Diamonds in the Sky is my “anthem” for this album project. I dedicated myself to the creative path and the process rather than to the outcome. Because of the melody line and chord progression in this song I felt an overdriven electric guitar sound with a B-3 organ would enhance the lyrics and chord structure. This song and all the Nashville songs were recorded at Direct Image Studio and were engineered and produced by Ken Royster. The session musicians are all top notch, extremely creative, and very fun to work with!
The Crossing is a song about self-acceptance. When we’re very young, we’re blissfully unaware. As we age, our egos develop and along with it, our defenses. As we get into the later phases of life, hopefully we can return to living with greater freedom and honesty. John Lardinois’ violin work on this song took it to an entirely new level and Matt Scholp’s bass playing is reminiscent of Neil Young’s Cowgirl in the Sand. All the Dayton songs were recorded at Dayton Sound Studios by Gary King. I used the Fries Band rhythm section; Matt Scholp on bass and Steve Phelps on drums and congas for all the Dayton recordings. I played acoustic guitar and sang lead and harmony vocals on all the Dayton recordings. Gary Knight (Fries) sang backing vocals on the Dayton recordings. On The Crossing, I also used Casey Davis (Duke Junior and Smoky Boots) on lead guitar, Nick Kizirnis (Mulchmen, etc.) on rhythm guitar, and Henry Mays (Fries) on organ.
Before I Go I took John Lennon’s thought – “Imagine there’s no heaven” and decided that if that is possible, then our ability to “live on” might only reside in the memories of those who knew us. The protagonist of the song tries to atone to the ones with whom he has fallen short so that hopefully, their memories of him will be good ones. The Wurlitzer sound played by Johnathan Brown on the intro created a cool hook and the string sextet was recorded in New York by James Mills when he recorded his version of the song. This song was recorded in Nashville and I had major help from James Mills with the arrangement. James graciously allowed me to use his production of this song.
Common Ground I call this my 21st century protest song. It’s simply an appeal for political compromise. There’s a need for citizens who see merits on both sides of the political argument to become more engaged in finding common ground. I used the 50th commemoration of the Kent State tragedy to show that we’ve been bitterly divided before but every once in a while, we come together to get things done. Maybe we can do it again. I wanted a fiddle to play the theme for this song and it wound up interplaying nicely with the biting sound of the Fender Strat. Common Ground was recorded in Dayton and features John Lardinois on violin and Allen Seals (Southbound / Ludlow Creek) on lead guitar.
Green Flash is a love song I wrote for my wife. It talks about how we had searched all our lives for each other and finally met in early middle age by random chance. I had the opportunity to rework Green Flash and offer it as a wedding song for my daughter. Green Flash was recorded in Nashville and Tania Hancheroff sang the duet with me. John Willis added beautiful acoustic guitar fills.
Old Movies and You is definitely a song about loss but is it about the end of a romantic relationship? Is it told from the perspective of a surviving spouse? The takeaway is that when you have the opportunity, you have to tell those special people how much they mean to you. You won’t get another opportunity once they’re gone. From an arrangement standpoint, this was as close to country as I got with the electric dobro and the baritone guitar. Recorded in Nashville
I Love Soul and I Love Rock I wrote this as a retrospective on my early musical life and how I was drawn to music. The roots of rock and roll emanated from blues and so many of the early pioneers of rock were African American. A song about how the power of music can bring us all together. I wrote this using a technique in which I modulated from one chord to the next using transitional chords. It moved the arrangement away from straight ahead 50’s rock to something a little more modern. Mike Rojas is all over this recording with cool rock piano and horn samples. Nick Buda’s drums sounded phenomenal on all the Nashville recordings. He’s such a dynamic player. Recorded in Nashville
Foolish Heart is about how rational thought is so often overpowered by raw emotion. We know what’s good for ourselves but at times, we’re powerless to act in our own best interest. Classically trained Henry Mays played some beautiful piano parts and Nick Kizirnis added lead guitar dripping with his trademark tremolo. Steve Phelps added both congas and drums on this track. Recorded in Dayton.
Taste of Freedom is a song about loving, losing and learning. Dealing with the hurt and anger of a broken heart and grasping for silver linings and lifelines no matter how tenuous they may be. Learning that from the ashes of lost love, green shoots of ongoing life will surely grow. Trey Stone added the perfect feel with his trademark honkytonk piano, Casey Davis added his biting Telecaster to add more than a little “attitude” and Hal Melia put the icing on the cake with his amazing tenor sax performance. Recorded in Dayton.
Legacy of Love A song about love itself….true, selfless love. Even though Legacy of Love and Before I Go were written more than 10 years apart, Legacy of Love provides a clue for the protagonist in Before I Go. Songwriting has changed my life and by writing and performing this song, I met my wife. This has a samba rhythm. Mike Rojas did a wonderful job orchestrating this song and I very much enjoyed adding some out of the ordinary backing vocals to the song. Recorded in Nashville.
Let It Go A song about bad timing and then the healing power that comes with the passage of time. The arrangement has a bit of The Cars (Just What I Needed) feel to the beginning of the song and the harmonies and counter melodies are reminiscent of the Beach Boys. Recorded in Nashville.
One More Time is an autobiographical song with a little poetic license thrown in. It tells a story of a performer who is contemplating the end of his performing career. He’s having trouble getting psyched up to go on stage night after night. He tells himself the lie that if he can get through the night’s performance, it will be his last. All the while knowing that in the morning, he’ll be ready to do it again. I wrote the lyrics to this song first. Shortly after, I was putting away a guitar tuned to the tuning CS&N used to play Carry On and had the idea to try to make a chord progression using that tuning. Over the period of several months I was able to build the song into a southern rock flavored, CS&N meets Lynyrd Skynyrd arrangement. Dave Francis on bass really lead the way on this out of the ordinary arrangement, and Jon Conley on lead guitar and Mike Rojas on organ dueled it out with amazing solos towards the end of the song. Recorded in Nashville.
The Nashville Musicians are Nick Buda, drums (Taylor Swift), Jon Conley, lead guitar (Kenny Chesney) Dave Francis, bass, Mike Rojas, keyboards (Former Country music keyboardist of the year) and John Willis, acoustic guitars. Jonathan Brown played keyboards and Jason Eustice sang harmony vocals on Before I Go. All the musicians have too many credits to mention. They’ve all played on #1 hit records.
Ken Royster, engineer and producer did a wonderful job of coaxing the best vocal performances I could give and did a masterful job of recording and mixing the songs