Mayer Hawthorne | Impresssions EP
Detroit soul crooner releases EP of free covers
Have you ever played that game where you get together with a group of friends and go around a circle saying, "if you hadn't been born in the decade you were, which would you prefer to be born in?" Well, I have. And while the knee jerk is to say the '60s, it would really be the '50s. Doo Wop and soul were just taking off. The nation still retained some sense of innocence. And the style of the times is something that I wish I could emulate. And if I were to take someone with me? The answer would be Mayer Hawthorne. (Sorry family and friends.)
But really, I don't have to. This man and his band—steeped in Motown soul and possessing an uncanny ability to 1) write a love song and 2) recreate the sound of this bygone era from which I wish I hailed—are bringing the music to 2011. Case in point: Hawthorne's Impressions EP, a free package of six songs covering everything from true to the original vintage Isley Brothers to a syrupy slow-mo retread of Chromeo. Hawthorne and I even share a fondness for this particular Chromeo track, "Don't Turn the Lights On," which I have previously referred to by saying, "This song makes a dimmer switch seem like a party favor." Of Hawthorne—who I have no shyness in praising—I've called his "give-in-to-the-night soul" musical mistleltoe.
With the exception of his cover of ELO which I could live without, this EP is a perfect holdover until Stone's Throw drops its next batch of Hawthorne originals.
—Joshua P. Ferguson
Download here: Mayer Hawthorne | Impressions (320 mp3s)
And here is Hawthorne breaking down how the EP came about.
STORY BEHIND THE SONGS:
1. Work To Do- Isley Bros
This one features my live band, The County: Quentin Joseph on drums, Topher Mohr on guitar, Quincy McCrary on piano, and Joe Abrams on bass. It was recorded live in a radio station studio somewhere during our Winter 2010 US tour. The tapes recently surfaced, but nobody can remember exactly where we were. The song is originally by The Isley Brothers, and that's the only version I was familiar with until we started playing it in our live shows and people would come up to us and say "hey, loved your cover of Average White Band!".
2. Don't Turn The Lights On- Chromeo
My favorite track from Chromeo's latest LP. On the surface it's an electro-funk, dance floor filler, but underneath is a brilliant love ballad with lyrics that reminded me of something from Tyrone Davis. Dave1 (of Chromeo) told me the song is about a guy who falls in love with a ghost, so I wanted my version to have an eerie, ghostly feel to it. Quincy McCrary played the creepy piano solo at the end.
3. You've Got The Makings Of A Lover- The Festivals
Textbook Northern Soul from a little known Dallas, Texas group called The Festivals. I was digging for records in NY with my homey DJ Kurse, and the shopkeeper played the 45 in the store. Both of us immediately ran up to the counter and said "yo! what is THAT?!". The original version was recorded in the late 60s, and the mix isn't very good. I wanted a version that I could bump. Quentin Joseph played the drums and we recorded them at Sam Beaubien's studio in Detroit. That's Sam playing the trumpet as well.
4. Fantasy Girl - Steve Salazar
This song was written and composed by an amazing man from Pasadena named Steve Salazar. He was born with a heart condition and passed away at the young age of 27. Before he died he recorded one incredible album of demos in the mid-70s with a band called Shorty's Portion. Peanut Butter Wolf found a copy of the album and I loved it so much that he gave it to me (thanks Wolf!). The vinyl had a handwritten note tucked in the sleeve that was addressed to anyone who could help the band with management, a record deal, radio airplay, etc. I'd estimate there were less than 300 copies pressed. That's my Dad playing pedal steel guitar on my version.
5. Little Person- Jon Brion
Jon Brion is not from this planet. He penned this song for the soundtrack to Charlie Kaufman's film "Synecdoche, NY". I didn't get the film at all, but I really got the soundtrack. The original has only female vocal and piano, but I always heard a larger arrangement. Hubert Alexander played some of the piano and I did everything else.
6. Mr. Blue Sky- ELO
This one also features my band, The County, and was recorded live, in one take, in a tiny makeshift tent, at a festival in Dour, Belgium.
You can also read our interview with Mayer Hawthorne here: Dialogue Inc | Mayer Hawthorne