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This project represents a vacation from being a producer or even a player. Here I sing songs I love with friends I love and trust, musically and spiritually.
Special thanks to my producers Ben Sanders and Ryan Hommel for goading and cheering me on, to Dave Langford for the huge shot in the arm, and to Norm and Becky Williams: the best in-laws anybody could ask for.
1. The Cobbler's Child - Colin McCaffrey The title cut The Cobbler's Child pretty much wrote itself. I kept thinking about the old saying and how universal and applicable it is to so many things; especially human neglect and basic existential hardship.
2. The Backroom of Her Heart - Colin McCaffrey I wrote this song a couple years ago and first performed it with a bunch of these players at Ashokan Fiddle and Dance camp. We figured it was worth putting down for posterity.
3. Medicine Man - Jeremy Sicely Jeremy is a good friend and one of my favorite Vermont song writers and singers. We first recorded this song a record I produced calle “Old Mountain Tyme” by his band Beg Steal or Borrow. I thought the song worthy of another version.
4. Just a Shadow to Your Flame - Colin McCaffrey Another moody, broody song about someone longing for someone else. Written mostly while ambling through the wilds of Vermont.
5. Mirror Behind the Bar - Silas Lowe My producer Ben Sanders was working on Silas' record at the same time we were getting ready to track this one. He sent me a bunch of Silas' tunes and I knew I wanted to sing this one the moment I first heard it.
6. Only the Best - Jim Rooney I am lucky to know Jim being a fellow Vermonter, and have always counted him as one of my heroes. This song is one of my favorites for its simplicity and its sense of humor and irony.
7. Nobody Tonight - Colin McCaffrey This is a tune I wrote from the point of view of a character who may have done some stupid, dangerous things in his life, but wants for one night at least to just be nobody.
8. Papa Dio - Desmond McCaffrey My brother Desmond wrote Papa Dio. He has always had a knack for catchy tunes, I figured it was time to record one of them.
9. If I Could Only Fly - Michael David Fuller (aka Blaze Foley) I heard Blaze's version recorded live in a bar somewhere and was dumfounded by the poignancy of this song. Merle Haggard made it the title cut of one of his records. I couldn't resist putting this one on.
10. I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal - Billie Joe Shaver This has been in my repertoire for 20 years. The humor, humility and chord progression all made this song irresistible to me.
You can easily order this CD by mail: Send a check or money order for $15 and include $2.50 shipping and handling for the first disc (add $1 for each additional disc) Payment can be made out to:
PO Box 58
East Montpelier, VT 05651 USA
Colin McCaffrey, East Montpelier's prolific record producer-engineer-musician, took a busman's holiday recently to do a project solely for his own pleasure. McCaffrey, who produces upwards of a dozen albums a year for other musicians, perhaps 240 over a 20-year span, went to Nashville where he recorded his own album, "The Cobbler's Child."
McCaffrey said he decided to record the album with another producer and engineer at the helm because "I kind of get tired of what I do."
Usually he is the engineer, multi-instrumentalist, backup vocalist on the albums he produces for others. On his own albums he often hires sidemen but does the lion's share of the playing, production and engineering. By hiring others for those roles and concentrating on singing, he said "I never would have gotten the same record if I had produced it."
He explains, "Other people think differently and have a different approach. You can come up with amazing surprises you never would have gotten on your own."
The producer's role for this CD was handed over to Ben Sanders and Ryan Hommel, two musician-producers McCaffrey met at the Ashokan, New York, music camp's Western and Swing Week several years ago. "I've been going there for 24 years," he said. "I play and teach."
Sanders and Hommel are multi-instrumentalists and sidemen who backed the Sweetback Sisters among others. McCaffrey, who has recorded three albums of his own music in his home studio, spent three days last April at the Cowboy Arms Recording Spa with some overdubs done in East Montpelier. "The studio was Cowboy Jack Clements’ old house," said McCaffrey. "It's a serious full-blown studio with big rooms. The engineer was fantastic." This was McCaffrey's second recording made in Nashville.
"I had a bunch guys I've worked with and really trusted. With these professionals, it allowed me to focus only on singing. All I did was go into the vocal booth and sing. I didn’t have to focus on software or whether my guitar was in tune."
For the project, McCaffrey recorded 10 songs, and the CD is 37 minutes long. There are four songs he penned, a Jim Rooney song, "Only the Best," a Jeremy Sicely song, "Medicine Man," "Papa Dio" by Colin's younger brother Desmond, and songs by Silas Lowe, Michael David Fuller and Billie Joe Shaver.
"I always wanted to do a Jim Rooney song," McCaffrey said.
Of Sicely's "Medicine Man," he said, "I loved the song." He previously recorded that song with Sicely's bluegrass band Beg Steal or Borrow.
Billie Joe Shaver, he said, "is a great old songwriter. I've been singing 'I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal' for 20 years; it's humble, funny and catchy."
Since this is primarily a vocal album, I asked McCaffrey about his approach to singing.
"I'm kind of beyond thinking what I sound like. I'm trying to sound like me. I'm not trying to copy anybody."
That said, there are touches of a number of male country vocalists in his singing. Most pronounced to this writer is track two, "The Backroom of Her Heart," which has strong George Jones inflections.
"I love George Jones," McCaffrey acknowledged, "That's a huge compliment."
Throughout the album McCaffrey's singing is soulful, powerful, and true to the country sound that is at the core of the music. The producers give his vocals center stage, and for his part, McCaffrey's diction is clear as a bell. He has recorded an album that would make any singer proud. Those who have listened to McCaffrey's solo albums will notice the Nashville imprimatur on the backing instrumentation. It's a cleanly recorded album, less slick than some country music.
McCaffrey is pleased with the results on "The Cobbler's Child." "I made a record I like. I'm doing what I love," he said. "I don't want to be a superstar. I want to make records I want to listen to."
- Art Edelstein, The Times Argus - January 25 2020