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  1. Before I Go

From the recording The Lost Tapes

All recordings by Kristina Stykos except for: track 13 produced by Bela Fleck at Lemco Sound, Lexington, Kentucky (1980) and track 4 recorded by Horace Williams during a rehearsal at Little Castle Studio, Starksboro, Vermont (1986).
Remixed by Kristina Stykos at Pepperbox Studio, Chelsea, Vermont. Mastered by Oscar Zambrano, Zampol Productions, www.zampolproductions.com. Studio photography by Marion Ettlinger.

The Lost Tapes: liner notes

This is a collection of songs I recorded on my Fostex 4-track cassette tape machine between the years of 1982 and 1992 - near as I can tell; poor labeling and the swift, irrevocable passage of time have eroded many details of my former existence. But it’s clear now that in utilizing this simple but powerful little piece of technology early on, I was able to capture a glimmering creative self flying birdlike out of heart, mind, mouth and fingers – and in so doing address my need for self reflection and validation of the most private kind. And since life is what happens while we’re making other plans, so did my life begin to shift, intensify, crumble and regroup during this period while the music stayed a constant, dreaming and explaining on my behalf, putting a brave face on what were trying times.

The locations of my self-documentation were singularly rural and remote, a path I chose hoping to marry the tempest of my soul to something grand and communicative in the landscape for the purpose of creating better music, and a better life. I inhabited flats and cabins and abandoned farmhouses, with and without running water, but by necessity with enough electricity to run my piano and tape recorder. In summer I walked barefoot to hidden water holes and bathed in filtered sunlight, filling myself with something that ran the all night weaving of songs. In winter my cheap guitars weathered the erratic dry heat of wood stoves and inside temperatures that froze water, while I played and played and played. And later on towards the end of the decade when I threw in my lot for a try at being married and life’s support systems became more reliable, there seemed to be some reason to believe I might have an actual music career on the horizon. Well … that was just an idea. Ideas are starting points; they’re a powerful invitation for life to intercede and correct.

The box of cassettes traveled with me for the next twenty years, relegated to bigger boxes and jammed into storage until the next move. The old four-track machine gathered dust under a cloth on its hand-made wooden rack. The daily mantras of caring for kids, working for a living and untangling personal problems slowly supplanted what had been my normal for so long. And quietly, as I conjured up reasons not to sing (or if I sang, made sure no one could hear me), digital overran analog. The recordings stopped, my voice eventually pretty much refused to cooperate with the new order and life continued altered; still fascinating and rich but unsung, with no more dipping into that well. I made peace with it by renewing my interest in working with other musicians, first as a concert promoter, then as a guitarist and finally as a recording engineer.

On an otherwise ordinary day in April 2011 I was organizing the clutter in my recording studio when I noticed the box, and determined to only take up shelf space with essential items, I made the decision to review the tapes just one last time before tossing them. It seemed I owed them that. What followed was a week of immersion into a lost world of found music, and the many shocking revelations it held about who I had been and what I had left behind. Thankful that my husband was out of town, I stayed up past midnight many nights, re-engineering the tapes from their analog format into digital, stopping only to hold myself as I sobbed when the poignancy of remembering overcame me. Here are the results of my discovery.

Dedicated to my children: Freya, Wilder and Anna

Lyrics

Before I Go
(c) 2011 Kristina Stykos/BMI/Horse Thief Publishing

tonight our thoughts are tied together
my friend could we put we put our hearts together
the house is old and empty put your arms around me
could we take the time
and can we be honest and kind
i feel sure we will try our best tonight

welcome welcome friendly stranger
put your worries down on my kitchen table
come inside before the snow
and let me love you before I go

and if it’s cold tonight take my old sweater
we’ll go out on the porch and sit together
i have a song to sing you I hope that it will bring you
many more inside
tomorrow we’ll go for a drive i got wheels
we can ride through the country fields in the morning

welcome welcome familiar stranger
come and tell your story at my kitchen table
tell me where you’ve been my brother
i’m sure it’s a place that I know
come let me love you before I go