All the titles on the EP "Skiff-Originals" have been previously recorded, but never with the current line up and never as fully realized. With the exception of "The Austin Dam," the songs were written for dancers: hence the simple lyrics and thematic repetition. These versions can also be found on the group's 20 track CD "Crowd Favorites." All the songs were written by the band's bassist - Paul Todaro. In response to the 2020 pandemic, the bass, guitar, drums, and vocals were recorded live in studio while the soloists recorded from home.
All God's Chillun Gotta Dance
We first recorded this as "All God's Children Gotta Dance" on the album of the same name - after having been advised that "Chillun" was racist. But the point of the lyric/title was purposely to invoke the 1937 classic "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm." The lyric "shake and squeeze and slide that thing" is a reference to the dancer, the accordion, and the steel guitar.
All Night Diner
This simple blues turned Boogie-woogie has been recorded in shorter, longer, and faster versions. It was written hastily for a live radio show on WBFO when the band were informed at the last minute that all the material had to be original. Although the lyric "Toast and Jam" is a reference to a dessert menu item at The Wedge diner in Niagara Falls, NY, the song is based on Ritter's diner in Pittsburgh, PA. The song includes a rare harmonica solo from guitarist Phil "Pinky" Knoerzer. Jim Whitford on steel guitar takes off on the lick created by Gary Meixner on the "Happy Hour" extended version.
An early influence on the band was Cajun music, where the phrase "Tu m'as laisse et tu es parti" or "Tu m'as quitte ..." (meaning something like: you left me and went away) is a frequent refrain. The Cajun tune "Gran Texas" that starts with this phrase (you left me and went to big-Texas) is the model for Hank Williams' "Jambalaya." Harry Choats, "The Fiddle King of Cajun Swing" and Bob Wills' contemporary, uses the phrase constantly. The lyrics in "Louisiana, Texas" are a paean to the Texas, Louisiana musical connection.
This song started as a straight-up country two-step. After experiments with relative minor substitutions and internal rhyme schemes, all the song needed for this version was the thematic riff played by the clarinet and doubled by the steel guitar.
Western Swing Thing
This instrumental features a repeated theme first used in the band's earlier "The Kings of Western Swing." The lyrics were dropped and a double modulation was added that Dave Mussen on clarinet takes great advantage of on this recording. The repeated lick has become a call to both Jitterbuggers and Two-Steppers to flood the dance floor. In a way, the tune has become the band's theme song. It was the first tune ever played at the Sportsmen's Park when the band open the show (and the venue) for Dale Watson and Bill Kirchen.
The Austin Dam
This song was written for the band's appearance at "The Dam Show" - an outdoor music festival on the site of the ill-fated Austin dam. In performance, the tune is introduced with the altered Dragnet prelude: "The song you are about to hear is true. The names have remained the same to indict the guilty." The lyrics were created from information on the 1911 disaster's Wikipedia page. The song's character "Ol' Willie" was a man named Willie Nelson who spoke out against the hasty and negligent construction of the big money making operation. "Miss Cora" ran the local brothel. There is a 1999 documentary about the incident narrated by a more well known Willie Nelson. The tune is a parody of a murder ballad in a Minor Key/Bluegrass/Klezmer style. Fiddler Chris Jones gets his chance on this one and drummer Bill Hutchison uses an unusual percussion instrument for an "Americana" song.