If The River Was Whiskey Spin Doctors
- 1Some Other Man instead04:35
- 2If The River Was Whiskey03:17
- 3Sweetest Portion04:02
- 4Traction Blues03:42
- 5Scotch And Water Blues05:16
- 6About a Train06:15
- 7The Drop04:40
- 8Ben's Looking Out The Window Blues03:09
- 9So Bad05:56
- 10What My Love?02:32
Info for If The River Was Whiskey
You think you know the Spin Doctors. Think again. When the legendary New York quartet release If The River Was Whiskey through Ruf Records, casual fans will discover the secret past the hardcore have never forgotten. To the wider world, the Doctors might be the multi-million-selling icons behind hits like Two Princes and Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, not to mention the classic Pocket Full Of Kryptonite. But in 2013, Chris Barron (vocals), Aaron Comess (drums), Eric Schenkman (guitar) and Mark White (bass) are reconnecting with the flat-broke twenty-somethings who scraped for dollars at the sharp end of the Big Apple blues circuit. The Spin Doctors have come full-circle.
“We were four guys in our twenties,” remembers Aaron of early days in the late-’80s, “and our goal was to write our own songs and make a living doing it. The blues is such a big part of our roots, but one of the reasons we came up with such a big catalogue of blues songs back then is that we’d play these downtown blues bars in New York. You were supposed to play blues covers… but we were actually playing our own songs!”
We all know what happened next: the hits, the hysteria, the fame and the money (“When were selling 50,000 records a week,” remembers Chris of the band’s explosion circa 1992, “I’d walk into a mall to buy underwear and 300 kids would surround me!”). If The River Was Whiskey hits rewind. It’s the deep-blues album the Spin Doctors almost made before megastardom came knocking. It finally bottles those near-mythical songs from that sweatbox circuit. It’s simultaneously a tipped hat to the band’s lost past and the freshest record you’ll hear all year. “Every note feels dangerous,” smiles Chris. “It’s just like this ramshackle, broken carriage running down a cobblestone hill, with pots and pans, and a screaming baby...”
The concept to revisit these songs struck as the Spin Doctors toured Europe to toast the 20th anniversary of Pocket Full Of Kryptonite, and polled über-fans David Landsburger and Daniel Heinze on what they’d like to hear as the encore that night. Their answer – So Bad – was a song so old that Chris had almost forgotten the verses, but when the venue exploded, a lightbulb lit over the band’s heads. “We had such a good time playing these tunes,” the singer explains, “that we thought, ‘We should go make a record of this stuff’. It’s really brought us back as a band, musically and interpersonally.”
The songs on If The River Was Whiskey are different vintages. “Some Other Man Instead and the title track, I wrote those lyrics in the last year or two,” explains Chris. “But Sweetest Portion, I wrote that song when I was 19. I’d run away from home, and when I got back, my friends were really upset and there was a rumour going around that I had died. So I wrote that song – and I’m not sure if I’ve ever written a better one since.”
The material might be a quarter-century in the making, but If The River Was Whiskey took just three days to record when the four members convened last summer in New York. The original plan was to get together at Aaron’s His House Studios in Manhattan and work up some demos – no pressure – before heading upstate to a boutique analogue facility and start tracking in earnest. “We didn’t expect to make a record,” smiles Eric. “We were just going to make a demo and play at the Rockwood. And then, lo and behold...”
Instead, without the pressure of the red light, the sessions began to unfold with an effortless magic. “We just kinda winged it, man,”says Mark. “This album sounds exactly the same as it does onstage, because we recorded it live, which is the way it should be done. There’s no overdubs. Anybody that tried to do an overdub was gonna get whacked!”
“We really kinda fooled ourselves and tricked ourselves, and I think that’s one of the reasons why it sounds so fresh,” picks up Aaron. “Because there was absolutely no pressure on us of any kind. We just hit a moment. Everything came together and we got this great record. Usually, the best things happen when you’re not trying… and that’s what happened here.” The band quickly realised the supposed rough-cuts captured by engineering ace Roman Klun couldn’t be topped. “By the third day,” reflects Chris, “we’d recorded all ten of the demos. We went out to dinner that night, we were all having a cocktail, and someone was like, ‘Gentlemen, I believe our demo is a record’. And we all just laughed.” Take a spin of If The River Was Whiskey and you’d have to agree: they aced it. The Spin Doctors might have given you the soundtrack to the best nights of the ’90s, but with this new album, they’ve rediscovered a strand of their musical DNA that melds perfectly with the hits you know and love. “It’s been so refreshing to go back to this material,” says Aaron. “It’s just brought everything that’s good about the band out again. I can honestly say that we’re playing better than ever right now, and I think a lot of that is because of the material on this record: it’s just really opened things up. Some bands, you go and see them 25 years later and they’re up there going through the motions. But to me, we sound better than ever. We sound world-class now, I think.”
“We play about four or five tunes a night from this new album and they all work,” says Eric. “It just feels seamless, like any of the new tunes can sit with any one of the Kryptonite songs. And the band is just playing amazing now. It’s a pleasure to play with people that you’ve been playing with so long… and everybody’s still breathing!”
Likewise, when If The River Was Whiskey it’ll be a pleasure to toast the return of the Spin Doctors, and a new album set to score new fans while making the hardcore love them more than ever. “I don’t care about sales, man,” states Chris, honestly. “I mean, it’d be awesome if it sold millions of copies, but honest to God, I just want to keep making a living playing music. We get up onstage and we turn it on, and sing and play our hearts out. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do: just make real music, give people something from my heart.”
'The Spin Doctors, one of the little alt-rock bands to break out big in the early '90s, are back with a new album and tour. If the River Was Whiskey, set for release April 30, is described in a press release as the blues album the band was always meant to make. Lead singer Chris Barron elaborates, calling the collection of 10 original tunes a ramshackle, broken carriage running down a cobblestone hill, with pots and pans, and a screaming baby.' (USA Today)
Chris Barron, vocals
Erik Schenkman, guitar
Mark White, bass
Aaron Comess, drums
The band's Epic debut EP Up For Grabs was recorded live at Wetlands in Lower Manhattan and released in January 1991. (In 1992, these EP tracks were remixed and supplemented by additional live recordings to form the album Homebelly Groove.)
In August 1991, the Spin Doctors released their full-length debut album Pocket Full Of Kryptonite, co-produced by Peter Denenberg and Frankie LaRocka. Relentless touring and a wave of positive press kept the album alive into the next year, when sales began to increase dramatically. Kryptonite was certified gold in September 1992 and received an additional boost from the band's October appearance on "Saturday Night Live." Reaching the one million mark in January 1993, Kryptonite entered the Billboard Top Ten one month later.
By June 1993, the album was triple platinum and had breached the Top Five among Billboard Pop Albums while spinning off two major hit singles: "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" and the No. 1 Rock radio song of 1993, "Two Princes." Ultimately, Pocket Full Of Kryptonite sold over five million copies in the US and another five million overseas.
"[Their] popularity is based on universal rock & roll virtues," said Rolling Stone, which put the band on the cover of its January 7, 1993 issue. "The Doctors aren't trying to blaze new trails-they know we've been down this way with the Stones, Curtis Mayfield, and a few of their other touchstones. But the proof-plenty of it-is in the party."
In June 1994, the Spin Doctors released their second Epic album, Turn It Upside Down. Once again co-produced by Peter Denenberg and Frankie LaRocka, the album featured new originals like "Biscuit Head," "Bags Of Dirt," and "You Let Your Heart Go Too Fast." The band set out on a three-month headlining tour, and played to immense crowds at the Woodstock and Glastonbury festivals. Their cover of the Creedence Clearwater classic "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" was a highlight of the multi-platinum Philadelphia soundtrack.
Deeply weary of the road, guitarist Eric Schenkman left the group in September '94-just as Turn It Upside Down was certified gold-and was replaced by Anthony Krizan for their fall tour of Europe. In November-December 1994, the Spins opened for the Rolling Stones on a series of eleven North American stadium shows. In March 1995, their album hit the one million (platinum) mark in the US, moving an additional million copies overseas.
The Spin Doctors' next Epic album, You've Got to Believe In Something, was produced by Danny Kortchmar and released in May 1996; more touring followed. After Anthony Krizan's departure, the band soldiered on with a new guitarist and a new label (Uptown/Universal) for the 1999 album Here Comes the Bride. But during these sessions, Mark White left the band. Later, Chris Barron lost his voice to an attack of vocal cord paralysis-and soon the Spin Doctors called it quits. (In October 2000, Sony Legacy released the 17-track retrospective Just Go Ahead Now.)
Mark White moved to Houston, Texas to practice and teach bass. Eric Schenkman earned two degrees from the New School University in New York before moving to eastern Canada. He has played and/or recorded with Natalie Merchant, Carly Simon, jazz composer Kip Hanrahan, Canadian songwriter Jimmy Rankin, and his own groups Cork (with drummer Corky Laing) and High Plains Drifter (with the late Blues Traveler bassist Bobby Sheehan).
Chris Barron undertook what he calls "a journeyman songwriting experience," composing tunes with Blues Traveler's Jon Popper and with former BMI executive Jeff Cohen. Aaron Comess produced and/or recorded with Joan Osborne, Chris Whitley, Mark Cohn, Rachel Yamagata, and Bilal, among others. He is one-third of the New York Electric Piano Trio, and appears on the albums New York Electric Piano Trio, War Oracle and Citizen Zen.
This album contains no booklet.