Happy Endings * All the Way to Heaven * Chicken Pie * Blue Piano * White Bone * Your God * Bread & Wine * Game is Gone * Where I lead me * Delia/Bad news from Heaven * Nothin'
Happy Endings: I first started this song in Dublin, at the Blooms Hotel, following a conversation with an old friend and wonderful writer about the need to give hope with our songs. Perhaps a conversation born of whiskey and long travel, and one in which I initially disagreed, but it set up an idea that I couldn't shake. I'm convinced that, in many cases, families are held together by struggle and adversity so long lasting, that if suddenly relieved, it would send them off in several directions.
All The Way To Heaven: Suspect as any quote may be about a song being a true story, I may or may not be lying about this night spent listening to Charlie Rich and the surrounding events in Houston, Texas. I love the horns and the supporting vocals on this song. Michael Sumler's piano searched for Charlie Rich and found him.
Chicken Pie: I was once asked to leave a Catholic Coffeehouse after playing this song. It was considered to have unpleasant insinuations. It has since been played for the Episcopalians and Unitarians to no protest. It's blues and I like it.
Blue Piano: This is an older song that many of my friends have asked for over the years. I don't write many love songs. The blue piano mentioned here is pictured on the back of the record. I had a friend, years ago that played Billie Holiday songs at four in the morning on this piano. She was a concert pianist from Amarillo that came down to Houston to get some jazz and blues injections. She wasn't counting on the full transfusion. She and the piano are still around, but they're not speaking to each other these days.
White Bone: Another of the Gothic tales of the South. Based on a story I overheard from an uncle about a black albino child, and the quandary resulting from the suggestion of some in the local ministry that the child be "put down." As the story goes, he was allowed to live only because he could not be determined as sent by the devil or the Lord. I took it from there and wrote the outline for a stage play. Influenced by Harry Crew's Childhood, there is a line about "Scuffletown," and from that, the record was named.
Your God: Written following the news of James Byrd's murder in Jasper, Texas, and the continued coverage of the inquest and the trial. The song speaks to history as it repeats itself.
Bread And Wine: A take on the Last Supper. Great story song. It's a story that has lasted for two thousand years. Michael Sumler's piano and James Gilmer's percussion are marks of true musicianship, and are proof that lyrics can be seen by the naked eye.
Game Is Gone: Strange to me how many people believe this song is about an ex-wife. It's not. It's about a record company executive. I had great fun with this song in the studio. Tommie Lee Bradley-Jackson shakes the place with her guest vocal.
About The Cover Songs : This is the first time I've ever decided to put cover material on one of my records. A few years ago, Dave van Ronk told me the only trouble he had with songwriters, or singer-songwriters, was that they didn't perform anyone else's songs, and that they seemed unwilling to credit influence. It shocked me that he was so right. To paraphrase Henri Matisse, "To avoid the influence of others is a matter of cowardice and lack of personality."
Where I Lead Me: This Townes van Zandt song has always been one of my favorites. It's from his Delta Momma Blues record that contains so many great songs. I heard a punk band in Norway cover this song, along with a couple of mine. I was immediately struck with the opinion of van Ronk, once again. Following Townes' death, I sat with the old vinyl record and learned the song all over again. He does it as a stomp and scream. I do it a different way, not to avoid the influence of others, but to avoid the fool I would be if I tried to mimic others.
Delia/Bad News: Here's another I've been doing in the stage show for many years, and it continues to grow. Some of it is from the Willie McTell version of Delia, some from me. Some of Bad News is mine and some from being taught by Arthur Jackson, who became known as "Peg Leg Sam." Peg and I slept in the same car and drank from the same bottle and spoke to the same love of the song. I met up with him in Aiken, South Carolina, and I didn't know enough to be in awe. Good for me. I see this song as a stage play and I've tried to develop that vision along the way. It gets the stamp of approval from James Gilmer, who's been playing percussion on it all along..
Nothin': Another one of Townes van Zandt's greatest songs. It fits me like an old coat. I've performed this song for close to thirty years, and I still find it as compelling and useful to my mind and way of thinking as it's always been. Sumler's guitar was just what I was looking for on this song. It has a flatland sound. It's searching.