CD liner notes

This CD is a series of musical short stories- some of them about me, some of them about real or imagined characters

I wrote almost all these songs in one extended burst of songwriting in 2014- actually, these are 12 of the more than 30 songs I wrote. Here are a few notes about the songs and the recording process....

1     The Middle of Winter

           Living in Maine, like any other life choice, has some downsides. Late April, when there's still snow on the ground but      it's too slushy for snowshoeing- when there's so much ice on the driveway that you need a hiking pole to get the mail-  is the one time that I wonder why I choose to be here. On one particularly cruddy day, after seeing pictures of daffodils blooming in other places, I thought a blues song would lift my spirits...Electric guitar, Percussion, and Bass by Ed DesJardins

           2 Paddlin' Up the River

            And then there are those blissful midsummer days on the rivers in a kayak. Like the title character in Leo Lionni's childrens' book Frederick, we need to save up those memories of sun and joy to replay in midwinter..... Sing along on the chorus if you want to.... Piano accompaniment by Ed DesJardins

3 Step to the Music You Hear

           When I was a messed up teenager- taking way too many risks- my creative writing teacher Ms. Bussie told me I should read Henry David Thoreau. His writings were one of the things that helped me make it through. This song- and this whole album- is my thank you letter to Thoreau... The song is almost entirely in his words. He wrote " If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." He also wrote: “When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”

4 Albert the Adequate

         I was driving home from some work in Vermont- 5 hours in the car- and heard on the radio that the response to a natural disaster had been "adequate." I got thinking about that fine old word- enough, sufficient, capable- and about the way the self esteem tsunami that overtook our culture in the 1960s has made anything less than "excellent" unacceptable. What if we could instead affirm the everyday heroism of people of any age who do what is needed, who quietly help their neighbors, who do what they say they will do? I have been fascinated by how much teens have liked this song, which they say gives them a break from the sense that they can never live up to the expectations adults have left them with... Not all of them will win the Genius grant- many of them will have ordinary jobs, support a family, raise kids, help their neighbors,..... and that's all good too..... Ed DesJardins joins me on the piano.

5 A Letter to Annie

          Based on a true story, reported by hikers in the Maine woods in the 1950s in an article they wrote. They heard that a man had gone back of beyond in the 1920s after an unhappy love affair- and had spent the rest of his life in the backwoods.... I got wondering how someone who did that would be thinking.... My good friend, the poet Jay Franzel, helped me figure out who this man is and how he saw the world. Ed DesJardins joins me on Slide Guitar, Electric Bass, Piano, and Shaker

6 Mr. Johnson's Blues

          When we learn another person's music, we inhabit that person's heart. Is that always safe? Jay Franzel helped me create this song about seeing through Robert Johnson's eyes.... Thanks to Mr. Johnson for being willing to pay the dues to play the blues......

7 Suspended Animation

         These three songs came from a challenge by Ronda Dale, Maine songwriter, instrumentalist, and singer, to write some songs about the reality of long-term love. So many love songs seem focused on either falling in love or breaking up- I wanted to write about love that has lasted for decades, about the ups and downs and doubts and resolutions and healings. 

8 My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own

          What do we do if we have doubts?  Do we refuse to ask the question, or do we see where the question takes us? Jonathan Truman on Drums; Paul D'Alessio on Fiddle; David Thibodeau on Bass Guitar; Ed DesJardins on Piano and second Acoustic Guitar

9 No Limit

          Sometimes we all mess up. We take the one we love for granted. Songwriters apologize by writing a song.... 

Thanks to Ed Desjardins for reimagining this song in the jazz tradition, and to:  Billy Novick on Clarinet; Jonathan Truman on Drums; Steve Lynnworth on Jazz Guitar; and Scott Elliot on Electric Bass

10 After the Waltz

         Every word is true..... Jeff Pevar on Mandolin, Electric Bass, and Dobro; Ed DesJardins on piano

11 Voices of Lost Friends

          On an August day just after I heard that my old friend Liz had passed on.... written on the Cascade Brook Trail in Andover, Maine 

12 Simple Pleasures

           In a way, this song loops back to Thoreau and the Buddha.....

 

Thanks to Scott Woodruff for keeping the Lively Open Mic going every week for the last five years. He has created a musical community that supports and develops musicians. All these songs were workshopped and rewritten there.

Thanks to Heather Hardy, Jud Caswell, and Tim Rice for musical inspiration and encouragement to write my own songs.

Thanks to Ed DesJardins, who recorded and arranged these songs, who kept me going through repeated takes, who mentored and encouraged me..... 

Thanks to Dana Bourgeois and everyone else at Pantheon Guitars who made a guitar that sings to me. 

Thanks to my family for their support.

When I traveled in India a few years ago, a tabla player said to me "My music is my worship and God guides my hands."

And Bob Marley sang: "One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain."