Seven Bridges Road, an evolution
A recent obsession with the song Seven Bridges Road led to lots of time on YouTube and Wikipedia, and even an actual book. I figure after making a little effort, it’s worth putting together some of the information for others.
So, Seven Bridges Road was written by Steve Young and recorded for his album Rock Salt and Nails (1969). Here’s a YouTube of a 1972 version by Young from his second album, named after the song:
There are more recent live recordings online and he plays and sings the song in a similar style, as a singer-songwriter.
In 1973, Iain Matthews, of Fairport Convention (and other rock/folk/pop bands) recorded the song with the harmonies that have come to define Seven Bridges. It appears on his album Valley Hi.
Who arranged the harmonies? Well, if it wasn’t Matthews, perhaps it was the producer of Valley Hi, the former Monkee Mike Nesmith!
According to the photographic history book The Eagles: An American Band (p. 166), Don Henley and company would sing Seven Bridges Road in their dressing room as a vocal warm up before shows on their Hotel California tour (that album was released in late 1976). The band later performed the song on stage and a version of it was recorded for Eagles Live. The liner notes to Eagles : The Very Best Of (2CD) state that they learned the song from Steve Young, but they clearly borrowed harmonic ideas from Matthews. Here they are from Portland in 2010:
The Eagles version has become the most iconic, although Dolly Parton’s all-star bluegrass band does a pretty fine job by it, too. Here’s Dolly:
More recently, Keith Urban (Mr. Nicole Kidman) has been bringing up opening acts to sing the song with him. In 2009, Sugarland add two voices to Urban (as well as a mandolin). I have to say, one thing I love about Sugarland is how happy they seem to be to be making music. It’s not perfect, but they’re having fun and projecting that; a charming stage presence.
In 2010, Urban was on tour with Grammy winners Lady Antebellum. The female vocalist, Hillary Scott, doesn’t seem to know the song as well as the guys, but she wings it and finds her harmony lines.
Finally, a couple of non-professional acts. The first is an earnest attempt, but the recording makes clear the problem of pushing the bass part too hard. Let it resonate, but don’t sing it out, man. (Also, something’s a little off with the guitar. That’s the time to just pause out of this one…)
The second, by the Hartley Brothers sounds great (and has a terrific toy poodle pontificating).
A great song by Young, terrific arrangement by Matthews and Nesmith, and kudos to the Eagles for bringing it to the attention of a whole lot of people (although a shout-out from them to Matthews would have been nice).
I love when Garrison Keillor sings, but I don't think he's got a very good voice. He keeps in tune but his voice is thin and breathy and especially sounds lacking when he sings with guests like Alison Krauss. But I love listening to him sing because he so obviously enjoys himself; his pleasure is audible.
I'm not a very good singer (Garrison could teach me a thing or two about being in tune) but I enjoy singing, too. That's why I joined the Newton Family Singers. (Plus, I get to sing with people who sing like Alison Krauss.)
Because Newton Family Singers demands a fairly big commitment -- a dozen rehearsals -- we know not everyone is going to join the group. So we came up with the idea of occasional community sing-alongs for people to drop in for an hour or two and sing together.
In January, we had a couple of dozen people request their favorite songs and make some fun and beautiful music. We mostly picked songs from Rise Up Singing so that people had access to lyrics. Some of us had generated a list of songs before the sing-along, but we also took requests and learned some new songs, which was great! (Requests made beforehand will give others a chance to learn your favorite tune.) We also had people bring violins, guitars and a ukulele and join the "band."
Our next sing-along will be on Sunday, April 17, at 4:30pm following an informal NFS rehearsal. Come 10 minutes early if you want to hear a preview of our Spring setlist.
Here's the official announcement (feel free to repost it to your singing group or school mailing lists):
The Newton Family Singers invites singers of all ages and abilities to a Community SingAlong. Come and sing with us on Sunday April 17, from 4:30 to 5:45 pm at the WabanLibrary. No rehearsals, no performance, no pressure — just join us in singing because it’s fun! Our main source of lyrics will be the folk song collection Rise Up Singing, so make sure to bring it if it’s on your bookshelf (don’t worry if it’s not). And if you e-mail us at email@example.com and suggest a song, artist or genre, we’ll do our best to accommodate you! Acoustic instruments are welcome.
Many thanks to the Waban Library Center for hosting this event. Suggested donation to the library: $10 per family or $5 for individuals. The WLC is located at 1608 Beacon Street.
Spring 2011 Tour Dates
I don't think we're printing up T-shirts but we have an opportunity to sing at community events the weekend before and the weekend after our main concert, so I'm declaring this our spring tour.
We will be working out the kinks and singing in Jamaica Plain for the Wake Up the Earth Festival. Wake Up the Earth is an annual event organized by the community artists and activists at Spontaneous Celebrations. These are some photos from previous WUtE Festivals. The place and time of our performance is still to be determined but block out the afternoon of Saturday May 7, 2011 and watch this space!
Updated: We will be performing at 5pm at the Stony Brook T Station (Orange Line). Look for the people in the white shirts.
The next weekend will be the official Newton Family Singers spring concert! We've been putting on concerts for over a year, can you believe it? Sunday, May 15 at 4pm, we will be taking the stage at the Newton Highlands Congregational Church (54 Lincoln St, Newton, MA; they also helpfully provide coordinates on their website in case you're arriving by parachute: 42o19.274' North 71o12.477' West ). And yes, that's the weekend of Newton Open Studios. Go check out some artists, buy some jewelry or a print and then come listen to an inter-generational choir sing songs about the Sun, Moon and Stars.
Just to be clear, this is the concert that we're all geared up for, the entire group will be there and our adrenaline will be pumping. If you are choosing which venue to see us at, this is the one! Sunday, May 15, 4pm, 54 Lincoln Street, Newton Highlands.
Did you love those shows?
If so, you get a chance to see us again the following Sunday, May 22 at Waban Village Day. Hmm... well, hopefully the official website will get updated, but for photos from 2010, check out this Flickr stream; we're the ones in the white shirts. Location: Waban Village, time to be determined.
Special Bonus: if you come to all three concerts, we will "friend" you on Facebook! (Or just find us on Facebook and ask and we'll friend you.)
Video highlights from 2010
Jack Cheng directs the Clemente Course in Dorchester, excavates in the Middle East, and writes in Waban, MA.