Diversions :: The Black Swans on Larry Jon Wilson

(Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing.)

This week we catch up with the Black Swans Jerry DeCicca as he reflects on his working relationship with the late/great Larry Jon Wilson. Jerry has an interesting vantage point as he produced Larry Jon Wilson's final album; the self-titled LP released in 2008 via Drag City Records. Unknowingly already a fan of his production work, I became aware of the Black Swans through their spirited rendition of Larry Jon's "The Man I Wish for You" from the 2010 split 7” with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Sing Larry Jon Wilson.   The Black Swans new album, Don’t Blame the Stars, is being released next month on Misra Records. DeCicca's words on Larry Jon Wilson, below.

Larry Jon Wilson quoted Plato, Charles Baudelaire, and Mickey Newbury within the first ten minutes we met. Told me he hustled pool with Fats Domino in his teens, rode schooners and freight trains. His voice the sound of Georgia. That last part I knew from Heartworn Highways and 4 records from the 1970s on Monument. The rest---him being a ham and full of shit---I didn't know.

Three years later, Jeb Loy Nichols, Jake Housh and I helped him make a new record. His first in almost 30 years. A label in the UK was giving us money to give him. Recorded in a high rise condominium overlooking Alabama's Gulf Shores, it took 10 days.

He enjoyed our company and attention. People tried twisting his arm into recorded song before. Somehow we broke him with talks of music, history, books, guitars. Ate and drank together. Gave him cash. He trusted us and told us so.

His old records: chunky and funky, sentimental and sweet, a couple years too late from classic sounds, the production a hair too modern. If cut earlier, good people in the world would mouth his name alongside Kristofferson and Tony Joe White. But LJW never wrote a "Sunday Morning Coming Down" or a "Rainy Night in Georgia." His songs are tough to sing, more detailed in how they're personal.

When LJW talked about making a new record, his mind raced with names and instruments: french horn, Reggie Young, cello, Mac Gayden. He had been making it in his mind for decades. But I knew it would be bare bones, no clutter, Live at the Old Quarter minus the drunks and cue sticks. We lied to him a lot to make the record we wanted to hear.

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