This one is about a guy who pursues a life of playing music in a rock and roll band despite the wrath of his mother, his pastor and even his new bride. He’s just gotta play. Although my own family has been extremely supportive of me in everything I’ve wanted to do, I did grow up in pentecostal church and have had this nagging guilt for writing and performing other types of music than Christian music. I’ve made peace with artistic path long ago and, yet, deep down I still wrestle with unease even though my chosen palette of songs is much broader and deals with all walks of human situations. I am so proud of what I do. A writer writes about conflict and this is just another one.
Arvin is a combination of several of my smart, quirky, complex friends. He quotes Walt Whitman yet plays banjo in his overalls. The older I get the more I appreciate my buddies and this is an homage to them. Mortality need not be dreaded but celebrated and cherished because it lends value and ballast to our relationships and our time here on Earth. Raise another glass.
SLAP IT ON
There is this inaccurate idea that all artists are poor and die in the gutter at an early age. In fact, most of the artists whom I admire, Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Matisse, etc., lived well into their eighties or nineties and had meaningful and prosperous lives. Worked joyfully until the very end. Lived in the moment yet left something eternal behind. This song gives us permission to live artfully and happily. Get a white canvas and screw it up in the most exciting way.
We once lived in a magical place called Savannah. The imagination runs rampant in a town like that. As I was taking one of my last walks through the historic district before moving to Atlanta, a couple of years ago, I started thinking about all of the old ghosts who still roam those streets and the seed for this song was planted. I had the chorus completed by the end of the walk. I let it ferment for awhile and then my buddy, Thomm Jutz, helped me finish it. I sang him the chorus and he had enthusiastic input. The verses are mostly by him with a few small tweaks from me. It’s about blowing kisses through time.
Practice, practice, practice. The joy of learning something that was once hard for you. You sucked then you did not. It is a very satisfying experience. This song means a lot to me because I want to apply it not only to guitar playing but to everything. Trying to learn French. Trying to learn new technology. Trying to communicate with my child. Today I suck but, if I practice, tomorrow I will not. I owe some anonymous person on Facebook this title. I was complaining about teaching guitar and how students wouldn’t stick it out until they got better. He came back with, “Sore fingertips are good for the soul.” Thank you, unknown friend!
Reverend Will D. Campbell was a renegade Baptist preacher from Mississippi who lived for many years near Nashville. He was the unofficial chaplain to Country Music icons like Waylon Jennings. He had marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Civil Rights movement but had also chosen to befriend Ku Klux Klansmen as well because he believed that Christ would have wanted him to shine his light among them as well. He was a pretty darned good guitar player. He chewed tobacco and wore overalls and a big floppy hat. His memoir, “Brother To A Dragonfly”, is one of the best literary snapshots of the South that you will read and his novels are well written and moving. Wrote this with Thomm Jutz and Jon D. Weisberger.
NOT THE THUNDER
Saw a Rumi quote on the internet not long ago that, paraphrased, said something like….it’s the rain that makes the flowers grow and not the thunder. Anticipating much thunder in the upcoming election campaign, I thought it might be nice to share a ‘turn the other cheek’ approach or at least ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.’ There is power in that. It may seem counter-intuitive in today’s world but it still holds true. Just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean you’re weak.
GOOD MORNING, DANIEL
A song about faith. Wrote this one last Christmas Eve while walking to the wine shop to get libations for the family gathering. By the time they had rung me up on the cash register I had the chorus finished and most of the verses mapped out. It’s a simple, little number; a story that we all learned in Sunday school. Stay true to your beliefs and something much bigger than you will step in and make it all come together.
I wrote this one on a summer’s day while walking around an old neighborhood in Atlanta, Grant Park. I had been listening to a lot of Soul and R&B Music, Otis Redding and the like. Grant Park is quite a soulful place and the song came together really fast. I sang most of it into my phone as I was strolling, played it back when I got home, polished a few things and it was done. It’s about self realization and owning up to your predicaments. If there is trouble in your life, you just may have played a role in it. That’s the way it is for me anyway.
CLOSED MINDED PEOPLE
This is not a political song. It’s just about human nature and that we have a tendency to only listen to and speak out about what our tribe preaches. Whether you’re on the left or right, maybe we owe it to ourselves and mankind to take a breath and listen to opinions different from our own. We don’t have to agree but we should probably show a little respect. Who knows! Maybe we’ll get some back! This one is sort of the snide little sister song to NOT THE THUNDER.
GREAT BIG GARDEN
My grandmother, Willie Lou Ross, who everyone called Rossi, was a wonderful gardener. She lived for her family, her church and her garden. Her little white cube of a house sat within the town limits but it had a big lot and shared a vacant lot with her next door neighbor, Mr. Sidney Partridge. Well into their eighties, they cultivated a gigantic vegetable garden and she nurtured fruit trees, a grape arbor, and massive azaleas and other flowers in her yard. If it was warm weather, she was outside except for ten in the morning when she would go into the kitchen to turn on the radio and listen to the obituaries. Then she’d be back out the door again. She was about ninety five pounds, sopping wet, wore dentures that clicked and clacked in her mouth and a wig that always sat on her head at a jaunty, crooked angle. She made the best vegetable soup in the whole world and she loved me and I loved her.
Don’t know why but I just felt the urge to, without irony, write an old fashioned Gospel song like the kind I learned growing up. I learned to play music on these types of tunes. Learned to sing harmony while copying the old quartets. I used to wake up early on Sunday mornings and watch a syndicated TV show called, ‘The Gospel Singing Jubilee’. Loved it! Later on, I was hired by some of these singing groups and got to be on the show. This is just me honoring that time in my life and those talented folks. I still love Gospel Music.
Another written in just a few minutes, it’s a love song to my home state, The Peach State. I sort of wanted to tell where I am from. It’s not just stars and bars and souped up cars but it’s also Martin Luther King. It’s the juke joint but it is also the church choir. It’s the little town but it’s also colossal Atlanta. Youngsters and Civil War ghosts. Peanuts, pecans and peaches. Home.