"The River [2023 remix]"


The cover image for Bob Sellon`s song The River [2023 remix].
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With lots of projects (music and software) in the works but none ready for release, I was considering doing a post about the release last year of my song The River but was none too pleased with the "say it" vocals at the beginning of the song when I gave it a fresh listen and immediately embarked on a new version (mix), cleansed of the ill-advised last minute vocal addition.


I was still not super happy with the lead vocal so, not convinced a new take would fix the problem, started trying out some effects to try to give the voice some aquatic sound and landed on a simple but fast tremolo effect to modulate the volume in a few places. I normally stay away from dramatic effects since they can be a problem to reproduce live but gave myself a pass when I considered that it sounds sort of like I'm under water, or at least singing into a fan. The song doesn't dwell on the near-death portions of the trip that inspired the song but I can assure you that I was not singing as we were effectively flushed down the narrow gorge that follows a class V falls on the Penobscot in Maine. There were no fatalities though I'll confess that I had time to contemplate the end, as the concept of "up" was eluding me and I was at the point were I needed a breath. Our brush with death aside:), the trip and others floating down New England's rivers have evoked this song out of me.

The rhythm of the song has a funny phrasing that makes it sound way more clever than it really is though the acoustic guitar phrasing is in triplets. It was weird enough, though, that I endeavored to add drum and bass parts myself to get the whole multi-bar phrasing right; it's an easy progression to over-play but sounds great if you let it float as I tried to do.

Though collective memory is almost certainly faulty, we believe the accordion at the end is Brian Templeton, perhaps at the same session where he recorded accordion for my tune Riding Along. The origins of the foot stomping, however, are not in question as they were recorded by my son Todd and I out on the basketball court behind the studio with cables out the windows and some kind of remote control for the recorder so I could stomp along with him. This was probably the early 2000s, 20-odd years ago.

The song was under consideration for my Sing For Your Stew CD/[album] project but was not quite there in time for the release and, in fact, only got picked up again during the Covid lock-down when I passed the working mix of the song over to Bruce Alger who worked with the song and delivered the wonderful keyboards that can be heard throughout the song. The lyrics to the song are pretty rudimentary so if you ever see me do it live there is a good chance they will have evolved; "a release waits for no lyric".

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The drum kit, my playing skills and recording skills at the time were wanting at the time this recording was started so it's worth noting that I captured triggers of the drum hits to create a "midi" track(s) that I then fed to new, better, sounding virtual instruments/drums. This was one of the problems with the early versions of the song; the drums sounded like ass. The virtual drums I ended up with are nothing special but were chosen to fit the other instruments better. Moving it to midi also made it easier to tighten up the timing and velocity of the drums in a few places.