January 10, 2017
Today’s the day, the start of another chapter, the day when my new record – Every Soul’s A Sailor – goes out into the big wide world dewy eyed and alone (hopefully sending the occasional postcard home). I will continue to support it, sign it and sing it, but as of today it is up and running and out of my hands. Coincidentally, in two days I turn 54 and for the life of me I can’t figure where all the time has gone. I’m lucky to have found this path of music (and plan on many more years walking it until the big hook), but as with every new beginning, there is a moment of looking back and over the past 30 years I’ve put out a slew of record on my own and with various ensembles, each one marking a time and place for me; a series of collage/snapshots from the past; each one a scrapbook of sorts. I’m proud to add this latest recording to the pile.
One thing I love about writing songs is that even though I created them, or more correctly – enticed the idea onto the page; even though I chose each word and melodic phrase, stitching them together in the dark realm of the night owl; even so, I learn more about the songs as I sing them. On any given night, in front of the crowd, I hear (like you) something in the songs that is new to me. It’s a weird kind of magic that never fails to amaze and delight me and is one of the things that keeps me coming back again and again to fumble around in the dark for a new song. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed wrestling them onto disc.
To preview the new tracks or buy
Every Soul’s a Sailor, click here.
This record differs from previous ones in that early on, before sitting down to write the songs, I decided that I wanted to record them with a trio and so when I sat down to write them, I kept that idea in the room with me. Many of the songs were written on my Telecaster (in the past I’ve always written on my Manzer acoustic) and as I they came to me, I tried to hear them fleshed out with bass and drums. When it came time to record, that’s exactly what we did and as I begin to tour, I will be playing them with the trio as much as possible. For more details on the actual recording click this link.
For more details on my touring schedule (I will need a new suitcase at the end of this next round) go here
With the advent of the compact disc (back in the mists of time) there was a feeling that recording artists were somehow obliged to use all the space available on the new CD format (approximately 74 minutes of music as opposed to the old vinyl LP format which was more like 45 minutes, depending on how the tracks were mastered) and so began the era of “extra tracks” and later on, overly-long recordings with lots of “filler” tracks, that the old vinyl-era artists would probably have left on the studio floor, or released a “double album”. I know from personal experience that it is difficult to discard songs from a recording when you are not bound by the time restrictions of vinyl.
For Every Soul’s A Sailor I was determined to write a batch of songs and only choose the best 10 tunes for the album. I wanted to adhere to the old limitations (which still seems like a good arbiter of how long an album should run). In the end I recorded all the songs I had written for this album and resisted the urge to add any covers or other material that had been knocking about, I stuck with the tunes I wrote.
What follows is a short description of what I was thinking/feeling when I wrote these songs. I am leery of “explaining” the songs at all (because it’s really what you hear in them that is important) however…
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – Old money, white money, colonial money, male money… privilege and greed… money can’t by you love, you can’t take it with you and it won’t save you from those dark nights where you wonder if you should have spent your energies growing something more profound than an obscene bank account. (I am thrilled to have Rose Cousins as guest vocalist on this tune. I have admired Rose as a writer and singer for a great many years and living on The East Coast for 8 years meant that our paths crossed, if not as often as I would have liked).
Red Lights In The Rain – I’ve always been intrigued by the road song, not just the traveling aspect, but the sense of letting go, leaving, even turning your back, but always moving on. Like so many songs that I admire, this one started out with a title and grew from there. (Rose Cousins is once again, the guest vocalist on this tune, bringing a vocal purity and longing to the tune that adds immeasurably)
Blowhard Nation – As a spectator of Donald Trump’s con-man campaign of hate and fear, ‘Blowhard Nation’ came from a place of sarcastic outrage and ended up a Merle Haggard-inspired roots rock anthem. My desire to write the song came from an instinctual reaction to the politics of hate and grew into a desire to express my belief that voting for Trump or Brexit or The National Front is voting for bedlam. On the surface, these candidates may appear to scratch the itch that has driven you crazy, but in the end they will claw you to death and steal your humanity.
The Things We Did – Tom Allen came by my house in Halifax with a lyric centered around the idea of “Who writes the obituary for the obituary writer?”. On the way to writing that song, we realised that we were also penning an obituary for the small town newspaper.
Gone But Not Forgotten – it’s been eight years since my friend and mentor Willie P. Bennett passed on, Tom Wilson still owns Willie’s old Gibson J45 and I think of him whenever I pick it up and strum a chord… so many giants have passed on recently, leaving the essence of their spirit in between the lines and in the keystone of The Tower of Song.
Love The Deal – The only valid reason to be in the business of music is for the music itself, (there are tens of dollars to be made in this business folks). Making a living as an artist is definitely not for the faint of heart and there is no such thing as “fair”, so why waste your time worrying about things that you simply can’t control, like success or failure?
Carousel – The fear of being creatively irrelevant or redundant can cripple an artist and no matter how brilliant one is or was, there will always be a time when you feel that the scene has passed you by, until you understand that the only path forward is to pursue the work purely for the joy of doing it.
Love Like Water – Like many songs on this record, Love Like Water started with a guitar riff which grew into a chorus, which suggested the phrase itself, after that it was a matter of staying calm, being patient and waiting for the rest of the song to arrive.
Better Than Good – My wife gave me a framed print in our early days together which said, “We Are So Good Together”.
Every Soul’s A Sailor – I don’t know where this phrase came from, perhaps it’s a riff on Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne (And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water… and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him he said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them…) or it may have just been the melody suggested by my guitar, but certainly the imagery and sentiments in the song resonate with the west coast, where the deep swell of the Pacific under a sky full of stars becomes a metaphor for this life, this journey.I sincerely hope you find something good and true in this collection and look forward to hearing from you over the wires and in person. Please stay in touch and as always, thanks for listening.