The world’s largest organism is apparently a mushroom by the name of Armillaria Ostoyae that spans nearly four square miles somewhere out in Oregon. This is not just a huge mushroom the size of a spaceship in a Roland Emmerich film. It has roots (tendrils really) that reach out through the soil and surface as what appear to be individual mushrooms all across the landscape. It is an incredible thing to imagine.
Roots are a great metaphor for all sorts of personal traits and qualities. I can look in the mirror and see my father’s deep sunken eyes or my mother’s chin. In much the same way, when I sit down and listen to one of my records I am flooded with all the various influences that crop up. The jangling fingering of a Neil Young chord, or the flippant backbeat of an Allman Brothers change over. I hear snippets of jazz songs I learned to play back in High School, or a hard rock lick from Middle school. I literally hear dozens of my influences popping up… and many of them came from one of my childhood friends, Sixto Carlos Escoda “Butch” Roxas.
I met Butch on in middle school when his folks moved to New York from Manila, and within moments we were fast friends. It turned out he was an aspiring songwriter and guitarist just like I was. He had a great deal more experience of the world, music, and of the guitar, and so he quickly became a mentor to me. He taught me rudimentary harmony, song form, and even how to correctly hold a cigarette when playing and singing at the same time. In a very real sense, Butch helped me find and recognize many of those integral musical chromosomes that make up my roots.
Butch and I busked in the streets of NYC, played every open mic show we could find on Bleeker Street, and spent an incredible amount of time just listening to the great bands, songwriters, and instrumentalists of the day.
Sometime in the early eighties, we got separated. He headed back to the Philippines with his family, and I moved to upstate New York and started mine. With the exception of one phone call in 1990, I never heard from Butch again, until he tracked me down on Facebook the Fall of 2012. Within a short time we were plotting a visit – him to New York or me to Manila, and that quickly evolved into a recording project.
In June of 2013, my son Dylan and I packed up a bunch of recording gear and flew halfway around the world to sit down with Butch and capture a musical conversation. Dylan grew up in recording studios and is one of the best engineers that I know, his is literally and figuratively an extension of the musical chromosomes that Butch and I forged together all those years ago. Dylan and I have worked on several projects together, but this is the best yet – its purity, and spontaneity capture the week I had with my old friend quite dramatically. Butch and I simply sat down and started up the conversation where it got left off. Dylan was there to document it, and help me keep the focus on the music… as if it would have gone somewhere else.
Most of these songs were composed in the week we had together and blossomed from the incredible synchronicity that came of our picking up our guitars and the conversation from where we left off. It literally was like plugging back in after only a moment’s pause.
An interesting note: Back in the 70s one of our dear friends and mentors Robert Metcalf pulled Butch and I into our first real recording session at Dick Charles Studio on 48th Street in NYC – the session cemented for me the idea that I would forge a future in the studio business. Robert and I have kept in touch all these years, and he flew out from Arizona to overdub piano on Faulkner County Blues. Both actions were incredibly generous thing to do, and an amazing way to bring this story full circle.
My heartfelt gratitude to Phillip & Ching Camara for putting us up, to the entire Roxas family for making us feel not only welcome, but loved. Thanks to Inday De Veyra for stepping in as our impromptu session manager. A big hug must be given to Madame Mimi for all the coffee and inspiration. Thanks also to the Huyyssen family who allowed us to storm in and take over their space and lives for a week in order to get this recorded.
I have always had faith in the commonality of humanity, but the recording of this album brought that faith to another level.
Produced by Dylan & Rees Shad for v1/v2 productions
Recorded at TrueSound Recording - Antipolo, Philippines
by Dylan Shad with the assistance of Herald & Toby Huyyssen
Mixed by Dylan Shad & Rees Shad at Stressless Sound, Carmel, NY
Mastered by Duncan Stanbury at Groove Mastering
Background vocals recorded at Stressless Sound by Rees Shad
John Arrucci’s parts recorded by John at his home studio in Carmel, NY
Robert Metcalf recorded at Clubhouse Recording Studio Rhinecliff, NY by Dylan Shad & Magic Mike
Sixto Carlos Escoda “Butch” Roxas: Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Rees Shad: Voices, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Herald Huyyssen: Drums
Gerald Flores: Electric & Upright Bass
John Arrucci, Vibraphone, Marimba, & Percussion
Ben Odem: Background Voices on Faulkner County Blues & Broken Man
Robert Metcalf: Piano on Faulkner County Blues
Ruben Reyes: Electric Bass on Night After Night
This was an incredible experience - reconnecting with a musician I hadn't worked with for 30 years, introducing him to my collaborator and son, Dylan - just awesome. I recently wrapped up a video about the project which folks might find interesting.