Box Set | Becky Kapell & Janet Julian | Greg Newman | Sattie Clark |
Stefan Gibson | Billy Leeds Band
Velvida Underground | Neil Gilpin |
Jim Boyer | Pete Krebs | Billy Kennedy | Kevin Bingo Richey
SONG IN F - Box Set - Jim Brunberg - guitar/vocal and Jeff Pherson - guitar/vocal
PAPER DOLL - Becky Kapell and Janet Julian; Tim Acott—bass , Randy Givens—drums
NOTHING ABOUT YOU - Greg Newman - bass and vocals, Matt Newman - guitar, Randy Givens - drums
I’VE GOT A BIRD - Sattie Clark - guitar and vocals, Marty Jennings - violin, Jim Smith - cello
DOWNTOWN SUNSHINE - Stefan Gibson - guitar and vocals
FLY ON GRANDPA - Billy Leeds Band - Billy Leeds - vocals, Billy Kennedy - electric guitar, Neil Gilpin - fiddle, Tim Acott - bass, John Henry Bourke - backing vocals, Paul Basset - Washboard
ST. JUDE - Velvida Underground - Mike Danner - piano and vocals, Neil Gilpin- guitar, Tim Acott - upright bass, Sam Henry - drums
JESUS IS MY LANDLORD - Neil Gilpin (No record of other musicians.)
VIDA - Jim Boyer - guitar and vocals, Neil Gilpin - steel guitar
MAKANI LOVE SONG - Pete Krebs (No record of other musicians.)
IN THE CAVERN - Billy Kennedy - guitar and lead vocal, Randy Givens – drums, backing vocals, Lynn Conover – backing vocals
POSSESSION TIMES - Kevin Bingo Richey - vocals and instruments, Randy Givens - drums
Chord Garden: A Tribute to the Songs of Dan Haley
—PROJECT NOTES, BY SP CLARKE
How can one possibly put Dan Haley’s songs into words, especially when his own command of language is so effortlessly deft? Dan has been a fixture in the Portland, Oregon music scene for more than four decades, both as a solo performer and with various bands. In that time he has established himself as the foremost songwriter in the city.
Paraphrasing Tina Turner, Dan says of his musical approach, “when it comes to songwriting, I never do anything nice and easy. I always do it nice and complicated.” I know this to be true—firsthand.
I learned some of the songs offered here, as well as countless others, when I was a member of Dan’s band, Ed and the Boats, for a couple of years in the ‘80s. I can honestly say that I acquired a grasp of music theory by studying at the feet of the composer himself; his vast knowledge of harmony, a course all its own.
Dan is fond of describing his music as a “chord garden.” That’s quite accurate if you picture a garden where every kind of flower grows, in every color, across broad acreage, stretching in every direction. Dan’s sensitivity to subtle musical hue and shade is far more refined than the typical human being can reconcile in a black and white world.
And if Dan Haley’s songs were comprised merely of delightful clusters of unique chordal bouquets, blooming everywhere across the musical landscape, why that would surely be far more than most musicians could ever muster in nine lifetimes! But Dan’s lyrical eloquence actually surpasses the incredible kaleidoscopic spectra his musical compositions display.
Listen to the lines Sattie Clark delivers in “I’ve Got a Bird,” wherein Dan’s Robert Frost-like embrace of a snowy winter scene bears far deeper meaning than even its poignant literal portrayal. Or, check-out the deceptively simple pop song “Paper Doll,” an anthem dedicated to women’s emancipation. It’s a tune as timely today as it was when Becky Kapell (a former Boat herself) and Janet Julian recorded it—maybe more so.
And it might be of interest to know that when Dan wrote the lines “Jesus is my landlord, I’m behind on the rent/I feel so guilty…,” which Neil Gilpin sings here with an old-timey twang, that it’s actually completely faithful to the song’s genesis. The house Dan lived in when he wrote that number was owned by the church next door.
Box Set’s simple rendition of “Song in F” reveals a nakedly introspective love song, easily worthy of Elvis Costello: clever word play, coupled with raw emotion and self-effacing humility, sung over a beautiful melody—a quintessential Haley masterpiece.
Kevin “Bingo” Richey expertly captures the spirit of the then-emergent grunge movement with his take of “Possession Times.” The presentation still sounds new today. And former Boats bassist Greg Newman, joined here by his brother Matthew on guitar and the late Randy Givens (also a former Boat) on drums, practically does a better vocal impersonation of Dan Haley on “Nothing About You,” than Dan himself.
With contributions from all-stars such as Mike Danner and Velvida Underground (“St. Jude”), Pete Krebs (“Makani Love Song”), Billy Kennedy (“In the Cavern”), Stefan Gibson (“Downtown Sunshine”), Bill Leeds (“Fly On Grandpa”) and the late, great Jimmy Boyer (“Vida”) this collection is like a grand reunion of musicians who were fixtures at the LaurelThirst Public House since its founding in 1988. Many of them still regularly play the venue.
The provenance behind this heartfelt tribute is nearly as epic as the songs themselves, which is saying something—and it begins at the LaurelThirst Public House, where Dan has regularly performed since the very beginning.
Project producer, Brian Jones says, “back in the early 1990s, my friends and I pooled our money together, purchased gear, and rented a space above Kelly’s Olympian on SW Washington in downtown Portland for a couple hundred a month. Took out a wall, put in a control room window, and we were in business. During this era, Sattie Clark and I had the brilliant idea of making a Dan Haley tribute album. He was, after all, one of the best songwriters in Portland at that time, and our circle of musician friends were all interested in being involved.”
To that end, eventually some tracks were recorded in that small studio space above Kelly’s Olympian. Others were recorded remotely, with the necessary equipment being transported in Randy Givens’ van—implemented by running a long snake from the vehicle into the performers’ living rooms or kitchens.
However, once all the basic tracks had finally been recorded, but before any sort of mixdown was undertaken, the project lost momentum and went off the rails.
Sadly, in the intervening years, not only were the original multitrack master tapes misplaced, but all traces of even the rough mixes were lost as well. Then, last year, while rummaging through boxes of old CD ROMs, Jones happened to run across a lone copy of the original raw mixes of these recordings. After a hiatus of nearly a quarter century, the venture was back on track!
Though the master tapes for this compilation were long lost and the stereo mixes that were retrieved were uneven, rough, and “terrible” according to some, through the miracle of modern digital technology, Jones and his compatriots were able to salvage and clean up the original raw tracks. This was in large part thanks to mastering software recommended by Sattie Clark’s music producer son, August Kaster—who was born long after these recordings were made. The result was all worth the wait—truly a labor of love.
Dan had already written hundreds of great songs by the time these recordings were made 25 years ago. At this point, there is no telling just how many more gems he has penned since then. But, it’s certain that every one of them bears the distinctive mark of his singular genius. A woefully under-recognized Oregon treasure, Dan Haley is Portland’s greatest songwriter (and yes, that considers Elliott Smith’s oeuvre). Dan apprehends his craft as well as any of the masters—his body of work stands up against that of anyone, as this wonderful compilation so perfectly demonstrates.
Tell the world! It’s always a glorious musical spring where Dan Haley’s chord garden grows.
SP Clarke, June 2022
Produced and recorded by Brian Jones | Executive producer : Sattie Clark
Additional recording by Randy Givens
Original artwork by Janet Julian | Graphic design by Lydia Carrigan
In memory of Marty Jennings, Jim Boyer, Randy Givens, and Sam Henry.
Proceeds from the sales of Chord Garden: A Tribute to the Songs of Dan Haley benefit the Jeremy Wilson Foundation 501(c)3 Musician Health & Services Program.
All songs © 2022 Daniel Haley except "Nothing About You" and “Downtown Sunshine” © 2022 Daniel Haley & Dennis Kenny