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This song has been demoed by several other people and passed around Nashville for years. It has been pitched many times to Trisha Yearwood among other female vocalists. (There was even some guy running around Nashville after I left telling people he wrote it. Iím still not sure how he got a hold of it. After some people called me to get the lowdown on the details, I politely informed them of the songís provenance and encouraged them to extend a polite invitation to the thief of my song to meet me in court for a brief discussion. At the time, I was becoming quite comfortable with the legal aspects of the music industry. He declined. I heard heís in prison in Missouri or somewhere now for other questionable professional etiquette.)
More recently, this song was cut bluegrass-style by WILD HARE. It was very uptempo on this version. And although I always did it as a ballad, I have to say I really like this version quite a lot. It makes mine sound like a dirge.
All of that aside, this is one of my favorites for personal reasons. Not a day goes by that I donít remember.
Boy From Arkansas
I had begun this one years before I ever came backto finish it. I had the chorus for what seemed like forever. The line about "he's everything every man never was," was, at the time it was written, just wishful thinking. I hadn't met him yet. I just let this one stew for a few years until, eventually, the wheel turned enough for me to finish it. Once that finally happened, it just fell out onto the paper. The "tiny ghosts in roadside fences" are a very common sight during the cotton picking time in the fall. It can be quite haunting at nighttime when you're driving out on the sandy roads alone with your thoughts and memories. The imagery in this one is a verbal photograph.
I've always loved minor keys. There's just something moody and reflective about them when it comes to writing. I was just playing these chords over and over, and the lyrics just started coming. It's an autobiographical song, really. The "godforsaken land" was the industry in Nashville.
Cold November Rain
This song was written on the Pontchartrain Causeway while I was driving up to Mandeville. There's really nothing to see but water and bridge, and I think too much anyway. That was a mighty long twenty-four miles, and I had way too much company with all the old ghosts riding with me. When I reached the other side I wrote down my thoughts and finished it later.
Drip and Dry Romance
This was just a great groove. The lyrics were just reminiscing about being young in a river town and life, in general. It's just plain fun.
Edge of an Angel's Wing
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I naively thought musical integrity really mattered, I was a staff writer in Nashville for a while. A sequence of events came into motion, and my life was irrevocably altered. I lost just about all of my material possessions and moved into the basement of some friends who believed in me, my ethics, and my writing. I quickly learned the true identity of business acquaintances who I had considered stand-up folks. ( Apparently, they were, in fact, just levitating temporarily. ) While I lost most of what many people thought really mattered, I did manage to maintain what meant the most to me at the time-my catalogue of songs. Now, I look back and wonder how an inanimate thing had become the center of my world. But, having given everything to that, it was my reality, at the time. I somehow always held a glimmer of a small hope that it would all turn out for me. Desperation, solitude, hope, solace in prayer-I would say this song is a window to my soul during that time. Definitely NOT a workout song.
El Camino del Rio
Texas and a dream. Several years back, I performed at the Kerrville Folk Festival outside Kerrville, Texas. For anyone who isn't familiar with it, the setting for this music festival is on a sprawling ranch in the Texas hill country. People come in from all over the U.S. (and world) to camp, hang out, swim in the nearby Medina, and just have a good time. At night we'd wander around to campfires all over the ranch and play, sing, listen, and just experience the Texas sky at night. It is indescribable. I remember going to sleep looking up at the sky before waking up and going to the tent for the rest of the night. I had this dream about my father passing away. This song is as it was. It was never rewritten from the moment I wrote down the dream itself.
Harlan Smiled Today
While I was growing up, my mother had once told me she had a baby brother who had died when she was very young. He was born in March but was ill his entire brief life until October of that same year when he died. She said she didn't remember much about him but the crying. He cried all the time. She said she could only remember him smiling once, and that was when she held him. He looked up at her and smiled. She often spoke of wishing she could have had lots of brothers and sisters but only had one. She would speak of him as if to affirm that he really once existed. It was, apparently, very important to her. She never dwelled too long on the subject without getting teary. I always wanted to write a song about him for her, but I never did. Nothing ever came to me, for some reason. Now, looking back, it all was so obvious.
After the death of my father, my mother came to live with us, and we took care of her until her own death almost exactly one year later. A short while before she passed, we made a trip, along with her, to her home to get her things packed up and brought to Mississippi. She was too weak from her chemo to do much but sit in a chair and watch as we hauled seventy-eight years of living out in boxes. While getting her things together from her dresser, a small box fell out, and inside were these faded yellow pages from an old writing tablet. They were the actual letters from her childhood classmates written to her when her baby brother, Harlan Henry, died. I was amazed that she had never shown them to me or even told me about them. I carefully packed them away again for another time. Unfortunately, my mother passed about one month later. I had begun this song after I first saw the letters, but I wanted to finish it before showing my mother. I never had that opportunity. I really wrote this for her so that Harlan will always be remembered, if only by me and the folks who take the time to listen. I think she would be happy about that.
I just loved this groove, and these lyrics started coming out. No great amazing piece of musical literature. However, I used to walk among my dadís peonies when I was about three, and the ants were shiny and fat and huge. It was like sticking my nose into a bowl of ice cream without the chill. Odd where old memories may turn up.
I met Lester through some friends in Nashville. He had come up from Alabama to try to get his life straightened out. His biography included a long love affair with the bottle and a wife who was a heroin addict. He wore white button-down shirts, a faint smile, and heavy perspiration. His wife, also in a recovery program, even came up one Sunday to go to church with him. I sat behind them and couldnít think of anything but how desperate they both looked as they leaned on each other. I remember thinking that real love must look something like that. Lester was a great man because he was a good man. He liked to play his old Martin, listen to songs, and talk about his family. He cried when I played "Holy Love." He laughed when I told him I had to explain that song to some people. He was a kind, gentle, sensitive, brilliant soul who died alone. This song is a testament to him.
Okeechobee, Sacred Ground
An exercise in D-tuning turned this one out one day. I loved how the story came back to first person perspective in the end. I thought this would be a great Reba song. (It has been pitched to her, among others, many times. Apparently she did not agree.) I recalled driving through the Atchafalaya swamp one night on my way back from Lafayette. It was about midnight, and it was raining. Suddenly an enjoyable, leisurely day of driving from Grand Isle up through St. Martinville and around back to New Orleans became a rather uncomfortable event. I began to notice how dark night can really be when you know youíre alone and up on a bridge for miles and miles of swampy nothingness. Great images, terrifying drive, pretty good story song.
One Tree Standing
What can I say about this one...it literally just came out of the pen and onto the paper. At the time, I had another song "If Angels Had Voices" on hold for an MGM movie called Blown Away. They were looking for another anthemic song for an end title. After talking with the guy from the studio and telling him about this one, I ended up playing/singing "One Tree" with just my guitar over the telephone to him. We demoed it with Ronnie Godfrey doing an unbelievable vocal on it to pitch to Joe Cocker. It still gives me chills. It was later cut by the bluegrass duo WILD HARE for their James Hemenway CD. This is one of my favorites, and it's great to see it cross the genre barriers-particularly from Rock/Pop to Bluegrass.
Ridiní in the Rockiní Chair
After I lost my folks, my mind would often wander back to images from my childhood that seemed so unimportant at the time they happened. I couldnít recall any particular event occurring in some of the places, but the mental pictures of them were very vivid. One of those was the scene of November in the farm town in southern Indiana where my grandmother lived. We would have to ride out through the country 25 miles to get there. The farm houses sat back off the old road, and the barren snowy fields surrounded them. It's amazing how lonely the corn fields look after the fields are turned, and the snow is on. It looked like those old glittered Christmas cards, only black and white and gray. For some reason I was thinking about that when I sat down to write. I could see all the images so clearly, just like I was there again. I thought the original title would be ďLove Used to Live There,Ē but I later changed it to this title. I began to think about losing a loved one, and how we sometimes sit and reminisce, totally unaware of what's going on around us in the here and now. To others, it appears we're waiting, as if someone's coming back.. If we could see ourselves through a glass from the outside looking in, as they would if they were looking, it might appear this way. The story is just a tangent from those emotions.
The coal bucket used to sit by the black, pot-bellied stove in my grandma Duffy's kitchen across from a window with lace curtains. The rocking chair sat in front of that window. Her kitchen was the epicenter of the house where all the stories were relayed. I guess I was just in that place when writing this one.
Take Another Walk to the Well
The idea for this one came from a very brief and casual conversation with an acquaintance. He had begun talking about his divorce situation, at the time. Apparently, he was married to an attorney (which I recall thinking was his first, and very big, mistake,) and she was loaded for bear when the big event finally rolled around. I really don't recall much about it other than the final few awkward moments as I was leaving. I said something to the effect of "hang in there...it'll all work out. You're just gonna have to get up, and take another walk to the well." At the time, as soon as it came out of my mouth, I was irritated with myself because he was another writer. I was sure he'd snag the hook, but he never did. I wrote that one in about ten minutes in the car in an alley behind the old Monument building. I still love to do this one. Ain't luv a wonderful thang.