Houses hunker in the heat
out on Highway 82,
the landscape sweats and saunters
billboards block the view,
and this is not New York City
this is not Saginaw
this is a dry county, son
this is Arkansas….
Willie’s Oasis…a song about looking for drink in all the wrong places.
This lyric was adapted from a poem I wrote called “A Dry Country in Arkansas”. The poem was published some time ago in Cyphers, a long -running Irish literary magazine. This is a print magazine only and one of the best around in my opinion (check it out at http://www.cyphers.ie). To write the lyric, I had to disassemble the poem; for all you poets out there, I have added a bit more discussion on the transition from poem to lyric at the end of this post. When I gave the lyric to John, I had no concept what kind of song would emerge, I couldn’t have been happier with what he did. Here’s John..
“Willie’s Oasis” turned out to be quite a challenge musically. I loved the feeling of the tune, that southern heat out on Highway 82, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t hear the music. I tried using my electric guitars, my acoustics, I even tried my piano, but no matter what key I played in and what chords I used, I couldn’t make it work. So I decided to use technology, and I searched through some of my pre-recorded samples and found this rough sounding, bluesy guitar riff. As soon as I started to work with it and edit the sample, add a few more samples, voila, “Willie’s Oasis” appeared.The only live things I put on this tune were my handclaps and my vocals.
I decided that it needed something else, so I called a wonderful violin player friend of mine named Ben Mink and asked if he would put some fiddle on the tune. Modern technology allows me to send him my tracks, he puts on the violin and sends it back to me via e-mail. We were never in the same room. I expected him to put some real down-home fiddle on, but he completely fooled me and played the most smoking electric violin parts that took the song over the edge.
Click here to preview/ buy the whole album or individual tracks! Also available on iTunes (search for “The Mitchell Feeney Project”, no hyphen)
A bit more about the the transition from poem to lyric…below is an excerpt from the poem:
A parking lot and boat ramp
Dragon flies with no apparent flight plan
Good ol’ boys chugging out
Across water the colour of iced tea
To catch a mess of catfish.
These lines have a kind of chopped up rhythm, so I had to re-jig them. This entailed killing my favourite image in the poem, the one about the dragonflies; the catfish and the cartridges had to go as well. I then re-instated a line that I had discarded when writing the poem and ended up with this:
Good ol’ boys are chugging out
storm clouds on the horizon
the water looks like iced tea
birds are improvising.
Simple is sometimes hard to do!