Talkin’ Shop in the Back Room with Fistful of Mercy
Photo by Tim Donnelly
The back rooms of record stores are sacred and vanquishing. They are not hallowed because they are on the edge of extinction and for anyone who has done time in a record store will tell you, it is where the real fun takes place, where the real conservations between connoisseurs are held, it is an exclusive club for lovers, fanatics and geeks.
In the back of a Jersey strip mall store named Vintage Vinyl, is a spot where the songs and the intellectual and societal debates live on through the fading band stickers and posters that adorn the cluttered walls.It is where the members of Fistful of Mercy, Joseph Arthur, Dhani Harrison, Ben Harper and I form a circle, and like thousands of times before, we speak in the air of record store clerks of a time gone by about the how three solo artists formed a group, not because of money but for art’s sake.
The record, the self titled Fistful of Mercy, was recorded in three days last January, over Grammy weekend at The Carriage House in Los Angeles. Nine songs recorded in three days is no joke, especially for three guys who have never worked together before, never mind two of them being total strangers.
Dhani Harrison: Ben called me to play on Joseph Arthur’s record and I wasn’t familiar with Joe at that time. I was supposed to be starting my record, a whole crew coming in from England to start on a Monday morning. They (Ben) called me on Saturday to start on the Monday do this record with us? I called my band and my guitar player was like, Joseph Arthur? Get over there. So my guys only had to wait around for me for three days to make the record, they could have waited for three months.”
Ben Harper: It took me 40 years and three days to be in a position, to have my ego checked at the door, to be able to make a record like this, it took R7, working with the Blind Boys, a lot of collaborating, awareness, consciousness, to check my ego at the door and be a voice in the chorus, not THE voice in a chorus. There’s a big difference.”
Their collective harmonies and “group think” mentality has allowed each of them to grow and push themselves to new levels vocally. In particular, there is a specific soul to Joseph’s Arthur’s voice, that has previously been untapped and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by Arthur’s biggest fan, Ben Harper.
Ben Harper (pointing at Arthur): When I heard your voice on “When Things Go Round” I was like, you just broke some shit wide open, I had never heard that, it was something else.
Dhani Harrison: And I thought he just sounded that way normally.
Joseph Arthur: Being around Ben and the way he sings and Dhani, and they way he sings they way they sing, I mean they are such great singers, so it inspires me.
Dhani: I’ve sounded the best in my life on this record, because I had to keep up these guys, you get a verse and you have to do something with it.
Joseph Arthur: Just now, when we just played I was tripping out, Ben was singing a verse, and I was looking at him thinking, damn he’s a good singer. I’m a fan of both these guys.
Dhani Harrison: Me too.
Joseph Arthur: It’s great to be in collaboration with people you have a lot of respect for.
Ben Harper: It pushes you in such a healthy way and that mutual respect enables us. The mutual respect: its wind at our back, its wind in our sails.
Joseph Arthur: It’s the driving force.
Dhani Harrison: Because we had a no time to do it in, we had no time to think about it.
Joseph Arthur: That’s what galvanized it. We were on the spot to invent something, we booked the studio. It had to happen and we didn’t want to waste each other’s time.
Dhani Harrison: Three songs a day, “chop- chop,” cancels all the ego out of it.
Ben Harper: This record for me, is like “Welcome to the Cruel World,” it’s like “Fight for Your Mind” it comes from where I’m from.
Joseph Arthur: It’s a young record.
Ben Harper: It’s got this young innocence and this mandatory sincerity I feel. You don’t profess your own sincerity ever because that’s an insincere sentiment in itself. I didn’t know what I was doing when I made “Welcome to the Cruel World,” and “Fight for Your Mind” and it was the same feeling with this. I am 12 records deep man, I know how do this. It is as fulfilling as it is frustrating, because once you know how to do something, there’s a certain something you can never retrieve and this retrieved it.
Joseph Arthur: There’s a Lester Bangs quote, “Rock n’ roll is all about not knowing what the fuck you are doing.”
Dhani Harrison: I agree with that.
Joseph Arthur: You have to keep putting yourself in positions of discomfort so your sub-conscious can reveal itself, because you re on the spot to invent something.
Dhani Harrison: I showed up saying, where are the songs? Oh we haven’t written any yet. (laughs)
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
- Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
- Visions of Bonnaroo Thursday (ALO, Jack Johnson, Polyphonic Spree, Allen Stone…)
- Deer Tick Share "The Rock"
- Win a pair of passes to The NINES Festival
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Mumford & Sons’ Ted Dwane Shares Photo, Update
- Jack Johnson: Bonnaroo Song, Mumford Cover, "Mudfootball" with Preservation Hall Jazz Band
- The Making of Pretty Lights’ A Color Map of the Sun
- Interlocken Confirms Daily Lineups, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Punch Brothers, Keller & The Keels and More Added
- Mumford and Sons Cancel Bonnaroo Show, Summer Tour
- Ed Helms: Bonnaroo, Banjos and a Bit of Phish
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Tedeschi Trucks Band Share New Song
- Warren Haynes to Play Jerry Garcia’s Wolf on Symphony Tour
- Patty Griffin in Boston
- Jack Is Back: Jack Johnson Talks Bonnaroo, ALO and New Album
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll