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Part One: Why and How

It was 1999 and Woods Tea was about to go through major changes once again. Following the release of the recording “Side By Each” in 1997,  Woods Tea embarked on an expansion of the group by adding bassist and multi-instrumentalist Howard Wooden to the group to expand the show sound and repertoire. A new studio recording reflecting this new configuration was begun but due to the busy touring schedule of the group, progress was slow. The group needed a new product and in the fall of 1998 two live shows (St. Mary’s City, MD and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD) were recorded with the idea of editing together a live show for cassette only to sell at shows during the tour and finish the studio recording. The success of the Cassette “The Woods Tea Company - Live!” was overwhelming. From a basic B/W cover and a non-mastered tape, the project was fully released in full color, mastered at Chuck Eller’s studio in both CD and cassette formats. That project became the template for the Woods Tea Co. and continues to be a fan favorite and by far our biggest seller.

Woods Tea still had that studio project in the works and in between tours, sessions were being held to complete it. It was hoped that this new recording would be released by the fall of 1999, but the deadline became impossible. So using the original “Live” idea, the group decided to release a temporary product for sale using the existing tracks and ask our audiences to give us feedback on the product. Thus was born “THE A.R.T. TAPE” or Audience Response Tape. 200 cassettes were produced for the fall tour and sold out pretty quickly. While the group really did want feedback as evidenced by the introduction by Mike Lussen, alas, very little was received.

Mike's Intro - The Art Tape
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Part Two: Changes

By December Tom had decided to leave Woods Tea and the recording project was put on hold because at this point the recording was not reflective of the present trio. So a search was done to find a new fourth member and we auditioned quite a few extremely talented musicians and as the Rusty, Mike and Howard trio continued to perform they were auditioned by Community Concerts Group and were chosen to become part of their national touring stable of talent.


Chip Chase was from New Hampshire via Colorado and was a very accomplished musician, actor, stunt man. We brought him for the first time to Colgate University and Howard recalls that Chip fell into the Woods Tea spirit immediately. In addition to a fine voice, this multi-instrumentalist also brought some great new performing material. Chip was also a great road mate and once again Woods Tea was a full group with an exciting new concert schedule ahead of them.


What to do with the ART TAPE? There was not enough time to record a new project that would reflect this new quartet, so we decided to revive the ART TAPE add Chip into the mixes, remove some of Tom’s material and add in selections from Chip. The ART TAPE became our CD “This Side of the Sea” titled after one of Michael’s great original songs.


It is interesting now to look back on this project. Both versions hold up well and in many ways the original ART TAPE is wonderful on it’s own. Let’s compare a track between the ART TAPE version and the eventual CD version.


The original version of Mike’s “This Side of the Sea” was a simple duet with Mike on Guitar & lead Vocal and Howard on Bass & harmony. It has a simplicity that keeps the focus on Mike’s voice and lyrics. It's a sweet telling of a personal story. The version that came out on the CD was enhanced with more vocals (both Chip and Rusty) and Rusty adds his penny whistle, a bit of concertina. Chip adds his mandolin and banjo. This version reflects the full group sound and now the piece grows in magnitude and becomes a bigger more universal statement.

This Side of the Sea - ART TAPE VERSION
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This Side of the Sea - CD VERSION
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Part Three: Comparisons

So lets take a look at the two projects. The change in band members resulted in a new recording that added and eliminated various tracks. "This Side" also included a reissue of the song "Bedford Harbor" that was included on the "Alive at the Inn" project before it was remastered and released on CD. One can also see that "This Side" has more original material than the "Art Tape", making it a stronger group statement. While "This Side" is a stronger project from many aspects, the "Art Tape" stands as a solid work by itself and is a very enjoyable listen.


Art Tape Songs


  1. Haul Away Joe

  2. Unst Wedding March/Reel de Mattawa

  3. Gin Ye Marry Me

  4. Arrgh!

  5. This Side of the Sea

  6. The Coal Town Road

  7. Both Together

  8. The Morning Comes Early

  9. The Passage/Nantucket Sleighride

  10. The Shearings No For You

  11. Little Birdie

  12. She Loves The Rain

  13. The Bulgine

  14. Rollin’ Home


This Side


  1. Haul Away Joe

  2. St. Patrick’s Day in America

  3. The Fireman

  4. Unst Wedding March/Reel de Mattawa

  5. The High Cost of Living

  6. This Side of the Sea

  7. The Morning Comes Early

  8. Farewell

  9. The Bullgine

  10. She Loves the Rain

  11. Little Birdie

  12. Ode to New Jersey

  13. Plenty Fanny Powers/Flowers of Edinburgh/Temperance Reel

  14. Bedford Harbor

  15. Lift & Tow

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