It’s been over a decade since I last released an original album and pretty much that long since I’ve done any songwriting. What brought me back to it? For the last few years I allowed the growing division and darkness in the world to bring me down. Feeling powerless to change anything, I inadvertently changed myself. I slipped into depression and withdrew, becoming someone my family and friends didn’t recognize.
Recently I came across the resplendent view of the Earth at night as captured by satellite. I considered how the light I saw from these great cities derived from many small sources. I realized that I only needed to be one of those smaller lights and surround myself with others who do the same. In fact, by not actively contributing to the light of the world, I might as well be another part of the darkness. In March of 2022 I decided to turn things around. I took the feelings and emotions that I struggled with and channeled them into music. Through songwriting I converted my negative energy into positive. It’s an example of the therapeutic and transformative power of the creative arts.
It only took me three months to complete this album. I suppose I had saved up some creativity over the years. Of course, it helped having Ashley around to play my musical ideas for. Sometimes I’d be really excited having worked out a couple verses and chorus to a song only to have her listen to it and kindly say, “I’m not sure about this one. I think you probably have something even better inside you.” Yes, it’s a gentle way to say, “It stinks!” but it’s incredibly helpful having someone share their honest opinion. At least I know there’s one person that likes all the songs on Lonely Blue Train. At least she did before she had to hear it a hundred times around the house. Financially it wasn’t a good time to invest in an album so I’m extra thankful to Ashley for her willingness to take a chance on me and these songs.
I’d been listening to Roy Orbison lately and I found it really showed in songs like “Call in the Night”, “Wandering Ways” and “Make it Right”. Once I realized that I was unintentionally going in that direction, I just embraced it. In fact, when it came time to actually record the song I just did the instrumentation and vocal harmonies the way I thought he might.
“My Old Flame / (Too Hot to Handle)” I wrote like a lost Jerry Lee Lewis song. I wanted something that would be fun to play on the piano during one of my performances. After all, performing “Great Balls of Fire” is one of the most fun parts of a show for me.
Two Elvis songs I’ve always been fond of are “Suspicion” and “Never Ending”. The latter is an obscure tune but I think it’s beautiful. So writing the song “Go Along With Me” was in essence me taking things from each of those songs and mashing them together. I then added sea salt and lots of Cheese! My only disappointment is that my daughter, Aubrey, was feeling too self-conscious to sing the harmony.
I really hoped to perform some of these songs live and so I set out to write a song that would be fun to walk around the audience and sing. “Work You Down” was just one of those songs that wrote itself. This was helpful as I was able to get some laundry done. Larry Garvin played some great solos on this album but this is one of my favorite.
The last two songs I’d written on the album were “I’m Moving On” and “Demons of Diablo”. I realized up until this point almost every song on the album was about love, relationships or trying to get some… love. Recently my friend Dick McVey wrote a book called Appalachian Dreamer (available on Amazon) which tells his story of going from “a coal camp in West Virginia to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry”. So I used that as inspiration for the song.
“Demons of Diablo” took me a while to finish writing. I’d had the whole song worked out but didn’t know what I wanted to sing about. Initially it was called “Let It Go” but does anyone really want their song compared to the other song with that title? Anyhow, I really wanted to write a story song and for some reason the old westerns that my father-in-law watches popped into my head. It took days to cram a big story into a short song but I’m proud of how it came out. People seem to either love it or hate it. Ashley loves it – one of her favorites. My mom…not a fan of that one.
A few years back I was sitting at the piano and goofing around with Aubrey. We just improvised a bit of “Lonely Blue Train”. I listened back to this little silly tune and thought I could actually turn it into a full song. Again, it would have been nice to get her to sing on it but she was feeling shy again. Maybe I should have sampled her twelve year old voice from my phone recording – she would have loved that. I think she was holding out for writing credit or something.
I really hope people enjoy this album. Especially since I got a good price break on 500,000 copies. But if you’re a fan of 60s music and you’re feeling especially nostalgic about the old days then give it a listen and share it with others. Until we can get a time machine it’ll have to do.