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23 February 2016

Big Sur

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On Monday, Popdose premiered “Big Sur,” the third track from Lost Soul, which comes out on Friday, March 25th. They said a couple of nice things, including:

  • “The 12 songs are produced by no less than singer/songwriter (and Plimsouls/Nerves legend) Peter Case and are a stunning exercise of the harmonious balance of lyrics and music.”
  • “Sweet and wistful, it’s the perfect soundtrack to the oncoming change of seasons.”

Here’s the primary source:

POPDOSE EXCLUSIVE SINGLE PREMIERE: BOB HILLMAN, “Big Sur”

Big Sur is unusual in the context of my songs, in that there’s no chorus or refrain. In fact, there are no repeated lines at all. It may also be the only song I’ve written that focuses so intently on the natural world.

From a musical standpoint, it’s representative of the Lost Soul sound, but maybe a little more ambient/hypnotic than average. The good news is, ambient/hypnotic is exactly what we were going for: there’s the loop, the atmospheric guitar and keyboards, the groovy bass line, the swirling trumpet figure, etc. One of the engineers, Larry Fergusson, said it sounded like it could be a club track, which will mean something when you learn that he has worked with George Clinton and Kool & the Gang.

The original arrangement contained an element that may have detracted from its hypnotic quality, namely a series of descending chords between each verse. I was thinking of those chords – which can be heard in The Weight and many other famous songs – in terms of contrast, but Peter Case thought they “broke the spell.” Here they are in a guitar/vocal recording from a day or so after I wrote the song in July 2014:

 

Finally, it might be worth noting that the lyrics arose from the “Jacques Levy method.” Jacques Levy is the psychoanalyst/songwriter who wrote the Desire album with Bob Dylan and also “Chestnut Mare” and  bunch of other songs with Roger McGuinn. Supposedly, Levy asks his co-writers about their wildest dreams, which then become their subject matter; Desire – and songs like “Isis” and “Joey” – came into focus when I heard about this approach. For my part, I have a recurring fantasy that involves peace and quiet: I would like to step out of time and just exist for a while. This could be in a pied à terre around the corner from my house, or in a beautiful landscape like Big Sur.

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