71 and Still Going Strong
By Jan K. Sikes
Lloyd Maines is one of the most well-known and highly-esteemed names in the world of Texas music. Over the past fifty years, he has not only produced hundreds of albums but also played on hundreds of recordings.
And now, at the age of seventy-one, Lloyd has released his first-ever solo album.
There are so many things I love about this project, but first and foremost, how Maines involved his family in the making of the album. When we sat down for an interview, he shared what it means to him to see the music carried forward to future generations.
So, what inspired this Texas legend to record a debut solo album?
“During the pandemic, I was doing so much overdubbing at my house. Between March 2020 and January 1st of this year, I did over 250 songs for other people, just here in my little funky man cave,” Maines said. “So, during that time, I decided to lay down some on my own and see how it turned out.”
Having listened to the album, I can assure Mr. Maines it turned out great! But being the kind of person he is, he wound up involving lots of others.
Maines continued. “I got my grandkids involved in the recording. I tell people I did this project with my grandkids and for my grandkids.”
Being a grandmother myself, I can appreciate that statement.
“I’m seventy-one,” Maines said. “I’ve always worked on other peoples’ projects, and I thought it was time I did one of my own. It would give my grandkids something to play for their kids.”
The first song on this new CD is the title track, “Eagle Number 65.”
Maines explained that he had a strong vision for the song. “That is the very first song I did when I was experimenting. I always wanted to do a lap steel and pedal steel together. This song has some really long sustaining chords. Those are played on the lap steel. Then all the active stuff is on the pedal steel. So I just created a click track and started laying down this song with no plan at all. And it came together. Then I added Beatnik bongo drums to keep it moving.”
Another song that stands out to me on this album is one titled “Hank Hill’s Nightmare.”
“I wanted to write a song for my youngest grandson, who is seventeen, to play drums on,” Maines said. “He and I are fans of the sitcom King Of The Hill. Hank Hill, to me, represents the good Texas neighbor. He always wants to do what is right and treat people right, and he likes country music. In some episodes, he’ll even play an acoustic guitar. Whenever my grandkids would come to visit on Christmas we would binge-watch King of The Hill. So, I decided to write this song with a ZZ Top shuffle and do the Merle Travis finger-picking. Beckett, my grandson, did a great job on the drums. I like doing things that are contrary to the ordinary.”
I’d say that’s a very true statement, as is evidenced by the next song we talked about. The title, “Homer’s Odd Is He” is a quirky jazz tune with a big play on words. And it was written by Maines’ oldest grandson, Slade.
“My grandson isn’t a jazz player, but he is well-versed in every genre of music. I asked him if he’d write a song that would lend itself to an electric guitar and steel guitar duet. He came up with this one, and I thought it was cool, but he didn’t have a name for it,” Maines explained. “I had just heard something or saw something on TV about the book Homer’s Odyssey, which I’ve never read, but my grandson had. And because we are also big fans of the Simpsons, I came up with the crazy title playing off the classic book. And when I asked my grandson about it, he loved it, so we named this song after Homer Simpson and Homer’s Odyssey.”
“Irish Blood” is a jaunty Irish tune written by Maines and inspired by a trip to Ireland in 2005 for the christening of a granddaughter.
A tune that was written by the amazing Terri Hendrix, “Wallet” is one Maines has played hundreds of times. On this album, he used the pedal steel to translate the great lyrics of the song with such a positive vibe that is a true reflection of Hendrix.
“Declan’s Cookie” was co-written with Terri Hendrix about a covert cookie caper involving a ginger snap and a four-year-old grandchild.
The most emotive song on the album is, beyond any doubt, “Lullaby,” written by Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, Emily Robison, and Dan Wilson. The instrumental arrangement is such that it raises the hair on my arms. But the voice that croons the lyrics is truly the voice of an angel. And guess what? Yep. It’s another grandchild, Amelia.
Maines shared his thoughts on it. “When the Chicks recorded that song out in L.A. with Rick Rubin producing it, I went out and played on it. And when I heard the playback, I was so overcome with emotion I was pulverized. They’d written the perfect song about their love for their children and how hard it was to be away from them on the road. So I decided to do this instrumental version using an acoustic slide, then realized it needed the lyrics. After all, that is what makes the song so emotional and strong. So, I asked my granddaughter, Amelia, if she would come in and sing the choruses and harmony.”
And sing it, she did. If you only listen to one track on this new album, please listen to “Lullaby.”
The culminating song that brought the entire Maines clan together to create is “Bloodlines” written by Terry Allen. When I say the whole clan, I seriously mean the whole clan. There are fifty-two different voices collaborating with Maines, all descendants of James and Edith Maines, Lloyd’s parents.
“I’m not a singer, and I wasn’t going to sing on my instrumental album, but for this song, I had to do it because it means so much to me,” said Maines. “I recorded the instrumental track first, then added my vocals. Then using iPhones, sent an mp3 recording of it to each family member. I asked them to use one phone to play the song and another to record the vocals, then send it back to me. Then I took all of it into Moyers Sound Studio and mixed it down. I had no idea if this would work or not, but it did, and I’m happy with the results.”
There are some other fabulous songs on this album that I haven’t mentioned, but if you know Lloyd Maines and are familiar with his work, you know they are amazing. There’s a version of the “Steel Guitar Rag” that is uniquely Maines, along with “The Water is Wide” and “Auld Lang Syne.”
When asked if he’d ever do another project like this one, Maines responded with, “I want to say no, but then with all these talented grandkids, who knows?”
It is truly a family affair and a beautiful tribute to the ties that bind.
My hat is off to Mr. Maines.
Eagle Number 65 has landed.