Colin Cutler – “Mama, Don’t Know Where Heaven Is”
Americana Highways brings you this premiere of Colin Cutler’s song “Mama, Don’t Know Where Heaven Is” from his upcoming album, Tarwater, set to be released on October 31st on Bandcamp and via streaming on November 3rd.
Tarwater was produced by Colin Cutler and Benjy Johnson, recorded and mixed by Benjy Johnson at Earthtones Recording Studio in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was mastered by Ty Tabor.
“Mama, Don’t Know Where Heaven Is” is Colin Cutler on lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and banjo; Bob Worrells on lead electric guitar; Evan Campfield on electric and acoustic bass; Emmanuel Rankin on drums; Dashawn Hickman on steel guitar; Christen Blanton Mack on fiddle and Ella Patrick (Momma Molasses) on duet vocals.
Influenced by and based on characters from Flannery O’Connor albums, this is an extension of his previous EP with new songs too.
Heady and well-crafted, this is some intelligent and palpable grief. The production features instruments – fiddle, steel guitar, eclectric guitar – taking center stage in turns. As the song unfolds, lines “I’ll be there with you before too long” and “sister, she was a baby and I wonder if she seen you,” is just devastating.
We conducted a short interview with Colin about the project. The premiere appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: What is this song “Mama, Don’t Know Where Heaven Is,” about?
Colin Cutler: It’s based off a short story with a young child who has lost his mother and is torn between the voices of faith and reason telling him where she is now. Musically, it captures elements of the Pentecostal churches Dashawn and I grew up in, mixed with traditional country that so often had gospel roots. For me, the story and the lyrics captures the grief of loss, the longing within all of us to be with those we’ve loved and lost, the urge to believe things that we can’t know that goes with that longing (and how people will use that urge against you), and the tension between being a realist and wanting to believe something more.
AH: Tell us about the new album
CC: Musically, this song was going for Hank Williams or Patsy Cline–the album stretches across sounds you could have heard between the 30s and 60s–there are elements of Blind Willie Johnson, Bob Dylan, Sister Rosetta Thorpe.
Lyrically, I wrote these songs while I was re-evaluating my Pentecostal and Baptist upbringing (with a touch of Presbyterian and Catholic during college)–I think anyone who grew up in the evangelical world and has since had to have a reckoning with its teachings and cultural effect, whether they’ve stayed or left, would be especially interested. I use a lot of that language, though in unexpected ways.
But I was careful to not write the songs as an attack–it’s another perspective from someone who grew up in that world. Thematically, Parker Millsap, Nikki Lane, and David Ramirez were big inspirations in this vein.
In another way, it’s a very human record–it’s looking at people and the contradictions they find themselves in, whether in thought or action. And I think there’s a lot of comic relief, too. I got a good handle on dark humor during my military days, and John Prine is a master of it.
AH: Can you share any interesting stories from making the record?
CC: Bob Worrells has been playing lead guitar with me for a while now, and he’s great–he has a bluegrass background and has also played with a lot of jam bands, so I tend to trust his instincts with the sound of the licks, and when we’re playing live, he’ll throw in some other sounds that push us into psychedelic territory. While we were in the studio, he was having trouble with where he wanted to go with a couple of the songs on the record, and Benjy said, “Hold on a second. Let me plug you into this attenuator. Alright, now turn your amp up to 10.” Bob had never used an attenuator before (it was my first time, too), and said, “Dude, that’ll blast us out of the block.” Benjy said, “Just trust me.” So Bob turned the amp all the way up, we weren’t blasted out of the room, but his eyes went wide, and he said, “My amp can sound like THAT?” And then, with the biggest shit-eating grin ever, he nailed the solos on “A New Tattoo” and “Save Your Life and Drive,” and I think you can hear that kid-in-a-candy-shop joy in those solos.
Thanks very much for chatting with us, Colin!
Find more details and information here: http://www.colincutlermusic.com/
Listen to the song right here;