Dirt Floor is my cover of the title track from Chris Whitley’s fourth album (1998). On his recording he used just one ribbon microphone and an analog two track in his father’s barn. That whole album is both magical and mystical to me – deftly played National guitar and his silky and powerful voice. The song captures my own feelings about death and finding comfort in the simplicity and naturalness of something I don’t look forward to very much. Loving his artistry so much, I was shocked and saddened when he passed in November of 2005 not long after I got hip to him. His lyrics take on even more meaning to me ever since.
This song speaks among many things to my love-affair with music and the curative powers it still holds for me. The second verse might be about one of the many love-at-first-sight experiences I’ve both enjoyed and struggled with my whole life – but it’s also about music and my tendency to leave words out entirely. I wrote the words during my battle with dystonia that had me wondering if I’d ever get to play again – if someday my music would all come back. The chorus is pretty much all you need to know about who I am and what I believe as captured in a time of epic uncertainty I know we can all relate to. Acoustic “tapping-style” guitar rarely forms the core of an expanded ensemble/vocal piece but the arrangement emerged as a complete accompaniment as I began to play left-handed again.
My new single is “Come Talk To Me”, a cover by Peter Gabriel who is a musical hero of mine. His body of work is vast, layered, complex, intricately arranged and bound together by his emotive vocals. Wouldn’t seem likely that I could ever use one guitar and be able to effectively arrange any of my favorite songs by him to perform at my live shows – especially with just two fingers working on my fretboard hand. But that was my challenge as I dreamed of singing “Come Talk To Me”, the opening track from his album, Us (1992), featuring Sinead O’Connor. Experimenting with unusual tunings got me to a place that everything essential was intact and I sang this tune at my solo gigs with just one guitar for years. It was super fulfilling to create this recording that is essentially built around that solo guitar version. Newly arranged vocal parts with a unique set of ancient bagpipes played by Laura MacKenzie gives this version a special feel that I hope PG might hear some day.
And one more reason to come to the shows, we’re playing brand new songs from a series of new singles that I’m releasing. If you loved my The Archery of the Guitar or Exhale Blue albums, you’re going to love these news songs! Follow me at Spotify and Apple Music for new release dates. The first single is my take on the classic “Gospel Plow”, coming February 12th, two days ahead of our first COTLS show. This song tells me all I need to know about survival and its message helped me through years of tough times. And while you’re waiting to hear my version, check out Mahalia Jackson’s version – and Chance McCoy’s too. Bob Dylan’s version is quite something as well. Arranging this traditional piece was a blast with a special thank you to Heather Moen from SimpleGifts who got the vocal “call-and-response” vibe jumping!