It has been almost a year since I wrote my last blog post on this site. Of course, a lot has happened, including a hurricane, a regular gig at a dive bar in Moncton, connecting with some great New Brunswick musicians, and the continuing search for a magical project that will interest both myself, and hopefully some listeners.
Then at a casual jam in my studio, someone asked if I had seen the movie "Heartworn Highways." Unbelievably, I had not even heard of it. If you are like me, then let me fill you in: it's a "fly on the wall" documentary featuring music by country singers and songwriters who worked outside the Nashville mainstream, and found an impressive voice in the early 1970s. Many of these, like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, were known to me, but there are other voices here, like Rodney Crowell, Larry Jon Wilson, and David Allen Coe, who I was less familiar with.
When my friend told me about this film I was interested, so I watched it the first chance I got. Thankfully we live in a time when even these films that are slipping into obscurity can be rented without much trouble at all. And inspiration took hold. There is something about these guys (sadly, they are ALL guys - sorry, diversity) and the way they lived and the songs they wrote and how they sang them that flicked a switch on in me, that hadn't been flicked for a while.
In 2006 I released an album called "Nowheresville" in Victoria B.C. Even back then, I was embracing country and folk music, but at that point, my writing and singing was missing the element of age and wisdom. I had been raised on rock n roll in the '90s and some part of me thought that's where I ought to go, so I moved away from country back to playing rock. I also wasn't done rambling, so I packed up and moved on from 2006, released an alt-rock album in 2012 and here we are today.
Look at this skinny kid in the picture. What an outlaw! Still, I remember those days fondly.
Country Comes Calling
At some point after moving to Courtenay B.C. in 2012 I was asked to join a cover band that played a lot of country music. This was a party band that played the most popular music, and I learned here the distinction between Nashville and "Alt" country. Now some of the Nashville stuff is great, but Nashville also has a history of updating its sound to try to cross over and catch the waves of whatever is trendy. You could argue that Alt-country is still working with a lot of what the Heartworn Highways guys were working with, as far as instrumentation and subject matter. Each song is still trying to unlock our deepest human mysteries with a voice, an acoustic guitar, and maybe a bass and fiddle or two.
After my first country cover band, I started a new one called "KC and the Moonshine Band." This is actually the second band of that name; the first one disbanded after I left Victoria in 2006. We played more of the same, but found some of the earnest grit of Nashville in the songs of the 1980s and 1990s. We also played "Achy Breaky Heart." During this time an old song came up randomly on a playlist called "L.A. Freeway." I stopped folding laundry and listened. Then I played it again and again. I found out the singer was Guy Clark - a new name to me. It's a little song about leaving L.A. and looking for a new life in the country. I had to learn the song, to play it, and to live it. The lyric he sings to his wife: "Oh Susanna, don't you cry, babe/love's a gift that's surely handmade," still chokes me up in its beautiful simplicity. It became the song that I am about to re-build my brand upon.
This year, shortly before I heard about "Heartworn Highways," I was in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and saw their exhibit of Guy's guitar workshop. And lo! there it is in the movie.
I have already written about how my family packed up and left the West Coast in the Spring of 2022 to find a simpler life in rural New Brunswick. We basically lived "L.A. Freeway," although granted we didn't live in any place like L.A. Still, we lived an adventure of leaving all we know and love to someplace we hoped would be better for us. And now I have found the inspiration to play the music I love, and start writing again in the genre where I belong. My next step will be looking for players to back up this new expression and get recording and performing again. If you'd like to be part of this with me, please reach out.