Everything Old Is New Again: Revisiting The Deep Fork Sessions

Long ago, back in the far-flung year of 2011, before Covid and President Emoluments Clause, my brother and I had a dream: we were gonna be rock stars.

Okay, maybe not rock stars. Maybe folk heroes. That would be good. Or maybe even just halfway decent musicians. The bar was low, is what I’m saying.

We’d recorded a whole album several years earlier, you see. Delusions of Grandeur, we called it (we’ve always seen clearer than most when it comes to our own dreams, I guess). It was . . . a thing. It’s not good. There are maybe a dozen copies of it out there in the world. It’s not rarest Cross-Eyed Yeti artifact, though. There are two others that defeat it: our 2011 follow-up, The Deep Fork Sessions, and our initial demo/live show at the Mammoth Hot Springs Employee Pub cassette tape. Neither of those have ever seen the light of day, except for my brother and I having copies of the former and me holding the only copy of the latter. As far as I’m concerned, that tape gets buried with me so no one ever has to listen to our rendition of “Love is a Rose.”

But last night, after I finished recording an old song for my current album (the song is called “At The Finish Line,” while the album is tentatively titled Middle Aged Heartthrob, because, c’mon, I’m a hunk) and sent it over to my brother, he reminded me that we’d done a recording of this one before.

It had “my best guitar riff ever!” he texted.

I was confused. I hadn’t remembered a Yeti version of this one. I went digging, and came up with The Deep Fork Sessions.

Now, there are at least two completely different versions of this album out there. I somehow ended up with the one that has the messed up mandolin on “I Don’t Need You.” I’ve heard the actual, correct version of that one at my brother’s house, but it’s only saved on one iPod that he’s sort of afraid to plug into his computer, lest it wipe the iPod’s memory and leave us with nothing.

Anyway, going back through this old album is a little bit cringe-y. I’m sure most artists feel that way about their early work. I especially do, since I couldn’t really sing at all back then. We’re also not really particularly happy with how any of the drums sound, but we were working with what we had and what we had was minimal at best. The guitars all sound pretty good, though, and my brother’s burgeoning obsession with the organ is present. Let’s dive in.

The album opens with “Subterranean Dylan,” one of the first songs we ever wrote (and also the song that opened Delusions of Grandeur. If we ever release a third album, it’ll probably be the opener there, too). It’s actually pretty great, I think. The organ part fits well into the song, and my brother blows a little harmonica in between verses for fun. It swings a bit. My vocal delivery isn’t absolutely terrible.

Next up comes “Substance Abuse,” one of our early rockers written after a summer at Yellowstone National Park. There are lots of references to our time in Yellowstone in that one, from the out-of-tune toothbrush to Lester to “one-eyed crossbow.” The claps in this one crack me up. My singing is a little strangled in this one. I could easily do this song better now.

We tried really hard to turn “Nothing Matters” into a CCR song. I sang it way too high in my register. And nasally. But the guitars are fairly crunchy, considering our technological limitations. Drums, while still sound artificial, fit pretty well. And what I tend to think of as the guitar riff for this one started out as an organ riff. Who knew?

“Never Knew Joy” was originally a slow, quiet ballad, but of course Clyde had to up the tempo and add in some jaunty harmonica and electric guitar. I kinda dig it, though. I tend to write a lot of sad bastard songs, and they’re really only palatable once he kicks them into a higher gear.

Clyde’s intro for this version of “I Don’t Need You” was brilliant. An acoustic guitar/banjo/mandolin collaboration with our dad’s Cousin David, it sounds . . . well, professional. Like something you could hear on a real record, maybe. Then we goof around and I sing about how I’m totally fine with the breakup, no really, it doesn’t bother me at all. And Lord, did I need a pop filter for this one.

“Rational Thoughts On A Saturday Night” is another of my sad bastard songs. One I never really figured out how to sing well, I can admit. The acoustic guitar and banjo arrangement Clyde uses on this version sounds great, and he’s been telling me for years how he’s been working up a piano-based version that – from what I’ve heard – should end up amazing.

Another of our rockers, “The Twelve Lines That Didn’t Work” sounds different with so much banjo in it. Clyde’s latest version is much slower and piano-based (as with so much of his more recent output). At least we found a key that was within my vocal range. In hindsight, I do feel kinda awful for how gaslighty the lyrics to this song sound now.

I still like “Here In My Grave.” He managed to work an accordion into it. An accordion! I love it. This was a song I wrote completely by myself, but Clyde seemed to pick up exactly what I was putting down with it. Honestly, if we were to rerecord this one, I don’t know that we’d be able to do it better, just cleaner and with slightly-improved production.

If we were trying for CCR with “Nothing Matters,” that goes doubly for “Ain’t Crooked,” which here holds the parenthetical additive of “Swamp Boogie.” I tried to affect a bit of John Fogerty growl, but it does not work. Nope. I think the overall song is just too fast for the lyrics. That is a common problem with the two of us.

“Clyde’s Blues” is our theme song, if ever there was one. The song most fully formed from its very inception. I tried to affect a bluesy growl for this one, to varying degrees of success. It’s still fun, though I prefer the more sped up version we usually played.

Clif next offered up his take on “Complete Control,” which does exist out there on my Creature Comforts album. While he really gets his Eric Burden and the Animals on in this one with that organ, he plays the chords in the chorus in the wrong order, something that always threw me off and annoyed me. “They still sound fine,” he said. “They actually work better in this order.” Well, opinions still vary on that point, my brother.

“The Misfit Waltz” was a weird one. Not one I sang very well, I don’t think. The lyrics needed a second pass. I like Clyde’s music for it, though, with the acoustic and accordion taking the fore. Gives it a real off-kilter vibe that I dig.

Now we come to “At The Finish Line,” with Clyde’s “best guitar riff ever.” It is a pretty damn good riff. I sing it with conviction and don’t screw it up too bad, which is nice. Clyde shorted me on the chorus by a few measures, but he does that.

“As Shadows Lengthen” is another I’ve been working on for the current album. Here, it gets a laidback country vibe and lap steel. I like the lap steel. I like that we were reaching out well beyond our feeble grasp and taking a chance with something. I feel the newest version of the song could use some lap steel, too.

At some point, I want to do a new version of “Figure Something Out.” Clyde has a habit of giving all of his instrumentals titles, and then I tend to base the lyrics around that title. That’s what happened here. I dig the guitar part he came up with for this one, and I think with a little effort I could have the lyrics in good shape and maybe even be able to sing it.

Clyde was never happy with “The Closer (Here In Paradise),” in large part because it features a structural transition at two parts. It starts as a softly-picked acoustic ditty about being at the seaside, then transitions into an acoustic strummed ditty about being at the seaside, before transitioning back to the soft picking. That second round of soft picking never ends up sounding like the first, and is in fact done in a completely different style and tempo. We could probably do this one better now.

Amusingly, “The Closer” is not the final song on the album. That honor belongs to “The Folk Singers Blues,” one of my absolute favorite Yeti tunes. It’s built around a great guitar riff and features some of my best early lyrics, if I do say so myself. I think I’ve convinced Clyde to re-record this one but featuring the banjo in the place of the guitar. I think it’ll sound keen.

And that’s it. That’s The Deep Fork Sessions, the completed but never released second Cross-Eyed Yeti album. It features album artwork by Adam Askins, who did the cover for Delusions of Grandeur as well. Corner me somewhere sometime and I might be convinced to play you a track or two off it, but only if you’ve been a horrible human being and want to suffer some divine punishment.

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon at 50

Fifty years ago today, Pink Floyd released an absolute masterpiece. There’s no other way to describe Dark Side of the Moon. Moody and abstract, creative and dense, it’s unlike any other record I’ve ever heard. I can’t remember the first time I heard a song off Dark Side – they’ve just always been around, in the air, like oxygen – but I remember when I first listened through the whole album in one sitting. I was a freshman in high school. Some friends of mine from the church youth group, the Souders twins, had gotten me into Pink Floyd just the summer before high school started. And I got Dark Side for my birthday. As I sat on my bed, the CD liner notes opened up before me, I heard the first strains of “Speak To Me/Breathe.” That heartbeat. So simple. So evocative. And that sudden swell of sound, the noise and chaos, the swirling voices emerging and submerging again and again in the tidal wave of music…its fair to say that album blew my tiny mind.

Dark Side of the Moon is, in many ways, the ultimate exploration of the key themes and concepts of Floyd’s music. Alienation, loneliness, the oppressive atmosphere of society, and mental illness all come up in the lyrics.

Dark Side is one of the first albums I ever listened to where I didn’t feel like there was a single song I could skip. While I may not necessarily enjoy “On The Run,” I understand its purpose in the flow of the album, transitioning us into the epic “Time,” with its cacophony of bells and whistles as the clocks all strike the hour and drummer Nick Mason’s tick-tock inspired drum introduces the song proper.

The songs that always impressed me the most on this album are the same ones that always impress everyone. “Time,” with its earthy, mundane realizations that life will pass you by while you’re busy waiting for it to start and its soaring David Gilmour guitar solos, remains a favorite. “Money,” with its unusual time signature and cash register sound effects, could have become a bumbling, goofy track, but manages to retain a sinister feel throughout its runtime. “Us And Them,” with its wartime metaphor and that great sax solo. The closers, “Brain Damage” shifting seamlessly into “Eclipse,” those triumphant keyboard and drum flourishes as “Eclipse starts up,” and the roar fading away to reveal what we started the album with: the heartbeat under it all.

Yeah, all of those songs are great. But, for my money, the best of the bunch is “The Great Gig In The Sky.” Vocalist Clare Torry understood the damn assignment on this one. Her wordless howls of anguish, longing, and fear convey the awesome majesty of the song. No words are needed. Keyboardist Richard Wright proved his metal in this song. It’s simply full of great musicians playing with everything they’ve got, pushing the limits of pop songcraft well past the breaking point.

Dark Side of the Moon is a cultural touchpoint, even 50 years later. Every song on the album is fantastic. Every instrumental choice, every note sung, was carefully chosen for maximum impact. I’m honestly more than a little envious of people who get to hear this album for the first time with fresh ears, especially songs like “The Great Gig In The Sky.” If Pink Floyd had broken up after this album, never given us Wish You Were Here or The Wall, they’d still be considered one of the greatest bands of the 70s. Of all time, really. This album, more than anything else, is what solidified Floyd as a musical force. And all these years later, it still holds up.