Little Grey Sheep had an oddball path to fruition. To say the least.
Most of the songs on the album had been orphaned at some point in their lifetimes. They span the course of seven years . . . and at some point, each had been deemed too far askew to fit neatly, side-by-side, along its peers . . . and each was consequently pared from the album of the era in which it might rightly have belonged.
And that's not to say that the songs themselves are any weaker . . . in fact, some are my favorites. And it's not to say that they didn't belong in the public ear . . . because I felt like they did. It's just that they didn't fit, thematically, with the other albums I was making.
But I had the realization one day, when I was updating my list of "available songs," that this bevy of grey sheep songs had grown to an album-sized flock . . . and that their lack of unifying theme was, in fact, a unifying theme in and of itself.
What pulled these songs together was the same thing that had previously culled them from the rest of the flock . . . and that's that each has a very personal meaning for me, and each came from a very particular episode in my life. And I realized that that's what had made them sit uncomfortably next to my other songs . . . their very tight focused and personal nature . . . whereas the songs I was putting on those other records were more narrative and generalized and abstract.
My last album was called "Parables" and drew off the archtypal world, the generalized human experience. Little Grey Sheep draws off of my particular world and my particular experience.
click each song title to read lyrics
1. Leaves Are Burning
I wrote this song when I was in the throws of madness, about four weeks into an episode of quitting smoking. It's amazing to me how fragile our stability is. It just doesn't take a whole lot of delicate shoving to throw our spin into harmonic chaos.
2. Drawing Board
This song is about a relationship in transition. In fact, the song itself mirrors that transition . . . cause I was halfway through writing it when the relationship shifted. So the song that began as an upward trajectory sort of love song ended as a "how to salvage what you can from the wreck" sort of love song.
3. Go Ugly Early
This song is about how a blustery humorous moment of chauvinism can also be an intimate glimpse into a beauitful and real father/son connection . . . one of the most beautiful relationships I've ever seen, actually.
4. Cliff Song
This song was the letter back to my first love, assuaging her fears that the cliffside path I was proposing was ripe with astonishing sights more than it was riddled with trepidation.
5. Around the Waist
I've thought about writing out on index cards all the inconsistencies of my character and nature that a prospective romantic interest will inevitably learn for herself . . . the not-so-apparent things which will eventually come to light and sabotage our relationship . . . and just maybe hand out the index cards right at first kiss time. This song was just one gentle bullet point on one card . . . handed out a little late probably.
6. Adios to Tejasito
I moved back home to Austin, TX a few years ago. And you gotta understand about Texas, there's much pride and bravado . . . and when you're a songwriter, that expresses itself in the form of a "Screw you, I'm from Texas" song. But that's not how I feel about it. I have little room in my heart for bravado. We all have to share the same air . . . just doesn't seem right for some of us to use up so much of it. So, this is my "Screw you Texas, I'm from Austin" song. Just for fun. Doesn't mean a thing. It's more about the bravado than the Brazos.
7. Tales of Sweet Odysseus
This song was the birthday present to a girl I was in love with. She was an ardent adventurer . . . and the gift in this song is the promise of no extra baggage. It's actually inside joke after inside joke . . . but I hope its essential ethos is accessible enough, anyway.
8. Emigrant, MT
This song was a thank you note to my friend's parents who let us stay at their place in Emigrant, Montana for a couple weeks. One of the most truly restful stretches in my life. The song itself was just a series of postcards home really.
9. California's On Fire
My sister's wedding was precariously positioned within a ring of forest fires in gorgeous Ojai, California. And I was in the midst of my cancer treatment. And the contrast of emotions of watching the hora build to a passionate frenzy, but not having the strength to participate in hoisting my sister up in a chair and dancing her around the room, seemed to somehow mirror the hills of Ojai going from flames to showers to mudslides to crystal, all in the course of two days. It all swirled together for me . . . into the great realization (again and again, of course, in life) that all we have is this moment, and no assurances of the next.
10. Song for Judy & Bridget
Me and my friend, Tim Freilich, were asked to lead the processional for our friends' commitment ceremony with a song. This is what we came up with. I have a special place in my heart for relationships of inconvenience . . . it's just one added assurance that the love is real and the bond is deep. The processional led from the Acorn Inn to a beautiful clearing atop a hill in the Blue Ridge.
11. Company of Friends
I wrote this song after the death of my friend, RB Smith . . . a beloved member of the Charlottesville community. So beloved, in fact, that at the viewing of his body before his burial ceremony, the line went from the funeral home, out to the street, and around the block. And it got me thinking what it's important to accumulate in life and what's not so important. This song is a re-evaluation thanks to RB.
12. Trouble Comes Calling
I don't have anything to say about this song. I mean, I knew there would an explosion, eventually. And eventually I was right. So there you go. I'm an idiot.
As for the production of this record . . .
What can I say? It never would've happened without the love, attention, talents, passions, urgings, and many arguments of one Mr Paul Curreri . . . my good friend and genius songwriter from Charlottesville, VA.
We made this whole record in his spare bedroom studio, entirely on Garage Band. And Paul managed to take it from my original conception of a fast and dirty, solo, just me and my guitar and some Joia Wood harmony vocals, to being . . . well, a real album. An album that far exceeded my expectations for it when we began.
As for the arrangements, this album strongly features the amazing lush and versatile harmonies of Charlottesville's own Joia Wood. Can't say enough for her impact on these tunes. And behind her (and me) were some of the tastiest Cville musians: Randall Pharr on bass, Matty Metcalfe on accordion, Jeff Romano on harmonica, Sara Read on fiddle, Spencer Lathrop on drums, and Colin Brooks (from Austin's the Band of Heathens) on steel guitar.
Everything else on the record . . . the little touch of this, or smidgeon of that . . . was either played by Paul, or hacked by me. Or both.