released 01 August 2007
Produced by Patrick Simms, Michael Romanowski, Alex Walsh
Mixed and Mastered by Michael Romanowski
Cover Art: Matt Gray
Photography: Scott Weiss
Alex Walsh: Guitars, vocals, harmonica
Taylor Still: Drums
Michael Romanowski: Bass
Art Khu: Bass, Piano
Patrick Simms: Mandolin, guitar, triangle
Gretchen Elliott: Cello
Yoon Ki Chai: Violin
Daniel Wood: French Horn
Chorus: Lisa Alley, Kwame Copeland, Deborah Crooks, Teresina Tenorio, Penny L. Williams, Doug Woods, Catalina Del Grosso, Joyce Lee Kinney, Shirley Larry
“Take Me Back To The Country” Alex Walsh Bio (The Long View), 2007
by Deborah Crooks
Alex Walsh’s training in American roots, rock and pop came early if informally. Born in the Bronx, New York, in 1967, Walsh moved with his parents to San Francisco before he was a year old. During what would become the historic Summer of Love, Alex’s first exposure to live music was the revolutionary sounds of early rock and roll. While his father worked in the grocery industry, his mother took Alex to see the free concerts in Golden Gate Park where what was to become the signature sounds of the times where born.
Alex’s auspicious musical beginning was side tracked when the family moved north of San Francisco to Petaluma, more famous for its history as the Chicken Capitol of the World, and host to the World Wrist Wrestling Championship than any cultural movement. Alex’s father became a carpenter while his mother stayed home. However, Alex did not forget the formative exposure to the pioneers of rock and roll and psychedelic music. By age three, he was tinkering with the family record player and proceeded to blast music at all hours of the day and night. He quickly became obsessed with music and everything about it, fascinated equally by the artwork on the covers of albums such as the Who’s ‘Tommy,” Tom Jones’ ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ and the Beatles ‘Revolver” as the music within. His first record purchase, a newly released Beatles collection called ‘Rock & Roll Music,” was bought with money saved from his allowance. By the time his parent’s divorced several years later and his mother remarried, Alex had developed a taste for the heavier music of Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, and AC/DC.
His stepfather’s work would take Alex across the country and back several times. A move to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, gave Alex equal parts culture shock and his first exposure to the sounds of the south. Canoeing on the bayou, and swimming and chasing alligators in the harbor, were augmented by Mardi Gras music. By the time he bought his first concert tickets to see The Dixie Dregs, on a return visit to California, he knew it was time to learn the guitar.
Yet another move, this time to Fairport, New York, spurred Walsh’s further immersion into studying guitar as well as writing. There he excelled in English and became interested in theater after seeing a student production which included a classmate of his, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Just before Alex’s senior year, the family moved to Ann Arbor, MI. There he wrote and directed a student play and was asked to attend a summer stock theatre in Michigan as an apprentice. After the summer season, he returned to Ann Arbor and attended Eastern Michigan University where he continued to write plays with an off-campus theater workshop, including a play for a Beatles convention in Ann Arbor. Now immersed in the blues, punk, new wave, Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground, and Paisley Pop, his first forays into songwriting were inevitable.
In 1987, Alex moved back to San Francisco. Working as a door-to-door fundraiser for Greenpeace while attending San Francisco City College by day, he began to perform his music at night. He tried out his material at the Albion in the Mission District and other coffee houses in the Haight District.
After seeing an R.E.M. concert in 1989 he was inspired to continue his musical path and began performing on the street for tips. Delighted that he could actually earn money playing, he soon quit his job, dropped out of school and moved into a studio apartment with two musicians from Maine who called themselves Bo Grumpus. Alex started playing gigs in local bars and coffee shops, catching the attention of a local producer named Martin Whitney who ran the open mic at the 509 Cultural Center in the Tenderloin. That fall, just before the earthquake hit, Alex went on a road trip to Canada funded by Martin with the caveat that he come back with a half dozen original songs. Alex returned with the six songs and a burning desire to start a band. He also recorded his first tape “Tape for Ann Arbor”.
Alex’s first group, was a duo named the Young Blue Bucks, featuring Alex on guitar, vocals, and harmonica, and a very tall drummer named David Schaldach who played a miniature drum kit. They never performed without their hats.
The Young Blue Bucks were part of the acoustic music scene that revolved around the Owl & Monkey café, which spawned many of San Francisco’s defining musical groups including Box Set, Train, and Counting Crows. The Young Blue Bucks released two cassettes (“Young Blue Bucks” and “Chaos in The Cornfield”) and spent two months in Europe playing on the streets of Paris & Barcelona.
When the band broke up due to musical differences, Alex went solo, continuing to play in Mission cafes and busking. He eventually returned to school, this time at the New College of California, with beat poet David Meltzer. There he earned a humanities degree while experimenting with different configurations of musicians. He played in Q, a rock cabaret band, the Honeysticks, an electric version of the Young Blue Bucks (that started out sweet and ended when the drummer and bass player decided they wanted to be the next Green Day), and the Chocolate Blockhead Band, which played a one-night show for Alex’s senior project. During this time, Alex also co-wrote many songs with poet, songwriter, and beat editor Michael Rothenberg.
After finishing college, Alex spent 1997 working on a demo to shop to major labels. Unsatisfied with the result, he took a break from music to regroup and reassess his future. Seeking advise from a career counselor, she ran him through a series of career-option surveys. When ‘musician’ showed up as the top career option (above ‘airline pilot’ and ‘librarian’) Alex found the inspiration to continue with his passion. With the help of a cash gift from his father, he produced a self-titled solo acoustic CD, created a website, and started performing again.
In 2000, Alex recorded “Antique Dreams & Collectible Pleasures”, a lo-fi acoustic recording, based on the characters he met while working in an Antique Mall. He formed another band, the Apparitions which recorded a few demos and landed a notable gig at the notorious Paradise Lounge.
In 2001, Alex started working at the Musicians Union Local 6 as Assistant to the President. In 2003, he released “Light Another Candle” under his own name. The CD received rave reviews from critics and fans alike, and was immediately picked up by Optic Noise for music licensing in film and television. That year he performed his song “Light Another ” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. for the “Million Worker March”.
The first years of the new millennium found Walsh further honing his craft performing solo and with the Alex Walsh Band. Continuing to pen new tunes for his next CD, his song “Fade Away” won best song at the San Francisco West Coast Songwriters open mic. By 2005 he was back in the studio, laying down the initial tracks for what would become “Take Me Back to the Country.”
After a long journey, Alex Walsh has comes home with the 11-song disc. Co-produced by Patrick Simms & Michael Romanowski and recorded in San Francisco, “Take Me Back to the Country” finds Alex delving deeper into the American songwriting tradition than ever before and solidifies his stature as one of the Bay Area’s most accomplished songwriters.
A song-cycle tracing the arc of a relationship from beginning to end, the CD draws on Walsh’s dedication to a well-turned lyric while demonstrating his life-long immersion in all forms of American music. Taking listeners on a sonic journey over a landscape of blues, pop, Texas swing, African Hi-life and psychedelic, the songs are informed by the hopes, dreams and reality of true love, found, lost and found again.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Alex continues to write new songs, including a growing collection of songs informed by his Buddhist practice…..