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Song By Song

“The Ballad of Jimmy O’Shea”

1.  The Ballad of Jimmy O’Shea-  This was the first song I wrote for the project.  I love stories.  Especially redemption stories.  I’ve thought many times about trying to write a little novel or short story, but I think a few verses and a simple repetitive chorus may be the best I can do.  In this song you’ve got Mary Belle who leaves a good man for the bright lights of the big city, but in the end comes back and cares for her first love.  The song ends on a bit of a dark note, but I like to think that her good deed will somehow be rewarded in the end.

2.  Oh My Darlin’- This song is simply a fun tune about young love.  There’s a kind of innocence in early rock and roll that I really enjoy.  I tried to capture some of that.  The song isn’t exactly autobiographical, but I think it’s safe to say it’s based on a true story

3.  All Because of You-  I’m a big fan of the Eagles, J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne, etc…pretty much everything that was going on in California at that time.  This song was an attempt to write something that made me feel the way those artists make me feel. Once again it’s a bit of a redemption story about a guy running from commitment.  That’s a pretty easy topic for me to write about unfortunately.  That being said, I’ve learned over the years that facing my fears and committing to things is where all the magic happens. 

4.  Damascus- Nobody will care about this detail, but the coolest thing about this song is that it only has one chord.  That was a bit of an accident, but I’m proud of myself for having the courage to leave it that way.  It’s hard for me to let a song be simple.  You probably know the story of St. Paul having a vision from God on his way to Damascus.  He was struck blind and realized the error of his ways.  A few days later he was healed and became a very different man.  I like that story.  I can identify.  Oh, and my kids love this one because I recorded them marching on my living room floor.  

5.  Stars Like These-  I am big fan of the old crooners.  Sinatra, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and so on.  And I love the way their records make me feel.  I don’t have the musical knowledge, voice or skill to pull off that kind of thing, but it is fun to dabble in it occasionally.  I suppose when I wrote this I was trying to honor those guys and that whole era.  The song is about the timelessness of love.  The world is changing so fast right now it can be a little scary.  But, there are some things that will always be the same.  I find that very comforting.  I hope that’s how this song makes people feel. 

6.  The Critique of Cartagena-  This song is a little weird I admit.  Here's the deal, I sang the melody and lyric for the chorus into my phone one day and had no idea what it was about.  I just kept singing, “I keep waiting for the good part” and I liked it.  I thought it would be fun to try to write a story around that one line.  I conjured up the idea that the there was a miserly old book critic reviewing a new novel.  He was determined not to like it even though the story was actually pretty good.  The verses go chapter by chapter summarizing the events, but the critic is never satisfied and “keeps waiting for the good part, but it never seems to come”.  

7.  Abilene-  This song is about how most of us have some kind of longing for the past.  For simpler times and the good old days.  I think I was having a particularly anxiety filled day when I wrote this lyric.  I had probably read one too many headlines and then picked up my guitar.  That being said, the song leaves me with a hopeful feeling.  Whatever the future holds we’re all in this thing together.  

8.  The Gypsy-  I watched a Gordon Lightfoot documentary a while back and was so inspired.  I’ve always liked his music, but you know how it is, when you know more about where that music came from you fall that much more in love with the artist.  I say this cautiously and humbly, but I was trying to emulate Mr. Lightfoot when I wrote this song.  Once again, it’s a story of redemption.  I tried to give it a cinematic arc.  The recording is a bit noisy and raw, but when I listen back it seems to suit the story.  Life is hard, tragedy abounds, but we all get to choose how to respond.  Forgiveness is usually the right answer. 

9.  Golden Hair-  This song is about my wedding day.  And in the bigger picture is a song about gratitude.  I don’t remember many of the details from that wonderful day, but the one image that is perfectly clear in my mind is my beautiful bride, dressed in white, coming down a long staircase to take my hand.  It felt like a dream.  Still does.  One little production note, I love the band America.  This song is also a tip of the hat to them.  

10.  Tears Tears Tears-  As a kid I spent a lot of time in the backseat of my grandparents Buick.  They always listened to cassette tapes of “The Fabulous 50’s”.  I loved it then and I still love it now.  I wrote this song simply trying to capture some of those vibes.  

11.  St. Catherines’s-  This song feels a bit more indie rock to me than the others.  I came up playing in rock bands and I let that come through a little in this one.  Lyrically the song is about dealing with anxiety and my own spiritual journey to find peace.  On any given day, If I’m paying attention and there are no lawn mowers running, I can hear the distant church bells from St. Catherine’s Catholic Church and it centers me.  I love that sound.  It reminds me that there is still a lot of light in the world.

12.  Daniel the Barber-  There’s an old-school barbershop on the downtown square where I live.   The owner is quite a character and has become a friend over the years.  I was messing around with some chords one day as I was wrapping up this record and started singing a little jingle about him.  It made me smile.  Made him smile, too.  So, with his permission I added it to the end of the record.  And now that I think about it, I should probably go see him.  I’m looking a little shaggy.