This new album I’m making was going to be called “Secret Crab Legs”. Why it was going to be called that isn’t really important right now, but I really liked the sound of it. When I would tell anyone I knew that I was going to call it “Secret Crab Legs”, they would regard me strangely. The look was a mixture of befuddlement and, perhaps, a little pity. Almost like they knew something I didn’t. It was similar to the look I’d get from people when I told them I was leaving the teaching game to go learn coding. Computer coding. The look said, “Really? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
It turns out, computer coding wasn’t for me. (Shocking, I know.) And, it turns out, “Secret Crab Legs” isn’t going to be the name of my record. It’s going to be called “Bristol”. “Bristol” is the name of one of the tunes on the album. I wrote the song several years ago for my friend, Mike Hough. Mike was a wonderful guy who brightened my world for way too short a time. He was an impish banjo player who loved all things pork and would host parties dressed in a white Elvis jumpsuit that was way too small for him. I miss him. Mike Hough was a good egg.
So, while we were recording the song in the studio, Joe Newberry, who was there to produce this record (I’m really lucky, right?!?! I know!!!) said, “I love this song. This is the name of your record.” And I was all, “b-b-but… what about… Secret… Crab… Legs…?” And in response, I got this look from Joe that I would see again in the days to come. It was a little like the computer coding look. There was definitely some pity in there. But, I also detected a little “are you afraid of success?” thrown in. He gave me the same look when, while listening to a vocal track I’d sung, I passed him a note which read, “When I sing ‘Old Man Bloom’ it sounds kitschy’.” He gave me that look and slowly tore the note in half. And, wouldn’t you know it, he was right. About “Old Man Bloom” and about the album title. Because then this happened…
Joe asked me why I put the town of Bristol in the song. I shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I just like the way it sounds.” And Joe looked at me and was all, “You don’t know about Bristol? The town?” I shrugged again. “Where’s Bristol?”, I asked him. And then he tells me that Bristol is a town, half of which is in Tennessee and half of which is in Virginia. And then he tells me that Bristol is where THE CARTER FAMILY MADE THEIR FIRST RECORDINGS!
Several questions sprung to mind:
1) How did I grow up in the musical family I have and somehow not know this information already, for Pete’s sake?
B – Without knowing this information, why did I somehow choose that name, of that town, for a song about Mike Hough, who worked at Boogie records and always got all the used old time music records before they could make it onto the shelves? Boogie was great for lots of things. But if you were looking for classic country and old time stuff, used? Not a prayer. Mike got to see all the used stuff as it came in. Any Uncle Dave Macon, Doc Watson or CARTER FAMILY records were already in Mike’s living room, taking up residence in the “shelves” he’d made from bricks and planks of wood.
Thirdly: How do I, Darcy Wilkin, known skeptic and poo-poo-er of most things floaty and new-agey in nature, deal with this very floaty occurrence? Why did I choose that town to reference? The line could’ve featured any two-syllable town name. Could’ve just as easily been “There’s a rail yard down in Portage”. But, did I choose Portage? No, my friends. No, I did not choose Portage. I chose Bristol. The town that many people consider the birthplace of the music that I hold so dear. I don’t go a day without a Carter Family song in my life in one way or another. I listen to them. I sing them. I try, in vain, to emulate them in my writing. How do I deal with that? What do I do?
I change the name of the record. That’s what I do.
So, Joe’s right (again). The record is called “Bristol”. I really hope you guys like it.