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Naked Truth  liner notes


Here’s the naked truth…

This album was first released on a 12-inch vinyl “long playing” record in 1988, the same year of the concert.  The accompanying notes were minimal, and even less information was included with the cassette version that came out a year or two later.  In 1992, we remastered the recording digitally, included a few more songs from the evening’s concert as “bonus cuts” and offered all three formats for several years.  The CD (which started as a “long box”) inherited the same lack of liner notes, which I am now remedying. The LP and tape versions are true fossils now; only the CD remains. So here, some 15 years late, are the program notes to this evening of music.

The first four songs on the disc are the first four songs I sang at the concert on January 15, 1988.  The reverb you hear is the natural “ring” of the room.  Nothing was snipped, added, or sweetened either in music or monologue.  It is, in short, the naked truth.  Those four songs comprised side one of the original LP, with its 20-minute maximum.  The fifth song of the night was not recorded, because the recording engineer, Gary Reid, was busy in the mobile recording van changing reels of tape, all according to plan. 

The next four songs comprised the flip side of the LP as well as the rest of the concert’s first set.  Only one edit was made.  The song, “Testing 1…2…3…” was performed between “Shiny on the Outside” and “Ain’t America Beautiful” but there were some unfortunate noises from some restless children in the audience that seemed just too intrusive during the stark a cappella song.  Since we were using the natural “room sound” for our ambience, simply leaving out the audience tracks made it sound weirdly artificial, so we clipped the song, regretfully.  

But when the time came for a digital remix four years later, advances in technology had given us the tools to both edit out the noise and still make the song sound like it fit with the others.  Rather than re-position it in its proper place in the concert, we added it to the CD after the original record’s program, along with two songs from the second set of the night.

The Only Way Out borrows a few quotes from a favorite poet, Robert Frost, and grew out of my divorce in 1985.  Perhaps the only consolation for a failed relationship is the art it can sometimes inspire. Duct Tape Blues is a song that it took 15 minutes to write and a lifetime to sing.  It is one of my most requested songs, even if I have zippered in changes in lyrics and tempo over the years. There have been verses about congress, tax cuts and even the presidential election of 2000 (because nothing holds a dangling chad in place like a piece of duct tape.)  After the attacks of 9/11/01, I wrote this verse to end the song:

            The whole world changed on September eleven

               Some blame hell, and some blame heaven

            All I know is we’re in for some stormy weather

            So pass around the duct tape, it’s time to stick together

Another most-requested song is Touch A Name On The Wall.  This took several months and countless tears to write.  Upon hearing the song many people assume I am a Vietnam vet, but I am not, though I came of age in that era. I am thankful that my best friend’s name is not carved on that wall.  Though a work of fiction, I believe the song speaks truth. It has been taken to heart and sung the world over by both decorated veterans and anti-war protesters alike.  I am gratified that it has become, in some small way like the wall itself, an instrument of healing and remembrance. 

The Naked Truth gets its story from an early Roman myth.  As a songwriter, I found the story of Truth and Falsehood was just too good a tale to pass up. Usually dedicated to the politician of the week, the song has seen a good workout in my concerts this past decade or so.  And speaking of truth, it is indeed true that Hitler Was A Vegetarian.  It seems this fact – and the song – bothers some folks, but hey, don’t shoot the messenger! This song may not sit well with some vegans, but it has been a favorite of Dr. Demento. 

Thom Paine’s Dream is mostly composed of snatches of traditional fiddle tunes that seem to fit together on the banjo (tuned eCGCD, by the way). And Shiny On The Outside is mostly reminiscence, I suppose.  Though, when I wrote it, American vehicles were not nearly so long and wide as they were to become again in the era of giant SUV’s. (And “Baby Boom Menopause” was not yet the reality it has become.) Ain’t America Beautiful is a simple diatribe, with apologies to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Outrage of the week tied to a fast guitar, this was the capper of the original LP, and last song of the concert’s first set.

Testing 1...2…3… was written in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, in our brave new world.  Incredibly, there actually was a proposal floated by America’s right wing media to identify HIV-positive individuals with a tattoo to protect “the rest of us.”  The Water’s Wide is a well-traveled traditional ballad, and mine is but one of a thousand versions.  But what a wonderful song it is. Every generation re-discovers it and for good reason. Swing That Thing was a new creation I nearly forgot after I opened the second set with it.  I lost the lyrics and couldn’t recall them until I heard this song again on the third reel while looking for bonus cuts for the CD in 1992.  It is now one of my “standards,” as anyone who has seen me perform these past 10 years can attest.

Fifteen years ago, I was advised it was a risky endeavor to produce one’s own album, especially a live album of fresh untested material. Now in the age of digital recording and instant regurgitation, it is not uncommon for a young act to “demo” with a live CD.  I don’t claim to be ahead of the curve, but being outside the herd is home sweet home to me.  This concert from 1988 has traveled the world, and I’m so very grateful for the friends it has brought me.  

JM, September 2002


From the back of the booklet:

This album was recorded on January 15, 1988 before a very live audience at the Ten Pound Fiddle Coffeehouse.  It was standing-room-only at the 400-seat Erikson Kiva on the campus of Michigan State University. An LP version of this effort was released later that year, followed by an identical cassette version; the CD re-issue in 1992 added a few more cuts from the concert and is the version you have here, now with expanded liner notes. Many thanks to recording wizard Gary Reid, and thanks to all the volunteers of the Ten Pound Fiddle, whose hard work maintains its sterling reputation as one of the premier folk clubs of North America.


[back to the Naked Truth recording page]


(c) 2002 Joel Mabus


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