“NO STRAIGHT LINES” Album Release April 14th

No Straight Lines Album Cover (low res) copy

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted here.  My sincere apologies!  I actually created a really detailed post a while back with great visuals and links about how many pieces of equipment broke down during the making of “No Straight Lines,” my upcoming album.  But I somehow exited WordPress without saving and you know what happened.  If you see the humor in this you are surely my kind of person.

Regardless, my “long-awaited”new singer-songwriter album NO STRAIGHT LINES is coming out April 14th and now the fun part (for me, at least) starts.  The sharing.

I’ve pasted in below some of the early publicity about the album.  If you are inspired to click on the colored hyperlink above you can hear excerpts of all songs off the album.  For each song you will also find album credits, lyrics and session notes about either the writing or recording of each particular song.  Hope you enjoy!  And if you subscribe to my Mailing List you’ll get updates, bonus tracks and other stuff over time.  Salud!

Bill Gable: A Map of Life with No Straight Lines

Straight lines. They’re a man-made conceit – highways, railroads, the quickest distance between two points. But nature likes to meander, to take a slower course. And No Straight Lines is a path that suits musician and singer-songwriter Bill Gable. His new record is inspired by those destinations never quite reached.

“Every record is a journey,” Gable remarks. “I wanted to carry the listener with me. I often thought of these lines from a poem by Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa: ‘To be great, be whole; exclude/Nothing, exaggerate nothing that is you. Be whole in everything. Put all you are/into the smallest thing you do. The whole moon gleams in every pool./It rides so high.’ Through attention to detail in the storytelling and production, in my own small way I tried to do that.”

Gable began writing No Straight Lines in 2004, a year after his second disc, This Perfect Day, was released. Much of it was composed in Morocco, Spain, and Portugal, in the hotel rooms where he lived, soaking in the countries, their culture and their music.

That travel resonates through the songs. The lyric of “I Threw Your Heart,” for example, burrows deep into the pained flamenco tradition, while on “I Was Born To Love You” Gable’s voice takes on the cracked patina of a flamenco singer, with cajon and footwork providing the rhythmic base.

“I read a lot of flamenco lyrics, a lot of Lorca, Pessoa and Sufi poets.” Gable recalls. “I let them seep in and this is how they came out. But in everything I tried to include influences from where the songs were composed.”

And that includes America, where the fragments of two songs came together to make “A Million Miles Away,” the easy warmth in Gable’s singing evoking ‘70s era Stevie Wonder. It’s a disc of shades and moods, pop music in the same way that Brazilian MPB is popular music – sophisticated and intelligent, with heart and depth. Its music dives into the soul, rather than gliding over the surface.

But that’s probably no surprise. Raised in the Midwest, Gable is a classically-trained pianist and cellist who played in symphony orchestras growing up before heading out to the West Coast with a literature degree in his pocket. He worked with jazz group the Yellowjackets on many albums, garnering three Grammy nominations, writing a number of compositions for them and other artists ranging from Chicago to the DeBarges.

In spite of that background on piano, the songs for No Straight Lines were all written on guitar.

“It’s more intimate,” Gable says. “It gives a more personal song.”

And the tracks of No Straight Lines are studies in emotion and life. The characters in Gable’s songs are people on the trail of certainty, but rarely finding it. “I realized I’ll be on the very verge of beginning/every second the rest of my life” he sings on the album’s title cut, a summation of the understanding that comes with age.

It’s a document of a journey that can never end, but he has some strong companions along the way. Along with Gable’s own voice, guitar, cello and Portuguese guitarra, Steve Rodby (Pat Metheny Group) and Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets, Bruce Hornsby) play bass, Larry Goldings (James Taylor, Norah Jones) contributes on piano, and Greg Ellis (Beck, Mickey Hart) adds percussion, along with several other guests, and the Eclipse Quartet delicately grace “Road Of Pain” and “End Of The Day” with strings. Not to mention a special appearance by Motown legend Leon Ware (I Want You) on background vocals.

Gable is a traveler with an open heart and open ears, and he pulls the listener along with him, conjuring up the sights and smells of Fes with the shadings of the oud or the ney flute, the crisp palmas of Granada, or the cumbus and clarinet of Istanbul.

Finding musicians to provide some of the more unusual instruments sometimes proved a challenge, even in cosmopolitan Los Angeles.

“I knew I wanted flamenco footwork on some of the songs,” Gable says, “but there wasn’t anyone here who really knew it. Finally a friend called me up and said ‘There’s this guy called Manuel Gutierrez who’s just arrived from Spain. He’s the real deal.’ The minute he pulled those little wingtip dance shoes out of that bowling bag I knew he was.”

For all the care in the details of the arrangements, Gable acknowledges that No Straight Lines is very lyric-driven, like all my albums.” They’re the picture and the music provides the frame. And powerful pictures they are, too, such as “Like a snake, my heart has split its skin/somewhere far away it blew” (“Came So Close To Loving You”) or “The truth was never true enough/and you were never you enough” (“Sustenance”).

It might have taken 12 years for the words and music to finally surface, but the wait is worthwhile. It’s easy to understand why Steely Dan’s Walter Becker called Bill Gable “a great songwriter [with a] marvelous ability to incorporate exotic musical elements and seemingly disparate influences.” Not going in a straight line makes for a much richer journey.

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In My House

BG Frigiliana

In my last post I was reminiscing on my time spent in Frigiliana, Spain in 2006, in the early stages of writing songs for No Straight Lines.

It is an extraordinary thing to hole up in a place like that to write songs.  You bring your instrument, your tape recorder, your notebooks, your rough ideas.  You know no one, though you always make friends.  Everything around you has a newness to it.  You arrive full of hope.  What you might possibly draw from your surroundings you can never know, and that’s why you go there.  Fes, where I spent time in 2004 writing, was a relentless beehive of people.  Frigiliana, arriving as I did during the rainy off-season, was a silent, whitewashed dream.  Ironically, in each place I got exactly what I wanted — total anonymity.

I love literature easily as much as I love music.  Many times during the writing of No Straight Lines I re-read Lorca‘s inspiring “In Search of Duende” essays and many times over his poetry.  Modern flamenco owes a lot to Lorca, having organized with Manuel de Falla the legendary 1922 Concorso de Cante Jondo in Granada, that helped flamenco begin to be appreciated for the incredibly deep art form it is.

cante_jondooriginalAn amazing recording from that event exists.  A number of years ago Sonifolk, a label in Madrid, released a CD of performances from the Concorso along with various selections from both de Falla’s and Lorca’s personal flamenco collections.  It’s quite a slice of history.  I naturally had that with me in Frigiliana as well.

Songs are miniatures.  I often think of them as akin to pottery, certainly not high art.  They’re hand-thrown objects that might at best hold a few ideas, assuming the listener wishes to store something there.  The lyrics have to fit around the outside.  Half of the time they crack in the oven.  They most likely get thrown out and only rarely passed down through generations.  If I consult the higher arts for direction now and then, it is only as someone seeks a flashlight in the dark.  I love being informed by what is out there in the world.  But I can’t fit into my own pants from ten years ago, let alone a larger figure’s shoes.

Stumbling down the hill to Frigiliana’s central café every morning, I blew through two café con leches at the bar thumbing through yesterday’s emails on my Blackberry while the the chief of police nursed a breakfast sherry next to me.  Afterwards I trudged back up the many steps to my rented house, where I spent the day hard at work writing, as the shape of the album began to finally take seed in my mind.

DSCN0245

Songs like “I Threw Your Heart” and “Came So Close” off of No Straight Lines became highly influenced by flamenco lyrics.  For a really nice, concise collection, check out “Gypsy Cante,” selected and translated by Will Kirkland.  In the meantime, below is an Andalusian poem in a similar vein, one of my very favorites.  As the writer (and lawyer) José Monleón once aptly remarked, “Flamenco is a tragedy in the first person.”

In my house
I am keeping a garden,
so I can sell flowers
for you if hard times come.

I went out to the fields to cry
like a mad man screaming,
and even the wind kept telling
me that you loved someone else.

From your neck hangs a cross
Set in gold and ivory.
Let me die on it
And crucify myself there,
On that cross that hangs from your neck.

I have bought three knives
For you to end my life,
So that I will not have to
Suffer the pain
Of hating you.