The Great Crusades

Fiction To Shame

Release Date: 04/09/2010 · Format: CD · Catalog-No: GR 706

The Great Crusades look at life through a shot glass lens … mixing anger, muscle, and minor-key remorse like a roughneck Tindersticks with the bonus of a singer (Krumm) who’s got the tubercular pipes of Tom Waits and Axl Rose’s love child.
David Fricke, Rolling Stone

Fiction to Shame is a very appropriate title for the new album from Chicago’s The Great Crusades. That’s because the two years that passed during the making of the band’s seventh album certainly had a fair share of “truth is stranger than fiction” moments, including emergency surgeries, failed relationships, armed robbery, little people being born, and the unexpected passing of two good friends of the band. Indeed, sometimes the realities of everyday life make made-up stories seem tame, or as the album’s title track says, they put “fiction to shame.”

During all the drama, music was a constant in the band members’ lives, as always. The band members squeezed in time to collaborate on songs whenever and wherever they could: on back porches, in living rooms, and during odd hours at Chicago’s Joyride Studio, where Crusades’ guitarist Brian Leach works as a producer and engineer. As a result, the album might be the band’s most unique and adventurous sounding effort yet.

The Crusades’ past releases were mainly recorded live in studios after much rehearsal. Conversely, the band recorded songs for Fiction to Shame as they were being written. Some songs were rearranged after the first sessions, but many of the initial recordings still found their way into the final product, including first-take vocals of freshly scribbled lyrics; off-the-cuff guitar, bass, and banjo work; and inebriated piano solos.

The songwriting sessions started in early 2008. Just as things were heating up, drummer Christian Moder had to undergo an emergency appendectomy. Using drum tracks recorded earlier, the other band members—Leach and two other Brians, bassist Hunt and vocalist/guitarist Krumm—crafted melodies and song arrangements. When Moder returned a few weeks later, the band quickly finished a batch of songs on the fly.

Hunt summarizes the Fiction to Shame process: “Every recording has been a completely new process for us,” he says. “To sustain yourself as a musician, you have to stay creatively motivated. Part of that is finding and experiencing new song fodder and the other part is figuring out how to capture all that in a recording. This time, we tried writing and recording everything in the studio and using the first few takes to keep everything fresh and give it more air in between the instrumentation.”

The Crusades tried out a few of the new songs on a summer European tour in September 2008, and finished the recordings as 2009 turned into 2010. A plethora of guests helped round out the sound with group vocals, horns, and a ton of percussion. The Crusades also took advantage of a baby grand piano at Joyride, a vintage Wurlitzer, and acoustic guitars to incorporate many sounds they have only used sparingly in the past.

The lyrics, written by Krumm, continue a storytelling tradition of many of the best Great Crusades songs, with inspiration coming from many places: from dark, lonely hotel rooms in Vienna to wild dance halls in Munich and New Orleans to some haunted streets of St. Louis at dusk. Reinforcing the theme of Fiction to Shame, the lyrics were all “inspired by true stories.” After all, why make something up when truth is more fascinating than make-believe?

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01. Sons And Daughters 4:31
02. Never Far Away From Home 3:58
03. Got Down On My Knees 4:22
04. Fiction To Shame 3:37
05. Club 2 4:01
06. The Killing Moon 4:56 EU
07. Tear Down The Heart 5:18
08. Queen Of The Second Line Dancers 4:02
09. Magic Shoes 3:20
10. Awkward 3:56
11. Smoked A Million Beers 3:02
12. Flight Pattern Strangers 3:37
13. Parallel To The Ground

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