NOBODY’S FAULT BUT MINE
Edwin McCain is happy. Life’s been good to him and he is very much obliged. Millions of albums sold. Hit songs that never leave the radio airwaves. An unwavering fanbase that keeps him on tour more days out of the year than not. And – surprising even Edwin himself – not one, but two of the most enduring wedding songs on the circuit, his earnest and soulful delivery unlikely standouts amongst all the other contrived wedding fare. So when it came to recording a new album, Edwin wanted to share the songs he loves and that make him happy, hoping listeners will take a few moments along the way to discover, rediscover and savor some of the best vintage soul and R&B songs ever written.
So why would McCain – someone who has considerable talent at writing his own songs – choose to do an album of other peoples’ work? “For me, it was an absolute blast,” he says. “It was so much fun taking a break from staring into my own bellybutton, playing, singing, interpreting other people’s songs just for the fun of it. Purely for the joy of doing it.”
The idea for Nobody’s Fault But Mine had been simmering for quite some time. “I had a conversation with my friend Kevn Kinney (of Drivin’ n’ Cryin’) about five or six years ago, who said ‘you need to get a smoking band together and make a soul music album like James Brown,’ and I loved it.” Then last year, out of the blue, Edwin was invited by producer Tor Hyams (Joan Osborne, Tricky) to do just that. After culling through hundreds of songs, Edwin and his team came up with the 15 tracks for Nobody’s Fault But Mine. They enlisted Steve Cropper, one of the architects of the Stax sound and a founding member of Booker T. & the MG’s, as well as Joan Osborne (“I’ve Got Dreams To Remember”) and Ivan Neville to join Larry Chaney (guitar), Manolo Yanes (bass), Eddie Bayers (drums), Doug Moffet and Craig Shields (saxophones), Quentin Ware (trumpet), Steve Pierson (acoustic guitar on “Good Times”) and C.C. White and Chasen Hampton (background vocals) in the studio.
The band approached the sessions much like the originals, recording the tracks largely live in just one or two takes. “When we got to the studio, we were ripping through, recording a lot of songs in a short period of time.” A particular favorite was “T.C.B. or T.Y.A.” “It was one of my discoveries when searching for songs for the album, a real gift,” Edwin explains. “And the version we ended up with is amazing.” Exhilarating “Can I Get A Witness” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” were added alongside songs like the funk laden “Grits Ain’t Groceries (All Around The World)” and deliciously dirty “Ninety-Nine and a Half.” There’s even a “Happy Song,” resplendent in Stax-worthy horns.
“Some of the most fun in making the album was returning to the era and mindset of the songs,” Edwin recalls, “really understanding the beauty of it all, just the absolute and total brilliance of the music and capturing the spirit of it.” Upon listening to McCain’s deep, expressive vocals belting out the rhythm and blues, it’s clear that he and the songs are kindred spirits, finally finding each other and embracing in the reunion.
While radio fans may know McCain best for his smash hits “I’ll Be,” “I Could Not Ask For More” and “Solitude,” the singer/songwriter paid his dues in full by touring relentlessly early in his career. After releasing seven albums and selling over 2 million copies, he continues to perform hundreds concerts throughout the country each year.
“The album’s not meant to be heavy or overly contemplative,” sums up Edwin. “With everything that seems to be going on in the world, it’s nice to smile once in a while.”