Track by Track” is written by the Artist who make the music possible. Today we feature – “Promises to Deliver” by Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band.
all text by Nato Coles
PROMISES TO DELIVER (Rum Bar Edition) – Track By Track
“See Some Lights”
This one’s an ode to living it up, and living well, and the good things in life. Lyndale Avenue is a pretty major thoroughfare in Minneapolis – our drummer actually lives on it. The Adversary is a reference to the party at the end of the Steinbeck novel Tortilla Flat. Jericho Hill is both Johnny Cash and Steven King, although I’ve always suspected the latter borrowed the name from the former. I bought the lyric “I feel like the calm before a storm” from my friend Whiskey Jeff Larson. We reached a deal – one shot of Jameson’s, and it was mine to use as long as I gave him credit. It’s from the hook of one of his best songs, check him out. Why not Powers, since the song mentions Powers? Well, between the time the song was written and the time I “bought” it from Jeff, they changed the recipe of Powers and in my opinion not for the better! So now I just drink Jameson’s. I used to be pretty 50/50 between the two whiskeys. This was the last song written for the album, by the way. But in another way, it’s not – the main riff is something I used for a different song for a band back in Brooklyn that I was in called The Headless Hookers. I didn’t pick that name, believe me.
“Julie (Hang Out A Little Longer)”
Inspired by a friend of mine in Florida who lamented to me once during conversation that she had a new job, and they had drug testing, so she couldn’t smoke weed anymore. Which previously she had very much enjoyed doing. And still does! If “See Some Lights” is about getting the party going early, “Julie” would be about keeping the party going late. The party of life. Andrew WK should cover this one. I threw in one of my favorite Replacements lyrics of all time in this song, too. See if you can find it…
“You Can Count On Me Tonight”
We all have bad days at the office, whether your office is an office, or a garage, or the dining area of a restaurant. This song is about all of these but in particular, about that last one, and I should mention that I and perhaps 90% of the people in my life have worked or currently work in the service industry. So yeah,when you’re out to dinner with the Blue Diamond Band, we’re silently judging how you treat and tip the server! Ha! Musically it’s my attempt to be Phil Lynott, both on guitar and vocal delivery. For the drums near the end, I told Mike Cranberry (our drummer) to “play something that will make people drum along on the dashboards of their cars”. So he did. Good job, Mike! People out there, don’t hit your dashboards too hard now. If you can help it.
I’m not Bruce Berry from the Neil Young song, but I’ve loaded plenty of Econoline vans in my life. The Blue Diamond Band currently tours in one, in fact. Vehicle songs are a great genre, of course, but I’d never written one myself. Rather than write a song about my beloved red Honda hatchback (didn’t the Beach Boys already do a cool Honda song anyway?), I thought I’d write a van song. Which the Descendents did (but about a Dodge Ram, not an Econoline), so thanks to them for blazing a trail. Hey, didn’t All have an album called Trailblazer? And didn’t the Descendents cover the Beach Boys on one of their albums? Intriguing! Someone call Coast to Coast a.m.! Anyway, it’s another song like “Lights” where time has rendered a lyric kind of anachronistic – two summers ago, Ford announced plans to stop making new Econolines. Maybe track 4 on Promises To Deliver will go down in history as the last “Econoline” ever made…
“Late Night Heroes”
This song is about all the people I’ve known over the past decade-plus of punk rock and music and partying and travel, not just the “heroes” I might have had when I was 16. My friends are the “heroes” in the lyric, and I suppose I was missing more than a few of them at the time I wrote this. However, the funny thing is that all my late night heroes are definitely NOT gone, or else nobody would ever come to our shows! So sometimes when I sing “all my late night heroes are gone” I throw in a quick “except you!” right after. None of the characters in this song are based on any one person in particular, but I can tell you that Booth St. is a street I lived on in Milwaukee, and Rotten Robbie? That’s the name of a gas station chain in California. I liked the name so I thought I’d use it.
“Hard To Hear The Truth”
We had some guests on this one. Our friend Sara Pette sang the harmony, and our friend Joe Downing played electric bass, as all the basic instrument tracks on Promises To Deliver were recorded live and Kyle Sando was occupied on lap steel. The chorus lyric is a combination of three things. One: an anti-Vietnam War Senator named Abe Ribicoff at the 1968 Democratic Convention, the one the MC5 played and where then-mayor Richard Daley sicced (sic!) the cops on the hippies and protesters. Daley wanted to lock up the presidential nomination for Hubert Humphrey. Inside the convention, Ribicoff – who was supporting someone else – says something about Daley’s police using “Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago” and all the politicians start yelling and you can see film of Daley mouthing “fuck you!” at Ribicoff, which Daley denied not very convincingly by saying he was saying “you’re a faker”, ha! Then Ribicoff says over the din of shouting “how hard it is to hear the truth”. It stuck with me. Two: Satchel Paige, the great old Negro Leagues-era pitcher. One of Paige’s sayings that gets repeated is “don’t look back, something might be gaining.” Good advice. Hence the sample at the start of the track. That’s actually Satchel Paige, from a tv appearance I found on youtube. And three: a Woody Guthrie tune I like.
“Rudes And Cheaps”
The one cover version on Promises, I do think this song fits nicely with the theme of the album. It’s from an album called Stray Dog Town by a band called Bent Outta Shape, they were a New York City punk rock band from about ten years ago. My old punk band The Modern Machines and Bent Outta Shape were good friends. They broke up, we broke up, but I still think Stray Dog Town is a masterpiece. Check it out! Oh, and that’s our friend Matt Leingang shouting the lyric in the middle. Sam Beer does it when we perform the song live, unless Matt’s around.
“The True Blue Rocker”
My best friend from my Brooklyn days passed away right before I moved to Minneapolis, and this is my song for him. One thing about the lyric – “the unknown road” is a nice metaphor, but there was actually a bridge across the East River that Google Maps thought was called “Unknown Road” for a time, which we thought was pretty funny because it definitely had a name! Two names, really, because it was one of those little bridges between Harlem and the Bronx. Musically, I thought a big Clashy or Springsteeny guitar part was called for, considering the name. Luckily, I had one sitting around in my basement, not being used.
“Promises To Deliver”
The last song on the album, and the flip side of “See Some Lights” in both a metaphorical and somewhat literal sense. I think the lyrics tie the album together. Like that rug tied The Dude’s room together. When we recorded the album, we forgot to record the vocals at the end of the song! When Jacques Wait, our engineer, sent me the supposed final mixes a couple months after , I asked him where they were, and he replied that they didn’t exist, and that he thought we were just going for a very pretty, quiet outro with falsetto “ooooh”‘s at the end of the tune. After sorting out the confusion, we rushed over to our practice space and very quickly recorded that part, but there’s a parallel universe where that song ends a little differently.
This was the first song I wrote after moving to Minneapolis. At our shows, I like to say that it’s “the national anthem of any nation that would be foolish enough to let me write one for them.” So in that light I’m a little surprised nobody from Washington D.C. has gotten in touch with me yet, considering the foolishness in Congress these days. The first-half-guitar, second-half-harmonica solo was a direct inspiration from Tom Petty’s “Louisiana Rain”. I’d always wanted to do that, but it never felt like the right time in any songs I’d written up til then. This might be the most autobiographical song I’ve ever written.
“Runnin’ From The Law”
At the time this was written, the Bernie Madoff scandal was all over the news, and in the Twin Cities we had a man named Denny Hecker who commited some serious fiscal fraud, and also the financial crisis was in full swing. People in suits and ties inflicting real misery and pain on ordinary people because they were playing shitty games with other folks’ money, and I think only one Wall Street guy ever went to jail for anything related to the financial crisis. Meanwhile, how many people lost their jobs, homes, happiness? At least Madoff and Hecker did go to jail, although not for long enough in my opinion. Meanwhile, young people get sent to prison for stupid petty crimes, lots of them nonviolent, and if you start in the prison system young, you’re more likely to stay in it, the way the system itself criminalizes young incarcerated people, especially the ones who are poor and/or not white. I wanted to write a song that touched upon how it’s all crime, and maybe the guy in the third verse is actually a worse criminal than the characters in verses one and two who stole a car or sold drugs or whatever. The intro kinda reminds me of “It Came Out Of The Sky” by CCR, maybe I was on some kind of Fogerty kick around then. Dig that piano in the fade-out, that’s the extent of my keyboard skills. I’m glad Luke joined the band!
“High And Drivin””
Kyle Sando came up with the title and the main lyric in the chorus, I wrote the rest. There really was a motel along US 2 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that I stayed at one night that had a deck of cards and a bible on the bedside table, and nothing else. Hence the playing cards in the lyric, and of course the reference to God. What reference to God, you say? Well, in the second verse, the band is “butchering ‘Ace Of Spades'”, and no trick question, we all know who wrote THAT song…
My answer to “Route 66”. There’s also a song by Radio Birdman called “I-94”, a really good song. I’m not sure I can name another interstate highway that has two or more songs written about it. The “corner of Trumbull and Grand” is in Detroit, I’ve actually had a lot of fun near that intersection. But I-94 ends in PortHuron, not Detroit. Oh well. I’d like to thank Westerberg-Stinson-Stinson-Mars-Nugent for writing the song that inspired our opening guitar riff. Seriously, check the writing credit for “Gary’s Got A Boner”. That’s what it says!
“Pieces On The Ground”
One of two outtakes from the Promises To Deliver recording session, it didn’t make the album because it just didn’t seem to have a home anywhere in the lineup. I think it’s a really nice broken-heart kinda song, though. I tried to do a Greg Cartwright-style vocal on this track.
Lou from Rum Bar Records really likes this version and convinced us to put it on the compact disc reissue of Promises, not that he had to try very hard considering he’s the guy putting it out! That’s a backwards guitar solo in the middle, played by Ross Fellrath, the lead guitar player from the early days of the Blue Diamond Band. He now plays in an outlaw country band with Whiskey Jeff Larson, who I mentioned when discussing “See Some Lights”. Ross is just about the best guitar player I’ve ever heard play, but he didn’t want to tour that much, so we got Sam Beer, who is no slouch himself.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these songs… almost as much as listening to them! Be excellent to each other, everybody!
The Blue Diamond Band:
Sam Beer – lead guitar
Mike Cranberry – drums
Bill Rohla – bass guitar
Luke De Beaumarchais – keyboards