The stories behind the songs...
Where does the title come from?
The album title for the newest CD, "ONLY TWO THINGS," is drawn from a quote from Simone Weil who suggested that, "Only two things can pierce the human heart: One is beauty, the other is affliction."
1. The Buffalo Valley: This song was inspired by the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone where the bison still roam. The valley is also home to grizzlies and a wolf pack; and the West still feels timeless there. I wanted to create a wide-angle landscape through the music., using the full breadth of the piano.
2. Bozeman Waltz: Paying homage to pianist George Winston's version of "Valse De Frontenac," I decided to write a waltz for the first time, with a nod to Montana and to couples who love the glide of the waltz across the worn barnwood floor.
3. The Greening of the Heart: Though I previously released this as a single, this is a newly recorded yet familiar version, celebrating the restoration of the heart - its "greening" - when in the right hands.
4. Cayuga's Valley: While enjoying the Finger Lakes region of New York during a family wedding, I was reminded of the beauty of the the valley surrounding Cayuga Lake: a region dotted with hillside vineyards, farming, lazy sailboats and abundant falls like the Buttermilk Falls. I have many good childhood memories of visiting the region when I was a boy.
5. The Expanse: Whether Tolkein's "Middle Earth," C.S. Lewis' "Narnia," or Stephen Lawhead's "Albion," this song reflects the untamed landscape where, as Philip Yancey says, there are "rumors of another world." This is one of two songs on the album where I used a subtle texture pad [synth layer] under the grand piano in order to invite a more breathy, atmospheric quality.
6. Esperanza: Meaning, "hope" or "desire," I wanted to create a Spanish aesthetic here; with flourishes and liquid runs being offset with more simple, understated themes in a minor setting. Longing is the language of the waiting soul.
7. Thin Places: The ancient Celts observed that there were special places in the created order, often beautiful and wild places, where the veil between this world [the shadow world] and the Other world [Paradise] was especially "thin;" and that in those places, you felt that there was more going on there than met the eye. This is the other song on which I used a subtle texture layer under the piano to bring the listener into the intersection of those two worlds.
8. The Grotto of Jeremiah: This is a particularly personal song for me [though they all are really.] An ancient prophet, Jeremiah, often called the "weeping prophet," wept in a grotto for days; bearing at once the anguish for his people and the anguish of their God. He was the bridge, the advocate for both and its toll upon him was crushing. Melancholy has often been my companion as a "creative type;" so I wrote the song with a kind of climbing, weeping, even heaving motif that runs throughout.
[Although many of my songs have some degree of improvisational freedom in them, this track and "Only Two Things" have more so.]
9: Wedding Invitation: My good friends Andy and Christina asked me to write a wedding processional for their marriage ceremony over 17 years ago. They are a long-standing part of my story, and it was a delight to compose this for them.
10. Only Two Things: The album title's namesake. In much of my writing, there is a fusion of minor and major chords and themes, often blending them into a new whole: Anguish and Restoration. Waiting and Arrival. Despair and Hope. Often, one is more powerful because of the other.
11. Old Ivory: I used to practice on an old and often out-of-tune grand piano in a church in the town where I grew up. Its keys were worn and burnished in places, and its bench creaked slightly when you shifted your weight. They even gave me a key to the place so I could practice. As the notes echoed off the high arched ceiling and hard wooden pews, the old radiator would often kick on, clicking and ticking away. In many ways, the foundations were laid there for the rest of my life. So, I named the song after that old piano: "Old Ivory."