The center of the CD is a song called: WE CAME TO RIDE THE ROAD. This song describes the long distance bicycler’s state of mind. It is about the bliss of focusing on the road right under you and just ahead. It’s about feeling very much alive. It’s about the memories of leaving town on an ordinary work day, past the usual sights that don’t look so usual any more because you have made your break with it. It’s about the point where the prairie suddenly changes, and the road drops down as the land goes from endless flat to carved out canyon-lands. I other words, life gets deep and complex and interesting. This is the state of mind I’m after. In the midst of all that we have been through, and the great distance left to go, we remember that since the point of the trip was to ride the road, then that must mean we’re already here. It has always been easy for me to get to that place on a bicycle, but I want to be able to get there when I don’t have wheels under me. That’s what this music is for. This CD is a complex blossom of contradictions that is held together at the center by this blissfully focused state of mind that I first came to know while pedaling across the country.
This blossom has petals that go out in different, seemingly contradictory directions. For example, there is a song about a kid getting shot on the sidewalk at night just before the rain comes (THE SACRIFICE). The cop on duty has seen so much of this that as goes about doing his job, he zooms out his perspective and imagines how similar this is to the ancient sacrifices on those stone altars on top of those Mayan temples. That song is one petal on the blossom. But balancing that dark image is a song that looks out at our distant future and sees the arc of history bending toward justice. The song DRIFT is set on a quiet stretch of the Mississippi river as two characters move with the current through the darkness of a long night. One of the characters is awake to the quiet strength of the current, and the other is asleep and doesn’t want to be roused. The chorus of the song speaks the voice of change that whispers the hopeful promise that with this subtle current, every drop of river will be carried to the sea. Two songs, two views of history. One is the worry that the worst of human nature will always be with us, and the other, a deep confidence that we are all carried along in this unstoppable current of each human heart yearning for a better day.
The songs GUILTY BY DEGREE, and BAIL MY BOAT are also opposite petals on the blossom. One is about feeling overwhelmed by the waves of change that are coming, and the other is about not letting it sink us. One looks at the magnitude of global consequences and wonders if it is too late. The other says: “It won’t help to rage at the rainstorm, that’s not gonna keep me afloat. What I need is just to bail my boat.”
The songs DON’T LOOK BACK, and OCEAN SOUL are love songs, but they are very different. One celebrates who we are becoming, and the other celebrates who we are. There’s something to be said for not repeating old mistakes. Don’t look Back is about getting free of the past in order to more fully love and be loved. But the song Ocean Soul is trying to tell her that she is so much more beautiful than who she is trying to be.
How we heal the past, and how we envision the future are intertwined in the two songs: IT’LL WORK ON YOU, and OIL TALKING TO YA. The first is a song about my therapy of songwriting, though it is disguised as a car song. Why is that man working so hard to restore that old Austin Healy Sprite? In working to bring something beautiful to life, the microcosm of this thing we love teaches us how to be more fully alive in everything we do. That balances the song: Oil Talking To Ya, which may be my favorite song on the record. Yes, it is about a post peak-oil world, but instead of the easy doom and terror, this song imagines a distant future where instead of the adversity dividing us (bringing the end of civilization), we choose to come together against a common problem and see what we can do. But the power of habit is so strong in humans. Any time we break an addiction, there is a sharp turn that must happen in our thinking. We go from listening to the voice of the substance that controls us, to suddenly being able to hear a different voice.
That sudden wonderful change in thinking is subject of the songs: TIP OF MY TONGUE, and SINGLE CANDLE. The first is a playful story of losing the first draft of a song that would have changed everything. As if one little song has the power to make the world a different place. I confess, I still believe that; pretty much every time I work on a new lyric. I have always welcomed any new idea that would shake the foundations of my understanding. Because I have felt it happen. The song SINGLE CANDLE is about Martin Luther King and his words that struck a match and lit a flame that is still bringing light to the world. This song is my way of making peace with how little each one of us can do. No single match burns for very long, but it is enough.