by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com
It’s a fascinating exercise to step back in time some 31 years to a now-iconic artist’s humble beginnings. But such is the case with John Gorka’s “new” release — Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know — which collects the 1985 recordings Gorka did over the course of five days in Nashville at Cowboy Jack Clements’ studio with producer Jim Rooney. At Nanci Griffith’s suggestion, the 25-year-old folkie ventured into his first sessions with some of the top players in Music City. The resulting work was never released, and Gorka would spend another two years making what would become his debut, I Know, which includes nine of the same songs.
The original record featured Kenny Malone on drums/percussion, Dave Pomeroy on bass, Jay Patten on saxophone, Mike Dugan on electric guitar, Ralph Vitello and Biff Watson on keyboards, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin, and Shawn Colvin and Lucy Kaplansky on backing vocals.
Looking back from here, Gorka confesses, “I can only say that I was finding my way. I had played solo live almost exclusively and I had not made an album or ever done a studio recording with other players. I guess I just didn’t know what I wanted to hear. I know now that there is more than one right way to present a song. In that way songs are bigger than any one recording of a song. It was good. It just wasn’t the good I wanted at the time.”