Starting a New Year, Publishing “After The Fire”

As I opened this page to add eleven new recordings I was surprised to see that my last post was from almost two years ago. We’ve just begun the second week of 2024 and Denver is having an unusually warm and dry winter, although it is still below freezing today at 1:15 pm, and we woke up to an inch of new snow. I’ve spent the past month making eleven new recordings. Some are reworks of songs I’ve recorded before but I’ve tweaked the lyrics, added a mandolin, or perhaps made other small changes. Most are songs I’ve written in the past two years and recorded for the first time.

I’ve arranged the songs into an album I’m calling “After The Fire” which is also the title of the first song. The song was inspired by the series of natural disasters that most scientists attribute at least partly to climate change – an attribution that religious fundamentalists and political conservatives dispute. I hope the song also serves as a metaphor for smugness, complacency, and denial. “Great Southwest River” is a tribute to the Rio Grande and contains a more direct environmental theme. There are a couple of songs that deal with loneliness. One is an honest reflection, while another is an attempt to rationalize away heartbreak. I had to draw on feelings long past to write these songs. “Nobody’s Thoughts or Prayers” is a reworking of a song I wrote a number of years ago. I’ve modified the melody, changed the lyrics to the chorus, written a final verse, and added a mandolin. I finish the set with a song that is intended to be performed live with a bluegrass ensemble, and is recorded as a skeleton over which a variety of instruments might take solo breaks. The lyrics represent a simple assertion of what I think should be the foundation of any politician’s platform, but seems to get lost in our increasingly combative campaigns. I did enjoy recording the vocals in three-part harmony and using some of the tools available in Pro Tools to add some effects.

I use Pro Tools to record my songs on a MAC. I enjoy recording all the tracks myself (vocals, guitar, bass, and mandolin) but it requires multiple takes for me to get a single track down that I am satisfied with. Then, after I bounce the final mix and hear it in a different environment, I hear all the off notes I sing, all the buzzes of the bass, all the unintentional electronic pops and hums that I can’t seem to filter out, the lack of synchronicity in the strums and plucks, etc. Pro Tools has ways to fix many of these things, but I either don’t know how to use them, don’t have the patience to apply them, or can’t seem to make them work even when I know how they are supposed to be applied.

I think of these recordings the way some old guy who has had a nice professional career has decided to take up water colors post-middle age. He knows his paintings will always look amateurish, but he loves standing at the top of a hill, looking out over a river valley and capturing the colors and contours of the landscape. I’m just trying to capture the psychological and sociological landscapes that I see in a musical and lyrical form that amuses me and let’s others get to know me a little better.