David Sings the Blues (and Other Classics)

Long Gone Daddies by David Wesley Williams
Long Gone Daddies by David Wesley Williams

I’ve just wrapped recording on my second full-length audiobook this month — David Wesley Williams lyrical novel of sex, family, and rock ‘n’ roll, Long Gone Daddies. As I was listening through just now, I realized that there were a lot of similarities between this bluesy book and my most recently completed (and soon-to-be-released) project, Uvi Poznansky’s Apart from Love. Both books dissect tangled, dysfunctional families featuring deeply fractured father-son relationships, each of which is hiding some very important secrets. And music is very much at the heart of each.

For an audiobook narrator/producer, music is both a joy and more than a bit of a challenge. Audiobooks — for the most part — are not meant to include music tracks (Audible and Amazon don’t like them), and so any music must be created purely by the narrator in the character’s voice. When a song is known, that can be great fun; when it’s created by the author, that’s fun too… but can sometimes take your breath away.

Long Gone Daddies concerns three generations of the guitar-slinging Gaunt family. The narrator, Luther, spends the book in search of his heritage — both from his dead grandfather Malcolm and his disappeared father John (his long-gone daddies) and from his own musical roots. The novel literally abounds with song — discussions and descriptions of music from country blues to New York punk, but also actual performances. Some are described narratively, but in a number of cases the song lyrics themselves move the story forward, and so, as a narrator, I was faced with the daunting challenge of creating dozens of musical passages. The author describes the music in succinct detail; occasionally Luther is singing a classic tune, but most often it’s the offspring of his own imagination (or one of his long-gone daddies’). At that point, I — the least musical personal in a musical family — found myself cast in the unexpected role… of songwriter.

Here’s an example. At one point, Luther and his band-mates (and I bet you can’t guess the name of the band!) visit Clarksdale, Mississippi’s Delta Blues Museum. There, Luther imagines a “cutting contest” (a blues smack-off, the precursor of latter-day rap battles) between bluesman Muddy Waters and Elvis Presley:

[haiku url=”http://dev.stillpointdigital.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Elvis-vs.-Muddy.mp3″ title=”Long Gone Daddies: Muddy vs. Elvis”]

Well. That was fun!*

The Kaminsky family in Apart from Love also has a musical soul; unfortunately, that soul belonged to the mother, Natasha. Divorced from narrator Ben’s father, she has disappeared, like Luther Gaunt’s progenitors. Where the Gaunts left behind only an old guitar, however, Ben’s mother left behind a beautiful white grand piano. When Ben’s father Lenny decides to remarry his long-time (and much younger) girlfriend Anita, the new Mrs. Kaminsky decides to use her predecessor’s piano as the stage for a dramatic entrance to the wedding reception. The scene is described here in a letter by Ben’s acid-eyed great aunt Hadassa — and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard an aged Jewish lady singing Bryan Adams:

[haiku url=”http://dev.stillpointdigital.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Aunt-Hadassa.mp3″ title=”Aunt Hadassa Sings”]

So. Who knows what the next audiobook will need me to do? I can’t wait to find out!

 

* Yeah. My Muddy sounds more like Howlin’ Wolf. You try singing like Muddy Waters. I dare you!

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