“Tracks On Fire” Liner Notes

Hungover. I mean, HUNG-OVER. That is the first memory I have when thinking about our time recording “Tracks On Fire”. I imagine it holds that status in my brain because it was completely unexpected. After weeks of pre-production rehearsals in Chicago and a very conscious effort towards staying healthy, the bluegrass state got the best of us. After a seven hour drive on Friday, September 24th, load-in at the studio and the general set up of our gear, it sounded like a good idea to go out for a drink and relax for a bit. There was a lot of work to be done in the morning.

It turns out that the suggestion to “go out for a drink and relax a bit” was quite the slippery slope. Bourbon, my friends, could almost have received a credit on the album. To this day when I listen to “While The Band Still Has A Few Tunes Left To Play” I can still feel the sensation of my head practically exploding, followed by the relief of Excedrin. Nevertheless, our pre-production efforts came through. Complemented by the insight and perspective of my producer, Duane Lundy, we crafted “Tracks On Fire” over the next three or four days.

The real beginnings of “Tracks On Fire”, however, go all the way back to my first album, “Starin’ At A Green Light” (3/27/09). I wrote the title track in early spring of ’08, about five months before “Starin’” was recorded. At the time, I somehow already knew “Tracks On Fire” would be the title track of my follow-up album. What I didn’t know was the exact story I’d be using it to tell or that the production would be based around such a minimalistic style with a very raw, live approach. With “Starin’” I was coordinating many different musicians schedules, over multiple studio sessions, resulting in a fairly produced sound. With “Tracks” we completed two thirds of the album in two days. All live takes. The only main overdubs were final vocal takes, and a few instrumentation edits (i.e. acoustic piano to replace my original keyboard tracks). However, we did stick with the original vocal on “Years Ago” recorded while capturing the rest of the song – drums/guitar/lap steel.

With this live approach we captured something very raw in the music that ultimately served as the perfect foundation for the album’s characters. “Tracks On Fire”, the song, tells the story of a failed suicide attempt inspired by people very close to me with varying degrees of such experience. The haunting, dark, isolated emotion of the unpolished, sparse arrangement helped breath life into the narrator of the song. The rest of the album was built around this concept.

The track listing was developed from songs previously written, or, in the case of “How Good Feels”, written specifically for the album. I wanted to tell the story of where those characters from “Starin’” had gotten to, or maybe were still going. On “Starin’” there’s a very forward-looking perspective, a beginning, a view from the starting line. A view from that dark intersection illuminated by nothing more than a green light, an opportunity, a chance, a possibility. With “Tracks” these characters had now been out in the world for a little while. Some chances had been taken, and choices had been made. Some good. Some bad. Either way they were now being dealt with. I watched people around me lose their jobs, relationships and to some degree their identity or sense of place (i.e. “Burn The Barn Down”). These people were in some form or another right on the edge with that guy in “Tracks On Fire”, and would serve as the blueprint for the rest of the album’s characters. They were uncertain, lost, confused, frustrated and lonely. Many may have forgotten, temporarily or permanently, how good it feels and the importance of enjoying the moment as in, “While The Band…” Perhaps some gave up, as some do, and others kept moving. They kept rollin’ on. They kept searchin’, as in “Lookin’ For A Girl Like You”, or realized the importance of what they still had as in, “Hold On To Me”. The story closes with a solo piano arrangement of a song that is a simple reminder that ultimately the choices, the decisions, are up to you and you alone. – “Whiskey Roads”. It ends on an unresolved chord because, of course, the story is unresolved and unconcluded. Just like you, I too am anxious to see where it goes from here.

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