By ERIC R. DANTON
September 27, 2009
Thirty-six years is a long time to wait between releases, but singer
and guitarist Gary Higgins is finally back with the follow-up to his
"Seconds" (out Tuesday on Drag City) is the first album Higgins has
made since releasing "Red Hash," a collection of songs that became
something of a long-lost psychedelic folk legend before Drag City
reissued it in 2005 to considerable acclaim.
Now 61, Higgins, who lives in the Falls Village section of Canaan,
hopes to build on the buzz.
"I'm just really glad it's going to happen," he says by phone of the
opportunity to release a second album. "I hope it's somewhat
successful, only because I want to keep doing it."
If things had gone differently, Higgins might have been ready with a
sophomore release soon after his debut. Instead, he recorded "Red
Hash" just before spending 13 months in prison on a drug charge, and
his friends and family released the album while he was away.
Although Higgins played occasionally after his release, he mostly
tried to forget about his past. After working odd jobs for a bit, he
became a registered nurse and spent more than 20 years working for
New York state in community homes for the developmentally disabled.
When he retired in April 2007, Higgins had the time and, thanks to
interest surrounding the re-release of "Red Hash," the motivation to
attempt a revival of his music career. By chance, he was still
playing with some of the people from the "Red Hash" days, and he
convened them along with his son, Graham, and another friend
Higgins had been playing with for 20 years to record "Seconds" in
his home studio.
It's an engaging, folksy record, with bright, intertwining acoustic
guitar lines, baroque keyboard ornamentation and Higgins' feathery
voice handling hazy melodies that sound as though they could have
come straight out of 1974.
They didn't, actually. All but one of the seven songs are new the
exception, "Ten-Speed," dates to the mid-'70s though Higgins was
reluctant to stray far from the sound or spirit of "Red Hash."
"I got some things more in the rock-oriented side of things into the
record, but I didn't want to totally go away from what seemed to be
appreciated and got me listened to in the first place," he says.
"Part of me would like to do that, but I'm just not that brave."
Indeed, despite all the time that has passed, and the vintage sound
of his new record, Higgins confesses to being a little nervous about "Seconds."
"I realize that I got a little bit, if not a lot, of room to squeeze
in and out of, because of 'Red Hash' being an older recording played
from a different time," Higgins says. "That's no longer true. With a
new release, you're out there with everybody else putting something new out."
He hopes the new album can be at least as successful as the re-issue
of his first album, which has sold more than 10,000 copies modest
by mass-culture standards, but more than respectable in the indie world.
"In a perfect world, I'd love ["Seconds"] to do better, but given the
economy being what it is, people don't have quite as much disposable
income, so the fun stuff gets left out," Higgins says.
When he wasn't working on the new album, he turned his attention once
more to his past, resurrecting recordings from his pre-"Red Hash"
band Random Concept, which was a mainstay in northwestern Connecticut
and, for a while, on the fringes of Andy Warhol's Factory scene in
New York. He says Drag City has expressed interest in releasing some
of those songs, which would finally give Higgins the chance to show
off his rock side.
"That stuff is pretty much psychedelic rock 'n' roll, not much
acoustic guitar," he says.
SECONDS by Gary Higgins is being released on Drag City Records
Tuesday. Retail price: $15.98.