Owls
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Owls | Acoustic Demos
BONUS RELEASE 2015

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Owls
LYRICS | ALBUM COVER | THEMATIC OVERVIEW | SONG-BY-SONG COMMENTARY | PRODUCTION NOTES


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Released by Red House Records

THEMATIC OVERVIEW

"Every morning shines a brand new light
A brand new light, yeah a brand new light
Every morning shines a brand new light
It's a whole new day, somehow"

This is a stark and naked record. It's, for the most part, me and my guitar and the songs. That was the vision going in, and that's what we managed to stick with throughout the process, fighting through all the anxiety that stirs up when a private person decides, for the sake of art, to venture out downtown, naked.

And I'll talk more about the production later on down the page . . . but I mention it here, cause I think the production vision informs the thematic overview of the record, as a whole.

Man Of Many Moons is a bit of a double entendre. The moon parades across the sky every night, like the tip of the minute hand rounding the clock face . . . or like the curtain girl at an old theater, closing the scene on another day. And as you get older, you realize you've seen that same show thousands of times. But you also recognize that it's a little different every night . . . same moon, slightly different face, slightly different phase, every night. Casting a slightly different light on tonight's realizations than it did on last night's.

So Man Of Many Moons can read both of two ways: "An old man who's seen the moon go past a lot of times" and alternatively, "A confused man who sees the world lit differently by a lot of different moons."

A central theme in the songs on this album, revolve around the process of making peace with Commitment. At my worst, that has been a consistent struggle in my life. At my best, and in periods of growth, it's been a process. These songs reflect a growthful period in my life, and a growthful process. I think. I hope.

So . . . Commitment. How can you promise yourself (much less, someone else) how you will feel or what you will want a month, a year, or 20 years from now . . . when you literally can't know how tomorrow will feel, or what it will want with you. When you've felt so certain about certain things, enough times, only to feel equally and oppositely certain the next day, enough other times . . . you become paralyzed with the inability to promise anything about tomorrow. And that makes it difficult to guide yourself today, to commit to a path.

And I think there's a certain resolution to that dilemna in the many moons. Yes, every day she shows you a changing face of herself. But after enough years gazing up at the night sky, looking for answers, you begin to recognize the cycle and pattern of those many faces. And your certainties about your feelings, though still in daily flux, take on a longterm pattern and equanimity. Enough equinimity, I hope, as to provide a foundation for longterm promises and commitments.

This has been a year of making some peace for myself with my relationship to Commitment. With rootedness. With investment. My relationship with relationship, itself. With intimacy and sharing and exposure. With identity and imperminance. And those are stark and naked kinds of realizations. And simple truths, really, once you've peeled away all the protective complexities. And so that's how we tried to present the songs. Simple, naked, and stripped down.

I hope you enjoy the album . . .

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SONG-BY-SONG COMMENTARY
click each song title to read lyrics

1. Houses Sing

I wrote this song in the midst of the house hunting process. Turns out that process has a lot less to do with scouring the listings for the right pile of brick and wood, and a lot more to do with browsing your inner neighborhoods for signs of various commitments . . . commitments to place, commitments to path, and commitments to another person. It was astonishing to me how much dust a single stationary structure can stir up inside you, by the simple virtue of the fact that it will sit so soundly on it's foundation and not move, ever. One hopes.

2. Little White Angels

This song is about questioning those external comforts that we rely on to help steady ourselves against the waves and the tides. And about eventually floating past the line of realization that those same comforts are creating the waves and tides themselves.

3. Man Of Many Moons

I've always been a night owl, and a night wanderer. When the rest of the world seems quiet and still, sometimes complex questions seem to expose their answers in apparent and obvious ways. The questions of my capacity for love, relationship, and commitment have been consistently complex, and their answers consistently inconsistent. And sometimes, in those late night wanderings, there seem to be moments of illumination. By the light of the moon, perhaps. If only the moon would stay in phase, night after night . . . instead of casting an ever-changing, distinct, but equally obvious light on matters every day.

4. Buckets Of Rain (link goes to Dylan's site)

This was the first Bob Dylan song that really hooked me in. I've always loved how beautifully circular and interwoven the guitar line is . . . and always resented that Dylan could cut straight across it with such simple straight-forward lyrics. And, of course, it works. Like an arrow and a heart. Dylan is real good.

5. Ragtime Ragtime Blues

This is one of those love songs that get me in trouble with my sweetie. It's one of those: "Look, I love you so much that I don't run away from you every month when you become completely irrational and come at me with fire in your eyes and your swords flailing." I think that's a powerful affirmation, personally. She does, too, a large part of the time.

6. Guilty By Association Blues

This song is just a not-very-sneaky way of saying some uncomfortable things about the way I think the world works, while attributing those observations to cute helpless animals, thereby deflecting any grief I might hear back from the uncomfortable world. Pretty smart, really.

7. Almost Round The World

This is a bit of a sequel to the last song. It's a long convoluted story of how our young underdeveloped global neural network passes many messages and much information instantaneously, and often inaccurately, in a big cloudy furious circle.

8. Two Guitars

This is an older song . . . a letter back to my buddy, and artistic comrade, Paul Curreri . . . lamenting the state of our so-called "careers" when we had both just quit our day jobs and set about being full time artists. Thank god for good friends to share the sinking boat with.

9. On Abundance

This song is about how we each carry with us many privileges and good fortunes that would fill some unfortunate void in someone else's life. In that way, we're each over privileged. And also under privileged. Whether that wealth is in some material form, or just simply some ability we possess, or wish we possessed . . . or some opportunity we've been afforded, or wish we could have bestowed upon us. The tragedy is in the difficulty that exists redistributing those abundances amongst ourselves.

10. I've Mostly Watched

This is another older song. I've very rarely performed it, but I wanted to include it with these other songs, cause it seemed to fit somehow. I wrote it when I thought I might be dying . . . lamenting the fact that I hadn't done more in this world. Several years later, I do still feel much the same regret . . . that I spend a lot more time observing and commenting than I do engaging and engineering more productive responses.

11. Know Thy Place

This song is about not letting anyone tell you what your limitations are in this life. It's always easy enough to discover your actual limitations for yourself. And, though, I'm not one of those people with crystals in their eyes who believes we are of infinite potential, and without personal limitation . . . I do think we're capable of a lot more than other people's fears would seem to want to allow us.

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PRODUCTION NOTES

The Studio:

The album was recorded in a couple of two-week windows in July and October of 2010 at Blue Rock Artist Ranch & Studio in Wimberley, TX. I first became aware of Blue Rock when I attended their SXSW anniversary event in 2008, and beyond the fact that this was far and away the most beautiful studio I'd ever seen, it was immediately apparent that the vision at Blue Rock transends impeccable production value, and carries over into creating a vital space for an artistic and creative life, in general. It honestly feels like there's not a single stone placed at Blue Rock without great intention. It's inspirational.


Blue Rock Studio

The Production:

These songs are simple and intimate, and the vision for the production was to try and allow the songs the breath and space to remain simple and intimate. There's an almost irresistable temptation, when you start planning a project, to want to lavishly orchestrate and arrange the songs and cloak their lovely forms with all sorts of musical adornments. I fight the same urge when I cook . . . I love spices . . . I love them so much that I want to add tablespoons of each one. But sometimes, for the sake of the soup, if you start with good fresh ingrediants, you're best off letting their basic flavors shine through.

So it was with the production vision of this record . . . a faith in the songs themselves, the basic ingredients . . . and the conscious (and difficult) decision to keep the palate (or palette) clean.

The arrangements are sparse: vocals and guitar . . . filled out sparingly with some bass . . . and spiced delicately with some harmony vocals, across the board. With a pinch of harmonica on one song, and piano on another. That's it. And it was the most nerve-racking album I've ever made. Cause there's the songs, stark and naked, hiding behind only their own skin . . . and cooked in almost nothing but their own juices.

And that might sounds like I'm diminishing the role of the other musicians on the album. On the contrary. The less musicians there are, and the less they're asked to play, the more you're demanding of them, that each note be absolutely immaculate and necessary. And I really can't put into words how graciously everyone handled that difficult process. The musicians were all champions.

The Musicians:

What can I say? These folks make "tasty" sound easy . . .

Will Sexton - bass and acoustic guitar
Carrie Elkin - harmony vocals
Raina Rose - harmony vocals
Ray Bonneville - harmonica
Keith Gary - piano

The Engineer Becomes The Producer:

Keith Gary is the chief engineer out at Blue Rock, and as the recording began to unfold, it became apparent that the role of "engineer" on a project this sparse was more essentially that of a co-producer. So that is what he became to the project . . . and I am extremely appreciative for his comradery and partnership through the process. His ears are second to none. And it's a good thing they are . . . cause when you can't hide behind the drums, your voice better sound awful good.


Co-producer, Keith Gary

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