|Project Feijoa's debut album The California Tapes was released on 1 September 2019. Written by Bob McNeill and recorded mostly in the second half of 2018 / early 2019, the album is a collection of 11 songs mostly written on the road in 2009, around Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Propelled along by Rob Henderson's driving basslines, the album weaves McNeill's Spanish and electric guitar tomfoolery with Emily Roughton's gorgeous viola, piano and fiddle stylings to create a rich and varied sound palette for the stories. An album to listen to over and over.The story of the California Tapes|
The California Tapes started with a trip Bob made to the prettiest state in 2009. He arrived in Santa Barbara to stay with friends, three months after the Jesusita fire had destroyed many of their neighbours' houses in Mission Canyon. The aftermath of the fire was a stirring sight and stayed with him as he traveled north, giving up three songs on the album, including Jesusita, one of his most-requested songs at shows. A friend he visited in San Francisco turned out to be heading overseas for an extended period, leaving his apartment, which happened to be in the Mission, empty. So he stayed there. This is the best way to visit friends; when they're away.
He wandered around SF in the baking sun and freezing fog, writing in the evenings, for weeks, then put the book away and went off exploring. San Francisco is a fascinating place; and like most fascinating places, it's best experienced whilst not in the company of someone who actually lives there. Due to an incident involving a suitcase and a sub-par intellect, he didn't see the book again until 2015. Having been able to only remember three of the songs he'd written, he played those, and forgot about the rest. They would have come back words-only if it hadn't been for a vintage mp3 recorder thing that he'd sung some of the tunes into back in '09. Raise your hat to iRiver - remember them, back when nobody had a smartphone?
The California Tapes is about the Jesusita fire, the fires that came before it, the lives they touched, and some of the other stories that spring out at you in California; the Californios, the settlers, the 49ers, Loma Prieta, the border, and ordinary people on the road.
The California Tapes is a love letter to California.The songs of the California Tapes
McNeill's songs visit people who've seen things, up close. In The California Tapes, we hear their stories firsthand, sometimes not long after the event, sometimes years later. There's the shellshocked divorcee escaping a fire in Jesusita; the washed-up musician playing bars in the Valley in San Fernando; the street dweller whose world literally collapses around him in Saint Dolores; and the disillusioned immigrant crossing back over in the bittersweet Where you can't see the border.
Most of the songs were written or started in 2009 in California; McNeill picked the project up again years later while in France, which explains the lone stray on the album, a heartfelt ode to the shopkeepers of Vaucluse, and its ever-present ghosts: Anna's dream.
The California Tapes includes McNeill's "fire trilogy"; Jesusita tells one's man's story of the fire, as he runs for his life, while the last reminders of an old love are burned over; in Painted Princess, he finds something worth living for in a figure from the Chumash past; in Las Canoas he hears the story of an older fire, from California's gold mining past, and sees his story as part of the cycle of love, loss and renewal.