I was scheduled to perform at the Tarrytown Farmers' Market on Saturday, August 25, 2011, from 10 a.m. until noon. The "stage" is a small grassy knoll next to an equipment shack with an electrical outlet, where the market manager sets up a rickety sun awning for me.
That week, Hurricane Irene was approaching, along with dire warnings for the NYC metropolitan area. A city official told the media, "people should not take the risk of going outside during Hurricane Irene. Don't tempt fate." I got the idea of personalizing Irene, which created the song's central metaphor, and I came up with a simple, driving blues structure. At first I wanted to make it more complicated but the song worked best with just two chords (A minor and A (okay, an occasional A7)), which pleased me since I'd never written a song with only two chords before. It was mostly finished in time for the farmers' market.
The morning of the 25th everything was shut down, but Irene was approaching more slowly than expected, and at 9 a.m. it was dry and not yet windy. I called the market manager and she told me the farmers were there so I figured I'd show up too -- as did half of Tarrytown since noone had anywhere else where they could go.
I saved Irene for the second set. I was solo that day. Noone but my dog had heard it before (he liked it but he's easy). It got into a nice groove and I was playing around with the two chords in different rhythms between verses, and by the time I was through I knew I would put it on the CD. Five minutes later the outer bands of Irene arrived along with some high winds and sideways rain and I was done for the day. So I guess I did kind of contradict the title of the song.
For the album, I wanted to record it live with a band and build it like an approaching hurricane to a high-energy, almost-chaotic finish. Fred Gillen Jr.'s Woody's House Studio is an old converted horse barn with a control room, a recording room, and an attic, all sonically separated. I brought in my drummer, Sticks Levine, and the YaYas (Catherine, Jay and Paul) to record it live. Fred was on bass as well as recording engineer, and he (playing DI) was in the recording room with Sticks. I was in the control room with my acoustic guitar (with a vocal mic and a guitar mic); Paul was next to me on the keys (also DI), and we built little cardboard-and-sofa-cushion forts in the control room to separate (as best we could) Catherine and Jay, who were singing the harmony-counterpoint. Jay also added some electric guitar, which ran through a mic'ed amp in the attic. We all wore headphones of course.
Everyone came prepared and the second take was it. We just looked at each other and nodded our heads. On the CD, the only thing added to that second take is a little harp towards the end.