Greg Tressel gets a little help from friends
The Band-style Americana and rock 'n' roll — salted with swing and country — flavors the 12 original tunes on Greg Tressel's debut CD, "The Hard Way," released last week on Newtrax Records.
Tressel, executive director for the nonprofit Rogue Theatre in Grants Pass, says he hasn't thought about writing songs for the past 20 years.
"I used to work as a songwriter in Nashville many years ago," Tressel says. "Once I began writing again, though, the songs started coming together pretty fast."
Tressel's been rubbing elbows with recording artists and producers Gary Mallaber (Steve Miller, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen) and Barry Goldberg (Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield), along with session musicians and songwriters James "Hutch" Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt), Marcy Levy (Eric Clapton) and Jeff Pevar (Crosby, Stills and Nash) for several years — since he began managing Australian singer Kara Grainger.
While in Los Angeles on business, Tressel says he heard a friend say, "If there's a barstool around, I'm on it." He quickly penned a country twanger he calls "If There's a Barstool, She's on It."
"My friends said it was a good song and that I should write others," Tressel says.
When he was ready to record the tunes, he was able to put together a stellar lineup of artists to lay down tracks. Mallaber plays drums and some keyboard for all but one of the songs and produced the CD. Pevar laid down lead guitar for the title cut, along with guitars and mandolin for eight other tunes on the album.
The title song, "The Hard Way," was inspired by "an amalgam of bad relationships," Tressel says. The recording features Hutchinson on bass.
Another standout, "Mill Worker's Daughter," was written about a girl Tressel met in Grants Pass.
"She really is a mill worker's daughter," Tressel says. "It's a song about a girl who was never asked to the high school dance but realized a fairy-tale dream by becoming a model."
The song features Pevar on lead, rhythm and electronic bow guitar and Southern Oregon musician Kevin Carr on uilleann pipes.
"With Three Chords and the Truth, He Changed the World" is an anthem to Woody Guthrie, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and John Lennon.
"It's an ode to all songwriters who have changed the world with their music and lyrics," Tressel says. The song's gospel harmonies are sung by Levy, who co-wrote "Lay Down Sally" and other songs with Clapton.
"I Wrote Her Name in the Sand" is a south-of-the-border-flavored lament with piano and mariachi trumpet by Bill Holloman.
Keyboard player Goldberg is featured on five of the tunes, and look for appearances by Bob "Boo" Bernstein on pedal steel, Johnny Lee Schell on electric rhythm guitar, Jesse Kennemer on rhythm and lead guitars, Johnny Trujillo on bass and Arlen Schierbaum on piano.
"It would be great to get this supergroup together and perform as an opener for some major artist's tour," Tressel says.
"The Hard Way" is available at HeartSong in Grants Pass, Music Coop in Ashland and online at iTunes and CD Baby. See www.gregtressel.com.