About the Songs
Feel the Flame
Codependence: I love you, I hate you, I love you, I hate you, you hurt me, I hurt you, you hurt me, I hurt you, I know you love me 'cause you cry when I hurt you, I'm leaving, I'm staying, you're making me leave, tell me to stay, I love you, I hate, you, I love you, I hate you - BTW: the sex is amazing!
This is just the way I feel about music, and playing guitar. Playing and listening to music is a way to get to all kinds of places, both outer and inner. I've always loved music - always. When I was young, 13 or 14, and I was beginning to play in a band and actually be onstage and even get paid every once in a while, I intuitively knew that almost everything good that was going to come to me in my life would be because of it. For one thing, it was my ticket out of pencil-necked geekdom! No matter HOW geeky you are, if you play guitar, you're cool! I looked around and I saw that the world was full of pencil-necked geek musicians mated with super models. I said to myself, "Self, THIS (play the guitar) is what I want to DO!" Now, it's true that some bad stuff has happened as a result of my chosen profession, but at this point in my life, the good so far dwarfs the bad that it's no contest! For one thing, my music played a major role in snagging me a one-in-a-million woman!
"Music is a universe." - John Coltrane
Into the Mystic
This is an old Van Morrison song. It's somewhat amazing to me how much people like this song. I guess it's because it combines romance and spirituality with a happy, kind of peppy feel. I have no idea what the lyrics mean. But it's one of the most-requested songs I do at Harling's, so here it is - for all you Harling's people!
When doing cover tunes, my desire is to make it my own somehow. Make it different than the original. After all, the original has already been done. So I play it faster than Van Morrison. The feel is very different. The bass line is not as busy as the original and the Nashville style harmony parts on the chorus are one of the things that set this version apart, in my opinion.
For a short expose on Harlings see the liner notes for my CD, Channeling Harold
James and Grace
James Callahan was born in 1884 in Jackson County, Indiana. He was the oldest of seven. James' mother died giving birth to her 7th child, Jacob, who survived. James' father, Erastas Callahan, remarried quickly to a younger woman. A necessity, given the fact that he had a bunch of young children, including a newborn, with no mother. We can only guess at the young woman's motivation. Shortly thereafter, the new wife ran off with a younger man. Erastas, apparently still distraught over the death of his first wife, and suffering with some acute physical ailments,committed suicide - leaving his children orphans. James was the age of 16 at this time and rose to the occasion; he apparently more or less raised his younger siblings.
James was married by a Justice-of-the-Peace on April 10, 1907, to Grace May Green in a civil ceremony. He was a steam engine machinist, foreman, and inspector, and worked for the B&O Railroad. As the song says, "He was a hard-drinkin', gamblin' railroad man." He had the reputation of being incredibly strong, as strong as a mule.
Engine #4537 and James Callahan
James retired from the B&O Railroad on Jan 30, 1954
So this photograph is most likely early 1950's
James Callahan (on the left) and his buddy Carl Smith, who worked with him on the railroad for 23 years - picture taken in 1943
I assume that James indulged in many of the behaviors a drinking and gambling lifestyle would entail. Grace (James called her, "Gracie") was a church-going woman. Because of his railroad job, James worked all through the Great Depression. To keep James from gambling their money away, Gracie used to take money out of his pocket and give it to the church to help its poor members get through the hard times. Gracie has said that James single-handedly supported her little church through the Great Depression.
Gonna sing you a song of James Callahan
He was a hard drinkin' gamblin' railroad man
A girl named Gracie took his wedding band
And his journey into grace began
In 1935, when James was 51 or 52 years old, Gracie decided to fast and pray for the well being of James' soul. She prayed and fasted for 9 days.
Now Gracie is a cryin' sayin' 'Lord have mercy
James is a runnin' on the highway to hell
Lord you got to save him from his evil ways'
There's no runnin' from a woman who prays
James consequently suffered some kind of sickness or collapse - he called it an "attack of the rheumatism" and was confined to bed. He had an experience - a vision if you will - of many fearsome demons gathered around his bed, gleefully waiting for him to die. Needless to say, after James recovered he was a changed man. He quit his drinking and gambling ways, stood up in front of the church and apologized for the things that he'd done and said, and became an upstanding member of the church and the community.
Now James is a troubled by the visions in his head
He's seein' all kinda devils gathered round his bed
He's sayin, 'Lord I'm sorry for the things I said
So sorry for the things I done
To illustrate the depth of his change of heart, there is a story of an insurance salesman who was servicing James and Gracie's little farm. He was talking to James one day and said he was worried. The tires on his car were wearing out - this was during WW II when tires were rationed - and he didn't know what he was going to do, he HAD to have his car in order to service his accounts. James promptly jacked up his car and gave the man four tires. Gracie would complain that James would give away everything they had with no thought of taking care of his own. Instead of taking his money and giving it to the church, so he wouldn't drink and gamble it away, she was now hiding it so he wouldn't give it away! That is an indication - a rather ironic indication - of the depth of James' change. When one of his sons-in-law became a minister, James insisted that he and Gracie get married again, this time by a preacher, in the church, and so there was another wedding of James and Grace - in 1951.
Gracie died in 1972 after a long illness. James, long since retired, took care of her for many years and nursed her until the end. At her funeral he remarked through his tears, "She was the best wife any man could ever have." It brings to mind something I heard once: "When two people are truly in love, there can be no happy ending."
James lived alone and was basically self sufficient for 9 years after Gracie died. James died in January of 1981 two weeks shy of his 97th birthday. There was no illness, no crisis, and no struggle. It was just time to go. He laid down on his bed and zoned in and out of consciousness for 24 hours, breathed out, and didn't breathe back in again. His pastor, who was with him at the end, said it was the easiest death he'd ever seen.
Gracie left first and was followed by James
Runnin' after a woman who prays
Perhaps there is a happy ending; we just can't see it from where we stand. I would like to think that that is the case.
Just to give you an idea of the scope of James' life consider this: he could remember when there were no cars, no indoor plumbing, and no electricity. His parents were wary of Indians. In 1901 James was 17 and struggling to raise his younger siblings. From that, to men walking on the moon, all in one lifetime! By the way, James didn't buy that men-on-the-moon thing for one second! It was a hoax and a fraud. An understandable opinion, considering where he came from.
James played the fiddle. He held it in the crook of his arm and sawed the bow back and forth, scritching and scratching out Amazing Grace. That's why I wanted a fiddle solo on this song. It's immensely appropriate.
That's James playing Amazing Grace for
a couple of his great grandchildren
Grace, Grace, amazing Grace
James'll bless the day that he saw your face
Grace, Grace, amazing grace
Comin' through from a woman who prays
James and Grace had seven children. Five of them were born dead or died within a month of birth. It appears that no one really knows for sure what the problem was. It has been said that Grace, for some unknown reason, was not able to carry to term. It has also been said that James and Grace had a blood type incompatibility. One of them had a negative RH and the other one had a positive RH. If a woman conceives and the child has a different RH than the mother, the mother's body treats it like a disease and manufactures antibodies against it. Today that would be taken care of by a simple inoculation. But back then there was nothing to be done.
No guarantee about tomorrow
James and Gracie had their share of sorrow
The two children that survived were both girls. The younger of those girls couldn't bear any children. She and her husband adopted two, a boy and a girl. The other daughter was named Opal. Opal had 4 children. Her oldest son, named James after his grandfather, also had 4 children. His oldest son had 5 children. I am that oldest son. James Callahan was my great-grandfather. My oldest daughter, Amber, was born on July 2, 1980. She is James' first great-great grandchild. My wife and I have the same type of RH incompatibility that James and Grace may have had. Today it's no big deal. We have five children - kinda makes me wonder. There's some kind of strange symmetry there.
On Thanksgiving Day of 1980, in his old farmhouse in North Vernon, Indiana, James held Amber - his great-great granddaughter.
James and Gracie lived a mighty long time
Saw five generations down the family line
James with his daughter Opal, his grandson James,
his great grandson Jay, and his great-great granddaughter Amber
James Callahan's great great great grandson
Cole Stephen Lewis Eames
This is a song by singer/songwriter David Wilcox. I really like a lot of his stuff, especially the lyrics. He writes a lot of songs that are very metaphorical - he's very good at metaphor. He's also a very interesting guy. Anyway, other songs of his are very humorous observations of various aspects of Americana. I liked this song because it kind of lopes along in a lightly humorous kind of way and then has a serious punch line that comes at you out of left field.
Maybe if a baby gets too many shiny toys
She never finds the value in herself
How true, how true.
If you compare my version to his you'll see that I've taken some liberties with certain harmonic/rhythmic aspects of the song.
That's what I do when I do covers. I feel like I should make it my own somehow.
This song originated in a dream. I dreamed the whole first verse of this song one night. Words, chord progression, lyrics - everything, all at once. I got up that morning, picked up a guitar and instantly sang and played it without working on it (except I DID work on it - in my dream!). The second verse came almost immediately thereafter, with about 15 minutes work. I let it simmer on the back burner for several months and then came up with the chorus. This happened towards the end of a long stretch (seven years) of 70 to 80 hour workweeks. I'm pretty sure my subconscious was telling me I needed a vacation!
Ultimately, this song is not about Mexico at all. It's about an archetypical place of healing, rest, and rejuvenation, a place where weariness, stress, cares, and shadows fade into oblivion, and light, health and joy - well being - are restored in the light of the sun, the sand, the ocean, and days and nights of love and music.
Comparisons to James Taylor's famous song of the same name are unavoidable. I would be lying if I were to say that JT hasn't been an influence on me. He's been a HUGE influence. I have the highest regard for James Taylor. But - - - this is MY Mexico, not his. With the exception of rhyming, "Oh" with, "Mexico" there are no other similarities that I can think of. Also, this is the ONLY song I have ever heard that rhymed, "Tequila" with "heal ya". Take THAT, James! Many of the friends and family I use to get honest feedback on works-in-progress also said something like, "Sounds kind of like a Jimmy Buffet song." I would say, "Yeah, it kind of does (except for that one Dominant flat-9 chord in the chorus) - until the coda. Then it goes somewhere Jimmy Buffet has never been!"
Hymn for Her
This is a song I wrote in 1986 as a Christmas gift to my wife, Andrea. It pretty much states my philosophy of marriage, love, sex, and babies. We were so poor we couldn't afford much of a Christmas that year. My two daughters were very young at the time and I would work on the recording while Andrea was at the grocery or running errands and the girls would be my lookouts and come running - "Dad! Hide the song! Mom's home, Mom's home!" Turns out that this gift has kept on giving for years and years - giving back to ME that is! What a huge return for such a small investment! The original title was Andrea's Song and can be found in its original form on my 1991 release, Waiting. A few years ago, as a result of an encouraging critique from an Independent A&R staffer at TAXI, I added the chorus, which didn't exist on the original recording of the song. It was at that time that I retitled it Hymn for Her.
Feelin' Kinda Country
Dude! I have no idea where this song came from. Stylistically, it doesn't even belong on this CD.
BTW - it ain't ALWAYS the man's fault! Even so, this guy's pretty pathetic.
This is my version of a tune by a group called Fastball. The original can be found on their CD All the Pain Money Can Buy (love the title!). This tune has also been very popular at Harlings and so by including it here I again give the Harlings crowd a shout out! Thanks for all the support for lo these many years.
How many times have you seen this song played out? Or maybe you have lived it yourself. The guy doesn't have a clue. The woman tries to tell him in all kinds of different ways that things aren't so good. But the guy is blind, he thinks everything is fine and wonders what HER problem is. Finally she just can't take it any more and one day while he's at work she just moves out. He comes home and finds an empty house. He's devastated. He has no idea what just happened, or how to fix it, or if it's even fixable. After being hit upside the head with a baseball bat (metaphorically speaking) he finally realizes that things aren't so good. Duh. Finally, after all kinds of agonized maneuvering, talking, begging, crying, breakdowns, etc., he realizes that it's too late for this relationship, the woman may or may not forgive but either way she is not interested in trying again, the wound is too deep, and she has moved on. Maybe he's learned his lesson and will pay more attention when his future next woman starts talking.
Or maybe not, some guys never learn.
This is a song that I wrote for my in-laws 40th wedding anniversary. In typical fashion for that family there was a big whoop-de-doo! To say the song went over well would be an understatement. This is another one of those songs that has paid out personal dividends over the years. I have to play it (as well as Hymn for Her) at my wife's family gatherings. Aunts and uncles and cousins all want to hear it - again. Now I can just say, "Hey, listen to the CD." Somehow I don't think that will fly. The extended family is huge, and runs the gamut from preachers to lawyers to drug dealers. The attendance at family reunions in Dallas runs into the hundreds. It's loud, boisterous, and quintessentially Texan. My mother-in-law is Canadian, and also comes from a very large family. The story of how my in-laws got together would be another song! At any rate, they are good people. There were 4 children in that family and usually at least 2 dogs. The song is an accurate reflection of my wife's family - at least to my perception. There's a lot of sorrow and a lot of joy there. Kind of like life-in-general. They have more than 15 grandkids/step grandkids and several great grandkids - I seem to have lost count, exactly. My in-laws have now been together over 50 years.
I think that they're going to go the distance!
Everything the song says about my wife's family is also true of mine - except the dog part, I never had a dog growing up. My family is from Indiana and is quite a bit more reserved than their Texas counterparts. Bunch of Yankees. I got my first dog at about age 36! Now we have two dogs - and two cats. I should write a song about that - The Ballad of Cheerio and Gus. My parents have 15 grandkids. That's right, both sides put together, my kids have something like 30 cousins! My parents are still together after more than 50 years - and counting.
I think that they're going to go the distance!
With the birth of our first grandbaby about a year ago it seems the song is coming true for Andrea and I as well.
We are indeed fortunate.
We'll Never Say Goodbye
This song is very wordy, it's hard to sing. You have to sing very staccato, and concentrate on enunciation. The other side of that coin is that the lyrics are very syncopated, and that's cool. But - I hate it when I write songs that are hard!
This song is just an expression of the security I feel in my relationship with Andrea. I know she's with me for life. Good times and bad, joy and sorrow, sickness and health. I know it can be done, look at James and Grace. I know that some day one of us will most likely die first. And maybe, though we can't see it from where we stand, there IS a happy ending. But if not, and until then, we'll never really say goodbye.
What the Blues are all About
Obviously autobiographical - I've lived every line!
Let Me Be the One
This was a song I wrote back in '77 or early '78 for a band I was playing in and writing almost all of the songs for. The group was called Aire and we recorded a demo - that was a bigger deal back then than it is now - and this song was on that demo. I think there are still some copies of that demo floating around. I wound up performing this song at my own wedding in June of '78. I also wrote another song specifically for my own wedding, performed it, and then promptly forgot it. I never recorded it or wrote it down anywhere that I can find. I think it's lost forever. This song however, has stood the test of time. At the time that I wrote it I wasn't familiar with the vast jazz standard repertoire but I now know that the chord progression of the first four bars of the verse is similar to the great Jobim standard How Insensitive. That's probably one reason this song still sounds good to me after all these years. I think that Stan Kessler played a gorgeous flugelhorn solo on this. I love Stan's flugelhorn playing. His tone and his musicality are top notch in my book.
This song expresses my general, default outlook on life. The glass is half full. I thought it would be a good song to close out this CD. A capstone on all the stories of joy, pain, and longing contained therein. Even though I'm generally not a church-goin' man, I have a deep and abiding belief in a benevolent Creator. I believe He is benevolent in spite of all the pain and suffering that everyone experiences, some more than others. I do not believe that all the pain and suffering is His fault. Rather than blame and rage against Him, I choose to ally myself with the Creator, to turn to Him in times of stress and pain, rather than blame Him for my stress and pain, and in doing so He becomes available to me as a source of comfort, strength, and healing. It seems to me that this is a much healthier and more functional attitude than the alternatives. James Callahan had as much reason as anybody to blame and accuse the Creator for the pain and misery in his life. And yet, as far as I know, James was confident in Who he trusted, even to the very end.
It has been my experience that playing and singing this song and meditating on the lyrics and message has helped me get through some rough times of my own - I have found therapeutic value in it. There are several Biblical references in it, but the one I would like to leave with you is Proverbs 18:24:
"...there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."