(By Mike Hyland). I bumped into Adam Traum last week while having lunch at the Epicurean Connection. We chatted about Adam’s new CD “Just Like Home,” which was created with the help of a fundraising program called Kickstarter. For a small fee, Kickstarter gives you the organizational plan to solicit funds for all kinds of projects. This endeavor works extremely well for musicians who, for the lack of a better metaphor, are not exactly number crunchers or marketers.
Adam had 30 days to raise the funds needed to fund his project. If the goal was not reached, nobody’s payment would be processed. When the goal was reached, Kickstarter got their fee and Adam had a recording budget to start work on the new project. More than 91 people contributed to Adam’s album, and because of the various levels of financial participation, most everyone who donated will receive a copy of the CD. Some of the more generous folks will receive a house concert featuring Adam, which was one of the various perks used to seek donations.
I asked Adam how he had heard about Kickstarter and he said it was through Julie Last, an engineer he worked with at Cold Brook Studios in Woodstock, New York during the initial phase of the recording project. The two songs on the CD that were recorded in Woodstock are “Why Tell Me Why” and “Going to the River.” Both songs features Adams dad, Happy Traum, a legendary folk singer (along with his brother Artie) during the burgeoning days of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1960s.
Family friend John Sebastian was also a part of that scene, starting out in a jug band before forming the Lovin’ Spoonful in 1965. Here, he plays a pretty wicked harmonica on “Going to the River.”
The remainder of the CD features David Thom on mandolin or guitar along with Joe Kyle Jr. on bass (Pat Campbell plays bass on the song “Boo”). The closing tune, “Water Song,” was written by Jorma Kaukonen and arranged by Adam, and features Adam playing the tenor ukulele.
“I am really proud of how this CD came out,” says Adam. “It accomplished the feel and the grooves that I heard in my head. ‘Merry Go Round’ came out better than I expected. I had to do a re-write after tracking the first vocal. I just wasn’t happy with is, so David Thom and I worked out a few changes that made the song work.”
Along with “Water Song,” “Freight Train Boogie,” written by the Delmore Brothers, Alton and Rabon, and “Sunday Morning Coming Down” written by Kris Kristofferson, are the only other songs that Adam did not write.
“’Freight Train Boogie’ is a song I stumbled on when I heard a rare board recording of a Doc and Merle Watson show from the mid-1970s at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall,” recalls Adam. “It was a pivotal song for me in my exploration of Americana music. I had heard the song over years of seeing Doc Watson play live, but something about this particular performance hit me like a sledgehammer and it has been a staple of my repertoire ever since.”
Of the Kristofferson song, Adam says, “’Sunday Morning Coming Down’ paints a beautiful picture and provides a glimpse into the mind’s eye of the great Americana songwriter. I’ve been covering this song for a few years and keep seeing more layers and truth in it, the mark of a truly brilliant song.”
The CD is dedicated to Adam’s wife Becky, who wanted to hear an acoustic recording that resembled the songs she loves to hear at home when Adam is just sitting around picking and singing. The song “If You Stay” was a song he wrote for Becky as a birthday gift and according to Adam, “I think it expresses in music and lyrics how I feel about her.”
Back to “Going to the River,” Adam relates, “This song was written during a brutal two-week heat wave. It was so hot in the house that my pregnant wife and I ended up moving an air mattress outside for a few days. On about the tenth day, a friend and I took my two dogs to the Russian River to cool off and this song followed shortly thereafter.
“After inviting my dad, Happy, into the studio in Woodstock, I talked our long time family John Sebastian into coming out, too. It seems fitting with this CD being about family that John, who loaned me my first electric guitar to try out, was available to record while I was home.”
“1960 Caddy,” the disc’s opening track “Was a half finished song collecting dust in a pile of other old songs,” says Adam. After tweaking the melody and the guitar groove, I realized I had a fun tune with an infectious bounce. I enjoy the playful nature of the song and how much Joe Kyle, Jr. and David Thom added to the track.”
And just in time for Halloween is Adam’s song “Boo.” “This is a relatively new song for me,” says Adam. “Living in a neighborhood with a lot of Hispanic families, one day I found myself playing what turned out to be a Bolero-style rhythm and melody. Through osmosis of the music in my neighborhood, I drifted into a new musical direction for which I am grateful. The title comes from the fact it was finished around Halloween and has a spooky minor feel.”
The goal of this project was to make a recording sound like it was being played in one’s living room. With his gentle, easy going vocal style, his always tasty guitar work, and the able assistance of good friends David Thom, Joe Kyle, Jr., Pat Campbell along with Happy Traum and John Sebastian, Adam truly succeeded not only in making the album his wife Betsy wanted to hear, he was aided and abetted to do it with the financial help of a bunch of new found believers and fans.
When it’s time to sit back and relax, slip “Just Like Home” into the CD player, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy. It’s the easiest prescription on earth.