Track 4/?: Sally Forth, Under My Nails (1996)

I’m not sure if my voice was this brittle back then, or if the tape is a bit sped up, but every attempt I made to regulate it made it sound like a different mutant, so what Keith Irwin’s copy yielded is what we have:

There were different little triumphs before I started playing out, where high school classmates will tell you that my writing started showing promise at A, B, or C, but I think most people that started seeing me play in college will tell you the first time I showed some real potential was Under My Nails.  It’s certainly the song that’s stuck with me the longest — I still play it, although now I play it in the key of E, two-and-a-half steps above this version (this was recorded in B, I’m pretty sure.  I must have tuned, there’s two guitars. Does anybody have a good plugin for stretching for both time-and-pitch, something built to correct for aging, well-worn tapes?)

In any case, I was coming back from my first date with Sally, and I was in full-on heart.  I sang this whole song to myself on the walk home through Schenley Park, then learned to play it on guitar.  This was the first song I’d written this way, and it’s pretty much the way I write now — I’d say 9 of the 14 songs were written without a guitar in my hands until they were done, and the others probably required a long walk or a hot shower to iron out the weak spots, because my interest at some point shifted away from being tricky with my guitar to writing songs I could see people singing to themselves when they weren’t on.

If I had a complaint about this song, it would be that it’s pretty long. I don’t know what I’d cut out. Maybe I’d just speed it up a bit. Maybe I have — I haven’t timed the newer version, so maybe it’s not that long anymore? This bears further investigation.

Gar and I had an argument about the track order reference number. We were referring to the same song, but he was insisting that it was Track 5. Turns out Gar only had Crowded House’s hits collection. Sally and I were true hearts and both knew “Don’t Dream It’s Over” to be TRACK FOUR on the actual album it was on.

HA! I just hit the Crowded House reference, with the whispered “There is freedom within/There is freedom without” that is panned left then right. That means that part is on its own channel, and that I felt it warranted that trick. (Remember, four-track with three working faders. No automation. To pan something, I had to know it was coming, and turn that dial in real time.)


I count two guitars (They’re pretty much playing the same thing for a lot of the time, I think I was just trying to thicken it up), two voices, and that dumbass whisper thing, but I think the whisper is part of the second vocal because the two voices are panned away from each other. So guitar one, then guitar two, bounce, then vocal one, then vocal two.

This is the first song I recorded twice, too — Stone Soup had a songwriter drop out at the 11th hour, winnowing our 13-song album (14? 13) down to 9, so I played this song, Acceptance, and one other one and Rick picked this one. The Stone Soup version has three-part harmonies throughout pretty much the whole song if I remember right, but we’ll get there eventually. In any case, I’m so used to hearing Gar Misra sing harmony on this that it’s weird to me when I don’t hear the choices he makes.

I don’t really have much in the way of criticism for this song. I think it’s OK to be smitten, I think the guy in this song knows he’s being unreasonably smitten unreasonably quickly, and I think it’s kind of a fun reminder of what it’s like to feel that way. I’d like to re-re-record this sometime, in the new key. Maybe we’ll find a bunch of those by the end of this.

I will say that the delivery feels twee, but that’s probably symptomatic of the “Youngest Folkie” idea I had in my head back then — I had my impression of how I should sound, and that clashed against the way I actually could sound, and sometimes you have me pronouncing words like “alone” as “ay-lone” (like in Porch Song) or getting a bit overwrought and sounding a bit like Michael McKean singing Listen To The Flower People.

All in all, not bad, Paul from 1996!

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