A year ago, I was driving after dark, listening to demos of a new song I had just written on the car stereo. I had the idea that it would gradually build up, starting from one guitar, then two, then three. Bass and percussion would enter, intermittently at first, before breaking into a folk groove for the final verse and ending with an instrumental crescendo. The details of this arrangement unfolded as I passed through the dim glow of streetlights, and it made me excited and anxious. If I could produce a recording that sounded anything close to that, I thought, it would be the opening track on the new album.
"Give Your Best to Boston" is about wanting to get on a train and go somewhere, anywhere, to discover the real America. Although it felt honest to me, it was dreamed up in my apartment, and embellished during a drive back from the supermarket. Then it was recorded inside a closet, in a performance to an empty room.
Thus begins MUSIC IN A DARK CAFÉ, my first album of all original music produced since 2008. The last album, Uncle Louis Left Me His Horses, was the lowest of lo-fi bedroom folk and the simplest of songwriting. It was also, however, my best work, and so I contracted the typical affliction of artists: the struggle to keep making art. Something was missing. Something was lost. Louis was always on the run.
And if you are wondering, I’ve been chasing him.
“The Clocktower”, the earliest song presented on this album, was written in 2008 just after I finished wrapping up Louis. It is a simple folk ballad that didn’t get recorded until four years later, and I knew it would end up on this album.
Several years ago, I did something new with "Residual Compost of Postmodern Reality". I wrote it as a surreal post-apocalyptic love story, with deliberately-combined elements from several distinct musical genres. I called it a gothic blues folk waltz, and to my ears it's still splendidly bizarre. With emphasis on the bizarre.
In the last decade, over a hundred songs came out of the space inside my skull. It took me all of this time to live, write, and make the music that you will hear on this album. A summer day like the one that inspired “Pretty White Dress”. The cold autumn morning when I worked out guitar harmonies for “Apples Falling from the Trees”. Countless moments like these make up the music. Maybe it’s a hurricane of imperfection, but it’s my story.
I did not know when the album would be complete until I wrote the song "Music in a Dark Café". All of these recordings were made in a closet, and played to an empty room. But close your eyes, and imagine a performance of folk songs presented in a small, dark café. The echoes wax and wane, bouncing off the oak floors and stone walls, before rising up to the ceiling and fading into oblivion. I'll lift the capo up, and play another key. This is MUSIC IN A DARK CAFÉ.
released March 24, 2017
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