2023: BAYOU LINE (Songs from Houston)
Northern Latitudes Records
Copyright © Rio Paso Music (BMI)
Mixed and Produced by Rusty Reid at Rockcoon Works, Gig Harbor
Bayou Line: Songs from Houston represents a liberation of some of Rusty's best songs from wobbly old reel-to-reel demos and worktapes, and a chance for them to fly with new wings.
Before Head to Heart fully came into view, I was excited to be able to work within a modern DAW (digital audio workstation), and play with my old recorded tracks, remixing, tweaking, adding parts. Many of these songs were from way back in my Houston days. Alas, it became obvious that most of the songs were so poorly recorded they were not suitable for future public release. If ever released, they would have to be re-recorded.
Shortly thereafter, I discovered how to enlist great players, from anywhere in the world, to help flesh out the material. The first four songs which would receive this treatment were not songs destined for Head to Heart, instead, they were old Houston favorites that I spiffed up, just for my own amusement: "My Troubles Have Just Begun," "Louisiana," "Another Night With You," and "Oh, Well."
I was over the moon with how these turned out. I so wish we would have had this technology when I was 20 years old. What a huge difference that would have made for we songwriters.
Even as new songs for Head to Heart were being written and recorded, the occasional old Houston song was added to the queue. I didn't have a specific project in mind for these Houston songs. I knew they weren't going to fit on Head to Heart because thematically, philosophically, they just didn't match up. The one potential exception was "Another Way," which existed during those Houston days, but in much different lyrical form. However, "Another Way" was actually originally written in Midland, Texas, not Houston, and the song was never recorded (or played live) until the recent, much lyrically revised version.
It was only when Head to Heart was nearly finished that I took stock of the growing collection of re-recorded Houston songs, and I realized the commonality of these songs is just Houston. These are my Houston songs, that's the theme. That will be my next album.
These aren't the only Houston songs I have released. Though none on Head to Heart qualify, my first album, NWXSW featured eight Houston songs. And a fourth album, tentatively titled Other Lives, scheduled for 2024 release, will feature a few more. I'm also mulling the release of an Unreasonables album, which would be filled with Houston songs.
Why is this album called "Bayou Line?" Well, Houston is the "Bayou City," with four major bayous (slow-flowing streams) through the city... Buffalo Bayou, White Oak Bayou, Sims Bayou and Brays Bayou. One of my happiest periods in Houston was when I lived in an apartment right on the banks of Brays. The phrase "Bayou Line" comes from my song "Oh Well," featuring what seems to be something of a gypsy camp that I pictured as being somewhere along Buffao Bayou.
That 13 years I spent in Houston was my most prolific songwriting period. I wrote hundreds of songs, not all of them good, but there are these that I'm still pleased with. I do think that I'm a better songwriter now than I've ever been, but I can still feel the lyrical and melodic magic that somehow manifested in these songs. I like that none of these are clone songs; they are all unique, both lyrically and melodically. They are still special, at least to me.
It's hard to pick a favorite because there's such a variety there, and there really isn't a duff song among them. Here's my top five - 'Look Out Louisiana' is my joint number one with 'My Troubles Have Just Begun.' I involuntarily started singing that when I woke up this morning. They both REALLY stick in your head, and I can hear them on the radio already. Number three for me is 'Rio Frio' - fantastic melody, an arrangement that really keeps the interest there, and just an all round fabulous song, with a performance to match. Number four is 'That's When The Fall Began.' This just makes all the hairs on everything stand up and I can't work out quite why. It just does. Number five is joint between 'Riding On' (those high notes!!) and 'Our Love's With You' - just an incredible song with a super memorable melody. But it's all great, Russ, it really is, they're just my personal faves.
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1. My Troubles Have Just Begun
My Troubles Have Just Begun
Rusty - vocals, electric guitar
Backstory: Late summer and fall of 1977 in Houston, Texas, was a time of prolific and artistic songwriting for me. I was living in a small house on Verone Street in Bellaire at this time. Songs from that very span on this album include "That's When the Fall Began," "My Troubles Have Just Begun,", The Masterpiece of You," "Sunrise of Our Love" and "A Matter of When," while another, "Hurricane," was featured on my first album, NWXSW. "My Troubles" was performed live by the Unreasonables, and was recorded twice (once in Houston and once in L.A.) before this latest version. In 2016, as I was ramping up writing and recording new songs, as well as reworking old songs in my home studio, a friend pleaded for "My Troubles" to be considered for a re-do. That request was the impetus for trying something brand new: bringing in tracks from remote players. For this first attempt, I enlisted the assistance of a crack Nashville unit that included Grammy winning guitarist Brent Mason, member of the Musicians Hall of Fame, 14 time winner of the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Guitarist of the Year Award, and Guitar World Magazine's selection as one of the "Top Ten Session Guitarists of All Time." I've had the honor of playing with some great players in my day, but playing second guitar along with Brent Mason was certainly one of the highlights of my musical journey.
2. Look Out Louisiana
A week from today I'm heading out
Rusty - vocals, electric guitar
Backstory: "Look Out Louisiana" was written in North Hollywood, California in December, 1972, the first song I wrote after relocating from Nashville. A few of the lyrics here differ from the original version. The song was featured in the live set of Southern Cross, a mid-Seventies band I shared with fellow Midland transplants to Houston, Jon Stone and Ric Plunk. The band recorded "Louisiana" twice, the second version becoming their first and only vinyl single, and my only vinyl anything. After release of the record, I traipsed through East Texas and Louisiana, stopping at radio stations along the way asking them to play it. Some actually did. It was the first time I ever heard my material on the radio. Fast-forward 40-something years. Just two months after being well pleased with how "My Troubles" came out, I returned to the same Nashville unit to work their magic on "Louisiana," and they did not disappoint. "My Troubles" and "Louisiana" lead off this album, just as these recordings originally galvanized the project.
3. Sunrise of Our Love
So far we've been in the dark about each other
Backstory: "Sunrise" was first recorded in 1978 at a small 8-track recording studio in the Montrose neighborhood of the Bayou City called "Magic Rat Studio," later redubbed "Musicians Recording Studio" (or just M.R.S.). I think of this song as my 1950s-style Elvis ballad. For this re-recording, I turned the song over to Steven Beasley, who provided a revamped arrangement, replete with lush guitar work. Pacific Northwest drummer supreme, Darin Watkins, added live drums.
I gave and I gave and I thought I'd made you mine
Rusty - vocals, guitars, synth strings
Backstory: Though written nearly three years before I packed up my van and moved back to L.A., "Careless" was one of my last Houston songs. Only five songs were written in that long stretch between "Careless" in late August of 1981 (a very productive year) and May, 1984, when I left Houston. With the slow demise of my band, the Unreasonables, a new relationship, practice with a new cover/party band, feverish work as a freelance journalist, the production of a trade magazine (the Houston Music Guide), all amidst continuing financial difficulties, I found little time or inclination for songwriting. "Careless" was written with my then-girlfriend, Kimberley Martin, a talented singer-songwriter in her own right. The Unreasonables played this song, our drummer's favorite (for reasons which will become obvious when you hear it), but it was not recorded. That was a mistake. We recorded a few clunkers instead of this one. When contemplating possibilities for Bayou Line, I stumbled upon a practice tape of the Unreasonables playing "Careless," and remembered how much I liked it. It's kind of a quirky New Wavey song; I think I was going for sort of an Elvis Costello vibe originally. It has a few unexpected melodic twists and turns that don't seem to make musical sense at first listen, but actually do. For this resurrection of "Careless," I turned to Mister Reliable (and honorary Unreasonable), Steven Beasley, who worked up the basic track, and sent it back to me for vocal and guitar overdubs. Jed Demlow added keyboards, and Darin Watkins provided the sassy drums, which boldly accentuate the frustration and angst of the lyrics.
5. Oh Well
Down around the bayou line
Rusty - vocals, guitars
Backstory: "Oh Well" was written in July of 1979 and became a staple of the Unreasonables. It was one of 16 songs recorded by the band in a marathon December, 1980 session at M.R.S. For backup for this version, I turned this time to the New York City rhythm section of Mike Vecchione and Hiro Sakaba. Those guys just knocked it into a different gear. This is definitely one of my favorite recordings that I've ever done, and just maybe the best lead guitar I've ever played. This album's title also comes from the first line of this song.
6. Words Don't Come Easy
Did I hear you say it's over
Rusty - vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards
Backstory: In the Spring of 1973, I had returned to my hometown of Midland, Texas after failing to make much of a splash as a songwriter in Nashville or Los Angeles. The idea was to get back to the University of Houston for the fall semester. Meanwhile, I was in a songwriting funk. The music biz experience had left me unmotivated to write and doubtful - for pretty good reason - about my songwriting talent. For months, there were no new songs. But while moping there in Midland, I connected with fellow songwriter Jon Stone. We were introduced by our girlfriends, who were both ballet dancers. By that summer, we were writing songs together. "Words Don't Come Easy" was written in July at Jon's apartment in Midland. I returned to Houston at the end of August, and encouraged Jon to join me in further musical collaboration in the Bayou City. Jon moved to Houston in 1974, and in November of that year we recorded "Words" at the cheapest Houston Recording studio we could find, Dale Mullins Recording Studio. Despite the low rent status of the studio, I was pleased with how the recording came out, our vocal blend being particular noteworthy. I still like that recording. But this time around I wanted to try something totally different. I found jazzy multi-instrumentalist Ilia Skibinsky in Berlin and just trusted him to come up with that something. He did, providing a lush, modern take on the song. However, in a nod to that magical vocal blend of the original recording, I brought in a snippet of Jon's 1974 harmony part on the second bridge.
7. More Than St. John's
Though I left her long ago
Rusty: vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitars
Backstory: "More Than St. John's" was written in March, 1975 in Houston at the Foxhall apartments just off the Katy Freeway, where the cover shot of Bayou Line was also taken. Other songs written there include "Another Night With You," "Rio Frio," "Riding On," from this album, as well as several other of my songs: "Hot as a Pistol" (NWXSW), "Crossfire" and "Coldhearted" (to be included on a prospective Unreasonables album). "St. John's" and "Rio Fio" were taken into Jeff Wells Studio in December of 1976. This studio was a step up from Mullins Studio. By this time, another Midlander, multi-insrumentalist and talented singer Rick Plunk, had joined Jon and I in Houston, forming the band Southern Cross. Rick brought a higher level of musicianship to our project. On this session he played magical parts on both songs. I was really happy with these recordings. Indeed, as it turned out, the only old tracks I felt could be salvaged for this album (aside from Jon's harmony snippet from "Words Don't' Come Easy") were these from "More Than St. John's." Except for drums, that's Southern Cross, Rick on keyboards, Jon on bass, and 24-year old me on acoustic guitar and vocals. For this version, I added a few electric guitar bits, and brought in drummer Mike Vecchione to navigate the not quite consistent tempo where before there had just been the simplest percussion.
8. Rio Frio
Everything's quiet in Texas tonight
Rusty - vocals, electric guitar
Backstory: Ah, "Rio Frio." I still think this is one of my best songs. Though written in October 1975 at Foxhall, the genesis of this one starts back in the fall of 1971. Returning from Midland to Houston for my sophomore year at the University of Houston, I had the idea to compose a "rock opera" based on the history of Texas. So I got to writing, knocking off eight songs in a matter of weeks. Alas, they weren't very good. I just wasn't a very capable songwriter at that oint. So the project stalled. But once in a blue moon I would try to work on another song for the opera. Finally, at Foxhall the last song specifically written for that ill-fated concept emerged. I was trying to come up with a song that would describe the days of the Nueces Strip. After the Texas Revolution, Texas claimed land south to the Rio Grande River, while Mexico insisted that the Texan claim ended further north at the Nueces River. The land in between was contested, and became lawless, and therefore a great place to hide out for outlaws. The Frio River, or, in Spanish, Rio Frio, flows into the Nueces down around those parts. As a child, our family had camped on the Frio River. It was the first river I ever bonded with, coming from out around Midland where are there no creeks, much less rivers. The song describes a young cowboy a long way from home, possibly wounded, hiding out beneath the cottonwoods on the banks of the Frio, missing his sweetheart back on some island, perhaps Galveston, far, far away. On Bayou Line, "More Than St. John's" and "Rio Frio" appear together, just as on the session back in 1976.
9. Home One More Time
The rain is coming down
Rusty - vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Backstory: "Home One More Time" was written in June of 1972, during my stint in Nashville. I lived on St. Edwards Drive in south Nashville, just off Nolensville Pike. I wrote this song shortly after returning from a trip to Atlanta with my songwriting buddy, Walter Carter (yes, the famous guitar historian and Carter Vintage Guitars shop owner). The "red mud" line comes from that part of the country, and the original lyric specified the "Georgia line." In later recordings, it became the "Texas line," and finally, for this version, simply the "county line," to make it more universal. Another lyrical change has "freeway strangled cities" replacing the original "smoke-stack crowded cities." When the song was written, nearly 50 years ago, cities still had smokestacks and a lot fewer freeways. Now the smokestacks are mostly gone, but the freeways just keep muliplying and getting more tangled. I have recorded "Home One More Time" five times, more than any other song. This version is helped immensely by talented multi-instrumentalist and producer Jed Demlow and crack guitarist Jason Roller, both of Nashville. Northwest drummer Darin Watkins plays drums, as he did on the previous version of "Home One More Time."
10. The Masterpiece of You
Maybe it's just the way the light
Rusty - vocals, acoustic guitar, synth
Backstory: In late Winter of 1977, I took my first trip to Europe, visiting Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France. In Paris, I visited the Jeu de Paume art museum, which at the time housed a great collection of Impressionist paintings (most have since been moved to Musée d'Orsay). From an early age, I was drawn to the Impressionist painters, so seeing these up close was just amazing. So many masterpieces. When I got home, the trip continued to occupy my imagination. One day my girlfriend, who had beautiful long red hair, somehow reminded me of the girl with reddish blonde hair seated at a piano in Pierre-Auguste Renoir's famous painting. I thought, "Well, there's a masterpiece right there." So was inspired the first verse of the song. She was also a ballet dancer, which cued the second verse and Edgar Degas' "Dancers in Blue." With those two artists, I had a cool theme, and from there was able to continue the thread, weaving in paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. Altogether, it's a musical painting. The chorus came last. I had to figure out how to bridge time and distance, and somehow bring them to her, and Texas. For the recording, I again enlisted Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Daniel Ribeiro, who contributed several songs on my Head to Heart album.
11. Another Night With You
It won't be long before
Rusty - vocals, electric guitar rhythm and 2nd lead guitar
Backstory: Another Summer of '75 Foxhall song, "Another Night With You" seemingly came out of left field. It's an unusual song for me in several ways. It's got this jaunty lilt to it, and I have no idea where the South Pacific theme came from, another imaginary setting in the vein of "More Than St. John's." It was definitely an oddball in my catalogue. and I always liked it, partially for that reason, plus I just think it has an interesting melody and lyrics. The song never made it into live shows or recordings. Until now. "Another Night" was the third tune delivered by the Nashville crew, this time with top session guitarist Tom Wild, with whom I share the instrumental break (I'm playing the second part).
12. A Matter of When
I do recall a time not long ago
Rusty - vocals, electric guitars
Backstory: "A Matter of When" is another Verone, 1977 song, somewhat autobiographical, depicting the end of a longtime romance. The song was recorded at M.R.S. in August 1978 at a session that also included "Corner of My Mind." For this version, Nashville ace, Jed Demlow, provided the basic tracks, and I overlayed chimey guitars.
13. That's When the Fall Began
The leaves of summer are counting their days
Rusty - vocals, guitars, piano, bass, drums
Backstory: "That's When the Fall Began" is another late summer '77 song, written at the Verone house a couple of months before "A Matter of When." Yes, they describe the same real-life breakup. This song was never recorded or played live in Houston; it just didn't fit with the rock and roll I was doing at the time. But I always felt it was a good tune, interesting lyrics and rhythm; I enjoyed playing it on acoustic guitar periodically. I always figured I would someday record it, but never did, until now.
14. Through His Name
Down by the river so wide and muddy, people say
Rusty - vocals, acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion
Backstory: "Through His Name" was written, as a lark, in late August of 1971 just after I had returned from Midland to Houston for my sophomore year at UH. Goaded by my irreverent roommate at the time, high school friend, Johnny Davis (yep, the well-known Texas map-maker), to try to write a "gospel" song, this is what I came up with. The two Midland heretics had a good laugh over it, and then the song was relegated to the status of forgotten ditty for decades. But when reviewing old Houston songs, I reevaluated "Through His Name." With the clarity of distance, to my surprise, it seemed to me, albeit a lapsed Methodist, that it might actually fit in a hymnal. I did tweak a couple of lines so that this song has a deeper, mystical, aspect to it, the idea that everyone, and everything, is inherently divine, made of godstuff. So if three hallejuhas beside the bayou can help bring you to find 'the Lord' in yourself and the rest of the Universe, I say go for it.
15. Our Love's With You
If you choose to leave us, baby, that's the way it goes
Rusty - vocals, guitars
Backstory: "Our Love's With You" was written in May 1973 for my little sister upon her high school graduation and presumed leaving home for college. It is one of the handful of songs I wrote on piano. It was recorded in 1974 in Houston at Mullins Recording Studio. I played piano and guitar in a very stripped down arrangement. That recording was pretty sweet, though plagued by the low quality of the studio. The song was never played live. This one was the last of this collection to be re-recorded. I sent the old recording to crack Nashville multi-instrumentalist, Jed Demlow, with instructions to copy it pretty closely while adding his own touches. The result is true to the original piano version.
16. Corner of My Mind
When I sit in concentration
Rusty - vocals
Backstory: "Corner of My Mind" is one of my earliest collaborations as a songwriter. Home in Midland for spring break in 1971, I discovered that high school (and theatre troop) friend, Paige Kemper, wrote poetry. So I asked for a sample of her works, and she provided this poem. Back in Houston, I put music to these amazing words written by a 16-year old. This was one of the songs that secured me a songwriting deal in Nashville in 1972. Alas, it was not recorded there. Recording of the song would wait until August of 1978 in Houston. That was a nice recording, but I always felt something was missing. The song had three strong, philosophic, verses but no bridge, and no more personal, intimate insight into the unique romance described. Because the song structure closely resembled that of Donovan's "Catch the Wind," one of my favorite songs, I didn't prioritize any addendum to "Corner." It was fine, as is... until the album Bayou Line came into view. I knew 'Corner of My Mind' should be on this album, and here was the chance to finally provide that missing part, a bridge, that would delve deeper into this relationship and provide a glimpse of why this person still lingers in memory. I thought the song needed to go back in time and be in that relationship at a special moment. And so the idea of a vacation in Ireland came into play, encompassing the shared peak experiences of joy and sadness and wonder and magic and desire compressed into a few very special days of a love that somehow (still mysteriously) eventually disconnected. There is just no way I would have ever thought of this bridge back when Paige and I were teenagers. It's taken me that long to think of something profound and unique enough to complement her beautiful verses.
17. Riding On
Do you get the feeling lately, somewhere beyond us
Rusty - vocals, guitars
Backstory: "Riding On" is another Foxhall song, written in March of 1975. It was never played live or recorded previously. It's a song about persevering through pain, overcoming obstacles and gathering momentum in your life, and sharing that trajectory with another person. Steve Beasley helped immensely to get this one shaped up. I hope one day we are "Riding On" free of the selfishness that has so stunted our individual and collective evolution. That day is out there, if enough of We the People demand it.
All songs Copyright © Rio Paso Music Propductions
© Copyright Rio Paso Music Productions