Gary Yerkins, Compass Compass is the long awaited solo CD from Baltimore-based singer/songwriter Gary Yerkins. Once the principle songwriter and front-man for two of Chicago's most admired and top-drawing bands, Gary has teamed up with Seattle-area producer Peter Droge to create a wide-ranging collection of songs that represents a departure from the power-roots/pop and country-rock that Gary's former bands--the Insiders and The Juleps--were know for. Nonetheless, the album still maintains his knack for vivid, expressive lyrics while tapping some familiar, yet deeper veins of his foundations in American roots music and UK classic rock. From the pure pop of About to Now, with it's melodic vocal hooks and Badfinger-slide guitars, to the atmospherics of Autumn Bay, Before I Had You and The Blue Way, and the trippy blues of The Wrong Man, the album represents a diverse group of songs from a writer in his prime, as captured by a producer at the top of his game. "I guess 'heat without the flash' would be the best way to describe what we were going for with this album", says Gary. "I wanted to make something with it's own power, yet that didn't depend on the Grand Gesture; or on showing off with hot-lick guitar solos, belting vocals, obvious chops and busy arrangements...something that was more inwardly intense and vibey. Pete, with his song expertise and uncanny ability to create sonic spaces and textures in the studio, was the perfect partner for this approach." Droge also supplies plenty of rich-toned slide guitar work (think Ry Cooder/David Linley), keyboards, assorted ear-candy instrumental textures and trademark vocal harmonies. In fact, with the exception of bass and drums and the odd overdub from some very special guests, most of the tracks were played and sung by Gary and Pete. "In some cases, when we included instruments that neither of us was really practiced at playing, we would task it out and do it together", said Gary. "A great example of this is the accordion solo on Sky Blue Boulevard, where I played the keyboard while Pete worked the bellows in and out. I never played one of those things before, so there was no way I could make that happen on my own, but we wanted the sound of a real accordion and I had the part, so we made it happen. It turned out sounding like we meant it to, so whatever it takes..." "And I swear, when I was playing Pete's big Hammond B-3 rig I felt like an 8-year old given the keys to the Kenworth. Great fun, 'cause I had no business having it..." As for the rhythm section, most of those tracks are played by Pete's longtime band mates Rob Brill on drums and Dave Hull on bass. Additional drums and bass were played by Heart drummer (we did say Seattle!) Ben Smith and bass player Andy Stoller (Tracy Chapman). There's a transcendent trumpet track on The Wrong Man, played by the still great, 80 years-young jazz-journeyman Art Hoyle (Sun Ra, Lionel Hampton, et al), some luscious guitar textures from Robbie Fulks' longtime axeman Grant Tye, as well as additional vocals from Elaine Summers and Cathy Richardson. Elaine is a long-time collaborator of Pete's and Grant and Cathy were both in the Juleps with Gary when they were all back in Chicago. " There are a lot of ways to make a record, but the best way is to try your heart out and enjoy the moment with what you're doing and who you're doing it with", says Gary. "We worked very hard on this record, but never labored at it." Gary adds, "Pete and I started out as two professionals going after a common goal of making something happen and became fast friends in the process. I think the confidence, affection and respect that Pete, Elaine and their team of musicians have for each other are all part of this wonderful organic process that typifies their approach to inspiration and creation--and all that is deep in the grooves of these recordings."
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