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Sept. 2010: Jeff Kelly – Ash Wednesday Rain

Dearly beloved –

  1. Living the Good Life in a World of Disease Jeff Kelly 3:10
  2. Shadow Classrooms Jeff Kelly 3:11
  3. What Now My Love? Jeff Kelly 3:20
  4. The Greatest Sin Jeff Kelly 4:55
  5. Baby Jane Approximately Jeff Kelly 4:22
  6. What Became of Betty Page Jeff Kelly 4:30
  7. Jackie Jeff Kelly 3:55
  8. The Singer of Another Song Jeff Kelly 5:16
  9. A Year and a Day Jeff Kelly 3:37
  10. Seven Years Jeff Kelly 3:18
  11. Brigid Please Jeff Kelly 3:46
  12. Come Back to Me Jeff Kelly 1:32
  13. If Allison Were Here Jeff Kelly 4:28
  14. Ocean Eyes (for Jane) Jeff Kelly 5:53
  15. The Wandering Road (for S.) Jeff Kelly 5:45

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This month, September 2010, I thought it would be interesting to go ask Jeff directly to comment on his album – questions are from Tom and Howie.

Hey Jeff –

Here we got in the way-back machine to see if you can remember more than I can. 

Easier said than done.

So – Ash Wednesday Rain was done in a comparatively slow period, coming out in ’95. It had been a few years since we had parted ways, you’d done a PJs Single with Joe in ‘93. By modern standards that is short, but you’re a pretty prolific guy. What was going on for you during that period?

Our first child for one thing. That slowed things down a little. I think I only wrote and recorded 7 or 8 songs that year – 1994. “Baby Jane Approximately” and “Ocean Eyes” were recorded after she was born. A lot of the other songs used for Ash Wednesday Rain must have already been in the can.

The cover says this was done at home on some sort of 8-track. It sounds significantly better than the previous Private Electrical Storm. What was your set up at that point and what was your approach to recording the album?

I think, as always back then, I was just recording songs for Susanne and my amusement. Wasn’t really planning a record, so it’s pretty diverse. Actually, thinking back, it may have mostly been done on 4-track as opposed to 8. But I had this nice delay of Steven’s which helped a lot. I can’t quite remember that clearly- but it seems like I was bouncing things around on a 4 track portastudio when I did If Alison Were Here. Maybe it was both 4 and 8.

Hmm. You say it is diverse, but it seems to me less so than some of your other work. There is nothing that really rocks here per se, it is all more moody, a bit more low key, certainly less a potpourri than say Ghosts of Love. Do you disagree? 

Perhaps I view it or only remember it as diverse. No, there’s no rock songs. But, say, Bettie Page is quite different than Seven Years or Ocean Eyes. And those two are not alike either. There, of course, are similar production techniques used.

Did you play everything? 

Yes. Susanne may have done some backing vocals. The keyboard had nice horn sounds. Jeff Kelly 1995

Was there any unusual instrumentation on AWR, or is it basically keyboard sounds, guitars and vocals? Did you use real drums or percussion? 

No, just the keyboard for the drums. No unusual instrumentation, I don’t think. Except I think I did the bass part of Baby Jane Approximately with my voice. And I used our old baby grand piano for Ocean Eyes. It had a cracked soundboard and I found out at some point that it would never stay tuned correctly. It was pretty though.

How did this record come to be? As I fuzzily recall, we got contacted out of the blue by Del Field, a big PJs fan, who said he would put up the manufacturing costs and we got it done. Do you recall differently? Was this already in the works as an album before Del got in touch or was he the catalyst that got it moving? 

Not positive but I think Del gave us the idea to take what I was working on and actually make it an album. I do recall it was the first thing you and I ever released on CD as opposed to vinyl. Del has become a very good friend and is still a big supporter of the music.  He often comes over from Idaho when we have a gig here in town.

What made you decide to go back to making Green Pajamas records after this rather than focusing on solo records? 

Tony Dale called around 1996 and wanted to put out something by the Pajamas on his new label, Camera Obscura. He was talking about reissuing something and I said, well why don’t we just make a brand new Pajamas album? I had some stuff done already like Three Way Conversation. I think Steven and I were still recording off and on. I’d written Dr. Dragonfly, for instance, before we had the idea for Strung. There’s an alternate recording with Steven playing electric guitar.

The 8-track cassette deck freed me up to experiment and record multiple tracks at home and they sounded pretty good.  I remember that being so luxurious – 8 tracks!

I think Tony was a real catalyst for you in getting things going after a bit of a lull. You had the opportunity to go spend some time with Tony in Australia before he recently passed away. Any thoughts you’d like to share about Tony? 
Tony Dale
Yes, everything lined right up when we did Strung Behind the Sun. I was able to start making releasable records from home. And Tony was very supportive and enthusiastic. That was a successful record but he did say when I was recording Meagan’s Bed, “Jeff, I hope you’re not going to do more of your French cafe songs.” So I thought, I’ll show him, and I went out and bought a little guitar amplifier. That’s why there is a lot more electric guitar on Meagan’s Bed, which pleased him. Tony was a good collaborator because, if I’d come up with an idea, he’d come back and top it with something wilder. For instance, we had decided to release some of my home recordings, originally released on cassette by GMR. By the time the project got underway it had grown to a four CD box set, big color booklet, etc. That was fun.

Tony was indeed supportive but he wasn’t always saying “yes” to whatever I wanted to do. He’s the one that said “Oh no, you CAN’T use the band on the front cover,” when Joe and I sent him the art for Strung Behind The Sun. He’s the one that suggested a painting of Susanne’s be on the front, which sort of became a tradition. Once I sent him some record and I had a note with the art: ‘please print “add alcohol, increase volume,” on the disc. Tony wrote back: “You’ve got to be fucking kidding, Jeff! That’s been done a million times! No way.” I didn’t argue.

But Tony truly had a profound influence on my life. No doubt about that. Too much to go into here- but things may have gone a lot different I think, if he hadn’t made that initial call to me. He was not only a business man with his label but really an artist I think. He had the heart of an artist. He appreciated the little details that make something beautiful. This was very evident when Susanne and I visited, a couple weeks before he died. He shared a lot of music with me, pointing out all of those little details.

What are your favorites on this album? I particularly like Ocean Eyes and thought about putting it on The Anthology if it hadn’t been so damn long.

If Alison Were Here, Jackie, What Became Of Bettie Page, Ocean Eyes. Maybe Shadow Classrooms. Ms. Page turned up later, so that mystery was solved. But I always liked the lyric to that one anyway.

Have any of them every made it to being played live? 

No.

Jeff Kelly live 1990Fifteen years after the fact what is your perspective on the work? How would you stack it up against your other zillion releases? 

It was notable as a first release on compact disc. The songs perhaps were more meaningful to me at that time, as one might imagine. A lot changes in 15 years. And yet it was a creative period songwriting-wise I think. If people liked other stuff of mine from around that time, like Strung Behind The Sun, they would probably like this one. I still like pretty much all of the songs, but it definitely does sound like fifteen years ago to me whereas Indiscretion still sounds pretty new.

Any other thoughts on the album? 

The cover is one of my all-time favorite paintings of Susanne’s.

I very much like it too. What brand of cigarettes are you smoking in the painting? 

Cannot recall for sure. I think it was pre-American Spirits. Maybe Merit 100s.

In one sentence, how would you describe this CD?

Some pretty good songs and a lot of tape hiss.

Track Listing:

1. Living the Good Life in a World of Disease
2. Shadow Classrooms
3. What Now My Love?
4. The Greatest Sin
5. Baby Jane Approximately
6. What Became of Betty Page?
7. Jackie
8. The Singer of Another Song
9. A Year and a Day
10. Seven Years
11. Brigid Please
12. Come Back to Me
13. If Allison Were Here
14. Ocean Eyes
15. The Wandering Road

GM040

This is the original bio written for Ash Wednesday Rain in 1995.

Sit back and take shelter as Jeff Kelly gives Seattle’s best weather a much needed blessing. Kelly’s Ash Wednesday Rain is a culmination of the best influences from his now-occasional band, The Green Pajamas, but with more diverse instrumentation and subject matter. A product of a different Seattle music scene, Jeff’s music reflects the life and sounds of the city: the weather, the temperament, and the mood. He is truly one of the last romantics in the most traditional sense of the word. Ash Wednesday Rain is not about being trendy, it is music for people who like to listen to music and feel good while they do it.

The songs on Ash Wednesday Rain were not written for a specific album, they are a collection written over a period of time. They reflect real people in real situations according to Kelly’s unique perspective. Jeff Kelly‘s songs are his life: his perceptions, his acquaintances, his dreams and especially his memories. This album is a personal statement; recorded for and by an audience of one. Jeff plays all of the instruments on the album, with occasional vocals provided by his wife, Susanne.

Jeff Kelly‘s work with The Green Pajamas is well-documented on albums and singles recorded for Green Monkey Records. The PJ’s got their start in 1984 with the back bedroom collaboration of Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross. The band released several albums full of true, impassioned psychedelic music which served as influence for pop bands that would emerge years later. Most recently, the Green Pajamas song, “Kim The Waitress” was covered by Material Issue and Sister Psychic. It is Jeff’s songwriting that has been acclaimed for its ingenious refreshing style. His songs represent the different facets and obsessions of his personality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his solo work. 1993’s Private Electrical Storm is a personal vision of innocence and beauty. The earlier Portugal and Coffee in Nepal are stark meditations from the confessional, the artist stripped naked.
Ash Wednesday Rain is the most diverse, accessible work to come from Jeff Kelly, with the psychedelic melodies giving way to an inviting personal statement. It leaves mystery, but still yields a strong musical appreciation for life: past, present and future.

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