Guest Post by Andres Roots
My friend Red Mouth asked me to write a few words about how “Stick With You“, a track we collaborated on in 2010, ended up on a 2013 compilation of songs by Estonian writers and poets, titled “Lutsuvad kivid“. Indeed, as Red is no more Estonian than I’m a poet, I must admit I was as surprised as he was… But he tells me such a short answer simply won’t do for the avid readers of his blog, so even at the risk of alienating both of them, here’s a profoundly longer account.
1. What does “Lutsuvad kivid“ mean and who’s the bloke on the cover? Well, “kivid“ means “stones“, but the preceding verb does not stand for “rolling“. According to wikipedia, a “luts“ is a “burbot (Lota lota), the only codlike freshwater fish“. In Estonian, the phrase “to throw a burbot“ (“lutsu viskama“) means to play ducks and drakes, thus “Lutsuvad kivid“ should refer to flat stones bouncing off the surface of water. Somewhat less fortunately, the same verb also means “to suck“.
The gentleman on the album cover is Oskar Luts (1887-1953), one of the most popular Estonian authors of the 20th century, who spent most of his life in Tartu and had the town’s public library named after him – and it is that very library that compiled and released this CD to celebrate their 100th anniversary. Incidentally, the most popular novel by Oskar Luts is “Kevade“ (“Spring“, 1912/1913) and its most celebrated character the troublesome schoolboy Joosep Toots, infatuated with “Injun stories“ and nicknamed the Kentucky Lion… Oh, and the house Mr. Luts used to live in is now a museum, right across the road from the studio where Red and I recorded our tune.
2. Why is “Stick With You“ included in such esteemed company? Well, the explanation I got from the library was that they wanted to involve all their friends and collaborators, and that I did have that book of lyrics published in 2010. My association with the library dates back to 2003, the international Year of the Blues: we had just founded the first Estonian blues society and – with generous help from the US Embassy in Tallinn – managed to establish a nice little blues section at the library. And yes, Red Mouth’s works are well represented in their collection!
Anyway, I’ve performed at many library events since then. In fact, even “Build Me A Statue“, the aforementioned book of lyrics, mainly came about because they asked me to take part in the international literature festival Prima Vista. As for Red’s connection with all that – well, the gentleman who handpicked the tracks for the CD actually opened for him at one of his Tartu gigs! That would be Aapo Ilves – the poet, the lyricist, the playwright, the singer, and so on and so forth. He wanted several of my tunes to choose from and picked “Stick With You“. I should probably mention here that while most of the album is in Estonian, it does include tracks in English, Dutch, and Russian, and that Red Mouth is not even the only American on there.
3. How did the recording come about? In 2010, Red Mouth was coming to Europe for the first time, and we were planning to do a few gigs together. To promote those shows, we decided to record a song – I would cut the guitar in Tartu, he would overdub the vocals in Alabama, and I’d finish it here with the producer AskoRomé Altsoo. We did just that with “Redecoration Day“ and ended up shooting a video in the same intercontinental fashion, with Asko directing. Much to our surprise, the video went to #1 on Estonian national television’s “Eesti Top7“ chart, where it stayed for weeks – and spent months in the top 3.
But the night before I was due to record the track – and this I haven’t really talked about in public – my father passed away most unexpectedly. So instead of cutting just the single, I spent a day at Asko’s White Room studio, playing music and trying to get my head straight. The next day, we realized we had enough for an album, and decided to do what we’d been talking about for ages: ask my friends to contribute. So on “Roundabout“, there are vocals by Dave Arcari from Scotland, Black River Bluesman from Finland, Bottleneck John from Sweden, and Eric “Red Mouth“ Gebhardt from Alabama.
The funny thing is, “Stick With You“ wasn’t recorded that day with the rest of the songs – the dobro part had been captured at the end of the very last Bullfrog Brown session. What you hear is essentially a demo: it’s literally the very first time that I played the tune all the way through, with the tempo fluctuating like mad. Yet, Asko and I agreed that it had something, so when Red Mouth arrived in Tartu, he did the vocals, Kalle Kindel added drums, and Ahti Bachblum contributed some fine piano and organ. And when a radio interviewer later asked me for my favourite track on the album, that’s the one I named.
The morning we recorded Red’s vocals for “Stick With You“, he had a terrible hangover (there’s a great story there, involving the Finnish harmonica ace Jantso Jokelin, our sound engineer Siim Neerut, a couple of Red Mouth fans and a stretcher, but that IS another story!) and I was with him in the booth. I remember him sitting there, talking about Lou Reed. This summer, when I told him the song would appear on “Lutsuvad kivid“, he said: “It’s a great song, the best we worked on together, I think.“ And that’s that, really – consider yourselves illuminated!
Get the song on Youtube: http://youtu.be/UnKac0qePDM
and iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/roundabout/id765355217