1. HORNET HAWKINS- This is the story of my grandfather, who was a moonshiner/bootlegger in Georgia in the depression and early years of World War II. One night when the Treasury Agent got too close to his still, he picked up a 50 pound bag of black market sugar, because he could not afford for it to be confiscated, hoisted it on his shoulder and out ran the law man on foot. He later ran more legitimate enterprises and died a wealthy man in 2000. No, his name was not really Hornet Hawkins. Names were changed to protect the guilty.
2. CHANGE- This was a song written with Boston native, Stan Swiniarski. The first time we got together to write we decided to just write a list of “There’s a reason why…such and such happens”. “There’s a reason why this happens.” “There’s a reason why that happens. etc., etc.” We didn’t know what the song was about; we just had this list. The next time we got together we realized that list was all about change and how it is the primary force that drives us to do good things and bad things in our lives. The escape from inertia and boredom propels us in all kinds of directions.
3. I WAS HERE- This is a personal song and one that I didn’t think would ever see the light of day but people seem to like it. I’ve been coming to Europe for over 25 years now and when I’d be walking the streets of Paris or London, this melody would go through me head, over and over, each time. It’s the verse melody. When I was putting the songs together for the AZALEA album, I decided that it was finally time to use that melody that had been in my head for so long, and since I had so many sense memories that went along with it, I decided to make it a personal song about my travels and friends, etc. I wanted it to sound like neo-Don Williams. I think that it does, sort of.
4. THE PROPHET ELIJAH- When I was a child my grandmother had sister who lived 30 miles away and we would visit her from time to time. About halfway there, there stood an old shack on the side of the road and there sat an old African-American man who would tip his hat to every single car that would roll by. I often wondered who he was. 20 years later, I was writing with a co-writer and she said that she had had the same experience. So, in light of growing up during the Civil Rights Movement in the South in the ’60s, this was just a take on who we thought that this man could be….who we hoped that he would be anyway.
5. AZALEA- My father died when I was two and I always had these fantasies about him coming back to look in us so this song is love song told from the point of view of a ghost who still love this woman named Azalea. He just looks in on her and assures her in some way that they’ll be together some day. Also, I wanted the song to be lush with southern imagery. I’m a sucker for southern imagery. I chose the name Azalea but it is a very southern plant. My father’s sister’s name is actually Azalean and that is about as dixie fried as you can get.
6. FLIPPIN’ THAT HOG- My grandfather used to love to have pig roasts and the best pig roaster in the county was an old man named Tinch Tutt. His mother had been a slave. He reached 103 years old and outlived 4 wives. The hog would show up at the house, very much alive and sassy, and then Tinch would go to work, if you know what I mean. We’d sit up all night long with him, helping him shovel hot coals and listening to his stories. He’d read our fortunes in the palms of our hands. By morning, the hog was cooked and ready for when the guests arrived after church to eat. This is my ode to him.
7. STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA- I got this idea washing dishes. It’s about if you could stack up all of the regrets and hurtful that you’ve done in your life, then it could look like a mountain and every one could see what a selfish jerk you’ve been. It’s a lament…an ‘I’m sorry’ letter to the one you love. George Strait came really close to recording this song this year.
8. HARD TO BE SO EASY- This song was not intended to go on the album. We had another song in mind but on the last day of my writing sessions before I was to take off to record AZALEA,
my friend, Lisa McCallum, and I got together and wrote this and we just felt like maybe a duet would be a nice breath of fresh air for the project. It is the story of two lovers who cannot let go of each other yet but know that they need to. They resent the other for still showing up in the middle of the night, needy for the other. There’s an interesting tension in the song, I think. We’ve all been there and felt that magnetic, dysfunctional tug and it hurts.
9. REALITY- I wrote this with my good pal, Lisa Brokop. It’s about how perception creates reality on so many levels. Van Gogh thought that he was a failure when he died yet his paintings are some of the most valuable in the world. The idea is, “don’t let the media or other ignorant strangers dictate what you think about yourself. YOU create your world every single day’.
10. LUCKY NOW AND THEN- I love stories about lovable losers. Charlie Brown rocks, in my book! This is the story of a man who is unlucky on just about every count except for the fact that his woman loves him and wants him and thinks that he is great. I have a gal like that! I’ve lost on a number of occasions and she makes me feel like a winner all the same.
11. SCENIC ROUTE- My co-writer, Mary Ann Bernicky, was laughing at a co-writing session one day about this sign that she saw near her house west of Nashville. The sign read, “Live bait and soft serve ice cream sold here.” We thought, now THAT’S the South for you. So we came up with this tune. I wanted it to feel like the middle of August, perhaps a Sunday, deep down in the Southland. HOT and SLOW. I think that we nailed that feeling.
12. THE LAST SONG- This is another song co-written with Brokop. It’s a whimsical anthem. If this were the last song that I could possibly sing while on this Earth, what would it be? Gardens and dogs are the best therapy. Bacon and eggs are not heroin. Relax. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t lie to anyone. Don’t lie to yourself. That’s it!