March 2014 MMM



This is from Hirth’s second album for Warner Brothers, “Big Bright Street”.
Hirth was introduced to Bob Dylan when the 2 of them happened to be in the same guitar shop. And, after Bob heard some of Hirth’s songs, his recommendation led to Robbie Robertson’s producing Hirth’s first album.

I got the call to produce the second, which we recorded at the studio at Zuma Beach, CA that The Band had set up for themselves. Ed Anderson, whom I knew from his earlier stint at Woodstock’s Bearsville Recording Studio, was the engineer.

I found, as Dylan did, that Hirth’s songs were definitely unique: sort of stream-of-consciousness lyrics (He’d often look out his window and write about the people passing by,), full of funny imagery and music that was heavily jazz-based.

I love every song on this album but I recently re-heard this one and I love the energy, the lyrics and the various background colors.
The guitar “duel” is between Hirth and Billy Darnell. Hirth reminded me that after a few less-than-fiery takes I told them to dig into it more, saying, “This isn’t a cocktail gig!”


This is one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums. In contrast to a lot of the recordings I’ve been involved with, this one is so simple: it’s just 3 guys playing great. I don’t know if the song is a Hartford original. It sounds like a traditional song. But the energy and the clarity of the performance make it so much fun to listen to.

A little background: John came to Woodstock along with his friend and ace guitarist, Norman Blake, and, as we drove through Woodstock, John said, “We’ll need a bass player.” I said, “Well, there goes one of the best players in the world crossing the street in front of us, carrying his laundry to the laundromat.” By the way, what kind of justice is there when one of the best players in the world has to do his own laundry?

The bass player was Dave Holland. I called him over and asked him if he wanted to play on a Bluegrass album. Dave, a jazzman and a Brit, said, “What’s Bluegrass?” I though a moment and then replied, “Well, it’s jazz from Appalachia.”

The resulting collaboration was magic. One of the reasons the performances on this album seem so relaxed, lively and spontaneous is that John suggested we don’t listen to any playbacks. That kept the mood of the session going without any interruptions to the flow.

So sit back and listen to this one.