My new year kicks off nicely with a boost from the Eugene Register Guard (specifically, musical writer Serena Markstrom) who lists “Hard to Believe” as one of the Best Local Songs of 2011.
It’s my simplest, rootsiest country tune off Villain. A broken-hearted country lament in the classic male/female duet style. I credit my duet partner Halie Loren for putting it over the top, and producer Ehren Ebbage and guitarist Al Toribio for injecting just the right amount of twang.
Now, if I can find someone to help me shop the tune around Nashville, I will pay such a person handsomely in foot massages, grilled cheese sandwiches, and untold royalty percentages.
The first review of Villain is in, from Rootstime in Belgium. (Follow the link and poke around a bit, you’ll find it.) I gleefully quote from the last paragraph:
“One of the very most beautiful songs on Villain is ‘Hard to Believe,’ which John Shipe delivers as a duet with singer Halie Loren. This song reminds you of the best work by Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra, and it absolutely deserves a place in the Golden Book of Famous Duet Classics.”
So, I did a Soundcloud search for myself, to see how my cloud was coming up. It didn’t. Jess Elaine Edwards’ cloud came up. That’s odd, I thought. Who is Jess Elaine Edwards?
Upon closer look, I see my song–a lullaby called “When I Am King.”
Ah yes, I remember. From the Plug-Pulled Pollyanna Sessions (circa 2000). It was the first aborted attempt to record Pollyanna Loves Cassandra at Supernatural Sound in Oregon City. It was going to be my most ambitious project to date, recorded in one of the best studios I’d ever seen in my life. Alas, we were too raw as a lineup. After laying down basic tracks for nearly half the album, producer Mike Davis said, “I don’t get the feeling we’re making a good album here.”
So we pulled the plug. And we hit road to sharpen up (revisting the gargantuan project in 2002). We did, however, get a nice demo of this particular song, with the help of Isaac Szymanczyk on keys, and a budding teenage diva named Jessica Lageson.
“When I am King” is favorite amongst Shipe fans. But I rarely perform it. When I double-bill with a fine female singer, I try to rope her into doing a duet with me: Shannon Curtis or Jessica Plotkin (who plays viola on the official recorded version).
As lovely as this song can be, I don’t feel that I’ve gotten it right yet. The official recorded version, on Cassandra, features Stephanie Schneiderman. You can listen here and compare the two versions.
I’d love to hear this song given a complete makeover by some hitmaking machine–pop, country, or R & B.