The Mocking Bird is the new project from acclaimed singer songwriter Bob Kemmis. The new moniker isn't the only change for the Vancouver-based musician; the thirteen new songs on No Good Deed Goes Unpunished exhibit a new, rockier urgency in stark contrast to the low-key studio albums Kemmis has previously released under his own name.
According to Kemmis, this has as much to do with his own life experiences as it does the players who bring his songs to crackling life. These include old friends Doug Elliott, Pat Steward and Craig Northey from Odds, keyboard ace Simon Kendall, roots guitar wizard Steve Dawson, Spirit of the West's Geoff Kelly along with stadium rock greats Mickey Curry and Keith Scott.
"I never ask them to learn parts, only structure. In those situations, it becomes a collaboration of ideas and decisions that happen on the fly. It's an exciting way to make music. I knew getting these guys together and pressing ‘record’, was going to shake much of the sensitive singer songwriter out of these songs and leave them raw. Rocking."
Kemmis, an affable stage performer with a winning reputation, was overwhelmed by the peer support he received along the way.
"Musicians from different circles and cities were coming together to contribute to it. Even before we started to record the songs, we knew that it was going to sound very different from anything I had ever done before. It had taken on a life and character of it's own and deserved it's own title: The Mocking Bird."
In the intervening seven years since his last solo album, Arena Ready, Kemmis has traveled the world as both a performer – on tours with Jann Arden, Frank Black, John Hiatt, Danny Michel and Badly Drawn Boy, but also from the sides of the stage, as a highly regarded guitar tech for artists such as Feist, Jann Arden and the Bryan Adams band.
The Mocking Bird also reflects a new spirit of adventure and collaboration, and he built the album, song-by-song, over a period of years in studios all over the globe. While much of the album was initially tracked at various Vancouver studios, Kemmis added parts and new tracks wherever he happened to be, such as Peter Moshay's A-Pawling Studios in Pawling, NY. Another of these sessions took place at London's legendary Abbey Road one autumn day in 2004.
"I had just written 'I Adore You'," recalls Kemmis, "and an opportunity to record it in the actual room where the Beatles worked, arose."
Having only fifteen minutes to get it, Kemmis had the house engineer throw up a pair of Neumann microphones, once owned by John Lennon, and did three passes of the song.
"Just me and a guitar and all those ghosts!"
A natural storyteller, the new songs, with titles like "Loved You Hated Him", "Roughed Up" and "Teach The New Clown", are compelling tales that resonate with human emotion and sound like real life. "I am always interested in how people relate to one another," says Kemmis, "and human relationships tend to dominate the lyrical content of my songs. It doesn't have to be autobiographical as far as the inspiration goes, even though I tend to place the narrator in the middle of the story."
Your good deed for the day? Listen to The Mocking Bird, because the story is just beginning.