Last updated: 06/08/2009 12:00:00 PM
Her name, Ambrosia Parsley, has been there since birth, the music nearly as long. No memories go back any further than her dad and his brothers playing guitars and singing out on the porch. Country classics, mostly, and the occasional spiritual. Nothing out of the ordinary for a string of West Virginia boys, though they did stick out a bit once the family relocated to the San Fernando Valley. Then there's Nanny, her mom's mom, who now, into her 70s, still takes the odd gig playing old-time favorites (and "one by David Lee Roth") on her ukulele. So it falls right into place when a little Ambrosia, all buck teeth and blue jeans, finds her first singing job fronting a 99-piece senior citizen banjo band at Shakey's Pizza. "All of Me," and "Goody Goody" at age seven for the old folks on Sunday afternoons. Which, looking back, is no stranger than those fuzzy teenage nights with the Beat Farmers. Just different.
Duke showed up in the middle of the night, a little fuzzy himself after driving all the way from Portland to San Diego for a gig that was not to be. He found himself on the sofa in a studio run by a friend; Ambrosia had been tracking there that afternoon, and Duke, bored and restless, decided this total stranger's work might benefit from a little contribution. He can be shy, but he doesn't lack for nerve. When she turned up the next day she reacted just as you'd expect, but after calming down enough to listen she had to admit the asshole wasn't half bad. They were introduced, she kicked his ass around the block and they wrote a song that same afternoon. They've since written a bunch more and had a lot of lunch. Duke used to play with Exene (who, like Prince and Liza, doesn't need a last name) and before that played for years with Arizona blues legend (we know, it seems even weirder in print) Sam Taylor. Somewhere in there he claims to have met Stevie Wonder.
Danny is a close personal friend and musical accompanist of Harvey Sid Fisher, the Serge Gainsbourg of the zodiac. Danny looks like a televangelist, plays like Sun Ra and has a very large collection of really weird music. His wife Sonia makes Danny's pants. She also makes Lux Interior's. This is something you don't want to think too much about, but suffice to say she's very talented. Danny introduced himself at a party, told Ambrosia that her music didn't suck as much as most things he hears (he can be very sweet that way). Since March he's been on the road with Tom Waits, doing that thing that he does so well and having fancy dinners in Florence with Tom and Roberto Benigni. Yeah, it sounds like fun, but he'll be back. He promised.
Most of the record was made in Joe Henry's backyard, but there were plenty of other bits that got twisted together in Mickey P's parlor, in Chris Maxwell's showroom, or in actual proper professional studios with big George or the Bongload guys. Some of it actually made its way onto the record. Reflecting on it all now, the process was a great way to assemble a giant collection of drummer's phone numbers. Which oughtta come in handy now that the group's going to be needing to tour.
And if the whole thing doesn't happen, we imagine Ambrosia may well go back to singing standards at the pizza joint, though most of the fellas have probably moved on by now.