Ep. 58: Song “The Showdown” (Influenced by Tapes ‘n Tapes)

For this week’s episode, I’m sharing a song I wrote and recorded several years ago called “The Showdown”

The creation of this piece of music was originally inspired by the song “Insistor” by the band Tapes ‘n Tapes. When I first heard it, it was real different from what was happening with indie rock at the time. The sound borrowed from Johnny Cash and the rockabilly tradition but with kind of a darker twist. It was a little heavy but not quite punk. I liked the rolling beat, and off-kilter strumming and the type of story telling they used. All these elements played into the creation of my song.

I wrote the music and lyrics to my song around 2007. It’s fictional story about a kidnapping set in the desert. I tried something a little different this time by having a shifting point of view but mostly from the first person perspective. The first verse is the kidnapper leaving instructions to drop off ransom money.

Waiting at the truckstop of an old abandoned town
You better have the money when we get there
Leave it in a suitcase set it just behind a garage can
And walk away and never look back
Don’t you try and test us cuz you’ll push us to the limits
We will end this showdown in a minute
If you wanna see your son alive then follow our directions
And comply with our every request

The second verse if a conversation between the kidnappers and the hostage, who begs to be let go.

Left me on the street for nearly half a dozen weeks
It shows that this ain’t working something’s changing
You can keep your fingers crossed the county police have never lost
The sheriff’s gonna crack the case and
All the way to stateline you’ll be begging for you life
Unless we get the ransom from your father
If you let me go than I will make it worth your while
You can negotiate a higher price

The chorus is from the Sheriff’s perspective trying to convince the kidnapper to give up.

Hey, you know that this ain’t worth your time now
Hey, we’re gonna catch you any day now
Hey, you know that this ain’t worth your time now
Hey Hey

The third verse shifts between the mother, sheriff and hostage, where things are kind of at a standstill and the sheriff and his men are have their guns drawn, ready to fire at any moment.

Mother’s on the phone says if you got it in your soul than you will
Let my son walk free tonight but
Keep your pistols drawn because we’re gonna call his bluff
I got the suspect in my line of site
They’ve got the kid in ropes I think they’re gonna break his bones
Unless we get the ransom from your father
It’s kinda hard to talk when you got a pistol down your throat
And any minute they could set the trigger off

I decided to leave the ending unresolved so we never find out whether the hostage is set free or not. I think having that sort of uncertainly adds to the tension, which is what the song is about.

I recorded the song about a year later with my band, Declaration. For the instruments, we used electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums and organ. Here’s a clip of the original version, which was also featured in the film Scout Camp.

Not long after the release of this recording, two members of the band graduated college and moved away. The drummer, Dan Smock, and I started a new band with the intention of going for a more folk rock/alt-country kind of sound. We called ourselves Adding Machines. Most of the songs we played were new songs but The Showdown is a tune that we carried over from playing in Declaration.

We decided we would re-record it but this time with a different approach. We started with acoustic guitar and bass. We got a friend of ours, Matt Weidauer to play the mandolin part. He later joined the band as a permanent member and I continue to perform with him in my Beatles cover duo, The Fab Folk.

Next, we recruited a violin player who used to perform at Muse Music named Mike Wong to play the fiddle part. He played an electric violin, which I thought was kind of cool. Pretty much the whole thing was improvised. I remember the first take he played was too busy. I asked him to played it again but more simplified. He ended up over-compensating and it was too simple. So for the third take, I told him to split the difference and it ended up perfect so that what we used in the recording.

For the percussion, we used a suitcase as the kick drum and various pots and pans and random objects we had in the cafe for the extra rhythm parts. We also layered several handclaps to go along with the percussion. Last, we added several layers of group vocals on the chorus to really give it a hoe down type of feel.

I’m pretty happy with the overall results. I think we landed somewhere between bluegrass and gypsy music and it has a really good energy to it. It’s very different from anything else I’ve recorded to that point or even since. Here’s the final mix.

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