The Songs #10 - Come As I Am

In October of 2014, things were getting incredibly stressful in our lives. Joe’s brain cancer was back with a vengence and so was his head pain. We made the decision to put him on steroids in September and the drugs exaggerated and complicated reality. As caregiver and wife, it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain any assemblance of normalcy and it was becoming increasingly more important for me to hold true to my center and to myself, no matter what.

I was angry; I was angry at the disease, at the drugs, and what they had both done to my husband. I wrote this song in response to those emotions. It came out like a hymn. When Mike Tittel, Jon and I were in the studio the very first day, Mike used the term “biblical”. I really liked that. It has a slow processional feel with an ethereal vibe delivered by Mike Landis’ mix.

The Songs #9 - Cleveland Rain

Somewhere back in the 1990’s, Chris Allen gave me a journal for Christmas. In the inside cover he wrote a poem and it inspired this song. It also reflects my love of Cleveland and the effects a big body of water can have on my soul. Cleveland can be a paradox when it comes to the weather and the lake effect. I recall an evening long ago driving to a gig with Chris and half of the sky was clear with the stars and the moon and the other half was a raging thunderstorm.

I’d had this song for a long time and had never quite finished the lyrics until 2014 when I wanted to perform it at a show. The guys recorded it when I was off getting our dinner so I didn’t hear it until I went back in to the studio to do my vocals. I love everything about this track and the melodies brought by Al Moss and the pedal steel, coupled with the subtleties and nuance, thrill me.

The Songs #8 - Any Other Day

It’s a numbing pain, widowhood, yet somewhere you are connected to the present, able to observe as if it’s someone else going through it. Maybe it’s a way to protect oneself while in grieving reverie and days slip away, just like any other day. The two songs I put in the prechorus came from a morning I was out in town having breakfast and journaling. The two songs came on the radio in the restaurant,back to back. Joe was a big Pink Floyd fan and the words are very natural to associate with my missing him. Bell Bottom Blues is a song I used to sing with my band Tre Lunas and Joe loved it. Then there is the lyric, “…if I could choose a place to die, it would be in your arms”…

This song was recorded in my music room on the Kawai baby grand and is supported by Jon and Chris. Jon helped tailor the chords at the end of the prechorus and he plays the beautifully poignant electric guitar solo. The vocal was the last track I cut. I sang it in one take.

The Songs #7 - Yuletide

Joe and I were married on the Winter Solstice 2007. That year it fell on Saturday, December 22nd. Like many of the songs on this album, it came quickly. I was sitting at the piano practicing for the holiday shows I was hosting at the Oxford Community Arts Center. It was mid December 2015 and fast approaching my first anniversary without Joe. I was planning on playing 2000 miles by The Pretenders and as I was playing through and singing, I thought I felt Joe in the threshold of the door to my music room listening, just like he used to. The room changed; the song lyrics came through from the bottom up, in reverse along with the piano. Before I knew it I “came to” , sobbing, and grateful. This gift a song about our wedding day, the Yuletide, the return of the light. I played this song that evening and the next for the concerts held in the room that held our wedding reception.

We, of course, recorded it on the baby grand in my music room. I love how you can hear the air go through the pedals. We kept it simple with a hint of Jon’s Harmony guitar under the refrain.

The Songs #6 - Coming Home

It was August, 21, 2017, the day of the big solar eclipse. My horoscope that day said to keep pen and paper nearby for sudden flashes of inspiration. I did and this song came. I heard the latter part of the chorus first. “Tonight, I lay my body down alone, I know you’re coming home.” There was that first night, the night he died, that I laid down to sleep without him. And, Joe was going back to source, home. The rest of the song came very quickly. I pulled from our conversations from his last days to early on in our friendship to communing with him after death.

I wrote it on the piano in Bflat and knew it would be played on guitar. I recorded it on voice memo and sent to Rocky and Chris with instructions it was a finger-picking guitar similar to Jackson Browne’s These Days. Chris recorded the guitar at my house with Mike Landis. The piano was an afterthought at the end of the day. It’s a melody that is in the same realm as Dvorjak’s “Going Home” from the New World Symphony and one that I think Joe would have loved whistling.

The Songs #5 - Rob's Song

In August of 2015, I wrote this song for my friend, Rob’s, birthday. He and I became good friends after I sang at his girlfriend’s funeral eighteen years ago or more. He’s really been there for me after Joe’s death and also during the time with Joe diagnosed and me as caregiver. It had been awhile since we had talked and he didn’t know about Joe. I then had a dream; Joe and I were at a party with lots of people and lights. I left the party and ran down this pathway of stone towards the water. As I neared the edge, Rob was there waiting for me. He told me I had to go back, that it wasn’t time for me to be there yet. I called him the next morning and told him what was going on. In the aftermath, I could always count on him to understand the heaviness, the feeling of being sucker-punched by words and insensitivities, and to let me know “It’s going to be all right.” and that I will make it through, just like he did.

In the studio Al Moss really gave it to us on the pedal steel. When he finished playing the solo we all stood up and applauded. We were blown away. The last thing we recorded in the studio that evening were the backup vocals by Al, Chris and Don on this song. They sang those lines back to me, just as Roket describes in his account, as if nothing were more true; It is going to be all right and I will make it through.

The Songs #4 - Writing Joe's Song

I wrote this song back in 2007 when Joe was asking me to marry him. When asked how he proposed to me, his response was always, “over and over and over…”. And it’s true. He was persistent and I wasn’t sure; he was insistent and I questioned it. That is the “Baby I love You” that you hear pleading and nearly desparate over and over again. I wrote this song off a little guitar riff that can be heard tucked into the clamor and groove of the drums and the bass and nestled behind the wurlitzer that restates itself over and over. The chorus made me think of Tom Waits, kind of like Shoreleave. It takes classic minor chord form and tells a story of the push and pull of a man and woman, and what we go through to get what we want.

I knew I wanted to do something different with the vocals here. We ran the mic into an amp and then miked the amp. Mike Landis took it and played with the controls do give it it’s depth and breadth. Listen to the song here:

The Songs #3 - Writing Dirty Knees

It was the middle of April here in Southwest Ohio and Joe was working in the garden, as was his typical pasttime. It had taken on even greater importance, now, with brain cancer. Not only was it giving him a sense of purpose in the moment, but it allowed for overriding the brain and to move into the heart and feeling center. I had broken ribs and a severely sprained left arm and the only instrument I could weild was the ukulele and I was playing it all the time, my form of physical therapy. I came into the kitchen the same moment Joe was coming through the back door, his knees covered with a fresh layer of spring dirt. He was happy in his element, in the garden, and he did always translate it over into simple philosophy and simple living. The inspiration of that sight, the exchange and his ever-present whistle and I had a song that morning. He loved the song. It reflected everything we loved about our life and how we were living in the face of mortality and adversity. I forgot I played it at his bedside three hours before his death until I saw it in the pictures for the Cincinnati Enquirer story. It was also heard in the video that is coupled with the print. It’s the song I was playing in the image that Jon Roket couldn’t shake, the song that was the impetus for us making a record.

In the studio, against the backdrop of ukulele and knee slaps, Al Moss delivers a pedal steel solo that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time, a solo that perfectly captures the meaning of the song; we find the extraordinary in the everyday, in the present moment.

The Songs #1 and #2 - Writing Deeper Blue and Pauline

I wrote Deeper Blue exactly three years ago, only a few days before we went into Fruit Hill for the first time. We knew that if there were any songs on the album that I didn’t write, they would be limited to our “family”, Chris Allen and Jon Roket. I had six songs already that would be recorded to start and I awoke to a voice memo from Chris. He had written a song for me that I could use if I wanted. It was great, as usual, and inspiring. Later that day, I was consulting the Wurlitzer electric piano to figure out the key of a song that was coming through, it was E flat, and I abandoned it in a few seconds when my hands reached up for my ukulele and pulled it down off the music room wall. The next thing I knew, the chords and chorus of Deeper Blue were revealed and I turned to a journal I had been writing in to cherry pick a few words. I had been researching Joe’s heritage as a builder and found that his relatives started by building stone altars. I had written the words down…unwrought stone, in conspicuous places…one person’s truth is another person’s metaphor and it captured immediately how I had been feeling in my new role as widow in crowds of people and normal life. The rest of the song came in ten minutes and I immediately recorded it on voice memo and sent it back to Chris. He said, “This is your pop hit. Make sure it is recorded that way.” and “Inspiration tends to strike right before you go into the studio.” At that point we knew we had the album’s title and title track.

The Songs #2 - Writing Pauline

I wrote Pauline in 2003 shortly after being a pallbearer, along with five other women, for Becky’s funeral. Joe’s first wife had passed away from breast cancer and her wish was to have six of us women handle the casket. Many people commented on the this part of the funeral because no one had seen it before, nor have they seen it since. I was also singing at the funeral with my long time music partner, John Kogge. I was hanging out shortly thereafter with my good friend, Theresa, and I said, “I wonder what you call a female pallbearer.” In an instant, I knew we were Paulines. The song is nearly literal. As John and I were singing Comes a Time by Neil Young, I got up from the piano and took my place next to Betsy Torge at the front of the procession. Elizabeth Hannon was right behind me and whispered to me, “What do we do?” I said “Just put one foot in front of the other.” We then began moving with rosemary and lavender gracing the aisle of the church and releasing the incredible blend of aromas upon our footfall. I had recorded the song with my group, Tre Lunas, in January of 2004 in three part harmony with Lisa Biales and Bonnie Allyn and it was a favorite of many. As I was collecting songs for Deeper Blue, Lisa encouraged me to send the song to Jon, as it helped arc the journey and tell the story. The drums add to the feel of the procession and John Kogge is featured on harmony vocal to get as close to the memory of the day as possible.