Scott Beckwith - The Audio Notebook Vol. 1
I started out wanting to be like the guys on Led Zeppelin IV and ended up being the guy in the gatefold. I didn't plan that, it's where life led me.
I live where I landed decades ago, 2069 miles from where I set out in a rusted old Dodge van with a few instruments, a duffel bag, and a dream. Bouncing around after Kent Finlay's music room cot (still warm from Todd Snider), I settled into the woods that called me more than the stage or the troubadour life my friends went for.
Oh I traveled; I've covered many a mile and slept in more parking spots and truck stop lots than I could count up. After a while, I took up building guitars. I paid for my sanctuary driving pizzas and teaching guitar, slept under the stars, loved and lost, cheated death, wrote a few books, put out some albums, and built a workshop with an intentional community circle. That became my life, between road trips. I like to wander. In-between I feel even more at home than out in the Hill Country woods.
But the most important thing is this - Kent Finlay saw something in my songs, and told me to write every day. I was 19. I'm 54 now, and I have. There are folks who've known me for many years who have never seen me without a notebook. I've literally written thousands of songs, every way and everywhere possible. Now it's time to do something with them. The Audio Notebook series is me sketching out the songs, simple, acoustic, organic, on old gear I love. Little collections of words and music, stories and lives. Everything I could convey and probably much more, since if they're good they'll take on your meaning as well. I hope they fly and I hope they carry blessings in some way to the people and moments, weaving in with the threads in the tapestries of life as part of soundtracks to lives. I'll tell you a bit about them as they're released - this is an ongoing project. So am I.
Somewhere either out in the woods or off on the road.
Recorded December 24 and 25, 2022
Know You’re Not Forgotten
Ace Was a Drifter
Waiting For You
Help Me Find The Way
Uncle Chester’s Pants
It became apparent that unless I got my old gear fixed, I wasn’t going to record anymore. I realized the gear is part of the ceremony, like a guitar with soul in it vs. those who only see these things as tools. I feel their presence and it feeds into how what happens goes down. It’s more of a dance of creation than swinging a hammer. I found a guy who fixed old 4 tracks and brought him a box of them to try to save one. He saved them all. I’m good to go. There’s little in life that stirs my creative side like peeling the plastic off a brand new old stock Maxell XLII. I smell every one; they still smell the same. I need that. Life is moving very quickly. These songs and their textures fell out of my head through my hands in two days I had and it felt like the most honest thing I’d ever done with my songs. Some were newer, some were older. The main guitar was a Yamaha acoustic I bought for a hundred and something out of an Austin pawn shop that reminded me so much of my first acoustic I started the journey with the second I picked it up. I needed that. Like me, any roughness is proof of authenticity. Here’s to Vol. 1, and here it is.
Fell out of me going to get pizza for the session for Vol. 1 the day before. It happened quick – once I rhymed “Out to the interstate” with “Into the hands of fate” the whole thing felt like it had buoyancy, like I had a song, not just lines I was stitching together. Once that last line fell in after that, it was done. I felt like these words when they came. They came really, really easily. I still have no idea how it happens. I just catch it.
Know You’re Not Forgotten
Wrote this out in a van named Spirit Of the Wind, Dec. 24th of 2004. On the way to Crystal Beach, I saw a guy sleeping in his car on Christmas Eve and the words started coming. They came as I drove and the verses formed pretty quickly once the pen hit the paper and I started thinking about all those people in life who slip beyond our grasp, or we theirs.
Early on I sang this to Todd Snider in his apartment in San Marcos, TX. Probably ’89 or so. He was just starting out too, but was already something forming. He told me I was every bit as good a writer, and while I still don’t believe that’s the case, it was very encouraging to a guy sleeping on a floor across town 2000 miles from home. He won’t remember that, but I’ll never forget it.
“Remind myself in autumn rains, springtime always comes…” Written mostly in July of 2012. A song about grief, and navigating those shadows.
Ace Was a Drifter
Ace was a real guy in Burlington Vermont, and that song was from my first album – a cassette I put out in ‘91. I rewrote some of the lyrics because it’s so many miles later.
Waiting For You
A song about loss, written on the road in October of 2022. There’s been so much of it over the past few years, and this is how things like that bubble out of me. I can’t imagine if they didn’t. I just hope other people hear it and it helps them with some kind of release of their own.
Help Me Find The Way
Another old one from my early 20s, one of the ones Kent Finlay, my songwriting guru, really liked. I remember sitting across from him, his cypress desk covered in yellow legal pads full of the detritus of this guy’s creative process, and playing this song for him in its almost final version. He got very serious. “I want you to take your time with this one.” This was important. This was for real.
One of my favorites that ever came out of me. June of 2007. I’ve recorded this one a half dozen times, and every time I have a blast with it. I couldn’t imagine picking ten of my favorites without having this one in here.
Uncle Chester’s Pants
From 2002. Dressed up but indeed seeded by a nutsack visible from the crowd (a “niew-SAY” as they’d say in the south of France). It was a blues gig. It was goin’ in and out slowly as this guy breathed, and it was huge. Just one ball of it, but at least the size of a Fredericksburg peach. In… and out. In… and out. Never seen anything like it. Guy next to me leaned in and said, “Doesn’t get any more authentic than that.”
A friend of mine was at a ‘70s commune by this name, and it’s such a great couple of words to represent that whole thing – a coming together somewhere beautiful to be a family. During some years of intentional community experience of my own (around 2006 my wife and I helped bring one together – a circle that didn’t live together but got together and worked and played together. A book about this, Together By Choice, is coming out shortly), the fascination I had for it became real and I felt like I’d found my tribe. I wrote this based on those feelings but framed in the perspective of someone looking back on an awakening experience. A formative experience. An evolutionary one in a revolutionary time. Originally a poem but put to music as a final piece for this session.
1. Life is Sad
2. That Says it All
3. Come On Home
4. Grandpa's Tools
6. I Made Her Cry
7. Unfinished Work
8. Meet Me Old Man
9. After The Bloom
10. What a Dream
Audio Notebook Vol. 2 was picked mostly from sessions on June 2 and August 17, 2011 at Kent Finlay's Cheatham Street Woodshed studio in San Marcos, TX. "Life is Sad" and "Meet Me Old Man" are from an April 1, 2014 session. This was a crazy time in my life, the bigger-shop years of Birdsong Guitars, me treating days on end as 24-hour blocks of time to subdivide and use however would be most productive, with short naps in-between. Decades earlier, Kent as my songwriting mentor and connection that brought me to Texas from the east coast had told me to write every day. I had. Now I was trading him instruments for studio time, and we weren't really too specific. I worked by myself with an engineer and got a lot of stuff down over several sessions. Including one particularly insane 50-song night that Vol. 3 will be about. Russell Tanner engineered all of this and all of that. Much of the electric stuff is floating around online from attempted "releases" over the years, and on an album credited to The One-Armed Saints, but it's really all me. This is some of the best of the acoustic stuff, which was some of my best songs. May they fly now.
LIFE IS SAD
In January of 2007, I was in a motel room in . On my way back from picking up some things I had left with my mother when I had set out on life's adventure many years earlier. While back east, I said some potential goodbyes to some elderly family, and we got the call my stepfather had passed away, so there was that funeral. I settled in and checked in to home base in Texas. My good friend and mentor John had died. I hung up the phone, sat down, and wrote this song. Somewhere is a 4-track recording of it from that night in the motel room, one of these volumes will be of road recordings and that version might make it on.
THAT SAYS IT ALL
From the 50-song June 2, 2011 session. A song from 1996 or so, about deep love and looking toward the future.
COME ON HOME
For all those who've ever not been the better deal. It is what it is, and you don't know what's coming down the road anyway... I think if you do it right, you end up even more grateful for those dreams that never came true.
Lamenting the old ways, I guess. The tools, the kind of hands that worked them. It helped in writing this to be living in a small town up a 2-lane that became a gold rush for developers and people who'll pay anything to be here, all packed in to new subdivisions but on top of each other like the old working class cities I wanted to get away from. I'm still out here in the woods, and still working with old mens' tools.
One of the best songs to ever come out of me. A different mix made it onto my 2021 album All Things in Their Time. I picture it playing under the closing credits of a movie where maybe the good guy doesn't win. Maybe he takes one for the team, but is still looking up. I mean, what's left if you lose it all but freedom? "Up from the shit comes roses."
I MADE HER CRY
Some songs are writing exercises where you imagine yourself in a situation and, put there, what you'd feel and say. You go deep and then the phrases come. You tie these imaginary moments in with things you've actually felt, and word them out 'til they feel real. This song isn't one of those.
Another from the infamous 50-song session. I wrote it on the way to the studio and there has always been something I've loved about it. I hope it feeds you in some good way.
MEET ME OLD MAN
A different mix is out somewhere, but this is a special song - the entire chorus came to me in a dream, and I was able to bring it out and write it down. Some important things have come to me like that, but you don't know what is important until it is. So in the Audio Notebook project it goes! I always sleep with a notebook by me because stuff is always falling out of my head and it's my job to catch it. Recordings with layers, I usually just wing it, re-tuning, finding notes and silence to weave as I go. It's what happens when the red light comes on a second time.
AFTER THE BLOOM
Written in 2009, and one of the later recordings from the June 2 session. The time stamp on it is actually June 3 at 12:58 AM! We just kept going. This is about time and relationships.
WHAT A DREAM
A good song to end with.
1. Don’t Tempt Me
2. Summer Rain
3. The Sadness of Sunday
4. Church of Country Music
5. Saturday Night To Me
6. The Illegals
7. Prisoners of Promises
9. Ridin’ In The Rain (S. Beckwith / K. Finlay)
10. The Journey (S. Beckwith / K. Finlay)
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