The Bottle And The Pen -or- The Secret History of Joe Louis Walker’s Mean Streets Records

I have a new column that has just debuted on Grape Collective, entitled “The Bottle & The Pen: An Exploration Through Wine & Literature,” and I wanted to offer a little bit of backstory to the title, as it’s actually derived from a Preacher Boy song.

After completing the sessions for “Crow,” I stayed on at Revolution (the English studio outside Manchester where we recorded the album) laying down a bunch of publisher demos of additional songs I was working on at the time. Among these tracks was a song called The Bottle & The Pen. I recorded a solo acoustic version with just voice & The National, thinking I’d revisit it at another time to explore arrangement possibilities with the band.

Fate intervened, however, in the form of Frank Klein, and Biscuits & Blues. Frank was the manager of Biscuits at that time, and was pushing hard, and with great imagination, to broaden the ways in which B&B could contribute to the world of blues music.

The answer was a record label! Frank launched Means Streets Records, as presented by Joe Louis Walker, with this release:

Mean Streets Blues – A San Francisco Collection – 13 Stompin’ Tracks

Mean Streets Blues - A San Francisco Collection - 13 Stompin' Tracks

The album reads like a Who’s Who of Bay Area Blues from that era, and to the endeavor’s credit, nearly all of these artists are STILL vibrant presences on the scene. Check it out:

Mean Streets Blues - A San Francisco Collection - 13 Stompin' Tracks

Tommy Castro, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Lavay Smith, Mark Hummel, Rusty Zinn, Big Bones, James Armstrong, and more; it’s a remarkable collection.

Remarkable all the more for the fact that, like so many great blues projects with great blues intentions, this would prove to be the only Mean Streets Records release.

That said, I am extremely proud to have been a part of this project, and was honored and humbled both when Frank asked for a song. Having just completed the Revolution sessions I mentioned earlier, I had quite a few new recordings to consider, and The Bottle and The Pen, in its original solo acoustic format, was the final selection.

Strange journey, that it now lives on as the title to an article about wine & literature. Prophetic in a way, I suppose. The chorus lyrics:

If you wanna know where I come from
I’ll tell you this my friend
I was born beneath a bottle and a pen

You can here this recording of The Bottle & The Pen by clicking here.


Big Bones and I recently reunited for a very special show at Biscuits & Blues: you can see footage from that performance below:


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