1. Essence (Performed by Māya Beth Atkins)
This swaggering Americana tune was the first track recorded for the "Be Good To Yourself" album. The song explores the duality of addiction, comparing romantic obsession to habitual drug use. It’s a potent statement made more so by singer Māya Beth Atkins’ worldly vocal (unbelievably, she was still in her teens when this was recorded) and guitar work that would make Neil Young smile.
2. Away With Love (Performed by Snüzz)
This stylized arrangement of a solo Peter Holsapple tune, crowned by a wonderful Snüzz vocal, pays homage to the PH factor, circa The dB’s. It boasts an accelerated tempo, guitars that bite instead of jangle, and shotgun drums that reflect the ingenuity of Keith Moon. The stacks of lush vocal harmonies, courtesy of Snüzz, float atop a melodic bass line that nods at dB’s bassist Gene Holder. The ending sonic maelstrom is the detonation of a Chris Garges assortment of guitar pedals at the feet of guitarist/accomplice Joe Louis DeFacto.
3. Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (Performed by Libby Rodenbough)
This song, first recorded by the band Travis, offers a compelling first-person look at the confusion of depression. An upbeat arrangement brings buoyancy to lyrics that ask hard questions but give no answers. It’s the humanizing vocal by Libby Rodenbough (Mipso) that lures the listener as it juggles weight with sweetness. That Rodenbough also sings all the harmonies and plays all the string lines makes this one of the project’s most endearing performances.
4. Getaway Car (Performed by Don Dixon)
Snüzz is one of North Carolina’s most beloved songwriters, and Getaway Car is one of his best songs. When Snüzz granted permission to interpret the then-unreleased song, he mentioned he had The Who in mind when he wrote it. Voila! Getaway Car reimagined as The Who, circa 1967-72, replete with a roared vocal from Don Dixon, Chris Garges as Keith Moon and Joe Louis DeFacto’s knick-and-a-wink tribute to Pete Townshend. Big detonation! Windmilling optional. Great fun!
5. Dreams That Shone Like Diamonds (Performed by Mike Strauss)
This revision of an obscure Robin Trower song will satisfy all who ponder what would happen if Mark Knopfler sang with Pink Floyd. Spatial guitars shimmer. Mellotron and Hammond organ bewitch. And Mike Strauss’ narrative vocal inspires astonished double-takes that bring a surreal touch to this tale of life unraveling. Weightless guitar solos by Rob Slater (first) and Joe Louis DeFacto (last) are marvels. The ending punctuation will make you smile.
6. Pills (Performed by Bruce Hazel)
Who knew that Pills, a favorite song from the New York Dolls’ debut album, was written by…Bo Diddley?!! The DeFactos didn’t - not that this info altered the course of this funhouse-fever-dream version. Drafted on 24-hours notice, singer Bruce Hazel (Temperance League) delivered a vocal worthy of a straitjacket. And Chris Garges’ gonzo arrangement takes a punkish foundation and turns it hallucinogenic. Accordion? Cello? WTF? It will haunt your dreams.
7. Short Flight To Jordan (Performed by Peter May)
This lovely instrumental is by guitarist Peter May. It is actually a sliver of a longer piece (the full performance can be heard on May’s excellent "Blues & Gospel" album). But it is this abridged version that deftly enshrines the essence of the song’s title - a metaphor for the when the soul departs at the moment of death. The song deftly conveys a host of complex emotions in just 47 seconds: Beauty, wonder and, at the end, a moment of contemplation before vanishing into what awaits beyond.
8. Free To Go (Performed by Josh Daniel)
Singer, songwriter and musician Neal Casal took his life as sessions for this project began. We decided to include a Casal song to pay tribute and as a way to underscore the project’s purpose. This song, from the 1995 album "Fade Away Diamond Time," jumped out. This farewell to a troubled friend now took on darker meaning - something reflected by the song’s accelerated tempo; the probing urgency of Josh Daniel’s vocal and the edgy guitar solos by Rob Slater and Joey Recchio, whose explosive ending solo perfectly conveys a frantic state of mind.
9. The Saint of Lost Causes (Performed by Bruce Piephoff)
This evocative wink-and-a-nudge song by Justin Townes Earle moved from parody to tribute when Earle died of a drug overdose soon after this was recorded. Darkness engulfs a lugubrious Bruce Piephoff vocal that unfurls atop a graveyard groove. Squalls of cat-yowl guitar quantify accents of shivery vibraphone. But it’s the midnight, gumshoe vibe of Brad Wilcox’s muted trumpet that ultimately asks the question: Why exactly did you do that voodoo? RIP JTE.
10. While The World Careens (Performed by Bill Lloyd)
Producer Chris Garges has played drums alongside Mitch Easter for many years. Imagine our delight when Garges brought in While The World Careens, an unreleased Easter song. The demo, which has Easter singing and playing all parts, served as the blueprint for the song’s public debut on Be Good To Yourself.… Bill Lloyd (of hip country duo Foster & Lloyd and solo power-pop fame) nails the vocal, and the goosebumps guitar solo, courtesy of Rob Slater, formerly of Sneakers, pays stout homage to Easter’s inventive guitar playing. A DeFacto favorite.
11. Thunderbird (Performed by Rick Miller and Mary Huff)
Thunderbird, performed by Rick Miller and Mary Huff of Southern Culture On The Skids, is a wacky song about the joys and perils of guzzling cheap screw-top wine. One listen and the sing-along chorus and rooster-strut groove linger for weeks. But perspective can unveil the dark end of party street. The narrator’s behavior turns destructive. Niceties are jettisoned. Anger rises. So is there a moral trapdoor to this party-on folk tale? This much is certain: It’s an irresistibly good song - and you can dance to it with pants down - or so we hear.
12. Ghostland (Performed by John Howie, Jr.)
This tear-stained country song by David Childers demanded a certain type of narrative singer. Enter, John Howie Jr. and Caitlin Cary, who fit the song’s shattered hearts and dark desperation like tight Nudie suits. Their emotional vocal is top-shelf classic country, championing old attitude while embracing the tilt of modern times. Old-soul country for a new age.
13. Barstool (Performed by Justin Faircloth)
One of the pleasures of this project was discovering amazing talent unknown to most of us. Nowhere was that more in evidence than on this song by singer-songwriter Sunshone Still. This vivid tale of broken-hearted drunken self-destruction unfolds like a short story. Singer Justin Faircloth perfectly executes shifting emotions as dynamics move from hushed acoustic verses to mushroom-cloud explosions of guitars. Deft use of cello, synthesizer and harmonium further heightens what is a potent and magical listening experience
1. Frankenstein (Performed by Chris Garges, Kenny Soule, Ed Bumgardner, Daniel Seriff, Mark Stallings, Jay Reynolds, Tracy Thornton)
If you are of a certain age, you are probably overly familiar with Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein - one of the most unlikely songs in rock history to become an omnipresent ear worm. In the spirit of weird fun, Chris Garges resurrected this totem of the 1970s and with the help of a diverse array of stellar musicians - players from Asleep At The Wheel and Nantucket are among the cast - assembled a spare-parts re-creation worthy of the song’s namesake. There are…surprises. Is it serious? Is it good? Does anybody remember laughter? (For Miles)
2. Late (Performed by John Elderkin)
Ben Folds’ original recording of Late is very, very good. But this stripped-down acoustic version, built on a vocal-and-guitar iPhone demo by John Elderkin (The Popes), strips away the original’s gloss to offer something more - a fragile look at a broken heart, bleeding out. Elderkin added a new vocal and a second guitar track to the demo, and a string quartet (members of the Charlotte Symphony) performs a gorgeous string arrangement by Ron Brendle. The power and intimacy of the performance can bring tears. The soul of the project.
3. Manic Depression (Performed by Faith Jones)
When tackling a Jimi Hendrix tune, you can try to replicate the original and likely fall short. Or you can dance out on that quivering high wire with a different vision. This recasting of Manic Depression takes the latter path. The song moves at a weighty tempo. Expected riffs cede to unexpected chord voicings and guitar squalls that nod at Jimi without imitating. Evocative singing by Faith Jones lends authority to the deepening sense of despair. The result rocks a different shade of blue - and Hendrix was all about different.
4. Sooner Or Later Now (Performed by Danielle Howle)
This ear-worm was plucked from "Dust Parade," the latest album by Temperance League, a veteran band from Charlotte. The DeFactos inadvertently extended the backing track - DeFactos are bad at math - and composer Bruce Hazel was asked to write another verse. He mentioned he would love to hear the song belted by a female. Enter Danielle Howle, who drove from South Carolina with five pounds of fresh shrimp, knocked out a terrific vocal, and was gone. Hazel got his wish. The DeFactos got shrimp. The world got an evocative performance by a one-of-a-kind singer.
5. Ruby Beach (Performed by Jeffrey Dean Foster, Ava Louise Foster)
Ruby Beach, by The Houston Brothers, the multi-faceted Charlotte duo of Matt and Justin Faircloth, is one of two great tracks suggested by singer-songwriter Kenny Roby, who never made it onto the album due to the pandemic. The bewitching vocals are by Jeffrey Dean Foster and his daughter, Ava Louise Foster. The rhythm section’s transformative Fleetwood-Mac-with-a-twist vibe is heightened by Foster’s Lindsey Buckingham-meets-Neil Young guitar solo and vocals that would make Christine McVie blush. Lovely!
6. Betty Ford (Performed by Bob Northcott)
The only proper way to answer an irreverent Terry Anderson ode to guzzling Thunderbird (“What’s the word?!”) is with an irreverent Anderson look at celebrity rehab. Betty Ford is no stern crime-and-punishment saga. This bashed out, hilariously descriptive look at voluntarily doing time in rehab is all spirited vocals, courtesy of Bob Northcott (Little Diesel, Secret Service), detonating guitars and drums that punch like Mike Tyson. Think Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson joined by Angus Young, drummer Steve Jordan and guitarist Mick Taylor. Turn to 11 and duck.
7. There Was A Light (Performed by Peter Holsapple)
Big Star, the legendary, star-crossed Memphis power-pop band, fueled an entire generation of Tarheel musicians, hence There Was A Light, written by the late Chris Bell of Big Star. The song traces the arc of romantic despair as it deepens into suicidal depression. Peter Holsapple’s intuitive vocal slides from hope to inconsolability atop a regal arrangement that owes as much to Procol Harum as it does to Big Star. The song is crowned by a magnificent guitar solo by Mitch Easter that lifts an already emotional song toward the heavens.
8. Fearless (Performed by Rod Abernethy, Robert Kirkland)
One would never readily associate Rod Abernethy and Robert Kirkland of Arrogance fame with Pink Floyd, which makes the duo’s lovely performance of Fearless, a song plucked from the band’s 1971 "Meddle" album, all the more astonishing. Driven by layers of largely acoustic guitar and lovely pedal-steel guitar, this arrangement’s pastoral feel (think "Led Zeppelin III") allows Abernethy’s evocative lead vocal and Kirkland’s stacks of harmonies to soar. The end result finds power in gentleness - and the repetitive ascending guitar hook will stick for days.
9. Be Good To Yourself (Performed by Doug Davis)
This song, written by bassist Andy Fraser of Free, is a giddy, full-on funky celebration of life. A loping bass-and-drum groove is supported by grinding guitars and banged piano that recall Joe Cocker’s High Time We Went. An oh-so-soulful Doug Davis vocal is accentuated throughout by BIG horns straight out of the Allen Toussaint playbook. Terrific sax and guitar solos cap this party. The inspirational lyric: “Be true to one another, to your dying day. May the sun shine down your way.” Words to live by.
10. Better Things (Performed by Brett Harris, Jamie Hoover, Elena Rogers)
When this project began, reworking The Kinks’ Better Things was a thematic given. Then the pandemic hit, and with it a flood of versions of Better Things. The tune was shelved. Months later we revisited the song, dismantled it and rebuilt something new. Drums were replaced by percussion. Guitars were dialed back. A new, McCartney-esque bass line became dominant. Singer Brett Harris and street choir (Jamie Hoover and Elena Rogers) then fully transformed a rollicking pub anthem into a wistful prayer of hope. A balm for troubled souls.
The Big Moment in every Arrogance show arrived when singer Don Dixon squeezed the sin out of Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman.” Dixon again raises goose bumps on his righteous reading of “We Got It," by the great Eddie Hinton. The wide-berth arrangement is stripped back and slowed down, giving Dixon room to get down and testify. Churchy organ worthy of Booker T.; soul-sister background vocals by Shana Blake; Memphis-bound horns and a “correct” guitar solo by Gino “Woo Funk” Grandinetti seal the deal. The definition of soul.
02. You're So Rude (performed by Jack Cornell)
The focus of Jack Cornell’s magical reading of “You’re So Rude” was, in the woozy spirit of the Faces, to “have us a real good time.” Mission accomplished! Cornell’s vocal is fantastic, and his love of the Faces' original is obvious and contagious. Guitars weave in and out of David “DK” Kim’s pub-bound groove as keyboardist Billy Livsey - who worked with Ronnie Lane (he also played the synth solo on Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With it”) - pays homage to the late Ian McLagan. And the good-time horn section takes the party home in New Orleans style!
03. Younger Face (performed by Terry Anderson)
Dan Baird (Georgia Satellites) worked with Terry Anderson in The Yayhoos, so Anderson is the perfect person to tackle Baird’s song about an aging musician who is confronted by the “younger face” vying to take his place. It’s a big song - walls of guitars; grinding Hammond organ; knockout-punch drums and a wink of psychedelia. Anderson’s knowing vocal lends credence to lyrics that examine the dichotomy between the boastful arrogance of the young lion and the been-there wisdom of the veteran. Pay attention - the reveal is in the last four words!
04. You Are Sacred (performed by Peter May)
Peter May is a skilled practitioner of acoustic blues who is well-versed in Piedmont blues. His composition “You Are Sacred” is a feel-good, quasi-religious song that would fit well in the catalog of Rev. Gary Davis. May’s rolling finger-picking is terrific, but the addition of a tuba, played by Molly Jay (Mike Strauss Band), carries the performance into territory once championed by Taj Mahal and young Bonnie Raitt, among others. Once again, May’s willingness to champion tradition and chase his muse down musical alleys comes to charming resolve.