Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Genesis of Oakley Hall

Crazee & Heaven - Crazee & Heaven (2001)
1. Furrow Of My Brow
2. (I'm Not The) Other Woman

3. Runnin' After You
4. When You've Got A Broken Heart
5. San Antone
6. Have Another Beer
7. Drinkin' & Cheatin'
8. Stolen Fruit
9. After Hours
10. Whiskey Drinkin'

Crazee (Pat Sullivan) - vocals, acoustic guitar, writer
Heaven - vocals, electric guitar, writer
Hills (Will Dyar) - drums
Fame & Fortune (Jesse Barnes) - bass
West Virginia (Claudia Mogel) - fiddle
Kai McBride - National guitar

Andy "Ain't" Mabe - bass (2,3,5,8)
Debbie Gitlin - fiddle (4,8)
Brain Sides - lead guitar (8)
Rick Nathey - pedal steel
Mark Linga - accordion
Brian Doub, Hills, Eric Jackson - engineers
Recorded @ The Wherehouse, Fall 2001; Winston Salem, North Carolina. (

Jesse Cannon - additional vocal recording and mastering @ West West Side
Peter Katis - mixer @ Tarquin Studios
Tony & Joel - mixers @ Studio G
Album design & printing by Kayrock (

New York's Oneida had played five or six times at the Wherehouse by the time of this recording. Papa Crazee fronted that band, but had been exploring Country music outside the group. The Bell Brothers (from the Wherehouse) had played the Knitting Factory with Oneida and stayed at drummer Kidd Millions' place in Brooklyn, where they met Heaven for the first time. Soon after Papa Crazee invited Bell Brothers drummer Hills, to come up and play a show with the Country project he had formed with Heaven, Jesse, West Virginia and Kai. When they were ready to record Crazee & Heaven (as they were known) wanted Hills drumming, so they came down and recorded at the Wherehouse studio. As is evident from the credits, they used many local musicians to fill out the songs they had written. Much of this transpired from the desire to beef up the studio for the out-of-towners, as most Wherehouse recordings up to this point had been done with a cassette 4-track. This was accomplished by borrowing an ADAT machine from Robert Kirk, who had connections that put the project in touch with Gitlin and Nathey. Nathey in particular floored Papa Crazee when he arrived at the studio and was told no more about the first song than the key and 'swing-style'; at which point he laid down a track in a single take that had Papa doubled over giggling with delight.

Several weeks before the group arrived, the Wherehouse hosted a film night, screening the films of resident filmmaker Frank Eaton; starring members of the Wherehouse and surrounding community. From that night a woman lodged a complaint with the Winston Salem Fire Department, who soon arrived to inspect the facilities. It appeared the issue was being dealt with, but several weeks later (about half way through the four day recording session) the Fire Department and their inspectors arrived in mass for a full frontal surprise inspection, that ended with the building basically being declared a fire hazard. The band had only a short amount of time alotted to record anyway, so with the basic tracks finished, they took the tapes back to NYC for mixing and vocal dubs. Before they left, the group moved their equipment upstairs to provide an evening of entertainment in the kitchen. This was not the first or last time the Wherehouse had to hunker down, regroup and figure out a way to keep moving forward.

Crazee & Heaven were together long enough to come down and visit several more times, including for one of the infamous shows at the Seed Gallery with Oneida and Malabaster (October 5, 2002) ! Eventually, Heaven ended up moving to California, while Hills moved to New York (since the Wherehouse was barred from occupancy for a while). After Heaven left, the group changed their name to Oakley Hall. Steve Tesh (who'd been doing a Country project at The Wherehouse with Rachel Cox, called The Podunks) wasn't far behind Will, and also joined the band. So what we have here, is basically the genesis of Oakley Hall, who went on to have a successful four album career worth checking out.

An ironic footnote involves Rachel Cox having been in The Podunks with Steve Tesh (who took a number of their songs with him to Oakley Hall), but she didn't move to New York till a bit later, eventually singing with Crazee in the subways and ultimately joining the band in 2004 (after Steve had already moved back to the Wherehouse). Years later Papa Crazee and Rachel Cox backed up M.Ward on Late Night With David Letterman (February 17, 2009)! The album art for this release was an early screen printing by the now quite famous New York graphic designer and artist; Kayrock.

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