Sunday, December 07, 2008

6 of 9

So... It was cold this morning. Like single degree-cold. Although... when we took the dog for his beloved Sunday morning walk, it didn't feel as cold as one might expect. Still... I much preferred coffee, Meet the Press, the couch, a relaxing afternoon watching the Bears game, getting to the gym for swimming and weights, and eating salads from Whole Foods. Not bad for a Sunday...

Four songs left to pick apart here... album details are starting to really come together in ways both concrete and esoteric. The four songs I haven't yet explored are Til I Couldn't Cry, How the Heart Moves On, Crystal, and Skyscraper Hearts. I'm saving Skyscraper for last... I'm hoping my entry on it coincides with having the mastered album in hand... plus it's still in some ways the most mysterious of the songs on the record... I know what it means (to me), but I think it may mean something bigger than my personal meaning... it may be the window into the record that follows Things We Would Rather Lose...

So today... I'm going with Til I Couldn't Cry, which was written in the fall of 2007... I don't often get the chance to "introduce" songs at shows... something about indifferent bar crowds. But at the Gemma Hayes show at Schubas, the attentive audience allowed me to do some talking about the tunes I was playing... And, somewhat surprisingly to me, I introduced this song as a song about my friend Greg's dad passing away in September of 2007 after a lengthy hospitalization. Which isn't what the song is about.

Or wasn't.

At least I don't think it was at the time... it was a song about getting to the point of grief where you just can't do it anymore... where you've cried and cried and you're out of tears... which is pretty much where I was in the fall of 2007.

Although I certainly see the connection to what Greg and his family were likely going through at the time. I remember being sick the week I started Til I Couldn't Cry... I wrote the first verse as I rode home from work on the train. Then, later that week, I was up late with insomnia one night and the smoke from a midnight cigarette downstairs drifted into my living room on Cuyler... so I got out my guitar, and quietly started working with the words I'd written on the train, nearly whispering as I tried not to disturb a sleeping girl and dog in the other room.

I was also thinking about the Hank Williams song I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry... which might be the saddest song ever written... and with Hank in mind, we decided to record Til I Couldn't Cry in as old-timey a way as possible... So I got in touch with Anthony and Drew and we wound up using the "free" day at Gravity to take a shot at getting it in a live setting. I had emailed Anthony and Drew an acoustic version of the song, and they showed up at Gravity ready to go.

Well... hungover... but ready to go musically.

We rehearsed the song twice, with Drew on piano and Anthony on stand-up bass. Jay set us up, Drew in the big live room, and Anthony and me in separate isolation booths. We took a couple of cuts at it, and it was sounding okay. The one piece that wasn't there, was the vocals. I realized I was singing the song too strong... and it didn't fit lyrics that were about being exhausted, being drained, being unable to muster up even the will to cry. So we took another couple of shots at it with me pulling back on the vocals... and it clicked.

Drew then overdubbed a gorgeous organ part, and suddenly it was more of a spiritual... it was a song about suffering, but also somehow a song that looked forward towards redemption... towards recovery. And I think it sits so perfectly in this group of songs...

TIL I COULDN'T CRY I missed your opening and lit the lights As crosses faded into the night On top of copper needles raised Into the sky, and for the saved I'm reminded How I Sat with you and Cried and cried Until I couldn't cry Til I couldn't cry no more The smoke it rose into my room As down below the fires bloomed In tiny breaths the life was passed From lips to lips, from first to last I'm reminded How I Sat with you and Cried and cried Until I couldn't cry Til I couldn't cry no more


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