More about the songs of Fire and Steam

Earlier this month I released my new album "Fire and Steam" on bandcamp and also made a limited run CD availalable for order. I'd like to walk through the tracks a bit to give more background on the inspiration behind the songs themselves. After making my first two albums way back in 2011 and 2012, I've written dozens and dozens of songs, but I really wanted to collect a set of distinct thoughts and ideas that would work well in tandem. When I sat down with John Abbey at his studio in Chicago to talk about recording this, I brought in 24 songs, we recorded 18 demos, and I narrowed the list down to the ten tracks you can hear today.

The album opens with "Every Distant Cousin" which is the result of my life-long fascination with life in the Universe. As a kid I watched the original PBS series Cosmos hosted by Carl Sagan, and more recently I was able to watch the new Cosmos series hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson with my then pre-teen son to help inspire him in the same way I was inspired by Carl's original effort.

The second track "Bible Man" at first glance seems to be about bible peddling, but really the song is a way to express the intersection of human needs and our formal institutions failing to live up to the basic needs we have.

The third track, "Arbor Day" is a semi-autobiographical story about a man who plants a tree as a child and returns later in life to acknowlege that tree, but more than that I wanted to consider the very real value we all have as custodians and shepherds of all life on this planet.

"Everything She Was" follows. Both in subject, tone and poetry, it ended up very Leonard Cohen sounding. As a long-time city dweller and observer of people I had seen and known people like the central character of the song. After singing this song at a show at the Hideout in Chicago, a member of the audience pulled me to the side and told me that this song was about his girlfriend. Honored to connect with real people!

Track five is called "Remote Control" and it's about the United States using drones to murder people in distant lands. I am not a fan of drone warfare, because I believe it is more of a danger to national interests than not because collatoral damage historically ends up causing us more danger than it does help us.

The title track, "Fire and Steam", is a call to turn to nature and keep in contact with our natural world. Unplug whenever you can!

Walt Whitman's poem Song of the Open Road, concludes with: "Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?" I was inspired by that when I wrote the longest song on the album, "Travel With Me."

One of the most personal songs on this album is "Learn How to Swim", and it first came to me as watched my young son learn how to first float then swim and eventually learn enough to go for distance. But then I talked with another parent who revealed that she herself never learned and was also taking classes. I realized that the concept of learning to swim, and indeed, learning to survive and live, is a constant and universal challenge we all face.

You may have guessed it..."He Never Gave Up" is about a modern hero and role model who became one of the most important humans on the planet: Nelson Mandela. I'd recommend you read "Long Walk to Freedom" which is his autobiography.

The final track on the album is about something most all of us use every single day. Our lives depend on it. "Bridges" is about infrastructure and our responsibility to own and recognize our duty to keep common elements in great repair.

Thanks for reading more about this collection of songs, and let me know if you have questions or comments.

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