Back to the Shack
Former High Country resident and professional musician Mark Bumgarner knows his way around a good country song.
During his time with the band, Jubal Foster, in Nashville, Tenn., he spent many hours writing songs and listening to new creations by other talented songwriters.
But he has to return to the High Country when he wants to hear the new songs of one of his favorite tunesmiths, Jerry Cheek. That’s because Cheek has a day job as the owner and operator of the Tomato Shack on N.C.105 between Boone and Foscoe.
“Jerry is one of the best songwriters I know, and I know a lot of songwriters,” Bumgarner said. “He understands and practices the craft of songwriting as well as anyone. He sits down there at Tomato Shack and writes song after song.”
Cheek’s contributions to the new album are the title track, “When Love Comes Around,” and “I Can Make You Love Me,” co-written by Bumgarner.
“That was one that he had asked me to co-write with him,” Bumgarner said. “Jerry has always been good to throw me a bone every now and then with a tune that isn’t quite finished or he’s maybe hit the wall on.”
For the title track, Bumgarner and his wife fell in love with Cheek’s early version and knew immediately they would have to record it for themselves.
“One day, he gave us a CD of several songs that he had demo-ed,” Bumgarner said. “When Aimee and I heard that song, we knew immediately that it would be perfect and would solidify the album coming into the home stretch. It tied things together so well that we decided to use it for the album title.”
Longtime High Country music scene followers may recall that Bumgarner and Cheek were band-mates in the country rock outfit, Double Shot.
“I had known Jerry for a few years before he asked me to join the band in ’93,” Bumgarner said. “I played with them for about a year and a half before I moved out to Nashville. We’ve remained good friends ever since, and he has been one of my biggest supporters over the years.”
After releasing several albums with Jubal Foster, as well as solo discs, Bumgarner and his wife are releasing “When Love Comes Around” under the band name, Calico Moon. Recorded at Brown’s Cabin in Barnardsville, N.C., it features Aimee Bumgarner on vocals, Mark Bumgarner on vocals, guitar and bass, Milan Miller on keyboards electric guitar and mandolin, Burley Peters on drums, Emmet Carney on mandolin, and Lynn Hensley on pedal steel guitar.
“The album began with my wife and I doing some recording back in 2009,” Bumgarner said. “At that time, I had just finished and released my acoustic record (“On My Way Back Home”), and I was ready to dust off the electric guitars and record something a little different.
“Aimee and I had started singing together more and more seriously. She was coming out and doing shows with me and starting to develop her own repertoire. We had an arrangement or two and thought it would be fun to record them. We really didn’t set out to record an entire album, but as we continued to record and perform together, the thing started to take shape.
“As things progressed, we started to look at what we had done and what we needed in the context of an album. That’s where Jerry Cheek came in.”
In addition to the two Cheek-penned tunes, the album features originals by Aimee and Mark Bumgarner, plus covers “The Last Thing on My Mind” by Tom Paxton, “Jerusalem” by Steve Earle, “Dublin Blues” by Guy Clark and “Tulsa Queen” by Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris.
“‘That’s How I Remember You’ is an obscure tune we discovered on an album by Mike Henderson, who is now the mandolin player for the Steel Drivers,” Bumgarner said. “Mike put out two great hillbilly electric solo albums in the 90s.”
The album closes with the original tune, “Reaching Down to Me.”
“That one is an original gospel number that started out with lyrics that Aimee’s grandmother had written more than 40 years ago,” Bumgarner said. “We developed a melody and an arrangement, then tweaked the lyrics slightly.
“As with most of my projects, I’m usually pretty happy when they’re done. Because I record and produce my own projects, it takes me a year or two to complete an album’s worth of material. It takes me a little longer than the real pros to complete the recording, mixing and mastering process.
What may take them a day, a week or a month, takes me a week, a month or a year to get things to the point that I am comfortable enough to call it finished. Not to mention now trying to work at home with a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old running and crawling around your feet. Raising little ones makes it harder to find the time you need to sequester yourself away to get things done. There are a lot of days that I would much rather be out playing with the kids than sitting in front of a computer screen.
“But in the end, I think the time and the patience pays off, because I have something I can listen to and feel good about for years to come.”
Now that “When Love Comes Around” is finished, the Bumgarners are looking forward to their next musical adventure together, performing live and recording in their home studio in Barnardsville, a little farming community about 15 miles north of Asheville.
“We are planning to record, probably either single songs or EPs, so that we can get them finished and up on the website for digital download a lot quicker,” he said. “Next we want to do a project featuring more roots- and folk-oriented material. We have a wide interest in different types of music, so we’re just going to let those interests lead us in the direction that feels best at that particular time.”
The Bumgarners also plan to start a monthly video series.
“We’re going to record live video and audio of the two of us in our living room, then put a few songs each month on YouTube and on our website,” he said. “Similar to the Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR’s website. We plan to have the audio portion available as a free download.”
For more information on Calico Moon, visit http://www.calicomoonmusic.com.