From Across the Years
[From the inside jacket panels of the CD] I never quit my day job. While I was busy raising our children with my wife, Marie, it would have been impossible for me to be away from home that much--working evenings or on the road for weeks at a time. Besides, the life I wanted was at home with my family, doing things together. We walked and hiked outdoors, skated, swam, canoed, visited museums, and just hung around home. Those years just blew by! The photo of me with my guitar was taken by our oldest daughter, Rebecca, when she was 13. The photo of the four of us with Mt. Denali in the background was taken with her camera by a passerby. I was a teacher, so I sometimes took gigs where I could find them during the summer months when I wasn't working. After I became a professor, I was so busy that, for about ten years, the only audiences for my music were my family, our neighbors, and the loons on the lake where we lived in our year-round home in Minnesota. A few years ago, I began to perform again--at coffee houses in Minneapolis and St. Paul. That was when I decided to make a CD. One of the pleasures of raising a family is that your children grow up to love the things that you love. It made good sense for me to ask Sarah, our youngest daughter, to do backup vocals for my songs. She's a talented singer and she knows my music. She also recorded this beautiful version of Wild Mountain Thyme. I put it last on the order of songs because I wanted listeners to remember her harmonies. I met John Roth over 15 years ago. Over the years, he helped me to improve my guitar and he also loaned his elegant acoustic lead guitar tracks to my recordings! I especially love his harmonics on The Dutchman and Cool Water. His finger-picking on Fiddler's Green and Vincent are incomparable! His musical sound effects, like the sound of the train's bell in City of New Orleans, make me feel as if I'm actually there! I selected each of the songs on this CD for particular reasons. I started playing The Dutchman back when my father was dying of cancer in 1986. My mother was taking care of him at home, and the song reminded me of them. A friend from England introduced me to Fiddler's Green over 20 years ago. He gave me the words and I spent the next few months working out my guitar for it. When I was a child, my father brought home a 45 rpm record of Cool Water and told me that I could listen to it as often as I wanted. I wore it's grooves out, so he bought another one. The flip side of the record had Shifting, Whispering Sands on it. These two songs remind me of the Desert Southwest. One Christmas, we gave an electric train to our girls, and we all set it up in our living room. The children used to turn the lights off in the house and I would play City of New Orleans while they ran the train around the tracks. Sometime in the 70s, my brother, Dick, sent me the sheet music to Mr. Bojangles. With John's help, I worked out the guitar for it. I wasn't planning to include it on the CD until I heard a John Denver version that evoked sadness and nostalgia. A few years ago, I encountered No Frontiers on a Mary Black recording and I loved it's poetic imagery. Our entire family has listened to Stan Rogers' music since we first heard him on Prairie Home Companion. Forty-Five Years is my favorite. John Denver has influenced me in many ways but Rocky Mountain HIgh is, I believe, his greatest song ever! A friend in St. Paul introduced me to Turning Towards the Morning and Sarah eventually began to perform it with me. During a recent 4th of July weekend, we went to a concert featuring Paul Simon and Bob Dylan in Duluth. That was when I discovered Dylan's Time Out of Mind songs, including Trying To Get To Heaven Before They Close the Door. While looking for a different John Prine song, I ran across One Red Rose. I love to think of two people 'dancing round the the table to the old banjo.' A year after Marie and I were married, we flew home to Minnesota for two weeks to visit our families. She cried when we returned to our place in Virginia, so I wrote Minnesota Lullaby as a promise that we would move back to Minnesota some time. I enjoy singing and playing hundreds of songs. I hope you like this collection of some of my favorites from across the years.