Not long after my folks (first my dad and later my mom) had passed, I was forced to deal with what I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t mean the usual things, like being a good husband; father; boss; payin’ the bills; mensch of the community; and so on. I meant dealing with the gnawing aches of things that, well, maybe should have BEEN but WEREN’T.
Over the years I had pulled together quite a bit of experience in many things, and met a lot of good people. I also met and knew quite a number of good people who were doomed—and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. So I knew that if I went to my music—after getting good at it—I had to stave off those demons that so many had succumbed to.
Actually, this is easy. I won’t hide how I did it. What you do is convince yourself that you’re going to die. Then you shout: “I’M GONNA DIE!” Pregnant pause; wry smile—and finish with a: “…but not yet.” It isn’t a guaranteed motivator, but as motivation goes, cheating the devil on the installment plan works for me. (Mini spoiler--the song ‘Every Day’s a Party’ echoes this.)
So there was a ‘focus’ (as they say these days, especially photographers like me) that just plowed over all obstacles. Not at others’ expense—just at the expense of my own ego. Yep. I got rid of it. It was time it took an extended vacation anyway. Everyone needs to do this sometime.
Gittin' On With It
Once you step back from yourself, you get to be critical in a constructive way. And that’s how I approached the album. I forced myself to learn how to do things that which, admittedly, intimidated me. I didn’t know those things and I wasn’t good at them. But I was stubborn. I learned those skills that you usually depend on, say, a dozen people to do. It was frustrating; there was a heck of a lot of self-reflection; studying; trying; and practicing. It took time. Then more time. Did I mention that it took lots of time? You don’t get there without being realistic about other things you have to do besides. Music takes second fiddle. There was oodles of dissing from other folks (I know drumming or fiddle don’t sound good when you’re learning); accusations of a mid-life crisis; derision by friends of long-standing; and so on. You don’t become ‘yerself’ with a support group. Can I kindly destroy that myth?
So eventually, things began to happen. Maybe it should have ‘happened’ in 2004, or 2005, but 2008 marked the ‘convergence’. I called the CD ‘hero or the fool’ to bolster the admission of the extremes. What it really means is: I am an American and self-invention is a core ‘competency’. It is part of who we are. We make up with ‘stubborn’ what we lack ‘natural-born’. It took me a very long time to appreciate that.
Music – My Mind, My Voice – My Fire…
A few details: I admit having certain God-given gifts for melody and song writing. I am so grateful. I have a jukebox of original tunes in my head. Yes; I can turn it on and off, and no, it doesn’t tell me to drive into ongoing traffic; murder the Dalai Lama, or some such. It isn’t my ‘special friend’. I am not schizo. I just happen to have an interesting inner monologue. Lock me in a room with a tape recorder and the fire burns within. I am never bored. But I also will forget everything I hear if I don’t put it down. Someone called me an ‘Edgar Cayce of song’. I beg to differ, but that’s an amusing description. (And I don’t do it while sleeping). Second, I do sing the ‘high lonesome’. That is a genuinely American thing. I didn’t choose it; it chose me. Burden and blessing together. I am OK with that. Your tastes may differ.
Next, I did spend some money on this ‘project’. (Musicians love to call their recordings projects). Not a whole lot: everything you hear here was done on a couple of used TASCAM 2488’s (I do ping-ponging to get, say, 70 tracks done on one song. Yep 70 tracks. These are ‘full’ wall-of-sound productions). I bought lots of used gear such as V-drums; keyboards; guitars; and so on. Let’s say I put in, $3000 bucks over a good long time. My Starbuck’s bill was about twice that over the duration – And I am not a heavy latte addict. My ‘studio’ is a pretty humble ‘man cave’. It’s a small space with an awful furnace. There’s room for about 2 people. Uncomfortably. Folks don’t make a ‘Mecca’ trek to come see it. There’s a picture that shows it-- but that’s more an indication of how skilled I am at photography as opposed to what a great space it is. There are no windows. Houseplants die there. Creation seems to light in the dusty shadows of my tight spaces.
Ramblin' Through the USA
In fact, it got so claustrophobic at times that I would take a portable 4 track and just ‘go away’. It wasn’t the first time: I had taken many trips before, traveling across the USA, checking out the sites and the folks. Wandering with other wanderers, lost in the beauty of America while finding myself. Take that attitude and people don’t feel like strangers. They were teachers. Colleagues. Fellow comrades in the good fight. Part of this is a post-9/11 thing. Part of it was always there. Don’t be scared to know what Americans are all about – Ask your doctor if being a friendly American is right for you!
Capturin' It All
Somehow, with the weariness of angry young manhood becoming something seasoned, you choose between cherishing your place or just being jaded. Telling the tale, or finding it empty. I was incredibly blessed to be able to look at the tale in two ways: photography—and music.
I just had to tell it. I just had to sing it. Play it out.
So you can see what this is leading up to: HOF is an album of American virtues and ideals; Dilemmas, hopes, strengths, tragedies, recoveries, triumphs… It’s not about me – that would be too narcissistic. It’s about who WE are. There’s a lot of ‘joy of living’ in Americans. This CD is not an ‘in your face America rocks!’ mandate; it’s real. That means it’s both self-reflective and hopeful in the face of failure. It questions success. It forces confronting growth. It exudes hopes for solving what ails you. I guess you COULD look at this as a ‘country-pop-rock’ CD. But it’s really “American” music. Ain’t no-one excluded. I promise it won’t be painful, say, like getting’ a filling at the dentist. Listen to the samples—let your heart decide. There’s nothing unusual (to me) about the songs that made it here—at least as to why I chose them. Sure; I think they ARE special, but that’s because they made my critical cut. I could have put on another (critically chosen) ten instead, without any delay. There’s still a wide-open space of country to tell about.
What It's All About
Just to whet your curiousity, here are the themes of the songs—it is up to your own heart, emotions, and experiences to hone them to your taste and interpretation:
One of These Days
Americans worship success. Sometimes we assume failure even when we are going after success; and then find success empty when we get it. Everyone needs to continue to get beyond who they are. Get out of their skin and try another. An American truth with a capital ‘T'.
Won't Miss You
Commit. OK? There is no downside. Unless you hate to be happy…
Street Where I Live
A loving tribute to ‘down-country' America . That's wherever you find home. H-ommmme!
Playin' To Heaven
Fail at suicide. Choose the high notes, my friends.
Man, do we LIVE by false hopes and aphorisms. And Euphemisms. Try getting along without'em. This is an ‘American thang'.
Why do we choose silly, unattainable role models? I mean, really: who NEEDS to be an astronaut, or President? Choose something a little more, well, attainable.
Every Day's A Party
Celebrate yer damn life. Just do it.
Better Than Nuthin'
It's an American tragedy how talented we are—and no one notices. But we do it anyway. Yeh.
Breathe In A Whisper
Damn, we are g-o-o-d at reconciliation.
Dead Over Live
Stuck? Get out NOW! It's killin' yeh…
I don't want to be more of a spoiler here, so I won't give the hard sell. Let's say these are a dandy cross section and introduction to what's there and what's to come from Solo Down. I have expectations that you'll enjoy it because, well, I listened-- and waited.
And then things fell together.
Copyright 2008 Bestscenics Ltd. and Solo Down Songs (ASCAP)
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