Air Raid Sirens
The air raid sirens were urgent but not really frightening. You might say they were vaguely ominous. They were mainly just background music playing as I walked through fields of wildflowers and weeds back when California had a bright, expansive, clear blue sky. Mine was the San Diego sky-a crisp, brilliant sky alive with sweet breezes that bathed my face in the kind coolness swept gently off the waves breaking a few miles away. Sometimes this loving sky rocked and shook with the sonic booms of Navy jets that slid off silently through the blue, leaving their short-lived ribbons of vapor-trail graffiti behind to gradually dissolve back into that cool beautiful sky. The soundtrack for my formative years was Top 40 radio-the songs of hit makers like Carol King and Gerry Goffin; Smokey Robinson; Lieber and Stoller; and the crossover country ballads of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Don Gibson, and Johnny Cash. There were doo-wop groups and iconic rockers like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis. Then, the folksingers, Bob Dylan, and the singer-songwriters came along and made me want to write my own songs. A coffee house folksinger named Ray Bierl introduced me to the songs of Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, and I soon became aware of Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, Merle Haggard, and other country writers of the 1970s. I formed a little folky-country group with my brother Dennis and my friend Steve Hilliard. We rehearsed often and played occasionally at various talent nights and folk music events. We mostly sang the songs I was writing back then. I hung out with a few other songwriters and musicians, and we shared our songs with each other and talked about music a lot. One of those friends was Bob Huff, who was also into the production side of music. With Bob's help, our little three-piece band came up with a demo record. I sent it around and had a handful of my songs placed with the publishers Window Music and Coal Miners Music in Nashville. Bob also produced a recording with me and a few of my drinking buddies that earned us a spot on a record album, which was the prize for being among the winners of a local radio station's songwriting contest. At about that time my folky-country group fell apart. We each went our own way and settled into our lives. Songwriting became more of a hobby for me. I continued to write and share songs with my friends, but I became less interested in exploiting them or performing publicly. Instead of hearing "hooks" everywhere and trying to turn nearly everything into a tune, I began to write less frequently. But songs still seemed to appear whenever some issue or event in my life provided the motivation or inspiration. A lot of time passed. While Bob Huff was back on the East Coast, I was knocking around trying to find something to do with myself. I worked a few different jobs, discovered my need for a sober life, went back to college, and became a schoolteacher. A teaching job moved me to the San Joaquin Valley, where I have been ever since. Recently, I sang a few tunes for my students; some were impressed enough to ask why I hadn't done anything with these songs. I think that's what got me interested in recording again. So, I started singing into my computer and laying down tracks to put on a CD. I hadn't been at it very long when Bob returned to the West Coast and contacted me. He was getting his studio together, doing some recording and mixing, and said he was interested in producing a CD of my songs. The idea of teaming up with Bob again sounded real good to me. We got a list of songs together and went to work on this album right away. Bob got some great musicians to help us out. I'm sure listeners will enjoy Mike Thompson's brilliant keyboards and Miff Laracy's vibrant and powerful guitar work. I can't thank them enough for their contributions to this project. Greg Deering of the Deering Banjo Company suggested we use a banjo on some of these songs. He referred us to Dan Sankey, who brightened up several of these tunes with his banjo, mandolin and fiddle. Don Wiseman played some killer drums for us, and Jim Daugherty put down tasteful beats for a couple of the quieter songs. In addition to producing, recording and mixing, Bob played the bass on these tracks. He also did some drumming and provided some nice keyboard and guitar work. These are songs I've written over the years. They are reflections of my character and interpretations of my experience. They are also echoes of the musical forms that have been the most meaningful to me. Some are musings, and some are meditations on the state of my soul. Together, they represent a dozen moments on my walk among the wildflowers and weeds of this life.