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Road To Torreon
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1-CD boxed set (LP-size) with 105-page book, 11 tracks. Playing time 52:24 mns. Concept album - A...more

James Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum: Road To Torreon

1-CD boxed set (LP-size) with 105-page book, 11 tracks. Playing time 52:24 mns.
Concept album - A 106-page book printed on art paper is included, 32 touching pictures by photograper Cavaliere Ketchum, faces and landscapes, framed by citations from those ordinary people. 30x30 cm format.

Photographs of New Mexico Villages by Cavalliere Ketchum
Love songs and other writings by James Talley

Twenty years is a long time, but the older you get the shorter it seems. When Cavalliere Ketchum and I began working on the photo-graphs, stories, poems and songs contained here, we were each over twenty years younger. At that time as well, our nation was involved in a vast war in Vietnam that would change the way a generation of Americans viewed their country and their government. It would influence, as well, the values they taught their children. It would leave its impact on the people of our nations largest cities, and of our smallest hamlets. Since that time, Cavalliere has completed a little over twenty years as a professor of fine arts in photography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and in the process has trained some of this country's finest young photographers. I have spent twenty-two years in Nashville, Tennessee where I have worked at many jobs, along with my music career as a songwriter, singer, and recording artist. For the past eight years, I have been a real estate practitioner. Still the beauty of these images has never died for either of us. They come alive as much today, as they did when they were the ideals and dreams of our youth.

For so many years, as I was trying to get my songs recorded and establish myself as a songwriter and recording artist in Nashville, I was under the tremendous pressure that exists in the "music business" to create something "commercial". That meant recording songs that were acceptable to the format of "country" radio broad-casting. That was the only outlet in the days before cable television, and it is still the primary reason the major record labels have offices and staff in Nashville today. Because of the special subject matter of these songs and these images, they kept getting shifted to the "back burner," because they were not looked upon as commercial, as that term applies to the Nashville music industry. Ironically, they were recognized as significant by John Hammond, Sr. at Columbia Records in New York as early as 1971, and gained me his attention and support. They opened the door, through John Hammond, to my first recording contract with Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records in 1972. A few close friends knew about the songs, and after I signed with Capitol Records in 1975, Peter Guralnick, who documented my career up to that time in his book Lost Highway, made reference to them, but for the most part they remained unknown.

Our world, though, has changed very rapidly over the past few years. Our nation is becoming an even more diverse patchwork quilt of many peoples of many colors and cultures. We are just beginning to acknow-ledge that we must treat each other and the natural world around us with more respect, care and love. This is long overdue. Perhaps then, it is now time to move these images to the front burner, and to share them with the public.

The Story
This is a story of Hispanic mountain families in New Mexico, a people whose heritage dates back to the time of Montezuma, Cortez and the Spanish explorers, and the Governors of Mexico — hundreds of years filled with rich history, legend and life. It is not my intention, however, to "single out" only this group, as the story to be told here has to do with similar conditions all across America today, still, and for that matter in many developing nations all around the globe. Yes, the setting could be different, but the story would be much the same. This just happened to be the region where Cavalliere and I grew up these were the images we saw. Our nation's cities are now the new frontiers, where as a "civilized" society we are faced with a multitude of problems that started generations back, perhaps with the Industrial Revolution.

These rural peoples began their journey from the farms and the countryside, where they could no longer make a living, to the cities of our nation and the world but whether it is the "blues" in the ghettos in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia or New York or in the Latin barrios of Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Denver, Dallas, Houston or San Antonio, the stories are much the same. The differences are cultural. It seems only natural that generations of these people should cling to the land, or more accurately perhaps, the idea of the land, with their hearts, minds and spirits, despite their isolation and their lack of opportunity in the cities. It is their heritage. My own mother, raised on a farm in Oklahoma, will never for-get Oklahoma in the 1930s. Those images will be with her until the day she dies – of hobos coming to the door of the farmhouse to beg her mother for food, of dust storms and the hard labor of non-mechanized rural life.

So what are we talking about here? For one thing, we are not preaching to anyone, and we are not trying to tell anyone what or how they should think. Cavalliere and I are simply storytellers, relating a story about some things that we once saw on our journey through life. At best perhaps we are giving those who encounter our work some things to think about. For what we saw, and what is reflected here, is only a slice of the never ending cultural change that is a part of the human experience. What we saw was the impact of the electronic age, of television and instant mass communications. What we saw was the poverty and lack of opportunity that was a way of life for people with few skills and little education. What we saw were people that persisted in hanging on to the land and the life they knew, even in a new urban setting. It was all they knew. What we saw, too, were people loving, laughing and living with one another, and their everlasting faith and hope.

As some of these people settled in the cities, they became what journalists and the media call the "urban poor." Their homes became the poor sections of the cities, the barrios. This
changed them emotionally, physically and spiritually. They became part of the endlessly compiled government "studies" and "statistics." Others of them "adapted" and "adjusted" and were able to "assimilate" and "compete" within the rules of the "dominant culture." They "achieved" a middle-class status with its own set of frustrations and problems. Still others decided the "city life" was not worth it at any price, and they returned to the land and the countryside to exist in any manner they could.

This then is only a story, a chronicle. It is not meant in any way to be a sociological or anthropological treatise, nor is it a journalistic documentary. It is simply a story. It is a human story about life and the human condition, as seen by a photographer and a writer of verse and melody. Neither Cavalliere Ketchum nor I make any claims toward academia, scholarship or objectivity. These are our thoughts, our feelings and our visions of the people and the times which this work is about.

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Talley, James - Road To Torreon Box set 1
01Maria (The Road To Torreón)James Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
02Ramón EstebanJames Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
03H. John TarragónJames Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
04DemonaJames Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
05La Rosa MontanaJames Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
06She Was A Flower Of The Sunburnt WestJames Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
07The RosaryJames Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
08As I Waited Out The StormJames Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
09Little Child Of HeavenJames Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
10Does Anybody Know Why Ana Maria's Mama Is...?James Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
11I Had A Love Way Out WestJames Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum
"James Talley & Cavalliere Ketchum"

James Talley

I've always enjoyed performing my work in concert with a good band, and I don't think I know a single songwriter who doesn't want to share his or her songs with an audience. Certainly, we don't write them to sing to ourselves. Music is created to be performed, whether it's delta blues or a symphony. The ultimate test, then, for a writer-performer is: can you deliver 'the goods' before an audience ... live? In February and March, 1979, I did two dates each, at the Lone Star Cafe in New York City and the Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta. I had assembled an exciting touring band of five bright, young musicians. Three of them, Larry Chaney (electric guitar), John Salem (piano), and Bill Hawks (bass) had been recruited the previous autumn for the concert I did for Marlboro at the American Grand Prix races in Watkins Glen, New York. (Film maker, Julius Potocsny, made a wonderful film of that Watkins Glen performance for Philip Morris.) I was unable to keep the entire Watkins Glen band together, however, for these winter shows in New York and Atlanta. So I engaged two new players, Chip Hager (harmonica) and Peter Keeble (drums), for these shows. On the band's first trip to New York, the first week in February, we also did a live radio concert on WHN in New York. This was broadcast live from the Lone Star.

Larry Chaney, John Salem and Bill Hawks were all from Wichita, Kansas. and had grown up and played music together for a number of years. They had come to Nashville to play music, and court their dreams, like so many other young musicians have done, before and since. Chip Hager was from Conway, Arkansas, a Vietnam Navy veteran, expert jeweler, serious Budweiser consumer, and unparalleled blues aficionado. He had played with Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers out of Memphis, and was recommended to me by our mutual friend, Greg 'Fingers' Taylor. Peter Keeble was a Nashville native, art history graduate, and was operating a
small recording studio in Nashville at the time. The chance to play some live music, however, with some very talented musicians was about all it took to get him out of the studio and back on the road.

Creativity, I have always felt, is a very solitary thing; but no one can really achieve much, or share that creativity, without the understan-ding and assistance of others. So it is with music, business, and life. There were probably no bigger supporters, fans, or true believers in me and the music I was creating in the mid to late 1970s than Jack Tarver, the owner of the Great Southeast Music Hall, and Mort Cooperman at the Lone Star Cafe. I played the Music Hall on my very first tour as a new artist on Capitol Records in 1976, and when the Lone Star opened in 1977, Mort Cooperman asked me to play at the opening, which I was unable to do, as I did not have my band assembled at the time. The Lone Star was always a treat to play, and New York was always an exciting place for young musicians from places like Wichita, Kansas and Conway, Arkansas. John Salem said to me recently that he will always remember the 'three alarm chili' and swapping quips with Mort at 3:00 A.M.. There was as well, on these New York trips, the spiritual reinforcement from friends in the press like John Walsh, who was then at Newsweek, and Nat Hentoff at the Village Voice, and many others. Atlanta always had tremendous audiences too, and Jack Tarver was a performance himself in those days. Jack and I spent many of our off afternoons floating down the Chattahoochie River in a rubber raft, drinking Miller Lite from the cooler. I never knew with whom I would be called upon to perform at the Music Hall—Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, the Nighthawks, John Prine, or B.B. King. Both The Lone Star and the Music Hall booked a stellar array of talent. The memories go deep, and I have never forgotten the support and friendship extended to me by these two club owners. So it seems only fitting, then, that these tapes, recorded at these two clubs, should be resurrected and released as a live album, even now, fifteen years after the original recordings were made.

Richard Weize, my tireless supporter at Bear Family Records in Germany, who has released seven other James Talley albums in Europe, since resurrecting my music in 1985, asked me a few months ago if I had any tapes we had not yet released. I dug through a box of old cassettes, recorded through the sound boards, from various live performances over the years, and I ran across the tapes of the Lone Star and the Music Hall shows. Fortunately, these tapes were recorded on what was at that time, very new, high quality cas-settes by the Maxell Corporation, 'Ultra Dynamic XL II.' Though in common use now, this was hot stuff in those days, and the sound mixers at both clubs - Darin, at the Lone Star, and Alan Vontillius at the Music Hall - were both using it. Had we not used this ultra-high-bias tape, there would have been much more 'tape-hiss' on these recordings. My wife, my younger son, and I listened to these recordings in the car one afternoon, driving to Memphis, and we were all impressed by the energy and the wonderful per-
formance of the band. Using today's digital technology, and with a little help from my songwriter friend, Ray Methvin, here in Nashville, I was able to digitally transfer and edit these tapes into the finished album.

Because of the way these songs were recorded, 'across the board,' what you are hearing is actually what the audience heard on the nights they were recorded. For such recordings to sound like anything at all, several things have to happen: the musicians have to play flawlessly; I have to remember my lyrics; the sound man has to mix the band correctly; in short, "all the planets have to line up," or what goes down on the stereo two-track is pretty much useless garbage. Fortunately, on these nights, it all came together. Yes, there are a few mistakes here and there, and there are a few places where the mix could have been a little better: but by and large these tapes have the energy of the real thing, and more, they have the feeling. What we have, then, is a moment in time, captured, that but for these recordings, would never be part of this world again. Such is the nature of live performance.

BRICK MASONS ... Nashville, Tennessee has a number of historic and wonderful brick buildings, some of them built before the Civil War, and many of them more than a century old. Have you ever looked closely, studied an old brick building ... seen all those thousands of bricks, laid and stacked, one over the other, this way and that, mortared into place ... chipped a little here, cracked and broken a bit there, and wondered: who put all those bricks in place? Who was that brick mason? What was in his heart, what were his dreams? Did
he have a wife, a family? Was he black; was he white? Was it cold that day, did his teeth chatter? Was the wind blowing through him as he stood on the scaffold? Or was it scalding hot, ninety-five degrees, and him sweating like a race horse? And you wonder ... as you look at the patterns and as the brick rhythms dance and stare at you from the heart of the silent bricks. Musicians are like brick masons ... they fill in the mortar and bricks that finish out a song; they cement it together, put the weep holes in the right places. They form it, frame it, separate it out from the rest of life, and make it special, a thing apart. Their dreams are in rivers of notes as complicated as higher mathematics, in colored waves of sound, in the midnight miles of the road, in the neon-lit truck stop diners, in strong coffee ... all so they can stand before you for a few ...

James Talley Live
Read more at: Copyright © Bear Family Records

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Talley, James - Road To Torreon Box set 1
01 Maria (The Road To Torreón)
02 Ramón Esteban
03 H. John Tarragón
04 Demona
05 La Rosa Montana
06 She Was A Flower Of The Sunburnt West
07 The Rosary
08 As I Waited Out The Storm
09 Little Child Of Heaven
10 Does Anybody Know Why Ana Maria's Mama Is...?
11 I Had A Love Way Out West