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Recording “Oh, Marie” (reposted from Facebook)

This song was something of a (relatively young) orphan that I had written just prior to my 2013 Fall Tour to California and back. I had wanted to write a love song, but obviously, given my aversion to ridiculous protestations of undying love and hyperbole, I was more interested in exploring the empty spaces between the words. Naturally, of course, that required that I write a good many words, so I could find those spaces!

I found myself penning something that sounded a little bit like Gordon Lightfoot, and a little bit like Johnny Cash. Definitely a story song -- which is really the only way love songs tend to work for me.

And then I left it sitting. For well over a year I thought nary a thought about this song other than perhaps it would make it onto somebody's folk or country album someday, assuming folk every found its way back onto radio or country ever stopped being the same stupid pop songs about tailgating in the USA and given a slick guitar arrangement. (C'mon, country music... Do you REALLY think you sound anything like Hank Williams or Wanda Jackson? You don't!)

When I found myself with several other acoustic songs waiting for recording, I felt it was time to re-explore this one. I made a really quick demo on piano using a synthesized guitar sound from the Logic bank. As much as I wanted to get the band on every track, I knew that the compressed timeline that we were looking at due to the months I'd lost to my herniated disc would make doing so difficult (especially if we opted to use Steve Jankowski's studio for all the tracks). So I fetched my old friend Mark Sylvester from Penn State, now a professional guitarist in the DC area, and sent him the demo and chord charts.

Not long after, despite the fact that he and his wife were in the process of adopting, he managed to send me back a completed guitar part (although he warned me that a standard voicing would not afford the C7 I'd built into the song, so that would have to be done by bass and/or piano). Mark plays the guitar absolutely exquisitely; I highly recommend that you check out some of his original guitar music: American Gypsy (1999) and New Music for Banjo (2009).

From there, adding the other parts was easy. I drafted a quick piano part that I was able to nail in one or two takes, and likewise the vocal took only a few takes (then again, I'd been humming the song for two years!). Paul added cajon and either tambourine or tamborim.

So, basically, there isn't much of an interesting story to tell here so much as a happy recollection of something that went smoothly and sounds great.

Don't forget to order your copy! Here's the link for the EP, which comes out tomorrow, followed by the lyrics to “Oh Marie”:


In between the brief pale days were the ink black nights of winter,

The unforgiving winds that wracked our home.

I felt the creaking of the boards long before I heard them splinter

To let the unrelenting cold in that turned your heart to stone.

We tried to keep our hopes alive in those fleeting hours of sunshine,

Excuse as bejeweled canvasses the night.

But the sun was cold illusion, and the stars were not yours, not mine,

And we froze awaiting warmth from those remote, indifferent lights.

Oh, Marie... It was more than you and me and anything that we could ever bargain for.

I'd swear to be yours forever but I do foresee your solitary tracks leading from my door,

Leaving me alone forever more.

The only warmth that we could find was meted out in rations,

Each smile doled out, a threat to our reserves.

And bound unto such principle, we applied it to our passions

Until even grudging affection could scarcely be observed.

Down the blankets came each night to whitewash all the landscape,

Erasing all our memory below.

The amnesia of its surface, pasts effaced by blanket palette,

To find us looking at each other, seeing people we don't know.

Oh, Marie, if it was only you and me and not this multitude of circumstance not bargained for,

I'd swear to be yours forever but I do foresee your solitary tracks leading from my door,

Leaving me alone forever more.

Foundations heave and yaw with the promise of a thaw that never turned out to

Be anything more than the winds that blew, and you, like some bird of passage flew,

Not knowing where the truth lies and seeking only brighter skies and warmer days.

You left this place. I am just some foreign face in a far off place.

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