James Reid Band

Breakfast at Sunset Photo Gallery

Communion with the past

The lyric “Communion with the past” is one of the last lines I wrote in Home Again, the opening song on the Breakfast at Sunset CD.  When JP and I reconnected after losing touch with each other for more than 40 years, the past and present collided with a force that took over body, mind and soul.

Memories from our days in the band Milkweed rushed back into consciousness like water breaking through a levee. I remembered vaguely and fondly our first gig in North Carolina—after we abandoned the Northeast with no solid prospects, other than a temporary place to live.

In July 1970, we opened the show at the Love Valley Pop Festival just off Highway 115 north of Statesville, near the site that still hosts the fiddlers’ convention at Union Grove. We had consumed a few itemsthat had altered consciousness before the show, but the Allman Brothers, who would follow us on stage that night, were in much worse shape.

In fact, some of the band members were in such states of incapacity that we doubted their ability to stand up, much less perform. But when it came time for their set, the Allmans were ready and played wonderfully for three hours to a crowd that swelled to 200,000 over the course of the weekend.

That festival was a jumping-off point for Milkweed, which subsequently moved to Atlanta and began building a regional reputation as a popular original country-rock band. We were immersed in the Atlanta music scene, becoming friends with Bruce Hampton and Mike Holbrook of the Hampton Grease Band. We met Marvin Jackson and Pat Alger, both of whom played lead guitar for Milkweed at various points in the band’s two-year-run in Georgia.

We met Ursula Alexander, who took us in when we had no other place to live and became our manager. The band moved lock, stock and barrel to Campton, Georgia (near Athens), and I remember driving Ursula’s white Karmann Ghia with the absurd “automatic stick” as fast as it would go on the farm-to-market roads near the house where we all lived.

Next door was an abandoned gas station, which served as rehearsal space we shared with Crossover, a band led by Randall Bramblett. That building was a jumping-off point of its own for the song “Outside Campton Georgia,” one of the earliest of our collaborations (in which JP’s imagination took over).

One memory leads to another, like an endless hall of mirrors, but Breakfast at Sunset is more about the rediscovery of old friendships, the creation of new friendships, the reliving of the pure joy of making music together and the rare chance to complete unfinished business that had lain dormant for more than four decades.

When JP writes “My life is changed by noon” in the title song, he’s speaking for both of us. It’s an ordinary impulse to want to reconnect with the past as one gets older, but seldom is it also extraordinary, as our reunion was.

I hope you can hear that in the music.

--Reid Spencer

Boxing Day Morning 2013

As I sat at my friends’ Jim and Betsy Nelson’s Christmas dinner table in 2013, the last person I could imagine reconnecting with the next day was old Reid Spencer from our band Milkweed (b. 1970 - d. 1972).  True, I had regaled the Nelson’s annual Christmas dinner crowd with stories of our rock & roll glory and ignominy for several years running.  And, I might have mentioned Reid’s name a few times – or maybe not.  But, no way did I have a clue that he would be back in my life in 24 hours, but that would become such a big and important part of it.  So, as the song goes, “my friend Jim (Nelson) swore he’d find something about our band”.  What the Breakfast at Sunset song lyrics don’t say is that Jim was just fact checking a story he’d grown used to (sick of) hearing about our band’s escapades with the Allman Brothers, Jerry Jeff Walker, 200,000 fans, gorgeous groupies, fierce poverty and ketchup soup at Denny’s. 

Boxing Day morning I’m in bed browsing amazing sales on my favorite underwear and I notice a link sent by Jim to a song on iTunes.  I bought and played the song with some trepidation.  What I heard filled me with joy.  My warbling, nervous 22-year old voice, and Pat Alger’s soulful take on Reid’s brilliant country/rock tune Granma Country played into my headphones over and over.  The Macbook Pro keyboard got slippery with tears (morning is my most emotionally vulnerable time); and, “my life had changed by noon."  Reid and I proceeded to put this 40+-years-coming project together.  In these last two years, we, our bandmates, our spouses and our friends from Orcas Island have helped ourselves to the restorative powers of music from the heart   Hope you all enjoy the album and stay in touch for Reid’s blogs especially ‘cause “he is great at telling tales” !

Best,
JP