The Downtown Brooklyn Loft Tapes: Daisann McLane, Dawn McGuire, Joyce Leigh Bowden and David Fisher

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What was New York City like in the 70s? Well it was a place where you could find an apartment for $200 a month, roll downtown with your old college roommate to Folk City in August, meet the perfect woman to round out your vocal trio. Dawn from Kentucky via Princeton, me from New York and Jersey, Joyce had just driven up north from a small town in North Carolina to make it in the big city. By November, we all were singing with the angels--and with dear David Fisher, who in making these tapes of our live rehearsals, never realized what a gift he was giving me for a birthday nearly forty years later. All recorded in his Jay Street, Brooklyn loft.

1. The First Noel 

We were really broke that winter and thought we could make some extra cash singing carols in suburban shopping malls. We practiced and practiced. Alas, the goons of privatization were just beginning to flex their muscles. They tossed us out of Short Hills parking lot. Personnel: Daisann, vocals and guitar, Dawn, vocals, Joyce, vocals, David Fisher lead guitar.

2. Sad Case

This is still one of my very favorite songs to sing, especially when I have such great voices to lift me up. Dawn and Joyce and I didn’t have the Beach Boys/Jacksons/Andrews kind of genetic blend going for us, and that’s what made us all the more alluring, I think–the surprise that a velvet baritone, a sexy country sorprano, and a middle range folkie could harmonize like real sisters.  We’d loop and dip and sometimes trade parts, harmony and melody, spontaneously in the middle of a song. I couldn’t resist putting two different takes of “Sad Case” in here–they’re so different, the joy of pure play. “Didn’t that sound like cellos and everything!” says Joyce.

3. Dishes in the Sink 

David was a state department brat and had lived in Thailand and Ethiopia and Barbados and had a collection of instruments from everywhere. Can’t remember what he is playing on this track, probably some kind of African (Moroccan, he tells me) banjo. This was 1978 1979, too early for “World Music”–except in David’s Brooklyn loft. When I wasn’t channelling Kate McGarrigle we were plotting field trips to find the latest Fela LPs at African record stores in deepest Flatbush.

4. I Can’t Go On

Note how the vocalist starts to swing when she hears David brushing a cute little shuffle on the hi-hat at the lyrics: “you swept me off my feet and under the rug”. Really, this woman has a future as a calypso singer! Oh, wait.

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Credits: The performance photo, above, was taken by the fabulous Jim Marchese. The photo on the card, below, is part of a series by the marvelous Irene Young, who made me and all of us village folkies look elegant and gorgeous for the ages. All songs (except the Christmas carol) are written by Daisann McLane. David Fisher is responsible for the everything-but-kitchen-sink arrangement on “Dishes” and the riddums in “Can’t Go On”