“The Farmhouse” - A glimpse into the songs
Brad and I recorded this album October – December of 2018 at Wild Sound Recording Studio in NE Minneapolis. Steve Kaul, the owner and sound engineer at Wild Sound was great to work with and made the experience enjoyable and very satisfying. We hired some local renowned musicians to add some flavor to some of the songs, but tried to stay true to our signature duo sound. Richard Kriehn played mandolin and fiddle; Joe Savage played pedal steel. They were both regulars on the former “A Prairie Home Companion” show. Marc Anderson added some hand percussion and the drummer and bassist are Mike and Dave Pengra, who are from my hometown of Jackson MN and longtime friends and professional musicians.
Brad and I have been performing together as Prairie Anthem since November, 2015. We have each brought our unique musical skills and gifts to this venture and through a lot of practice, gigging and willingness to keep our egos in check and dedicate ourselves to making the best music we can, it has allowed us to create our first album.
This album is very personal to me. Writing songs is something I dabbled in over the years, but never really had/took the time to focus intentionally on it. The day job took all my cerebral wattage! Since retirement in May of 2015 I have found the inspiration and blocks of uninterrupted time to write several of the songs on this album. Each one was inspired from life experiences.
When I listen to other writer’s songs, I often wonder what inspired it or what the writer is attempting to say. So, if you are interested, I offer a very brief summary (a paragraph is never enough space to explain anything) in album order, of what inspired each song:
Like an Old Fool Does: I remember my dad spontaneously sharing thoughts and contemplations that seemed random at the time. He wasn’t trying to convince or persuade anyone of anything - just wanted to think out loud. Sometimes deep wisdom, sometimes raw humor, but always enjoyable and entertaining … it was as if he couldn’t help himself. I find myself starting to do this as I grow older – I guess it’s the gene pool. Old fool is a term of endearment to me, not meant to be dismissive or demeaning.
Crazy Times: It’s a social statement song based on my perceptions. I got the idea as I was watching the 24-hour news shows in 2016 and as my emotions began to surface, so did the song. It is about race and political issues, how we treat each other based on our differing opinions and about the lack of learning/understanding that causes us to repeat the crazy times. No easy answers … or are there?
The Friend I Never Met: This is a song Brad and I co-wrote – a tribute to Guy Clark, one of Brad’s singer-songwriter heroes. Guy was a prolific Texas singer songwriter and his songwriting had special meaning for Brad. After listening to him I came to appreciate him also. Brad sings lead on this song and does a killer job. Knowing what he thought of Guy, it was fun to help put this song together. Unless you’re a hard-core Guy Clark fan, you will not catch the references to Towns Van Zandt, also a friend of Guy Clark and another famous Texas singer songwriter (wrote Pancho and Lefty), or other subtle lyrical mentions from Guy Clark songs.
Rock Solid Conviction: This is me being the sensitive caring guy that I am. My wife, Deb, loves to watch Hallmark movies. The same ones….. over and over and over. I too have watched a few of these with her. So, I saw a theme and ran with it. I recorded the first verse and the chorus and we would listen to it as we drove around. One day Deb asked me, “what is this song going to be about?” Having had the Hallmark training, I replied, “it’s a happy ending relationship song and the lady is going to be the hero! “ The song wrote itself!
What Tomorrow Brings: My oldest daughter, Annie, was on one of her annual 2 week Navy Reserve obligations in Jacksonville Florida in 2017. She was on the beach and sent this beautiful picture of the sunset. After looking at the photo, I replied “Shades of blue, hints of pink, a falling sun begins to sink”. She said, “Dad, that could be in a song!” I said, “yes, I suppose it could”. Well, having been young once myself, I was thinking about what must be going through her mind at the time. Being on the beach is great, but I can’t stay here, I have so many dreams and I wonder what tomorrow brings? I put a little Jimmy Buffet feel to it, the percussionist added the congas and we had a beach song!
Cold Hard Road: Cold Hard Road is a metaphor for the unforgiving and cold world we live in. There are certain laws of physics that are not negotiable. For instance, gravity treats all of us the same – it’s impartial and uncompromising. In my opinion the only things that warm it up and gives it real meaning is “Faith, Family and Friends”. I am inspired by folks helping others on this cold hard road and it gives me hope!
Round and Around: Although most of my formative years were spent on the farm near Jackson MN, for a brief period of time, from 1st grade through 6th grade, my parents bought a small tavern in the small town of Terril, IA. I spent a considerable amount of time there, playing pool and just hanging out. I remember to this day, the names and faces of the regulars. Some didn’t seem so happy. The juke box would play some slow ¾ time song and there would usually be someone at the bar who looked like they had the weight of the world on their shoulders. This song is dedicated to that guy.
If You Try: I had children in mind as I wrote this song. I wanted to give them a message of how fast time passes, to not let fear and doubt get in the way of chasing down their dreams and that there may come a time they will have the luxury to reflect on their life. It actually applies to kids of all ages and that it’s never too late to chase down your heart’s desire.
Mostly Just For Me: Brad and I co-wrote this song. Brad gave me something he had written from years ago. The theme was about him being a quiet guy. I instantly related to it and it kept rolling around my head for a few months. It kept me up at night and would not let go of me. He had some very clever lyrics and I tied them together with a few thoughts of my own and put a melody and some chords to it. I view it as a tribute to all us “quiet guys” who think a lot, but unapologetically don’t have the need to move our lips with every thought and ask that you not pass judgement on what we don’t say.
The Farmhouse: This is the title track to the album. As I state on the album cover, it’s not about the physical farmhouse. It’s all about the experience of growing up in a loving family and the lessons learned. We all have our family history and this song has seemed to help folks conjure up their own memories of where they come from. Mom had many sayings – as our family grew and the farmhouse got more crowded, she was in her glory and would always say, “There’s always room for more”.
Woe Is Me: We probably all know someone who tends to focus on the negative or believes the world is against them. They like to complain, but not do what it takes to improve their life. This is NOT about those who have been dealt a bad hand through no fault of their own and I make a point to state this in the song. I’m not that insensitive. In a few words, it’s about those who can, but don’t!
Old Country Road: This is part of the love story of my parents. Mom lived a mile north of where dad lived, which is the same farmhouse I grew up in. They shared some of the story about how dad would walk her home down that old country road. Taking what I know of young folks falling in love and what I knew of my mom and dad and their personalities, I put it to words. They loved to dance, didn’t have much money at any time of their life, but they did have each other. Married for 70 years, without any money, time was all they had to spend and they would spend it together until the end.
On behalf of Brad and myself, thanks for supporting our music and taking time to look a little deeper into each song! Enjoy!