you for your album 140 NICKELS and now you've got this new album BOOTSTRAPS AND OTHER AMERICAN FABLES. Now that the album is out there for everyone to hear, how do you feel about the finished work?
I'm really proud of it for a couple of reasons. Musically, I think it's a good body of work and it kind of came together osmotically. A lot of the songs had already been on the set but I just didn't know what to do with them so they'd never been put down anywhere. I finally got enough up to where I felt all of the songs went well together. I was just cherry picking our live set at that point and all of sudden it all made sense. After doing some mixing and doing some pre-recording of stuff I just got to the point where I felt all of these songs needed something. These songs could actually all be tied together in a certain way and even have a message to them. Then it all snapped. I had an old song that I never did anything with and that was the song BOOTSTRAPS. That song just tied in perfectly with the songs that I was considering for this album. It was as if that song created this single thread that could unify all of these other songs. It just made sense to me. There is a cohesive thing going on both lyrically and in terms of an overarching message about the human and the Amerian condition. But the other reason I love it is because it's a party album. Seriously, it's a rock n roll album. It's a driving album. You don't have to listen to all of that other stuff if you don't ant to. You can just put this album on and rock out to it.
CHECK OUT HEY, HEY HARRIET TUBMAN
FROM JANGLING SPARROWS!!!
Who all helped you behind the recording console for this album?
There is a guy up here in Marshall, North Carolina named AMOS MCGREGOR. He has this little studio called MARSHALL SOUND STUDIOS which lovingly nicknamed MARSHALL SHOALS because it actually is. It is like this little shack that is barely being held up by cinderblocks alongside this small road. He was great to work with and we just connected. He was almost like a band member just for that album and that is kind of what you want out of a producer and an engineer.
And so far what kind of reactions have you been able to gauge from the release? Have there been any reactions that have surprised you or that you didn't see coming?
I'm gonna say this. You're in the music business and I don't think that this is going to be scandalous to you. With the last album, 140 NICKELS, a lot of the reviews were reprints of the press and that was fine. It's still getting the word out about the album. But in this case with the new album, it feels like every review that has come in feels like the reviewers actually listened to the album. Everybody seems to be really keying into it. That's been the biggest surprise for me. Anyone who knows me knows that it's causing my brain more stress becasue I'm wondering how I'm going to capitalize on all of this. What do I do now? That has probably been the biggest thing. So far, no one has not liked it and all of the reviews have been really glowing where it is clear that they listened to it.
It sounds to me like there is a treasure trove of songs for you to access and you simply pick what goes together for an album that you are working on, but what is the initial inspiration for getting a single song off the ground?
First of all, I would call it inspiration. In coming up with the first idea to record an album, there is no inspiration there. If you're a pro you've got to put some work out there. I had a bunch of songs that were not recorded and that made up about half of the album. Then I started introducing new songs. Every album that I have sounds little bit different which is mostly because I have different people playing on them and I new that thes news songs were going to get treated the way that these guys do it. That in itself is going to create a sonic cohesion throughout the album. I know that it may be old fashoioned but I still believe in putting on an album and being able to listen to it from start to finish.
I've started listening to albums in that way now with vinyl being popular again. I'm glad to hear you are taking that approach with your music.
I understand the age that we live in but I like having the option to satisfy the real audiophiles who really want to dig into something. That is how I think about putting about a body of work together. I figure that this song will be a great starter by punching them in the face with this song and as I do that it creates gaps and you fill those gaps with different moments that call for something different. I go about it that way and then I start cherry picking what I have that is newer in the set and sometimes it will influence how a song is treated. It's like I'll have a song but change it up a little bit just to fit this puzzle that I have and as a result that song will sound perfect on the album. I did a little of that. It was all about turning screws here and there and bringing new songs to the band and field testing them at shows and seing what kind of reaction you get unitl finally I have this body of workin the end.
And who is the band that you recorded with on this album?
This one is JOE GRAY on drums and LOUIS STEIN on bass and both of them are not JANGLING SPARROWS anymore for different reasons. It wasn't any bad blood or anything like that. As a side note, I forget if we talked about this before, that is actually the reason I named the band JANGLING SPARROWS becuase I can't seem to keep people. They all seem to come for a little bit and then leave. The name of the band captures the image of people fluttering in and out. So on the album it is just us three. Once I knew what I had, I knew that I wanted this thing to bea balls out rock n roll album. I just wanted it to be nice and raw. We overdub a few vocals and stuff like that but the main tracks are pretty much live cuts.
What songs off of the album have you the most excited to get someone to hear and why?
It would have to be two different songs for me. The title track definitely. It's the only acoustic track on the album and it's the last song on the album. It kind of winds everything down but that is the song that tied the whole album up. It really does sum up the theme for the album. We can't always pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. There is this myth of rugged individualism but there are problems in society and social causalities where individuals can't always dig their way out of the hole that they are in. My hope is that someone hears that song and feel understood for once and knows that they're not alone. This is a part of my big manifesto on rock n roll music. Music doesn't save lives anymore. Rock n roll used to save lives. It could go off on this. That is one of my things. It's a big manifesto for my music. If I can make someone feel understood and I can make then hang on and work through something, then I've done my job. If you're misfit in a suburban town and you're geting ragged on by all of the jocks and everyone thinks you're a weirdo, you just feel like you have no place. But you hear this song and for once you feel tht somebody gets you. That is what I want to do and that is what I'm hoping this song achieves as well as some other songs ont here. The other song on the album might be the HARRIET TUBMAN song.
I was just about to ask about that song.
There is a social statement there. I've never really done that on a record before and I've done it twice on this one. Something like that is important for me becaue I think it's a direction that I'm goin gto continue to go in. I'll keep peppering my music with that kind of thing.
With BOOTSTRAPS... what is the big idea. What would like for people to walk away thinking after they hear it.
Honestly, I hope that listening to the album is a layered experience. My ideal listener will put this album on at a party where everyone is in the kitchen drinking beer and they're talking about who's coming and who's not showing up and everyone is getting lit and having a good time while the record has been playing a couple of times during the night and then at the end of the night and everyone is gone except for the diehards and the best firends of the person who lives inthe house and they're all inthe bag just sitting around the couch but they don't wanna go to bed yet and the album is on again and they are finally listening to the lyrics of this thing. This album is multi-layered listening experience. It's an album you can party to and it's an album that you can drive to. You can put it on and rock. It's an album that is hitting you on a couple of different cylinders. That is ultimately where I want to go with this.
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