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John Train will return to Fergie's in January 2024
Friday, 12/15 - The Donuts play 118 North w/the Donut Holes and Soup Dreams (benefiting Derek Dorsey)
I’m pretty sure it was 1994 when I found myself in London, sort of poking around. I wandered into an old folk club called the Mean Fiddler where a guy called Terry Clarke was playing. At first, I thought he was doing Van Morrison covers but then I realized he was playing his own songs. Like Van the Man, his stuff was really expansive, both deeply personal and drawing on tradition. As I left the Fiddler, tricked out in my bin liners, stove pipes, and winkle pickers, headed for a curry, mate, I filed away the name Terry Clarke for future investigation. Just kidding, of course, about my kit: I was donning my then and still usual Canadian standard. All denim, all the time.
It took me a while to actually find any of Terry’s records. Back then – when music actually had a value attached to it – finding stuff that didn’t have US distribution was tricky. But eventually I picked up a couple of Terry’s releases and my memory from London proved accurate. This guy could really play (a giant 12 string), sing, and, especially, write songs. I urge you to track down Terry’s Shelly River, whose title track really struck me that night at the Fiddler. Terry was a native of England but, in terms of family history and what he wrote about, Irish through and through.
I later found out that Butch Hancock (who all roads lead back to in my world) had covered a song of Terry’s called “American Lipstick” which also featured on the Shelly River lp. That was enough for me to learn it and I had the pleasure of singing it back to Butch along the banks of the Green River in Utah during the summer of 2022. And, then, again, on the banks of the Chama River in New Mexico this past summer. “Is it too early for a Christmas song, Butch?” “Never!”
When Slo-Mo suggested that John Train cut a xmas single, given my preterite status (cf. Pynchon), I knew I better outsource it and “American Lipstick” immediately came to mind. Here Clarke so beautifully tells the story of Christmas through the lens of an Irish mother thinking of her son in America, proud but mourning his absence around the old home place.
Some thanks are in order: If it weren’t for legendary Philadelphia engineer, John Anthony, hosting John Train at the wonderful Gradwell Studios in South Jersey, there’d be no American Lipstick … or Cowboy Dreams for that matter. Thank you, John!!!! Thanks as always to all of the guys in the band for their wonderful playing and service to the song. Terry originally cut American Lipstick as a duet with Texan powerhouse Rosie Flores (while Terry is almost completely unknown in America, he was sort of an honorary Austinite in the late 80s and early 90s). Not to be outdone, we pulled in our frequent collaborator Shannon McGill whose amazing singing helped us give Lipstick a sort of MacGowan/MacColl feel. Longtime friend and former Low Roader, Rosie McNamara-Jones, pitched in on fiddle as did Jay Ansill. Jay, of course, was a big part of John Train’s early years and we are thankful for the lovely string arrangement he came up with here. I must also thank John Train drummer, Mark Schreiber, for the cool video he put together in support of the song.
So in the spirit of the holidays, we offer up American Lipstick free of charge. You (I mean, we) wouldn’t have it any other way. Enjoy!
We dedicate this recording to the late great Terry Clarke
Thanks for making it out to the John Train fall residency at Fergie's Pub. It's truly a special thing we have going on. See you there in January!
The Donuts begin their winter More Pleasure, More Seconds tour on Friday, December 15th at 118 North in Wayne, Pa. Doors at 7PM. Show at 9PM. Advance tickets recommended.
This show is very special for two reasons. For one, it is part of an on-going series of shows called We Live On: A benefit for Derek Dorsey. Derek, who has been struggling with some challenging health issues for the past several years, is a legendary Philadelphia booking agent, general all-around great guy, and was one of the first supporters of the Donuts. So please come out and support him, ok?
This show is also special because it is truly a family affair. The Donut Holes, led by the irascible Peter Ex, are a full-time Donuts cover band. Many folks say they play our songs better than us! You be the judge. Moreover, we are delighted that the Soup Dreams will kick the night off. They are rockin’ little combo and actually contain at least one relative of our own Colonel Montgomery Pie. Love to see the 2nd Pie Generation kicking out the jams, yo!
Hope to see you in Wayne,
Warning: parties in the drawings are much uglier than they appear in ink
Reknown artist Harry Gray created during last week's show at Fergie's.
Check out Harry's work: https://www.harrygray.co.uk/home
What we did on our summer vacation...
John Train was back in the studio last month recording a version of Terry Clarke's "American Lipstick" with Shannon McGill Vasile at Gradwell House with John Anthony at the helm.
What a blast...
Thanks to everyone who came out and supported us during our winter run at Fergie's Pub. We wanted to thank Dan DeLuca, John Vettese at WXPN, Seán Timmons and Daniel Drago (25 O’Clock) for the great press to help kick it off; our host and guest comic Fergus Carey and Fergie’s staff; John Anthony and Gradwell House Recording Studio for helping us deliver a cool record; special guests Shannon McGill Vasile, Mitchell Tabas, Hoagy Wing and Rosie McNamara Jones; Jon Jolles for the wonderful flyers; and, of course, the Train Army for its unwavering support.
Dan Reed and Jim McGuin have spun a few cuts from the "Cowboy Dreams" LP on 88.5 WXPN. How about ringing 'em up and requesting some John Train?
Our next show will be at the Collingswood Mayfair on Saturday, 5/27. Time/place TBD so stay tuned for details.
And, listen, you gotta come to this Donuts’ "Pleasure of Seconds" show at Kung Fu on Saturday, 4/22. One Night Only! We’ll play cuts from Rockpile’s "Seconds of Pleasure" LP paired with our answer songs, the Pleasure of Seconds. Get it? Advance tickets are strongly recommended. Our pals Ken open! https://kungfunecktie.com/event/the-donuts-ken/kung-fu-necktie/philadelphia-pennsylvania/
Thanks to Robert Griffith for this vid clip of us playing Butch Hancock's "Boxcars" and check out Fergie grooving along.
Jon's on CRAIC!
Jon Houlon was on CRAIC RADIO with Sean Timmons on 1/12 where topics touched on the history of John Train, horses, Fergie's, James Joyce and more. Listen below or here.
Check out CRAIC Radio every Thursday at 5pm on WPPM FM 106.5 FM or stream it at Phillycam.org PhillyCAM offers diverse public access television and radio serving the Philadelphia area.
A few words from Jon...
About 15 years ago, my wife Jodi got interested in horseback riding and in a relatively short period of time became a damn good rider. I found myself hanging around barns quite a bit and often walking alongside the horses during rides in the Wissahickon. Maybe at some point, I’ll take up riding myself, but given my responsibilities running an international multimedia corporation such as John Train LLC, for now, I am satisfied in my role as “Squire Jon” as I have come to be known among Jodi’s fellow riders. I personally call myself a Hot Walker!
We started at Monastery which is just down the street from our home in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. Monastery is a beautiful place – built in 1747! – with great access to Forbidden Drive. Jodi joined the Saddle Club over there and rode a horse named Madison. She eventually began share boarding a horse called Twister with whom I enjoyed hundreds of walks in the park.Twister was eventually moved down to Belmont Stables by his owner Misty Godfrey – who runsBelmont -- so we moved over there with him. Belmont was my first experience among the blackcowboys of Philadelphia and I am very grateful to have gotten to know characters such as Al, Lenny, and Preacher. We also met Erin Brown – who is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy – at Belmont. Erin’s foal Dream became the subject of a song as did Erin herself, first among many great “Concrete Cowgirls” in Philadelphia. I am amazed at how the riders at Belmont (and Fletcher Street for that matter) ride in these most urbanof environs. Fearless. And, yes, Jodi’s friend Fausto really did give his horse Marengo a beer asthey stood outside the Dell listening to R & B. When Twister sadly passed on Christmas day a few years back, we moved to Chestnut Hill Stables where Jodi share boarded Mr. Blues Amigo, a wonderful old gentleman who I never tired of hugging. We eventually got our own quarter horse – the amazing Kira – and are now in a private barn in Andorra. What a journey!
Last summer when legendary Philadelphia sound engineer John Anthony invited John Train to do some recording at Gradwell House in Haddon Heights, NJ, I decided to pull all of my horse related material together and call the collection Cowboy Dreams. The title track was actually written by Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout if you can believe that! We also essay Jonathan Richman’s Since She Started to Ride and David Halley’s Further. I had a couple western sounding instrumentals that seemed to fit in as did Mark Tucker’s honkytonk rave-up Cuttin’ Down on Cuttin’ Up. Finally, I penned one just for the sessions called Blood Horses which was inspired by John Jeremiah Sullivan’s book of the same name. It’s about horses but also about lineage in general as is the whole album.
Jon Houlon, July 2022
WORDS FROM JON
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