November 18, 2022
HS22 : JR Mower
I began spending a lot of time in Chapel Hill in 1995. I’d visited once in high school while looking at colleges and fell pretty hard for it. The legendary music scenes of the south in the 80s were Chapel Hill, Athens, and, of course, Washington D.C. Back in those days, I read about them all in CMJ monthly or, better, Athen’s eponymous Flagpole zine, which we rarely got our hands on outside of a trip to Gainesville or, when lucky, someone’s older sibling tossed one out.
Anyway, for about six years from 1995 on, I’d slink in and out of Chapel Hill between tours, mostly a ghost, aware of but invisible to what was going on, with the exception of the occasional show at the Cradle.
When I finally moved to Chapel Hill for good in 2001, I quickly found a bar I loved, and with it a rabble of musicians, artists, writers, plumbers, professors, bartenders, and drummers (so many drummers). In some respects, though, I was still an outsider. I’d never worked at Pepper’s Pizza or the Lizard & Snake, or seen Dex Romweber play at the laundromat, and I was struggling to find a place where I fit.
But that all started to change when I began recording some bands at home in a makeshift studio, and soon I had a few friends in the music scene that I’d admired from afar for so many years. I met producer Brian Paulson at the bar, we hit it off, and later made Dislocation and Day&Nightdriving together.
It was right around the time we made D&N out at Mitch Easter’s studio in Kernersville that I got a call from our manager, Steve, about a project the local music scene was getting behind: Songs for Sixty Five Roses. I was surprised and flattered to be asked to contribute. The idea was a song swap, with local artists, one covering another, all in the pursuit of raising awareness and money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
A standout on that record: Caitlin Cary’s version of Goner’s “Battleground Park”—what a dream. Like Stevie Nick’s “Edge of Seventeen,” but Chapel Hill style, with lyrics that make your head explode because you know what it was like to be that awkward as a kid.
For my part, I picked the song “Mower” by Superchunk. I recorded most of it in my buddy George’s basement with some help from Brian, and Jenny and Lee Waters of Workclothes (do yourself a favor and checkout “Fort Bragg Summers” on Spotify or “Super 8” if you can find it online!).
It was the first time I got the call to really be a part of the 919. It felt good.
The lyrics to “Mower” are devastating. And direct.
Life is fragile. Pay attention to what you are doing.
Today’s offering is a two-fer: Here’s my first swing at “Mower” from my home demo and the version from Bri-Fi’s basement that appears on Songs for Sixty Five Roses.
I’ll check in with you after the holiday. I’m Thankful for you.
Sounds great on my old ass stereo lolz finally got Bluetooth rca jacks.... glad the kids shamed me into keeping it. Whether it's you or the speakers, j, I cannot decide 😀 good stuff 😍
“Fort Bragg Summers” stopped me in my tracks.