“It’s late in the evening, the sun has gone down. The neighborhood is quiet but I hear the sounds.” I spent the weekend working on It’s a Lonely Christmas Without You. I somehow managed to delete my project files and had to recreate it, which was a good opportunity to make some changes and I’m pleased with the outcome. I hope your loved ones are near to you this Christmas. If not, wherever they are I pray they’re safe and sound.
I took the time to re-edit and remix this project and this is the latest version.
Though I was born in Ashland, Kentucky, I grew up in South Florida where music and dancing is a large part of the culture, salsa dancing in particular and finding a club whose live band has a horn section is a common thing. Hence my love of horns, Latin rhythms and dancing.
As a songwriter I address a variety of topics, but sometimes I like to keep it light, fun and simple. Life is beautiful so dance more!
This is my first go at producing for another songwriter. I met Carey Seward at the Fox and Goose in Sacramento. Carey’s from Alaska and I was immediately struck with the quality of her songwriting and the uniqueness of her material. She was only here for a short while so we chose to record two songs, Civil Twilight and So You’ve Been Told.
Civil Twilight was a term I’d never heard before. It’s “is the brightest phase of twilight, when the sun is less than 6° below the horizon.” It’s legal to drive without your headlights on in civil twilight.
Winter sure was long and dark I felt the freeze in every part
fire burned down to the weakest little ember.
You can see right through me caving in and I wonder
what happened to all my friends
I’ve been down that hole since last November.
But I can hear the river ice a breaking
smash me up and carry me away
Icy water naked freezing shaking
with empty hands and debts I just can’t pay
Well the sun has turned it up to civil twilight
the dark ain’t gone, just waiting in the hall
so let summer burn it off, no I really don’t want to talk.
we can leave the lights off til the fall.
Biking to the riverside the sun so bright nowhere to hide
we both are plump and pale and scared of other
supposed to have something to say but my mind is blank I’m not okay
I need meat and fire and beer and all my brothers.
For the orchestration I wanted to create a simple warm sound which I obtained with two alternating cello lines, one plucked and lower and the other a more legato line on top. I wanted crisp clean cymbal sounds, a water dropping type of effect and a simple vocal harmony to reflect the awakening of spring and the fragility and tenderness of this piece. I kept the bass sweet and simple as well.
Producing for another artist was a wonderful experience and gives me some options for what to do with myself further down the road.
I’ve hatched a new one. This is fresh from the mental factory and there are three main components driving this song. At Monday night’s Fox and Goose open mic in Sacramento, I heard a performer effectively use the “repeat the same line 4 times technique” and I realized that I typically avoid that technique in my writing. I like to go somewhere with the story and resist singing the same line. He challenged me to write a song this week using that approach… so I did!
Carey Seward played Ani Difranco’s, “Both Hands” that night and that’s one of my favorite songs of Ani’s so I wanted to capture just a touch of that element as well. And finally, another local songwriter, Allison Hallenbeck recently wrote a song with lyrics that impressed me so much I practically fell out of my chair. So I thought of Allison and her lyric effectiveness as I pulled this together.
Carey is a songwriter from Alaska who has recently joined the music community here in Sacramento and she’s got oodles of talent. Allison is a ukulele goddess with a sweet soprano voice. Both frequent several open mic’s around the Sacramento region.
The second verse came first and then came the chorus and then the last two verses and ironically the first verse was the most difficult to write, but it’s so true that it sticks with me like butter.
2 Week Update: I’ve changed the chorus. It was too annoying. It’s become:
This ain’t working anymore.
This ain’t working like before.
The time has come to close the door
cause this ain’t working anymore.
If you haven’t caught David Houston and String Theory, make it a point to get to one of their gigs. I’ve nicknamed David, Professor Houston because his talent deserves that level of respect. As a songwriter I have a particular affinity for wordsmiths and this man is a genius. The way he turns a phrase will catch you off guard and open your heart before you’ve realized what’s happened and then here comes String Theory with a sweeping line to lift you out of the mechanics of the lyrics and into the job that music is meant to do – move you to another level, another hemisphere, another view. Several times during their performance I marveled that this combination is so powerful and effective. It’s vibrational open heart surgery, hits you in the nostalgic area of your gut, but the strings and arrangement saves you. They hold you up, help you feel and keep you from falling too far down. That’s the feeling of an open heart.
It doesn’t get any tastier than this delightful pairing of aural pleasure. Solid song structure, expert musicianship and powerful lyricism that at one point brought up a few tears. Now that caught me off guard, I can’t recall when a performance delivered that kind of punch, hence this post. Kudos Prof Houston & String Theory, I look forward to your next gig! Stay informed: http://www.davidhouston.com
I’m terribly impatient. I want to release these as I get them recorded and don’t have anything keeping me from doing that. Freedom is a beautiful thing. I’ll eventually pull them all together into a CD format and hopefully manage to keep a few songs a surprise.
My family is from Ashland Kentucky and my Granny and I had an especially close relationship. She was an amazing and entertaining lady. She would talk about how beautiful Kentucky was and how she ached to return to the land of her roots.
When she was in the assisted living facility she was a hoot. I was visiting with her one afternoon and she was telling me about what was happening with the lady she shared the room with and somehow we started talking about Kentucky and she said, “Oh, what I wouldn’t give for some KY bourbon. Just a taste would be sooo good.” and I said, “Granny, I can take care of that for you right now. There’s no good reason why you can’t have yourself a little swig of bourbon if you want it.” You could see her eyes just light up at the thought and then she said, “Oh, no…no. I just couldn’t,” “Yes, Granny, yes, you can. It’ll only take me a moment to run to a package store and get you some!” She refused. It was a funny moment that stuck with me. So this song is for her. I tried to capture her passion and love for the state and I accidentally made up a word, which I can fix in editing – I’m just not sure I want to.
Give me bourbon on my deathbed
fill my cup, before I die.
In that cup, I place my solace and the
secrets of my life.
Kentucky bourbon on my deathbed
when the bells begin to chime
Oh the devil comes a callin,
If I drink before it’s time.
Give me God that sweet refreshment
it’s like horses running wild
through the bluegrass fields of heaven
as I cross the great divide.
One last kiss of pure delightment –
one last taste upon my tongue,
for this land has been my heaven,
Kentucky bourbon take me home.
Kentucky bourbon take me home.