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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

An Entire Album Focused on Key West

An Entire Album Focused on Key West
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“Chris, I really loved your album and it made me miss the Keys even more!” Shelly Liebowitz. Produced Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur, Ray Brown..etc. Holy Smokes!
"We put your CD on as soon as we hit the Keys! Your music IS the Keys!"
How many times have I gotten that complement, I couldn't say, but I've heard it plenty of times. Every time I'm flattered and honored. Honored especially for all that helped me make it!
Back in 2010 I started working on a new album which would end up being called "Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)". The main focal point of the album was to write about the island I loved.
Having been a Nashville published songwriter since 2000, this would prove to be a fun and challenging project! I also wanted to write it to appease not the tourists, but rather the locals and visitors.
(A quick note on tourists and visitors: Tourists come here for a vacation, then go home. The visitor is the person who comes here and wants to become part of the town and eventually will)

I'm not sure how many songs have been written about coming here and getting drunk on Duval Street? My guess is that it's around 52,973. While some of them are very good songs, it wasn't a route that I was going to go down. Again, I wanted something from the local perspective. Years ago, long before I ever moved here, I just absolutely loved (and still do!) Michael McCloud's first two albums, "Ain't Life Grand" and "Greta's Tits". He's been living here since the early seventies and wrote songs like "She's Got A Butt", "Tourist Town Bar", "Today's the Day", "The Hurricane Blows", "Just Came Down For The Weekend", "Pool Shootin' Woman". These are some of the songs that set the standard for Key West songs written from a local perspective and the template that I wanted to be influenced by.

Another were The Survivors! The Survivors had a groove that captured Key West, if anyone ever did. Listen to the jam in  "En Cayo Hueso"! That says it all about a Key West evening, if anything ever did! Talk about capturing a Key West vibe!

One thing I did know was that until one lives here a year, one can't write from a local's perspective. You need to become part of the town. Fall into the rhythm of it's pulse.

With that established, my next objective was to avoid one of my biggest pet peeves. That would be an album where every song sounds the same. Mind you, there are some who do this and are very successful at it. As they say in the automotive industry "There's an ass for every seat". However, that's not my modus operandi and it's not happening on my shift. No way!
How would I do this? A couple of ways. Fortunately, I'm somewhat well versed in several types of music. The first idea I had was to write everything in a different root genre. The second thing was to have various different musicians playing on different songs. In the end, I used eighteen different musicians on various tracks. What I did do however, was use the same rhythm section, Richard Crooks on drums and Bubba Lownotes on bass. Later, producer Dan Simpson did a quick mod on two of the songs, however with Richard and Bubba on everything, the core maintained cohesiveness insuring that the album sounded as though it had the same core throughout. With Dan Simpson producing, it was a formula that stuck like glue.
The one criteria I had regarding musicians was that they all had to be local. How could I possibly do an album about Key West and record the damn thing in New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville, where the people playing the music have never lived, or in most cases, never even been here? That's insane!

The people that feel the pulse of the island shine through and it's the feeling that they have from living and breathing here, that gives it the blood in the veins authenticity. While they may not be able to put a finger on it, the locals and visitors feel this. The tourists do not, however that doesn't preclude them from liking what they hear!
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Equally as important, is the fact that the level of musicianship in Key West is as good as you'll find anywhere, as are the producers!
Most important of all, in making an album focused on Key West, using Key West musicians is just plain honest if I’m making an album focused on Key West!
There's no substitute for integrity. Integrity means everything. I couldn’t do an album I didn’t feel had integrity.

Okay! So let’s see what we ended up with! It also must be mentioned that the producer, Dan Simpson, of Private Ear Studios here in Key West did an unbelievable job! Dan's been doing this for over thirty years and his experience and insight was invaluable.


I wrote "The Beach!!!!" inspired from riding my bike to from my apartment to Ft. Zachery Taylor State Park, a.k.a. the best beach in Key West. The structure of the song is twofold. The basic verses are written in an Afro/Cuban style... hell, we're a LOT closer to Havana than we are a Walmart! The bridges of the song are in Motown. Somehow they work together! I got the idea while riding my bike up Thomas St. to Fort Zachery Taylor State Park’s beach. I tried to get a feel of either biking, or marching to the beach.

I stepped out of my door on Whitehead Street and it was pouring down rain. I recalled years ago being stuck in a bar one afternoon as a deluge came down and flooded Duval St. My friend Richard Van Der Mude and I listened to Barry Cuda all afternoon that day. I realized how beautiful a rainy day was in Key West. I was also missing a girl who didn't live here, so that was a major influence as well. It seemed appropriate that this song be based in a jazz style mode. Between the rain falling and missing the girl,  a romantic feel was what I attempted to capture with this song.

We went to the Key West Dog Park with my dogs, Cajun and Tooloulou. After a bit of running around, Cajun got a coconut and started chewing it to bits. Hence, Cajun's Got a Coconut! Genre: Funk

Far and away, the largest music festival in Key West is the Key West Songwriter's Festival. As a matter of fact, it's the largest songwriter festival in the U.S. I was attending one of the gigs in 2010 (there are many!) and a lot of these guys are based in Nashville and are touring the U.S. They then fly to Key West for the festival. One of the performers raises his fist high in the air and proclaims "It's great to be back in The South again!". Over the span of the festival I saw two others proclaim the same thing. Those of us who were locals, were a bit confused. "The South?"..... Well, it's explained in the song.
Genre: Country

I've had the true privilege to have spent quite a while sailing in the waters off of Key West! My pals Larry and Michelle have a a Morgan sailboat that I've spent the most time on and we've been all over the place, including making some ridiculous Bar Tending With Boris videos on! My other friends Blackheart Charlie and Rachel took me out for the "Bloody Battle", a completely ridiculous farce involving the Conch Republic Navy vs The U.S. Coast Guard, where water hoses are the battle weapon de jour. Then again, over the last few MOTM events Captain Terry has come in from California and captained a catamaran of good size that I've had the pleasure of playing music on them. Coming to Key West and not getting out on the water is a major mistake. Just close your eyes and imagine you're sailing in the water off of Key West. If you're north of Key West you're in the Gulf of Mexico, if you're on the south coast, you're in the Atlantic! This song was inspired by those excursions!
Genre: South Seas

This is the oldest song on the recording.  © 1997.  It focuses on the atmosphere of the town, from a visitor's perspective. You have the guy breathing fire at Maolry Square at the sunset celibration, the live music that permiates the town, the bullshit artists who tell wild tales, The bars filling up after dusk, and at that point it's "...this Key of crazies kickin' into high gear, and that's the way it goes, everybody knows, Mile Zero".
Genre: Rock

"My Little Island Town"
This is the story of heading to the Keys from afar. "Good by New Jersey, Newyork too. Said good-by to old Cape Cod, we'll see you soon. Turned the wheel around and I pointed it south, heading to my little island town"
Genre: Southern Rock

"Dildo Key"
Yes, there actually is an island in the Florida Keys named "Dildo Key". Keep in mind that out over 1,300 Keys, only about 50 are populated. When I saw the name of this Key on a sounding chart, I just HAD to write a song about it!
 Genre: Barrel House Blues

"Raise My Glass To The Upper 48"
My friend George Cornejo came down from Miami to visit right after I arrived here. Before he hopped on his BMW to ride home after a few days here he said "Well damn! You're here in Key West and the rest of us are back in the upper 48!". I had never heard that term before and I loved it. I loved it so much that I wrote a song about it! Although I wrote and arranged the entire song, I gave George co-writing credit. You see, if he never said that, the song would never have been written. I gave him 10% credit. Others wouldn't have. You'll hear songwriters often say "Oh I heard a friend say this and I made a song out of it" However, that's not me. George gets 10%. This is how I roll. It's that integrity thing I was harping about earlier.
Genre: Brazilian

"Key West Blues"
A song about having left Key West and yearning to come back. ... "And here I am so far away crying with these Key West Blues". The original English speaking Keys settelers came from the Bahamas. Long story there, but a good one! Anyway, I set this song up as a Bahamain street march, complete with the Key West Junkanoos marching in the Goombay parade!

Genre: Bahamian.

So, that wraps up an entire album made as a celebration of Key West and the Conch Republic.
"Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)"

Things could be worse! A little tongue in cheek humor there, of course. I realize that so many wish they could live here and I NEVER forget how fortunate and lucky I am to be here.

Regarding the album, it's available on my website, or through the usual sources such as iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Amazon (Amazon does not include Dildo Key... Really!)

Here are what the reviews said about it.

“Chris, I really loved your album and it made me miss the Keys even more!” Shelly Liebowitz (Produced Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur, Ray Brown..etc. Holy Smokes! )

 "Great C.D! love it! I listen to it all the time , cool idea's love it!  It’s out of the box and fun.... love it!"
Steven Youngblood Trop Rock 1290 WPCF, Pensacola

 “Seriously, your album rocks dude. Love every song, It is perfection” Amo Bennett, Island Time Radio WBWC, Cleveland, Oh.

"Key West Chris (Rehm) with his first album Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West - really has a feel for his Island home that he truly loves, Not to mention the other Fantastic Key West Musicians, that all together makes this album a shining moment in Conch Rock History!" Gary Ek,

“Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (Things Could Be Worse)" covers so many different genres, it’s another great addition to the ever expanding sounds of Trop Rock by adding so many different new flavors to it.” Jeff Allen, Beachfront Radio

Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West...” is a “don't get left out” cultural standard with crafty songwriting and stellar Key West musicianship that sets the bar for Conch Rock! Key West Chris Rehm gives you the impression there's nothing better than being “Shanghai'd” in the Conch Republic. Outstanding! ----- Captain Allen Frankendread, SHIP 2 SHORE RADIO

“Chris Rehm is the best songwriter in the Keys. Who can compare with him? No one.”
Burt White – music critic

As we speak, I'm on a new album project which is named "Jump Into De Fi-Ya!". Again, a lot of different root genres, but like Shanghai'd it will still sound like it comes from the islands known as both The Keys and The Conch Republic, however it won’t be all about the Keys either. The one thing I can promise is that it will be fun! Also, at the same time, it will not sound anything like Shanghai'd. That is thin ice to travel on, as Shanghai'd set the bar about as high as a bar can be set. Nervous? Yeah, that's natural, but I'm more excited about a great challenge ahead!

Oh yeah, Join the movement!

"We put your CD on as soon as we hit the Keys! Your music IS the Keys!"

All those people can’t be wrong! Get the download! 

Or search iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe... etc. for "Key West Chris"


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