To All My Friends
This disc is the cullmination of an idea I’ve had ever since I began building my recording studio almost twenty years ago. With the exception of the first song, which is an original of mine, it is a collection of folk, country, and bluegrass tunes that I have particularly liked for a long time, and have influenced the ways I’ve written and performed music throughout my career. These songs, truely, helped to form the roots of, and reasons why, I sing and play the way I do.
I began playing in the early sixties, as a young teenager, during the folk music resurgence of the time, although music was a big part of my life as long as I can remember. Now, having recently turned sixty years old, I felt it was the right time for this album.
I wish to thank all of the musicians who, so generously, participated in the making of this recording, and, also, my co-producer and graphic arts guru, Dave Prescott, and am especially grateful to my regular accompanists: Shirley Van Kainen and Craig MacMaster. It is because of their hard work, dedication, and loyalty that I am able to bring my musical ideas to life, and I can never adequately express my thanks to them, as both musicians, and as friends.
We hope you enjoy listening to this recording as much as we enjoyed making it.
A. J. R. Winter ‘08-’09
Rhythm of the Highway
I would be hard-pressed to tell you if my favorite style of music is folk, country, or bluegrass. I have listened to, loved, and played all three types throughout my career, and, of course, there is a great deal of overlap among these genres. The writing of this song was influenced by all of that music, and I felt it was the perfect way to kick off this collection of songs and styles which have meant so much to me for all these years.
No One to Sing For But The Band
One of my all time favorites, from the pen of the great Merle Haggard. Anyone who has struggled in their chosen profession, whether it’s music or something else, can relate to the sentiments expressed here. That’s my lovely daughter, Dianna, singing with me on the chorus.
A beautiful song about a lifetime love, from a fine southern songwriter, Michael Smith. I learned it from the singing of the late Steve Goodman, about thirty-five years ago, and it’s still one of my favorites. Also, it has a special poignancy for those of us who are dealing with a loved one who is suffering the mental and physical ravages of age.
Anyone who has seen one of my live shows is aware of my admiration for the work of Merle Travis, who wrote this song. I can remember first hearing this on the radio as a young boy. There’s a story, that may even be true, that tells of a young, up-and-coming singer from Tennessee who was on the bill of a show that Merle Travis was headlining, and Travis took him aside backstage and said, “Son, I’ve got the song that’s gonna make you a star.” The singer, of course, was Ernie Ford, and it turns out that Travis was absolutely right, for this song has become an American classic. I’ll bet you find yourself singing along on the chorus. That’s Patti with the organ solo, and some slick lead guitar work from Shirley.
Old Five and Dimers
A song from the pen of the storied Nashville tunesmith, Tom T. Hall, writer of numerous country hits. I first heard this on a Waylon Jennings album back in the seventies, and I was struck then, as now, by the power of its simplicity. Sweet violin from Sarah on this one, and an outstanding job by Terry on the vocals with me.
The Ballad of the St.. Anne’s Reel
I have included at least one song from Dave Mallett on each of my previous recordings, and saw no reason to break that tradition on this one. He is one of the finest singer-songwriters of all time, and one of his tunes, “Garden Song”, has become so well known that they teach it to children in school. I’ve really liked this one since I first heard it about thirty years ago. It paints a beautiful word picture.
Another tune from the great Merle Travis. It can be strongly argued that he has been the most influential guitar player of the last sixty years, or so, especially in folk and country music. All of the great finger-picking guitar players such as Chet Atkins, Doc Watson, and even rock players like Mark Knopfler acknowledge his influence. In fact, that whole style of playing is known as “Travis picking”. Doc Watson even told Merle, upon their first meeting, that he had named his son after him, “in hopes some of that good guitar playin’ would rub off”. How’s that for a tribute! This is another song I’ve been doing for years, and it gives Shirley and me a chance to play some fun guitar together.
It was stories like this one that attracted me to folk music in the first place, all those years ago. A moving tale of hope and faith written by a woman named Evelyn Danzig back in the 1940’s. It’s been performed and recorded by dozens of artists, though I first heard it done by the Brothers Four. It was one of the very first songs I learned to play.
Second Cup of Coffee
To me, this is the ultimate “...woke up with a hangover again, what the hell am I doing with my life...” song. I’ve been there, more times than I would care to admit , and I’ll bet I’m not alone. One of many excellent songs written by Gordon Lightfoot.
Last thing on My Mind
In my early musical days there were four singer-songwriters that I particularly admired. They were Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Phil Ochs, and the man who wrote this song, Tom Paxton. He, jokingly, tells a story that he got into a fierce argument with a Scotsman who, absolutely, insisted that this is a traditional Scottish ballad. Indeed, with its lilting refrain and universal message of longing, it’s easy to see how someone could make that mistake. It was, however, indeed written by Tom, and I have been singing and playing it for more than forty years.
Any Day Now
What can I possibly say about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been said. He was called the voice of my generation, (a description he always disliked), and his songs, more than any other, were the sound track of my teenage years. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard “Blowin’ In The Wind”, and it was, truly, a defining moment in my life. I had been singing and playing a little bit by then, but it was at that point that I knew, for sure, that music was what I most wanted to do with my future. I’m willing to bet that there’s a lot of other musicians who will tell you a similar story about his impact on them. I could have chosen any one of a number of Dylan’s songs to put on this album, but this one has always spoken to me in a special way.
When I was sixteen years old, I made the first of what would be numerous trips with friends to Greenwich Village in New York City, to visit the folk music clubs. On that first night, we wound up at a place called The Gaslight, and the person performing there was Fred Neil. Fred’s singing and playing influenced a whole generation of folk singers who came through the Village, including most of the other writers whose works are on this recording. This song of his was, later, used in the soundtrack of the movie “Midnight Cowboy”, done in an arrangement quite different from Fred’s. I’ve chosen to stay closer to his original version.
This Land Is Your Land
Not all that many people know that Woody Guthrie originally wrote this song, which he titled “God Blessed America”, as a protest in answer to Kate Smith’s song of a similar name. While some of the lesser-known verses speak of the trials of migrant workers and immigrants during the Depression, the verses included here, which most everyone is familiar with, are as fine a description of the beauty and majesty of this very special country of ours as you will ever hear. This was the very first song I learned to play on guitar, and still one of my favorites.
During my musical career, which stretches more than forty-five years now, I’ve had the great good fortune to work with some truly gifted songwriters. Some of them are household names, and others, like the man who wrote this song, should be. His name is Chris Pearne, and he has written dozens of marvelous songs, many of which, like this one, have a timeless quality about them, as if they’ve always existed. This tune sent chills up my spine the first time I heard it, more than forty years ago, and it still has that power. I’ve been performing it for years, and I’ve always wanted to record it. This project seemed like the perfect opportunity. I hope I’ve done it justice.
A. J. Rubino: Lead and harmony vocals, guitars, five string banjo
resonator guitar, mandolin, autoharp, pedal steel guitar, keyboards,
flute, bass guitar, drums, and percussion.
Shirley Van Kainen: Harmony vocals, lead and second guitar, and
Craig MacMaster: Harmony vocals and bass guitar
With special guests:
Mark Gagne: Drums and percussion, harmony vocals.
Sarah Michel: Violin.
Patti Surniak: Piano, Organ.
Ed “Shorty” Gagne: Piano.
Dianna Pisano: Harmony Vocals.
Terry Ouellette: Harmony vocals, vocal duet on “Old Five and Dimers”
String section on “Three Gypsies” courtesy of the Springfield Conservatory of Music.
Recorded and mixed at Swamp Guinea Recording Studio, Springfield MA.
Produced and engineered by A. J. Rubino and Dave Prescott for Swamp Guinea Productions.
Mastering by Michael Dominici, Music House Mastering.
Cover photo and graphic design by Dave Prescott
Interior photo by A. J. Rubino
All songs licensed for airplay by ASCAP, CAPAC, or BMI