In conjunction with the January/February 2015 “30th Anniversary” issue, American Songwriter presents the Best of Sessions sampler, a free album available for download that features nine killer tracks recorded over the last six years in the AS office. Click here to download.
Todd Snider, “Too Soon To Tell”
Leave it to Todd Snider, the unofficial poet laureate of East Nashville, to turn the American Songwriter Sessions on its head by making us come to him. Rather than recording a song in our office, he asked the crew to meet him at the former Spence Manor Hotel, where Elvis Presley once stayed. There, he rasped his way through “Too Soon to Tell,” an “agnostic fable” that finds Snider chastising God for keeping too many secrets. Bold move, Snider.
Courtney Jaye, “Sweet Ride”
Courtney Jaye was the first artist to ever pick up a guitar and croon a song in our office, kicking off the American Songwriter Sessions with this stripped-down version of “Sweet Ride” in 2009. Staunton Adcock, now a touring member for the Wallflowers, strummed along on acoustic guitar, as did mandolin player Drew Belk, who currently tours with Billy Currington. That’s not bad company at all, and it convinced us to turn a one-off office session into an ongoing series. It’s been a sweet ride ever since.
Guy Clark, “El Coyote”
“Anybody wanna smoke some dope?” That’s how Guy Clark greeted the American Songwriter crew when we arrived at his Nashville, back in 2011. Although we declined the offer – we promise – Clark’s raw, ragged version of “El Coyote,” performed in the same basement workshop where he builds his own flamenco guitars, was mellow enough to give everyone a contact buzz. If only the song’s narrator, who realizes he’s been betrayed by a human smuggler and left for dead in the south Texas desert, was so lucky.
William Tyler, “We Can’t Go Home Again”
Taking advice from the title of his own song, William Tyler didn’t invite us into his home during this live taping of the Martin Guitar Sessions. He did, however, open up the doors of the Stone Fox, the West Nashville restaurant he runs with his sister. There, he treated us to a private performance of “We Can’t Go Home Again” in the front lounge. When you can make a mid-’50s acoustic guitar talk like this, who needs lyrics?
Will Johnson, “You Will Be Here, Mine”
Written during the dog days of a long, cold winter – and recorded in our own office several winters later – “You Will Be Here, Mine” finds Centro-matic’s Will Johnson mixing melancholy and melody into the same lonely folk ballad. When American Songwriter editor-in-chief Caine O’Rear remarked that Sheryl Crow was one of the only other musicians he could name from Johnson’s home state of Missouri, the musician replied, “Well, she used to be my baby-sitter.”
Johnny Flynn, “The Water”
When Johnny Flynn stopped by our office during the final weeks of 2010, he was in the middle of an American tour, driving his own car from coast to coast in support of Been Listening. We were more than happy to let the guy park himself in our editor’s office and strum his way through nearly half the album’s track on a resonator guitar, accompanied by nothing else than his own voice.
Ashley Monroe, “Like A Rose”
This Pistol Annie was firing on all cylinders when she visited us in 2013, several days before Valentine’s Day. She didn’t bring flowers – by this point, Monroe was already engaged to baseball pitcher John Danks – but she did serenade the office with “Like A Rose,” an autobiographical song she’d co-written with none other than Guy Clark. Sung in an ethereal voice and backed by the twang of two acoustic guitars, the performance was the sweetest thing she could’ve offered.
Damien Jurado, “Hoquiam”
We booked this session at the request of former art director Rachel Briggs, who’d been following Damien Jurado’s music for years. He showed up on a Sunday afternoon in 2009, during the middle of a cross-country, summertime tour in support of Caught In The Trees. “Hoquiam” was one of the final songs he played for us, and it sounded like the perfect soundtrack to a lazy day of rest: mellow and unhurried, shot through with the ghostly influence of Nick Drake.
Daniel Romano, “A New Love (Can Be Found)”
Daniel Romano keeps good company. The Canadian twanger had recently signed with New West’s imprint, Normaltown Records, when he rolled into American Songwriter headquarters in the middle of 2012, accompanied by pedal steel guitarist Aaron Goldstein, Normaltown co-founder George Fontaine, Jr., and a 4-year old Boxer named Ryman. There, in the company of good people (and great canines), he finger-picked his way into our hearts with “A New Love (Can Be Found),” a downcast country ballad that sifts through the wreckage of a breakup.
Audio recorded and edited by Steve Martin, with the exception of “Sweet Ride” by Courtney Jaye.