Cover to Cover

Taking to the tracks with Jimmie Dale Gilmore

"Blue Shadows": "That was a lucky break that the group Cry Cry Cry (Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, Dar Williams) could sing on that. I wrote that with Hal Ketchum. He and I were close friends before he went to Nashville. We had a very close association, but then, living that far apart -- and he became sort of a mainstream country star -- we didn't have much contact with each other for several years there. Finally, I went out on a little Texas tour with him. He said he had an idea for a song; he had the opening line of it, and we just sat down and it poured out. We wrote that song in about two hours, which is kind of mind-boggling to me. It sounds like a Roy Orbison song."

"Defying Gravity": "I love what Jim Lauderdale does on this with me. His singing is so interesting to me. He throws in this weird lilt in the harmony that never would have occurred to me, but once it's there, it sounds necessary.

"I've done that song for years. I don't know why Jesse Winchester was never more famous, because he came out before I did and was always so good."

Jimmy Dale Gilmore could be the distillation of all country & western singers of the 20th century.
James H. Evans
Jimmy Dale Gilmore could be the distillation of all country & western singers of the 20th century.

"Ripple": "I've been a Grateful Dead fan for always. I used to go see them in San Francisco in the late '60s. But, oddly, of all the weird things, I think that song is on American Beauty. By the time I heard that album, that record had been out for a very long time, but I just missed it. Actually, a friend in Austin said there was this Dead song he thought I should do. I didn't think any of their music applied to me as a performer. But when he played that song for me, I thought I could have written it. When I showed it to the guys, all the band members were Grateful Dead fans and excited to play it."

"Ramblin' Man": "That's another Butch Hancock song I've been doing for 30 years. I'm pretty sure I have this straight, that this is the one. Butch tells these funny stories about some of his songs he got from dreams. In his dream, he dreamed that I was singing this song. So it feels like it's mine. The first time he played it for me, I just said, 'Golly, how does he think of that stuff?'"

"Darcy Farrow": "I learned that song from an Ian and Sylvia record. It was written by Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell, who I met years after they wrote it. They were in a folklore class, or a musicology kind of class in college, and the professor had made some kind of comment that a folk song has to filter down through millions of generations to have any power. And they said, 'We think we can write a romantic folk song.' So they wrote this, and it actually sounds like a folk song. I've been doing it with my band for about three years."

"Mack the Knife": "I was a fan of Bobby Darin, and I loved that song. When I was young, I never paid attention to those lyrics. Then Dave Van Ronk recorded it in the late '60s. My version is really inspired by his version. The lyrics became predominant, rather than the loungy feel that was in nearly every version before. And there's something so hypnotic about that melody, in every form it comes in."

"DFW" (the bonus track): "That's the name on our Web site, but it doesn't actually have an official name, I don't think. I meant to allude to the airport. Since I've been playing it in the live shows, everybody calls it 'Fort Worth and Dallas,' because that's the line that's easy to remember. At first I really liked it, then had second thoughts and decided it didn't fit with the record or something. Then, at the very last minute, after all the artwork had been turned in, I called up Mike Crowley, my manager and partner in the record company. I said, 'Mike, you know what, I really want it on there.' He thought about it and said, 'Well, you know, it's our record company, we can do what we want to,' so we stuck it on."

Jimmie Dale Gilmore plays Blueberry Hill's Duck Room on Saturday, June 24.

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