Making Confession: Two degrees of separation
Confession in the Back Room was both an adventure and a real labor of love. From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to make a bar band record. I was listening to a lot of horn band and R&B records and thinking about all of the nights I spent in the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ when Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes held court three times a week as the house band. Even now, I can still smell the sweat and stale beer mixed with that sweet ocean air. Plus, the songs I had written for the record lent themselves to a gritty bar band. So in February 2004, I set out to make Confession. For the next year or so (on and off), I cobbled together demos of the songs and sketched out the arrangements while I searched for the players who could help me bring the songs to life.
Now, they say that any two people on Earth are related by no more than six degrees of separation. That's certainly the case with this band and this record. When we started this project, I didn't know many of the people on it, except for my long time partner in crime, David Cullen, another long time friend, Bob Szajna, and my college buddy and bandmate Joshua Yudkin.
I found my drummer Chet McCracken in a magazine article, of all places, but after a five-minute conversation with him, I learned that he was friends with another drummer who had played in my friend Max Carl's band when Max was on Mission Records. That's three degrees. I met Scotty Manzo, who played bass, through Chet. Two degrees there. David Cullen played played acoustic and electric guitars, but we've long been friends, so no degrees. It's the same with Bob Szajna who also played guitar. And Joshua Yudkin, who played piano, organ, electric piano and accordion, and I have been friends for a very long time. I can tell you some really good Yudkin stories. No degrees there either. When we were doing Film at Eleven in 1999, David Cullen introduced me to Jay Davidson, an outstanding sax player and a legend in the Philadelphia music scene. One degree. Through Jay, I met his horn section partner Steve Jankowski. Steve co-produced the record and arranged all of the horn parts, and Jay and Steve formed the core of the horn section. Two degrees. Through Steve, I met Deb Lyons and Diane Garisto, who contributed the backing vocals. Two more degrees. Michito Sanchez, who played percussion, is another one who came to me from a magazine article. But Michito had previously played with both Glenn Frey and Max Carl. Glenn's record label, Mission Records, was a client of mine in the late 1990's. And Max was signed to Mission, and is a dear friend. Two more degrees. Chris Sheehan, who sang a lot of the harmony vocal parts, is my oldest son and the guitar player and singer in Johnny Action Figure, an absolutely outstanding band. (You can find them at www.johnnyactionfigure.com). No degrees there.
You know, in the end, sometimes the stars align, and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. That’s what happened here. The folks who played on this record, who made Confession as much their record as mine, are some of the most talented players and singers I’ve ever met. And the odd thing is that none of us ever played together in the same room at the same time during this entire project. We recorded the entire record “long-distance.” Chet, Scotty and Michito live in Los Angeles. Joshua and Jay live in Philadelphia. Steve lives down the shore in New Jersey. And Deb and Diane live in New York. Only David, Bob, Chris and I live here. Still, even the four of us never played in the same room at the same time. Chalk up another milestone for technology, broadband connections and some really talented players. In fact, our little project was so unusual that it was profiled in Recording Magazine (February 2006).
And syncronicity being what it is, as I'm writing this, Max's "Everything Old is New Again" from his Mission Records release One Planet. One Groove. is blasting on my iPod. It's truly a small world. But the bottom line is that I have been blessed with getting to know these folks and by being able to share with them the joy of making music and this record together. To all of them, thank you so much. What a great band! So break out your favorite beverage, turn up the stereo, put on your dancing shoes, and enjoy. This is a good record.
--tom sheehan, somewhere over Nebraska