I found a cassette tape at the bottom of a shoebox while cleaning the attic. The label said Jim Reeves Roast, June 1978. When my grandfather retired from Sears, his colleagues threw him a party. They roasted him in front of his coworkers and recorded it on a Sears cassette. Now that I own a tape player again, I can listen to it. Yet I’m wary of this unexpected field recording. What if I discover a terrible side to my grandfather? Late one night I punched the play button. Patches of conversation broke through: “And that’s how he made it out of the marketing department.” Laughter. “Last time he was ever given an expense account.” More laughter. The sound of silver dinging on glass, a call for attention:

“Do you remember New Orleans?”
“I always will,” said my grandfather.
“Boy, we got so drunk with them gals from—”

Jim Reeves Roast Cassette

I stopped the tape. A few phrases got caught in my delay pedal and made a nice loop which I paired with a bit of vinyl crackle, some rumbling feedback, and a pitched-down guitar from a dollar-bin record called Silva Y Villalba’s Antologia Musical Colombiana. The result is an eleven-minute track with some reverb, knob twiddling, and double-time delay at the end. Perhaps someday I’ll work up the nerve to give my grandfather’s roast a proper listen.

Do You Remember New Orleans?

From American Decay | 2015 | Download

A track from American Decay, a collection of loops and reverberations recorded between 2009 and 2014.