After setting up a Kindweb contest for signed copies of Michael Falzarano''s new CD, We Are All One, we decided to have a Q&A with him to discuss the new album and his plans for ''09.
KW: You obviously maintain a busy schedule touring as a New Rider, conducting educational seminars at Jorma's Fur Peace Ranch, producing artists like Marjorie Thompson, and the list goes on... How do you determine when it's time to consider a new Michael Falzarano solo album?
MF: Well, it's a somewhat organic thing with me. I never think it's time to do a new project now, it's more like I have a few new songs I just wrote, so let's record them. When I have enough that sound good together for an album, it comes out. Ideally, I'd like to do a new CD every two years, but we'll see....
KW: In the liner notes for We Are All One, you refer to the roster of guest artists as "Extended Family." Do you have any specific plans to tour behind the new album, and if so, which extended family members might we see at an upcoming Michael Falzarano show?
MF: It would be great to tour with a bunch of the folks on the CD, but it's not practical. Everybody who played on the CD is a very busy musician. That said, after the New Year and things slow down for a while with The New Riders (before our new studio album that I'm producing comes out), I'll be playing some shows around the North East. Depending on who's around at the time, we'll see...
KW: You were fortunate to have completed a session with fiddler Vassar Clements shortly before his death. How was it working with him in the studio?
MF: Working with Vassar was a pleasure. He was a beautiful person and a fantastic musician. I'd played with him a bunch over the years, and having him come to the studio and play on some of the tracks was the best. He had a great time at the sessions and laid down some wild tracks and had a lot of fun doing it. In fact, after we cut "Candy Man," he said, with a big smile on his face, "I never played that one before." To me it sounds like he'd played it his whole life.
KW: What prompted you to record and release separate acoustic and electric renditions of the song "We Are All One?" Did you always envision it as the new album's title track?
MF: Well, somewhere along the way, I decided to make a small statement and call the CD We Are All One. I talk about this a bit on my website www.michaelfalzarano.com. It just seems to me that the world is in a pretty bad place and if we don't all come together as one, things could get really bad. Now, the CD is not a message-driven CD by any stretch; it's actually more of a fun romp in a roots-rock fashion. But, I just wanted to get that message out. As far as the two versions, I had recorded the acoustic version first when I was playing with the Kerry Kearney Band. Originally, I heard it in my head as a more electric thing, so I cut that version and included them both.
KW: One of the most moving tracks on the new disc is "Last Train Out (In Memory of Allen Woody)," featuring The Band's Garth Hudson on keyboards. Were you and Allen close at the time of his death? Can you share an Allen Woody anecdote with Kindweb's readers?
MF: I don't know that we were close friends, but we were friends. I loved his playing and the way he handled himself. I was touring in Italy when I got the news of his passing, and the song just came to me the next morning. I was staying with a friend who lives in a nine hundred year old castle; I was having coffee in the morning, out back with a guitar in hand, and thinking of Woody. The song came to me as you hear it. Previously, I had recorded a version of the song on my CD The King James Sessions. That [earlier] version was more of an acoustic thing featuring Jason Crosby, from Robert Randolph's band, on fiddle. Some time after that, while working with Professor Louie and Garth Hudson, Louie asked me if I wanted to cut the track while we were working on his album Flyin' High. I liked doing [the] different [arrangement].
KW: Both Leroy Carr's "How Long Blues" and Reverend Gary Davis' "Candy Man" were great cover tune selections. They compliment your original material and promote the general flow of the record. Do both of these tracks date back to your Hot Tuna days?
MF: Yeah, I played those songs all over the world with Jorma [Kaukonen] and Tuna. I always loved them and wanted to do my own versions. I'm real happy with how they turned out. With the Gary Davis song "Candy Man," I wanted to try and give it a more modern sound, and Vassar's Fiddle just rocks it. "How Long Blues" is a song I've always loved. I first heard it from Rambling Jack Elliot, then Ray Charles, [and] Muddy Waters. I played the Hot Tuna version, in bands, [when I was] growing up around Long Island and New York City. So, when I got the word that Melvin Seals was going to do the session, I thought, "I have to do "How Long Blues," because I knew his organ would set it on fire. I think I was right...
KW: What CDs and/or recording artists currently hold Michael Falzarano in their sway?
MF: Well, I still listen to a lot of old stuff; blues, bluegrass and such. I love Dylan, The Shins, The Black Crowes, Gov't Mule, Derek Trucks, and Soul Live, to name a few.
KW: Any New Year's resolutions for 2009?
Resolutions... No, because I never keep them. That [being] said, I'm hoping to get the [latest] New Riders of the Purple Sage CD, which I'm producing, out in the spring, and continue to tour with them. I'll also work with Jorma at his guitar camp, The Fur Peace Ranch, and [produce] a new CD for Marjorie Thompson, her fifth. And, [I'll] start working on my next CD project, which, I think, will be more of a "blues" thing, and just stay in the game, as they say....