Our new box set, Notes Falling Slow, is now available throughout North America and Europe “wherever fine music is sold”. It’s also available on-line through all the usual mega-suppliers (itunes, Amazon etc). If you can, please patronize your local indy music store, if they don’t have it in stock give them hell and tell them to order it. You can find out more about the box set here (you can also order it directly from us if you so desire). If you weren’t keeping up on our blogs about the inside workings of some of the songs on the box set you can catch up by scrolling down this page.
We are heading back out on the road this week. You can follow our progress through our Facebook page and through our Instagram account. We also have some dates lined up for early in the coming new year. You can check out the dates on our Tour page. We hope to see some of you out there.
This song, true to it’s title, slowly drifted together. During a particularly sleepless night I decided to while away the late night hours in my basement with my guitar. In a half daze and in tune with the time of night/morning and in tune with the weather (cold and snowing) I came up with the basic melody and chord structure and the line “this ain’t no depression just notes falling slow, an early snow and notes falling slow”….then I drifted off to sleep, or simply drifted away, and there it sat for awhile.
When I went to the Adirondacks to start the writing process for the One Soul Now album I brought along this scrap of an idea. It had been echoing in my head for a while and I knew that it was an idea desperate to be completed. On my first night at the cabin the song completed itself with the help of a few very talented “friends”. William Shakespeare provided the opening couplet from his Sonnet CXXXVIII (I have always loved those lines) and the brilliant Andre Dubus’ short story A Father’s Story provided the inspiration for the pivotal line “Do I have the strength to bear their passion?”. The rest of the song was carried in on the same cold fall breeze that was teasing the wind chimes that kept me company outside the cabin window.
The song is a meditation on relationships, age and children (the basic themes of the entire box set). It is also a comment on our own music and an answer to all those people who ask why we write such depressing songs…..they’re not depressing they’re just sloooooooow.
Is there a natural phenomenon more phenomenal than the migratory practices of song birds? Can one feel any greater emotion than when holding ones child for the first time? How is it that the very things that matters most to us, the things that at one point in our lives seem unassailable and unshakeable are often the very things that we let disappear from our lives? These are the questions of Small Swift Birds. We humans are truly mysterious beings: as unfathomable, epic and fragile as the natural world around us.
When I was 17 years old I learnt to fly. I eventually got my commercial license and was heading for a career in aviation when a voice inside me said, “stop, this is not your path”. One of the first things that you are taught when you are getting your license is how to recognize a spiral (basically when you see the earth spinning in your windscreen and getting larger by the second) and, more importantly, how to get out of one. There are standard techniques to employ when recovering from a spiral in an airplane, not so in life. It’s inevitable, it’s written in to our DNA, everyone’s life will end, even those that are closest to us. There is no recovery, the best thing that we can do is make peace with the idea. But doing so is so much more difficult than memorizing; idle power; apply opposite rudder and push the steering column forward.
As January 1, 2000 approached, Margo decided that our whole extended family should celebrate the arrival of the new millennium together. She invited us all up to her farm for New Years Eve and we partied like it was 1999. A huge bonfire was lit and we all gathered within its comforting circle of light and warmth as we waited out the final hours of the 20th century and anticipated the arrival of the 21st. There inside this circle were the most important people in my life, and lurking on the edges, in the darkness, was all of our futures, our paths, our fates. It was all at the same time, a terrifically comforting and totally terrifying, moment….perfect fodder for a song. Just outside there waiting/Just outside the circle/Waiting for that finger to point your way/Just keep running/ Just keep running.
This song was written a few years before the 2008 Financial Crisis that almost bankrupted us all, nevertheless I think it serves as a good allegory for those times. I still find it disturbing that our institutions and attitudes weren’t forever changed by that near miss. I think those in involved and in charge were so freaked out and embarrassed by what happened that instead of using it as a lesson to right our economy and get it back on a more fair and equitable footing, they under-played the crisis and lost a chance to make a short term loss in to a long term gain.
I wrote this song while writing the songs that became the Open album. I wanted to write a character driven song, so I invented Simon Keeper: man of slightly dubious character who falls through the cracks of his own making and loses all that he had built up, or more accurately, accumulated, in his 54 years. By the end of the song he has found God, but not redemption…the God that he has found is one that can be used for personal profit and advancement….see what I mean…a good allegory for our life and times.
Linford Detweiler of Over The Rhine plays organ on this song….a wonderful, spooky part.
One of the things that has always intrigued me, bedeviled me, fascinated me and therefore inspired me, is the way that couples communicate, or more accurately, miss-communicate; the way that one person says one thing and the other hears something completely different; the way that my interpretation of an event is completely different from your interpretation of the exact same event. We use language to define and share our perception of the world around us, but that perception is so often warped by the words we use or, more importantly, by how the listener interprets those words. William Burroughs famously said that “language is a virus from outer space”… I think anyone that has ever been in a long-term, committed relationship would agree.
This song was originally written during the making of At The End Of Paths Taken, but we never found the right groove for it and it also didn’t fit the albums overarching theme as tightly as we would have liked. For Notes Falling Slow we pulled it out again and immediately locked in to a deep, mid-tempo groove, which allowed Margo to find her way in to the song. Joby Baker added some, as usual, tasty piano and organ to the song. Joby played a huge part in creating At The End Of Paths Taken, adding some crucial production ideas and mixing about half of the songs on the album.
When I was writing At The End Of Paths Taken I not only set myself the challenge of writing along a single theme (see the blog entry for Brand New World), but I also decided that I wouldn’t use any standard tunings or tunings that I was overly familiar with. I wanted to force myself out of old habits and approach my instrument with a fresh perspective. One of my favourite tunings was the one that I came up with for Follower II: C A D A A E….I love the way it chimes and drones all in the same stroke. The recording of the song was also crowned by the brilliant string arrangement by our friend and collaborator Henry Kucharzyck.
Follower II also happens to be one of my favourite songs on the album.. It was inspired by the Seamus Heaney poem, Follower, a meditation on the complexity and ever-changing dynamic of the father/son relationship. The song contains specific memories that I have of my father from when I was a young boy, the way he would jingle the change in his pockets and the spell he would cast over us as he told his stories about flying bush planes in northern Quebec. Its’ chorus references a very vivid memory that I still cherish of a moment from one of our annual fishing trips; we were out in the middle of the lake, it was dusk and the rain began to fall and rather than heading in to shore and shelter, he predicted that the brown trout, that we were angling for, would now begin to bite and sure enough they did. The song then moves to my perspective as a father, peeking in on my young son as he sleeps: wondering, worrying, anticipating what the future has in store for him….and so it goes, and so it goes…
When it comes to my own lyrics, this is one of my personal favourites. It was written on the eve of the new millennium, which was a time of taking stock on a personal and global level. We didn’t know how turbulent the decade to come was going to be, but there was anxiety in the air. My wife and I had a two year old underfoot, a second child on the way and the band had just left the corporate world and was heading out on an independent path. It was a time to count ones blessings and to whisper a quiet prayer.
The opening chords to this song (Fmaj7th and Cmaj7th) are my go-to 70’s Southern California singer-songwriter vibe. Neil Young uses them a lot on those classic early 70’s albums. But the way the melody makes it’s way through the F, Em7, Fm, Am chord progression is something that I have always been proud of. It’s a song about ecology, Jimi Hendrix, my daughter, my wife….it’s a song written on the precipice of the great unknown, best summed up by the lines, “Here we all are at the start of another thousand years / All those love stories yet to be told”….I’ve always loved that line, because it speaks of promise and possibilities.
“He will call you baby”. I had that line scribbled in my notebook for years. I don’t remember where it came from. I always thought that it was a provocative opening line, but I could never figure out what came next or what the song would be about. Time, life, circumstance, experience helped me flesh it out…..in the end it kind of wrote itself.
It’s a song about all the weird games we play with the ones we love. The subconscious and conscious games that play out in any long term relationship. It’s also about the loneliness and the sadness inherent in any great love. A happy little ditty.
Initially we approached this song acoustically, with Jeff Bird on acoustic bass and Jaro Czerwinec on accordion. But as the recording progressed we started to abandon the acoustic approach and this song went in a more bluesy, electric direction. The version that we ended up using on One Soul Now was actually a rehearsal version of the song (always roll tape!) captured when we were all learning the songs’ structure and figuring out our parts. This type of groove is always best when no one is really thinking about it. Nice and loose with lots and lots of deep breathing. I love the way it almost stops in the middle of the solo and Pete’s tom-drum fill resuscitates it. Margo’s vocal is perfect. When I played this song for Jeff Wolpert, our mixer, he said, “man….nobody plays that slow”. We do and we’re proud of it.
It’s still one of my favourite songs to play live.