Perfect Objects # 1 – ‘Not Before My Time: The Amy O’Neil Songbook’

(in this parlance, a ‘Perfect Object’ would be something that’s mission, design, execution and result all work beyond expectation. This doesn’t guarantee success… unless your goal was to create a ‘Perfect Object’. Then Rock On. You win.)

In going through a selection of my CD’s for travelin’ music, I saw the trademark blue sky and green field of ‘Not Before My Time’s cover hiding behind a few old Humble Pie CD’s. It made me smile. It made me remember when…

It was 2009. Man had yet to know the horror of a truly free music market and election process. Though an argument can be made that neither truly exist. The utter quaintness of our collective conscious can be spelled out in most of the web addresses relating to My Space pages. We’re we ever so young?

I was an outpost on the Connecticut Music Scene. I dint really know anyone except Dave Hogan. I never knew how to deal with other musicians. My pursuit was always so solitary. The moment I had a good working model of what I could be, I would change horses and streams and start over. I was toiling in a mine of mind. My goal was not to align with people of similar goals and work together to make something bigger and better. My goal was to fling CD’s at The Scene and wait to be anointed King Of Everything.

It dint exactly play out like that, but that’s another story.

In 2009 I had my band The Citizen Spy and we had just won the Hartford Advocate Acoustic award before promptly breaking up. I was still a bit away from The Grimm, and was honestly losing my mind a little. I had gigs set up and  o band to play them. I proceeded to do a very short,depressing funereal tour and awaiting ‘Come What May…’.

Dave Hogan got in touch and shared something. He knew some guys from Golden Microphone (not yet having played Never Ending, the Reverend and Brad we’re unknown quantities) were putting together a benefit CD for a woman named Amy and he suggested me to Rev and Brad. After submitting something I had done recently to universal meh, Dave suggested ‘Jet Plane’ and old song of mine. I said ‘cool.’. They said ‘cool’.

Being righteous dudes, John (bass and uke) and Adam Hagymasi (electric guitar) were cool enough to sit in on that recording. We met the very capable and genial Shandy Lawson who recorded the many artists associated. And we were done in 45 minutes.  The last act of The Citizen Spy. Though Adam had no idea I would forever haunt him. (Have I mentioned I have a new cd?

And that was it. I dint know when or how it could come out, and it dint even matter. It was a necessary shot in the arm for me. Grimm came next and we hit it hard.

I am confident in what I do. And that is songwriting. Not playing guitar, not golf or cooking, not math or keeping a job. Songwriting. I expected to appreciate the other artists on my way through the CD to get to my track. And then repeat. Repeat again. Once more.

It was gratifying….sorta like a flying hubcap to the face is gratifying…that I wasn’t even close to having the best song on there. That everyone involved brought their A Game. And together, we made an ‘All Killer / No Filler’ record. All for a good and real cause. It was heady. And kinda beautiful.

Dave Hogan’s ‘The World Oldest Question’ (for collectors, a different version than whats on ‘Fun Box’) was simple and sublime, with a great chorus hook and lyrical dobro touches. Forrest Harlow’s opener ‘World For Granted’ was great fun and pumping auto harp and a sorta delicious crazy energy. Lys Guillorn is on here with an early version of the LG band for a harmony guitar laden ‘How Many? How Fast?’. A perfect vehicle for her singing style. Moving stuff. The Sawtelles, who I had seen before and never failed to be confused but excited, came at it Sawtelle-y with ‘Fight Your Way Out’, with its ride cymbal beats, super weird tuning and classic vocal trade offs.

The Christine Oldman tune ‘The Third Times The Charm’ surprised me with canny and smart song writing and singing, after I already misjudged her as a ‘girl with guitar’. She’s mighty on that track, the literate voice of truck stops and bad patches of weather. Chris Bosquiet came with one of my 2 favorites on this record with the mandolin and plaintive vocal of ‘Alone On A Wire’. Beautiful, nuanced, takes it’s time and makes it’s place. I met Chris exactly one time and what I said to his was ‘Your tracks on The Amy CD was fantastic’. Frank Critelli’s ‘Thanks For Understanding’ is a joy of his diction, lyric and that irrepressible off kilter beat that he walks through this song and it feels like a folk version of REM in some odd off planet way.

Shandy Lawson, King of ShandyLand Recording brought out some pure folk shit with ‘Not Before My Time’ that made me wish I learned to play guitar. Just a perfect folk song, with that fucking title that says everything. My second favorite off ‘Not Before Our Time’ is Leila Crockett’s ‘Birthday Gun’ which…Christ. It’s fantastic. It feels…dangerous. Her voice reaches me in far flung places. She killed it on this track.

I really enjoyed The Who Who’s harmony and feel on ‘The Boy In The Hallway’. There is something vaguely mysterious about this track. It may be cause it is clearly multi leveled in terms of arrangements but plays as seamless. It’s understated in its excess. Shelly Valauskas brings some top rate Modern Folk with the luscious ‘A Lot Like Gravity’ while Shannon McMahon wrestles the ‘Pure Folk Singer’ crown from Shandy’s grasp with ‘The Test’.

 Nobody was slacking. Everybody came to play. The CD came out with this glorious folk art cover and the Mission and pic of Amy on the back.

Music Scenes make records. Sometimes those records are focused toward raising awareness. Sometimes theyre just samplers. Meaning well doesn’t create a ‘Perfect Object’.

Passion does. And luck. And a pool of talent that’s willing to believe in such crazy things as ‘Music Scenes’.

I met a lot of these folks since. Some I have never met. Don’t matter. We made something bigger than each of us could.


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