My plan was to sit with David Brewbaker and ask him about all this work, all this music, all the recordings, everything that had been tugging at me since we met.
He knew this tiny Vietnamese grocery with tables and the best Pho. We struck down a side road. Brewbaker’s songs are like that: the side road, the back path, you’ve been there, but not this way, exactly. It was good-simple honest food, and hotter than Houston in the middle of June, full of ox tails, beef ribs, tripe and something called “tendon balls.”
David Brewbaker was born in Richmond, Virginia and began writing songs when he was thirteen. He plays country, rock, folk, blues and a little jazz, and he told me a little about it; not all good. Slip of the Tongue and Had to Get Away are songs about living in the wake of the wrong relationship and love that’s run into the ditch, and it’s all material that ends up in a song. I was a little worried that I’d be sucked into the vortex of pure heartache. But as we ate, I saw the optimistic side, and where songs like God Only Knows come from, or the fanciful Crazy Eddie and Two-Tone Biscayne.
We kept at it, and I learned about Brewbaker’s experiences in the studio with Buddy Holly’s producer Norman Petty, and studying with guitarists like John Scofield and Steve Kahn, about the club gigs, hours of studio time, and how he’s eaten in a lot of places. Not all good. We cleaned the ribs until they looked like they’d been sitting in the Mohave for a week, and then went for the noodles.
Experience can take its toll, but for a songwriter it just serves to enlarge a life. Brewbaker writes of the pastoral and the personal. His songs contain the simplicity of daily life, but with all of its transcendence; it’s a big bowl, there’s a lot lurking beneath the broth.
Brewbaker’s career is an infrastructure. He’s composed a ton of songs, jingles, sung them, and written music for industrial and documentary films. Now he’s writing stories with grooves that get under your skin and stay there.
He is faithful to country; his music is anchored at a steady depth, hooked securely to the rocky bottom he draws from. It’s always a balanced fraction: classic and ageless, contemporary and vintage. It’s rhythmically motivating, lyrically frank and musically knotted. You can hear the jazz, the Americana roots, and whether acoustic or electric you can hear the symbiosis of fingers and strings.
Deconstruction didn’t seem appropriate just sitting there, eating Pho at a dingy counter. We were just living between the ticks of the clock. I knew there was more to this story, but that’s where we had to leave it. Brewbaker lives in Maine, and works in his project studio, and I suppose that’s what he wanted to get back to. We’d already had a belly full of runnin’ ’round, and some good times should be left unfinished. Besides, I got what I came for. I picked up the tab, and we went our separate ways. He thanked me and I thanked him too, for the meal, the talk, and the songs—and I thanked him in advance for those yet to come.
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