The “Turquoise Trail” of Lou Christie’s new album The Turquoise Trail is the scenic and historic area of New Mexico linking Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
“It’s the backroads of Santa Fe,” the venerable rock ‘n’ roll star, a Pittsburgh native who lives in the Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton neigborhood of western Midtown Manhattan, explains.
“I fell in love with New Mexico, and have been going out there for 25 years just to get out of Hell’s Kitchen!” he continues. “I didn’t know what the Turquoise Trail was until I took a ride to Santa Fe after a concert in Albuquerque, and just ended up liking it and went back a couple times by myself. You get off the highway onto two-lane backroads into the hills and the desert and through little towns and a couple ghost towns, and the scenery is unbelievable!”
It takes an extra hour or so, notes Christie, “but you can see a hundred miles, and the sage smells different, and there are all these beautiful wild flowers. And there are little galleries in towns like Madrid—a former ghost town–where a lot of artists go. Stop off at Java Junction! “
Every five miles, “the mountains turn different colors, from navy blue to turquoise to pink, and the light flashes around the country with incredible sunsets,” he further relates. “Santa Fe was the end of the line for the Indian traders, and there are a lot of Pueblos up there—and I know a lot of people there now from going there four or five times a year.”
And “it’s so quiet out there, you can really find peace,” he adds. “The sky’s so big you can see it rain 40 miles away, and you can roll down the car windows and really let the music rip!”
The Turquoise Trail, then, represents “a connection to the feelings I get there,” says Christie, whose hitmaking heyday was in the 1960s with such signature rock ‘n’ roll falsetto classics as “The Gypsy Cried,” “Two Faces Have I” and the 1965 chart-topping “Lightnin’ Strikes,” many co-written by him and the late Twyla Herbert.
“I wanted to show another side of me,” he says, “and picked songs from other albums and some new things and some others that hadn’t seen the light of day—but they’re all good and speak for themselves. Like “Riding In My Van,’ which Twyla and I wrote in a period when we were writing these open, country-ish songs.”
A 1976 single that previously surfaced on his 2009 Summer In Malibu album, “Riding In My Van” embodies the “commercial Lou Christie,” he says, but with “a larger feeling than just the 45 [r.p.m. single] ‘aye-yi-yi’ record—the [falsetto] stamp of Lou Christie that everyone recognizes.”
And while “a lot of people feel I should just keep doing that, life goes on,” he says, noting that he “always likes using [his] regular singing voice, and using the falsetto in other ways that aren’t the ‘gimmick punch’—because the songs weren’t written or recorded that way.”
He also singles out “Queen Of The Purple Sage,” which he and Herbert wrote for the group Free Beer’s 1977 album Nouveau Chapeau, and on which he also sang backup.
“We loved writing that song,” he says, then suggests that The Turquoise Trail album track “There’ll Never Be” would be perfect for an artist like k.d. lang. The album-closing “Beyond The Blue Horizon,” meanwhile, has become “the quiet sleeper of my career.”
“I think I get more response to that song than even ‘Lightnin’ Strikes,’” he says of the hopeful song for a better future, sung by Jeanette MacDonald in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1930 musical film comedy Monte Carlo and memorably, too, by Christie in the soundtrack of 1988’s Rain Man. “People come up to me with tears in their eyes, saying what it did for them when they were moving across America, getting a divorce, or going through other major life milestones. It’s a life-changer, but a positive life-changer: You take a different look at life when you’re in your sixties and have seen so much happen to your family and friends, and that’s all in the feeling of being out there in the West—and what the album is about.”
Christie says that The Turquoise Trail, which is available at his louchristie.com Web site, is already being hailed by fans as their all-time favorite Christie album.
“Who knows? Maybe ‘Beyond The Blue Horizon’ will get picked up by Jet Blue!” he jokes, but until then, he’s staying busy touring (in addition to solo gigs, he has forthcoming Golden Boys package show dates with fellow ‘60s stars Frankie Avalon and Fabian) and continuing his popular Sirius satellite radio specials, the next installment to focus on summer “girl record” fare like Diane Renay’s 1964 hit “Navy Blue.”
And if Lou Christie isn’t out on the Turquoise Trail himself, he’s no doubt somewhere singing about it.
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