Bryan Baker

Singer / Songwriter, Geek

Werewolves howling for lost love and regret, robots enslaving and destroying humanity, lost love returning in the zombiepocalypse, and that's just the first three songs! ...

 

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This collection came about from a combination of new versions of murder ballads I'd done before, and new songs written explicitly with this project in mind. Two of the songs were originally recorded for a band called the Bravewell Fellows, made up of Bryan Baker, Ryan Morris and Kelly Howerton. "Pretty Polly" and "Fine Flowers in the Valley" were recorded with that band. When we broke up, I started pulling together this project, wrote several new songs and started thinking about how this was going to go together. When I wrote "Something Was Missing" I knew it needed to be a male / female duet. I also knew it needed a great acoustic bass track. Luckily I'd come to know Kelli Rae Powell and her husband, Jim McNamara. They provided the perfect ingredients for that song, and Kelli Rae added amazing vocals to "Pretty Polly" and "Fine Flowers in the Valley".

The title “The Castle & Other Songs About Murder” is both a reference to the first song “The Castle” and, also it feels like a “place” that these songs “live”. It refers to the infamous hotel built by the serial killer H.H. Holmes in Chicago. Seems like a good “place” for songs about murder.

It was initially the same as the title track (just “The Castle”) I decided to add the rest of the title for clarification that this whole album was comprised of murder ballads. Well, not all traditional style ballads, thus it’s “songs about murder”. “Something Was Missing” is decidedly a “murder ditty”.

The Castle - A song where H.H. Holmes welcomes you to his abattoir. 

Nurse Jane - Jane Toppan was a piece of work, a nurse that got sexual gratification from bringing patients very near death, and climbing into bed with them while they died.

Pretty Polly - A very old traditional murder ballad, freshly set and arranged almost as a theatre piece.

Big Bad World - From the point of view of someone who just can’t deal with the outside world, and turned to “prepping”. The final ingredient: a companion.

Something Was Missing - A Murder “Ditty” (duet) about a couple with a problem, that they solve through a dark, shared “hobby”

Jackie - A teenage run-away chooses the wrong man to hitch a ride with.

Fine Flowers In the Valley - Another ancient, traditional murder ballad re-worked. What happened with some illegitimate babies before abortion was available.

Craigslist Ad - Another set of poor choices, when Johnny lets the little head do the thinking. Play safe.

She Waits in the Shadows - I wanted to do a song exploring the spirit left behind a murder by their lover. Ultimate betrayal leads to seething lust for revenge, but she has patience.

My last release (“Yeah, I’m a Geek”) and “The Castle” both were exercises in patience, and collecting. I tend to record songs and then let them cluster into albums. Both of the albums worked through that process.

Stylistically the new album is much more consistent with itself. It’s got instrumentation that’s much more “acoustic” and traditional, with strings, dobro and banjo on tracks.

This is also the first time I’ve recorded an actual standup “doghouse” bass in my studio. Two mics and a direct pickup output gave me a great palate to work with. 

I also (even though banjo was my first instrument) never thought I’d put banjo on an album. It’s used on more tracks than not on this album.

I think it’s the most cohesive (and closest to a “concept”) album I have done. I feel like it really holds together as a unit, sonically as well as thematically

Some of my fans are clearly into dark themes. In many ways I made this with a particular fan in mind. She is very outspoken about her love for my darkest material. I hope all my fans enjoy this record, while the overall theme is darker than much of my usual fare, it’s still got flashes of humor that delight my biggest fans.

Rounding this out forced me to work on directly tackling a through-line theme. I actually did research to find interesting subjects (H.H. Holmes, Jane Toppan, etc.) and on the murder ballad itself.

My goal with “The Castle & Other Songs About Murder” was to make that one fan happy. I figure if I can please her, there are others who’ll love it just as much.