Wayne Haught | Fingers

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Fingers

by Wayne Haught

Ten dirt-rich songs about love, death, community, joy, and growing up different. Singing from a high-lonesome place deep down in his soul, Haught finds the emotional heart in each of "Fingers’" songs. Whether he’s delivering wailing almost bluegrass, dark-tinged folk, infectious rockabilly, or bluesy talking-verse he engages listeners with a lived-in voice that makes whatever he is singing sound absolutely real. Haught chooses words, images, and narratives carefully so as to make his songs come alive in unexpected ways. Drunks with guitars, horseshoe tattoos, Elvis imposters, and homeless holy men all make appearances on Fingers, but each serves as part of a larger musical vision that emphasizes shared experience, human connection, and common feelings. Produced by legendary folksinger Peter Case, who plays keyboards and sings back-up on several tracks.
Genre: Country: Americana
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Where Bluebirds Sing
3:07 $0.99
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2. Political Song for Waylon Jennings to Sing
3:26 $0.99
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3. Release Me to the Mouth of Glory
2:27 $0.99
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4. You
5:04 $0.99
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5. Mail Pouch Chew Tobacco
4:00 $0.99
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6. Guitar Prayer
5:48 $0.99
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7. Horseshoe Tattoo
3:11 $0.99
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8. Fingers
3:14 $0.99
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9. Death Week in Memphis
4:28 $0.99
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10. All the Way to Heaven's Gate
7:17 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Love and death are the big themes on Wayne Haught’s new Peter Case- produced record called “Fingers,” along with horseshoe tattoos and chewing tobacco. Plus blind mariachis, Memphis, Black Moses, and fried chicken. Rhubarb pie too.

“Fingers” includes Don Heffington (Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams) on drums, David Steele (John Prine, Steve Earle) on guitar and mandolin, and three-time Grammy-nominated songwriter Case on piano, organ, and backing vocals. Together they help Wayne bring his true-feeling lyrics alive in songs like “Mail Pouch Chew Tobacco,” a tune about people wanting to bite off more than they can chew. As well as “You,” wherein the song’s narrator attempts to call a homeless friend back with love, and “Political Song For Waylon Jennings To Sing” which explains in a few taut verses how mama’s boys grow to be “tough old men.”

Album centerpiece “Guitar Prayer,” featuring a stark twilight dobro cameo by Greg Leisz (k d lang, Bill Frisell), finds Wayne delivering ghost-like rhymes in modern-day Luke the Drifter mode while offering the notion that a drunk with a guitar can save souls:

During guitar prayer
You don’t have to close your eyes down on your knees
During guitar prayer
There’s no need to holler please
Six strings of wire, a few pounds of wood
And each time you pick it, it does someone good

“One of my cool old uncles told me to trust the wisdom of folks who have more questions than answers,” says Wayne, “because we’re just people after all, and our understanding of how everything works is limited. Does wearing certain clothes, saying just the right words, or kneeling in a ‘holy’ room lead to answered prayers? Or is it more important to simply think loving thoughts? I don’t know for sure, but I do know I’ve been healed many times by good bar room guitar players.”

Engineered at the Carriage House by studio owner Sheldon Gomberg, who picked up a Best Blues Grammy this year for producing the Ben Harper/Charlie Musselwhite record “Get Up!,” the album covers a lot of musical ground. There’s the scratchy exuberant almost bluegrass of “Where Bluebirds Sing.” A sparse old timey wail floats “All The Way To Heavens Gate” up and away. “Mail Pouch Chew Tobacco” and “Political Song For Waylon Jennings To Sing” feature a 70’s style honky-tonk swagger, while the band kicks up a frenetic rockin' ruckus on “Horseshoe Tattoo.”

“Peter and I wanted to make a record the old school way ” says Wayne, “so we cut live looking to get the feeling right while not worrying so much about technical perfection. I sat in a little booth singing and playing rhythm guitar while the drums, bass, and electric guitar played along together in a bigger room. Sheldon had me singing into a huge 1940s RCA ribbon microphone, and with the band kicking behind me I let myself loose into the heat of the moment. You can tell. There’s some pop and sizzle in the music.”

Listen closely to album closer “All The Way To Heaven’s Gate,” a song about Wayne holding his father’s hand in a North Carolina hospital room, and you can practically hear the tears escaping Wayne’s voice. Listen closer and you’ll hear him stop playing to steady himself.

“A primary rule of recording is to keep going, don’t stop, because what you think is a mistake might sound right when you hear it back,” says Wayne. “’Singing ‘Heaven’s Gate’ about my father put me once again with the feelings of being with him as he started to leave this world for the next. At one point I couldn’t juggle singing, playing, and not crying all at once. So I quit playing to finish singing without crying, and also kind of rushed the last few words of the chorus. Somehow it fits the song, though. When we hit the last note all of us knew it was a keeper.”

Long before stepping into the studio to record “Fingers” Peter and Wayne were working together to arrange Wayne’s songs. It all started when Wayne took Peter’s six-week songwriting class last summer and found himself on Saturday afternoons playing and singing across from one of his biggest heroes. Although he had been writing songs for over 30 years Wayne found his creativity opening up under Peter’s mentoring and encouragement.

At the end of each class Peter assigned the students a song to write for the next week. For instance one week he told them to write a song describing a place. The next time he said to write a song detailing something you are afraid of. Always students were encouraged to sing these “practice” songs for the class.

“The first time I sang one of my songs for Peter I was nervous,” says Wayne, “there he was about four feet in front of me watching intently. I had a few funny lines in the song and he kind of chuckled when he heard them. When I was done Peter smiled and said something like, ‘yeah cool man.’ I had a hard time getting to sleep that night I was so excited. I mean, Peter Case heard my song and said ‘cool man!’”

At the next class as Wayne sat listening to the other songwriters sing he realized that Peter said something like “yeah cool man” pretty much every time someone in the class sang, no matter the quality of the song. A good teacher encourages all. Still when Peter assigned the class to write a song to someone from the past you haven’t seen in a long time, Wayne was unprepared for what happened next.

“When I started singing ‘You,’ a song inspired by a homeless man I met early in the week who reminded me of someone I was very close to 30 years ago,” says Wayne, “for the first time in the class Peter didn’t watch me intently. Instead he leaned back in his chair, took off his glasses, covered his eyes with his hand, and sat motionless. Listening deeply. It was a little unnerving, but I kept going. When the song ended he took his hand away, looked me right in the eye, and said, ‘That’s a great song man!’”

“You” comes to life on the record with a muffled cymbal crash followed by a slow sleepy beat. When Wayne starts singing the first verse, “Do the police take your blankets, when you’re begging for your bread,“ it’s easy to imagine a hungry homeless person walking unsteadily across a park. The song builds beautifully to the chorus riding on David Steele’s shimmery guitar and deft piano figures from Peter: “We still want you, we still need you, yes we love you, you.”

“You” might be the song Peter and I are most proud of on the record,” says Wayne. “He harmonizes on the chorus with Cindy Wasserman and together they sound like family trying to get a message through to a lost soul. You can’t help but feel the love. A DJ friend of mine thinks the song would fit fine on one of those classic albums by Merle Haggard. Maybe so.”

“Peter instinctively knows how to breathe life into the music,” says Wayne. “Watching him add piano, organ, and backing vocals to songs I wrote was beyond thrilling, the music pours out of him. We had a lot of fun working together, and I’m forever grateful for the way he brought his heart and soul to the making of the album.”

Born and raised in small town Ohio, Wayne started learning guitar when he was 15 years old, playing and singing top 40 tunes and Bob Dylan songs. That summer hearing Roy Acuff's and Jimmy Martin’s mountain -born voices on the “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” album opened him to a new world, one where great singers feel what is often ignored, and say what usually goes unsaid.

“I was a real shy kid in high school,” says Wayne. “I never said much but I always had cool clothes to wear because I wanted to look like a rocker. I think only my closest friends even knew I had a guitar. Still I can’t remember playing for them much, if at all. I’d just sit on my bed singing alone in the only place I felt comfortable expressing my feelings, finding my voice.”

Not long after turning 22 he moved to Oakland eventually spending six years spinning records at the then infamous free form college radio station KALX, which lead to playing in a series of bands rocking up country music for roots-thirsty indie kids. He once headlined a sold out 924 Gilman Street, the all-ages Berkeley punk institution, captivating the crowd while leading an all-star band that played nothing but Johnny Cash covers.

Years of music making rolled by, both good and not-so-good gigs came and went, but over time Wayne increasingly felt his creative voice slipping away. One night, standing on stage in a Conway Twitty style 70’s era powder blue polyester leisure suit, while playing a song he wrote with a friend called “You Left A Burning Bag Of Dogshit On The Doorstep Of My Heart,” he somehow realized a bigger calling waited unseen.

Something needed to change. Wayne quit the band. Started another and, still unsatisfied, quit that too. He stopped playing gigs entirely. Told friends he wouldn’t play out again until he felt he had something worth sharing. Finally he took a month off work saying to all who listened he was going on a head clearing road trip. Inside he understood he was leaving on a spiritual pilgrimage.

“I flew into Memphis on a Friday afternoon in late July, and I flew out of Memphis 4 weeks later in mid August,” says Wayne. “In between I put 4,000 miles on a rental car while hitting every Southern state but Florida. There was no hurry to see anything much in particular, other than to really see whatever I looked at. I quickly found out hot Southern cooking tastes good even when you aren’t exactly sure where you are, and no matter where I was I almost always found good live music at night.”

Including, on the eve of flying back to Oakland, an International Elvis Impersonator contest. After all it was Elvis Week, a yearly event drawing thousands of pilgrims to Memphis for a candlelight vigil on the anniversary of the King’s death. Wayne marveled at the fervor of not only the performers, but also the audience, many of whom had ridden in buses and car caravans from small Southern and Midwestern towns to cheer on their hometown hero.

Yet the next morning walking along the bluff above the Mississippi River, what kept going through his mind was a poster he’d seen on a telephone pole the night before advertising a dive bar rock show. Five bands for five dollars. The come on in big letters at the top: “Death Week In Memphis.” Before his plane took off he had most of the song done:

I walked into Death Week In Memphis
The faithful were down on their knees
There goes another imposter
Everyone knows the disease

“’Death Week In Memphis’ isn’t so much a put down of Elvis Impersonators as it is me having a ‘come to Jesus moment’ about my music,” says Wayne. “I’m singing to myself, saying from here on out no more trying to get attention by pretending to be something I’m not. That line ‘the first law of showbiz is color your hair, look cool and shake your guitar,’ I’d done all of that, but now I knew all of that was done.”

Keeping the promise to himself wasn’t difficult, but finding his footing without putting on the same old costume meant he needed a whole new way of thinking. He started attending a spiritual center in Oakland someone at his City of Oakland job swore was “the real deal.” Before long he sat down with one of the church’s prayer practitioners named Queen Michelle Jordan for a spiritual counseling session.

“She told me that to get my own voice back I needed to love myself more,” says Wayne. “and she suggested that since I was a songwriter I should write a love song for myself. Once I had the song I was supposed to sing it to myself whenever I was feeling down and out or lacking courage. Kind of a sung prayer. I agreed I’d give it a try.”

A few weeks later Wayne awoke well after midnight with these words going through his mind: “There are many fingers. There is one heart.” He got up and wrote them on a scrap of paper knowing that the love song to himself was coming. Within a few weeks “Fingers” was done:

There are many fingers
There is one heart
Fingers touch my soul
Reaching from the heart
Fingers play guitar
Fingers feel the stars
There are many fingers
Fingers loving me

“I did what Queen Michelle told me to do,” says Wayne, “I sang the song whenever it felt right, and in general began feeling better. Plus cool stuff started happening. I got a chance to study songwriting with Peter, and then he produced my record. I can’t prove that A lead to B, but just in case I’m going to keep on singing ‘Fingers.’”

Ten fingers and one heart. Ten songs on a new album. The simple, open-hearted, spiritual music slipping through “Fingers” will most certainly bring Wayne’s songwriting and singing to a bigger audience, and he’s looking forward to seeing new places and making new friends.

“I have a lot of gratitude for all the people who knowingly or unknowingly helped me get my new record out into the world,” says Wayne. “Especially Peter, Sheldon, and everyone who played on it. The whole experience passed by like a beautiful dream coming true. I wouldn’t be surprised if something real fun happens next.”

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