*A version of this LP is also available on Aeria Records, remastered by Tom Ruff of Asbury Media. That record includes three additional tracks from 500 TV's 1988 "All Fired Up" LP.*
'Country Eastern' was self-produced by Joe Harvard with the intention of bringing country, East Coast garage/power-pop and Middle Eastern drone styles together, an ambitious goal in which he was “only about 70% successful and even that is only on a handful of tracks,” by his own reckoning, “which is why I spent most of the new millennium learning to play things like cumbus and bouzouki, and developing an actual lap steel style more my own.” What the album succeeds at, however, is in locating the exotic lurking within Boston Rock like the Modern Lovers and Real Kids, and underscoring the Garage element in material as disparate as the Only Ones and Throwing Muses, while developing a “non-Sectarian songwriting style that cross-cuts power-pop, punk and traditional genres un-self-consciously.”
Along for the ride are a Baker’s Dozen of friends Joe’s admired most from the late 80’s Boston indie scene he helped germinate, and three great engineers from the Fort Apache crew, which was still a team in those days.
With the exception of "Meig's County Weed" the basic tracks for these songs were recorded by Sean Slade & Lou Giordano at Fort Apache North, Cambridge MA, over three days in late 1989, and then completed by Joe, who engineered vocals, guitars and guests and mixed the songs over the following months. Plans for an early 1990 self-release of the LP's ballad version "Another Girl, Another Planet" were scuttled after the Replacements recorded and released a B-side version of the Only Ones song.
Still principal owner of Fort Apache at the time he made this record, just about to win the Boston Phoenix/WFNX Poll as Top Local Producer, Joe Harvard had no way to know that rather than being the debut album he planned as the start of a new, focused career as a player [as opposed to producer or engineer] 'Country Eastern' would, instead, be his swan song to the Hub scene he loved so much. It began auspiciously enough, with a strong set of tunes and a team of Joe's favorite drummers & other players invited to participate -- most were on board.
Joe had hoped to use bass player Scott Baerenwald [Reddy Teddy, Willie "Loco" 45's, Robin Lane's Chartbusters] and split tracks between Jerome Deupree [Morphine’s first drummer] and Howard “Howie” Ferguson [Real Kids, Lyres, Barrence Whitfield]; but when approached Howie said he hadn't been playing in months and politely refused, while Scott had a scheduling conflict. Good friend Sebastian Steinberg was the bass player on Joe’s previous two album efforts [Mr. Happy’s ‘Love & Music: Play, Play, Play!’ and 500 TV’s ‘All Fired Up’], but had moved on to far greener pastures in NYC. The rhythm solution came via Border Patrol, a group JH co-produced with David Lindley, who “loaned” three members to the basic tracks team, all of whom were quick studies and solid players: bass player Chuck Vath, keyboardist Maury Rosenberg and violinist Chris Murphy, whose two LP tracks belie his significant pre-production assistance.
Chuck Vath ends up on seven of the original nine completed songs, while Jerome drums on six. Billy Conway [Morphine’s second, and long-time drummer] plays drums on one and washboard on another, Howie Ferguson drums on two, and later Columbus’ Jon Coleman [Ronald Kohl’s Billionaires] drove up to Fort Apache North to lay the drums for “Meig’s County Weed” along with bass player Eric “Strongarm” Armstrong.
A few funny things happening to upset Joe's production applecart regarding the other drummers recorded on day three: everyone forgot that Billy Conway -- who plays on "20 Lbs. of Love [in a 5 Lb. Bag]" -- favored cocktail drums for Treat Her Right and hadn't played a regular ‘trap’ kit in a while. Joe says “he needed to warm up a bit, naturally, and while he did I thought ‘gee, what a shame nobody had thought to set up cocktail drums, it would’ve added a bit of swamp’ … on the other hand, Billy does the locomotive thing on ‘20 Lbs’, and it’s easier to chug that way on a kit, perhaps.” Then came Howie, whose snare work crackles from the Real Kids’ Red Star LP; despite his initial reluctance he worked downstairs from Fort Apache North in the Rounder Records mail room, and with sufficient cajoling he had graciously caved in and agreed to come upstairs and play a song or two. After that Joe planned to recruit studio manager Clark Dark on drums and record a few more songs before the end of that third and final day. But when Howie got there for his "jump in and jump out" tune -- -- he was forced to remind Joe and company that he was a lefty drummer. In effect, he played with a backwards set-up. All the drums and drums microphones had to be switched around, phase checked, and tweaked.
"Sinkhole" and “Bridgeport Lathe” were both recorded without a bass player, Howie making due with just Joe’s guitar and a cue vocal; Mark Sandman and John Rosato added bass to those songs later. When Howie was done playing the crew had recorded all of the originally planned basics, and energies were flagging. Howie's track became the last drum track, and the last song of the original series. It appears more than the nine songs which were deemed keepers were recorded, but most of Joe’s masters were lost when Joe returned to Boston in 1995, left behind after he lost access to “the basement storage room of Tim Scharff’s girlfriend Mary’s apartment” in Columbus, Ohio.
Beyond the 'keeper' bass, drum, fiddle, rhythm guitar & piano basics captured on those three days, the rest of the LP was finished mostly after midnight, with Joe acting as his own engineer for vocals, steel & guitar overdubs, & engineering the rest of the LP's guests as well. A lot of people patiently consented to join, or were Shanghai'ed by, an eager Joe from Foley's Bar or Chet's Last Call Downtown, & many if not most of these vocal tracks were done post-cocktails at the Rat, Middle East or the Plough & Stars, at 3 or 4 am. Joe and singer-songwriter Mary Lou Lord would do some shows together, while bass player John Rosato and singer-songwriter Florence Dore would become band mates with Joe in the wake of the Country Eastern sessions.
Joe Harvard was principal owner of the twin Forts Apache at the time, so the plan was to finish the record during unsold off-hours -- a challenge even under the best conditions. Personal issues had led to a narcotics relapse in 1987, however, and relocating from an idyllic musician’s house at 117 Columbia Street, Cambridge back to East Boston had not helped the situation. Harvard managed to conceal his opiate issues until the death of a best friend from Eastie triggered an Olympic-grade bender/melt-down. Harvard decided it was time to get clean & he entered treatment in earnest ... but with varying success for the next several years. As self-defense he told everyone he knew about his problem, little realizing the concern it would cause. Especially when sobriety didn't turn out to be as easy as simply wanting to stop.
As Joe struggled & his friends & the Fort crew worried whether he would survive the year this record was made, & painstakingly the empty spaces on the 2-inch 24-track tapes filled up, against a backdrop of several public detox stays, relapses, domestic chaos & -- thankfully -- a painful but productive winter of stability via methadone. As he tried to avoid trouble & his old East Boston & Downtown stomping grounds a massive, 150+ building HO railroad town grew in Joe's office at Fort Apache, while he himself became a ghost, listening to Qawwali and other ‘ethnic’ music in the darkened office by day, sleeping there many nights to take advantage of open studio time that became available, leaving only for model parts and methadone. When he wasn't installing tiny lights and furniture in a 1/87 scale building he would be adding instruments, layering sounds and trying to finish the nearly 100 often subtle [and sometimes unsuccessful] overdubbed parts on "Country Eastern". At least one amateur tape op Joe recruited for a late night session -- a fellow addict and friend from East Boston named Little Kathy -- died of an overdose not long after helping him cut some acoustic guitar tracks.
THE FINAL CUT
"Meigs County Weed"
Immediately after the completion of nine of the LP's original tracks [with an unknown number left unfinished] Joe began a slash and burn summer relapse that resulted in a catastrophic detox-by-rock tour plan [2 weeks in a heat wave driving 5 Aussies around] which brought him to Columbus Ohio; just months later he would relocate there in a desperate and unsuccessful attempt at a "geographic cure", on Labor Day weekend 1990, remaining there in exile until selling his majority share of Fort Apache to Billy Bragg [the eventual full ownership of the studio by partner and studio manager Gary Smith followed] in 1993.
While in Columbus, Harvard formed several bands, and he returned to Boston with the first -- the Joe Harvard All-Stars -- to record a number of basics of which only "Meig's County Weed" survives. The band included Columbus vocalist Anna “Pow! How ya’ like me now?” Paulucci and Paul “Hat Boy” Brown on lap steel. The latter had recently been selected as one of two best unsigned guitarists in the country by Guitar Player Magazine, and learned lap steel essentially while we watched, in about a week, specifically for the All-Stars; it was a humbling thing to watch. Drummer Jim “Twistoe” Castoe had split to tour with Bobby Keyes’ band and been replaced by Jon Coleman, who drums on the track -- although“Twisto” drove up to hang and convey his welcome Vibe Massiveness to the Meigs County Weed" session. This occurred at Fort Apache North with Tim O’Heir engineering, although some lead and gang vocals were added & mixdown done by jh at Metropolis Recording, Columbus OH.
The "Meigs County Weed" session also produced some unfinished basics for "Boston", a pretty rocking lost version of "Southern Girls" by Cheap Trick, and possibly one other song. Recording essentially live in the studio [although the lead vocals were later re-cut in Ohio], using time that was included as part of his sale of Fort Apache to Billy Bragg, this proved to be Joe's last session at the studio he co-founded & named. It was also the end of the band.
While in Cambridge Harvard’s van was borrowed by a band member, and in an extremely unfortunate misunderstanding, despite warnings that the vehicle was being re-registered Monday and until then had to be left in the Motel garage, said member had returned from an all-night session and – finding the garage full – had parked the van on the street in front of the Motel, planning to move it when a space opened up. After asking the clerk to call when one did the member promptly fell asleep. When the van had subsequently been towed, the tag for towing and violations on an unregistered-in-MA [thus uninsured] vehicle had run well over a thousand dollars, which had to be raised. When the individual responsible and another member decided to fly home rather than wait out the weekend to see what happened, the group dissolved in ill will and mutual recriminations, as groups will. While the JH All-Stars would not survive the fall-out from this event, bass player Eric Armstrong and Joe continued to play together, starting the band Blunt with Ryan Eisert and Catherine Boone, and after that Joe's last band before leaving Ohio, the three-piece Joe Harvard Band, first with Ryan and then with Harold LaRue.
released July 6, 1990
[specific credits listed on each song]
engineered by sean slade, lou giordano, tim o'heir & joe harvard at fort apache north. All songs produced & mixed to tape by joe, & c. 2008 Little Big Horn Publishing, BMI
country eastern sessions - boston:
brother cleve [keys]
billy conway [drums]
jerome deupree [drums]
lisa deupree [cabasa]
florence dore [b/u voc]
joe harvard [ld & b/u vocals, vincent bell coral sitar & bellzouki, lap steel & all guitars, bass]
marylou lord [ld & b/u voc]
chris murphy [violin]
bob pernice [b/u voc]
maury rosenberg [keys]
mark sandman [bass]
gary smith [keys]
chuck vath [bass]
jh all stars - columbus, ohio:
eric “strongarm” armstrong [bass]
paul “hatboy” brown [lap steel]
joe "dirty bird" cirriello [washboard]
john coleman [drums]
anna “Pow!howyalikemenow” paulluci [b/u voc]
tape op's include florence and the late kathy dean
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