Hi again all,
Anyone familiar with Jewel’s live concert performances may have noticed that some of her songs continue evolving over the course of years and even decades before being committed to an album. Often its the lyric content that evolves over the course of performing a song onstage. Its not uncommon for Jewel to experiment with song structure over time or to consider a song finished only to add a new bridge years later. If the genesis of a song coincides with a band tour, she’ll often experiment with different arrangements or instrumentation. Occasionally, all of the above apply and such is the case for her song, “Down So Long,” an unusual version of which is this month's free Club EDA download.
Nowadays, this song is familiar to most in its rocking band incarnation featured on her second album, “Spirit,” which Jewel has generally stayed true to even in her solo acoustic performances. However, “Down So Long” changed dramatically between the time she initially wrote it at the tail end of 1993 and when she released it on “Spirit” six years later. When Jewel began performing "Down So Long" in early 1994 during her residency at The InnerChange Coffeehouse in San Diego, it was practically unrecognizable compared to what it later became. Not only were the lyrics significantly different, but the whole vibe of the song was different, due in part to her limited skills as guitar player.
Self taught and just beginning as a guitar player, Jewel took to finger picking right away, but unlike most beginners, she hadn’t learned how to strum. This in itself made it difficult to write or play anything upbeat. She also had yet to learn how to find simple chords in standard tuning, so the song (like many of her early songs) was written in an open tuning. Also, yet to discover the forceful opening riff that would eventually propel “Down So Long” along, it was instead played at a much slower tempo accompanied only by her light finger picking. She continued performing it in this manner over the next several months, before initially committing it to tape at a preproduction demo session during preparation for her first album. Needless to say, this initial version of the song didn’t make the cut for the “Pieces Of You” sessions.
Following the release of her first album, when Jewel first began extensive touring outside of California, she eliminated the song from her live repertoire. In fact she wouldn't perform it again for nearly three years, but it wasn’t completely forgotten during that time. During the summer of 1996 (just days prior to Jewelstock), she went about recording it for what was then intended to be her second album for Atlantic, during sessions at Bearsville Studios in The Catskill Mountains. It was during this time that she increased the tempo, discovered the forceful opening guitar riff and overhauled the lyrics. For the recording session, she also utilized the “Jewelstock band” on the track which got it another step closer to the sound in her head.
It was during these 1996 sessions that her first album really began taking off, thanks to the stratospheric popularity of the “You Were Meant For Me” single. This resulted in an invitation to tour with Neil Young (which she accepted!) followed by a non-stop promotional and touring blitz that would last well into the following year, which contributed to the shelving of that second album project. Despite touring with a band during that time, Jewel did not pursue performing “Down So Long” and working on it was abandoned for another year.
The next time she addressed it was in May of 1997, during the rehearsal for her MTV Unplugged appearance. The musicians backing her for that show (which were very much plugged in) learned the band arrangement from the previous summer. The song had its live debut with a band during the "Unplugged" taping, but “Down So Long” didn’t make the cut for the MTV broadcasts. Which brings us to the version of “Down So Long” presented here, which was recorded live with her next touring band, when Jewel joined on as a a Main Stage act during the first year of the Lilith Fair Music Festival that summer.
Its difficult to convey just what a whirlwind this era was. To put the performance featured today back in context, Jewel had just turned 23. A week before her birthday, she made the cover of Rolling Stone. “You Were Meant For Me” was now breaking chart longevity records and her first album was burning up the charts. “Foolish Games” had just been released as her third single in North America and was being readied for International single release as well. She had become an in-demand musical guest on morning, afternoon and late night talk shows and had just done her first appearance on Saturday Night Live. As if that wasn’t generating enough publicity, just days prior to this performance, Jewel additionally made the cover of Time Magazine! It may be difficult for younger fans to perceive the significance of that, but before the Internet reigned supreme, the cover of Time was a monumentally big deal in terms of exposure. Suffice it to say this was a head-spinning time.
When Jewel went about assembling her next touring band for the Lilith Fair dates, she wanted an untraditional band sound and decided to go with a different configuration than her previous bands. First, she opted to be the only guitar player in an effort to literally force herself to become more adept at rhythm and strumming. In addition to the rhythm section of drummer David Reveli and electric bassist Craig Young, her front line musicians/soloists for this tour were John Ginty, who played a mean Hammond B-3 organ and a supremely talented cellist, Matt Brubeck, who had been raised on jazz and classical music but thoroughly enjoyed rocking out. (In case you’re wondering, yes, Matt is one of legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck’s sons.)
Ginty and Brubeck provided the means for Jewel to explore new sounds and sonic textures in her music. This month’s download, recorded live at the August 12, 1997 Lilith Fair stop in Pennsylvania, is an interesting example of that, as "Down So Long" makes its way toward the arrangement Jewel would perfect for the “Spirit” album recording the following summer. In addition to the audio file, there is a second free download for you of Jewel’s handwritten lyrics to the song.
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If you happened to miss our previous Club EDA downloads, they too are still available, so you can help yourself to those files as well. To read my blogs about the previous downloads, just click “Alan” on the blog menu above. In regards to our free downloads, we respectfully request that rather than share the free files elsewhere, that you do Jewel the favor of instead sharing the link to join her free Club EDA community, so that others can download the free files themselves. Please spread the word rather than the files and help Jewel build her online community. You can read her thoughts on this here.
Recorded on August 12, 1997, at the Lilith Fair stop at The Starlake Amphitheater in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, enjoy this unique band arrangement of “Down So Long.” Alan