A collection of songs ultimately honoring my late mentor Merl Saunders, some favorites to cover, some new original songs, with a look back at why you can’t go home again. But there is more to it…
The title is the address of my childhood home in Florida. It was directly across the fence from the sewage treatment plant. Yes, my dad decided his family should live next door to the shit yard. I didn’t give that much thought as a little kid, but as I got older, it was a source of ridicule, and as I became a father myself, a source of disbelief that it might have been the option my father found best for his family. Don’t take that as bitterness, take it more as marveling.
It is the place I got my first guitar, which is a great memory, but it is also the house I learned to fear going home to, causing me to seek refuge with friends at church where I felt a bit safer, could actually play music occasionally, but then saw it start to get really weird as some bizarre prosperity gospel concept started spreading like a cancer, schisms happening in it, the youth minister leaving his very pregnant wife for the married mom of two who was the church secretary, and this adaptation of some rightwing principles that just seemed to me, even as a teenager, to be the antithesis of the red letters.
I dug the helping the poor (I was poor), the sick, the widows, the prisoners, the downtrodden and meek parts… what was emerging was not that. I wanted out. I got out. That fan club was weird, man.
This album opens with my rebuke of it is all. I had been warned that I was giving myself over to a reprobate mind. What an awful thing to put on a teenager. Reprobates are irredeemable. Watching hypocrites call me a reprobate well, that was kind of the final straw for me. These people believe some crazy things, like demons could live inside record jackets and attach themselves to the people who opened them. I’m not kidding…
Then my folks split up, and it was pretty ugly. Soon, 3200 W 22nd Court was a memory as my mother and I had to move out. Life was not great in that house, at all, but post my parent’s divorce, I was compelled to soon get my GED and leave home, at 16 years old. And I did.
My problems had problems. We were alone, even together. I was a mess. My mother was a mess. However, at that address is where I discovered some great music, doo-wop and rock-a-billy, bluegrass, Beatles, Bowie, The Kinks, Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and so much more. In that town I discovered the music of Grateful Dead, in particular, and a couple of year later, the music of Saunders and Garcia. Never could have dreamed of meeting let alone playing music with anyone all the way out in California. It may as well have been another planet.
I had the full on teen angst and anger at the world to channel back then, but no practical resources to do so other than my guitar and determination to leave. Benedict Rides, Positively 4th Street, The System… all perfectly analogous to my mindset and experiences, cumulating decades later with the 50-something year old me able to look back at it now in Once You Leave Home, and put it all in more perspective.
It all started here with my earliest memories, my formative years, but for all the good I dragged out of the place, it was not ever a home that was safe, nurturing, or kind. The house, and the three or four next to it, have all been leveled to make for a larger shit yard. I’m ok with that.
The good part of that town, though not the home, was the chance to play music, often, with a huge choice of venues always having live music on the beach. I got to play with a lot of folks much older than I, especially since I was playing underage the first five years.
But, the, house, that was a place where many powerful and wonderful things in my life started. It was also a horrible place where I went through a lot of well, shit, man. Maybe the location was a sign that I was going to constantly deal it?
Did I end up where I am not because of the trials by fire, or in spite of them? Who’s to say. Not me.
This album kind of tells my story but it is very much “inside baseball” if you will, and in my head at that. I just hope you enjoy the music.
The bottom line is, once you leave home, you can never return.
released December 21, 2021
Joe Montague- Drums
Scott Guberman – Hammond, Clav, Rhodes
Philip Madeira – Piano/Hammond
Mark Pfaff – Mouth Harp
Tyra Juliette – BG Vocals
Noah Wall- BG Vocals
Denise S Bates – BG Vocals
Melisa Dopazo – Bass
Fred Bogert – Piano
Jeff Fogerty – Guitar
Mark Shenkel – Sax
Donota Greco – Flute
Michael A Grant – Flute
Jeff Marley – Bass (on Benedict Rides/The System)
Travis Collinsworth – Bass (My Problems Got Problems)
Mike Lawson – Guitars/Bass/Vocals/Keys