Taking Percolator’s Pulse with Jim Weider
BR: Sid McGinnis is listed as co-writer on the next song, “Dreamline.” Sid’s the guitarist on the Letterman show, right?
JW: That’s right – for the last 20 years or so. Sid is another old buddy of mine; we co-wrote some songs on the Percolator album and he’d played in the Jim Weider Band off and on years ago when he had the opportunity. “Dreamline” was a tune that we started together; the band finished it off, but it began with Sid and I sitting down together.
BR: There’s a nice yin/yang thing going on in “Dreamline” between that nice, easy – well, dreamlike – (laughter)
BR: – feel of the main theme and that explosion of guitar on the break that pounces on you out of nowhere …
JW: I wanted this dreamy, almost Pink Floyd-y kind of thing at the front. Sid came up with those chords and we built on it from there and expanded it. Mitch does that beautiful solo on the minor and then there’s the transition to the Telecaster thing with me that’s built on the riffs. That’s a good example on the record of the kind of thing we do live: swapping off roles –
BR: Sometimes you’re the voice of reason; other times you’re the one that lights the fuse –
JW: That’s right! (laughter) It’s all part of the journey that we’re trying to take the listener on.
BR: Cool. Tell me about Sam Butler and family on “Release Yourself.”
JW: Sam was with the Blind Boys of Alabama for years; he and Clarence Fountain (Blind Boys founder/lead vocalist) have a new record out called Stepping Up and Stepping Out. I actually wrote a couple tunes and played on the album for them.
BR: Oh, great – I’ll have to track it down.
JW: Yeah – it’s a great thrill to work with those guys. So I’d asked Sam about doing some background vocals on “Release Yourself,” which seemed like a real natural for him. Sam came in with his son and daughter and they just nailed it. What I was looking to do was combine a background vocal with a cool instrumental – and then, of course, it takes off into the jam from there … finally coming back to the original groove.
BR: I remember my first impression of the solo on that song: it breaks clear of the more traditional blues thing and goes into this stretch that sounds almost Middle-Eastern. “More Buddhist than Baptist” was the phrase I wrote at the time, I believe.
JW: (laughs) Well that’s interesting that you say that, because what I wanted to do on that solo was go to a place that was a cross between some of the bluespicking from my old days and a Grateful Dead sort of thing. And what happens is, you’ll hear the organ coming in and going from major to minor chords while I’m soloing back and forth between the two modes … that’s what gives it that Middle-Eastern flavor.
BR: And it works; it just slips underneath you and all of a sudden you’re on the flying carpet …
JW: (laughs) Yeah, that’s right.
BR: You mentioned the organ, which adds so much to that song. That’s Chris Cameron on keys?
JW: Yes. I really, really dug what Chris did – that funk groove that he laid down sounds great against that almost-reggae thing that Mitch has going on the guitar. “Release Yourself” is such a fun song to play – a real danceable tune. That’s one of our goals: to cross dance grooves with instrumentals.
BR: The credits on “Talking About You” read “Written in the memory of my good friend Richard Bell.” Tell us about Richard, if you would.
JW: Richard Bell was a great keyboard player from up in Canada. He played with a bunch of people over the years, including Janis Joplin, Dylan, John Sebastian, Paul Butterfield … he was such a talented guy. I first met and played with Richard back in 1970; he ended up as the keyboardist in The Band from 1991 on.
I’d been staying in contact with Richard over the years and, in fact, had been talking to him on the phone just before he passed away … that was the inspiration for that song. That was one that I came up with during the sessions – we cut it all live in the studio in one take. Everybody just nailed their part and it all just felt right.