Here's a sampling of my recorded music. All are recently recorded, except Comayagua Cabaret, which was the closer on The Skyotes' album Fax The Pax.
I wrote Most Promising Officer after many days exploring the backcountry of Palo Duro Canyon and studying its history. Ulysses S. Grant called Colonel Ranald McKenzie "the most promising officer" in the Army. McKenzie whipped the Comanche in Palo Duro Canyon in 1874. Two years later he did the same to the Cheyenne on the Tongue River of Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains. McKenzie fought without the brutality that usually accompanied the genocide against Native Americans. That's scant praise. The obvious contrast was with George Armstrong Custer. Both men faced ignoble ends; McKenzie went mad, and Custer, of course, "...got what he deserved". I think the most important line is the one that follows: "For the rest of us, the judgin's not in".
Diesel Town. I grew up in a railroad town, North Platte, Nebraska. The banging of the cars in the hump yard, the roars of the diesel engines, the whistles wailing at the crossings were a constant presence in my young life lived a few blocks from the Union Pacific mainline. For most, high school then a job with Uncle Pete (the Union Pacific) was the expected path. It could also be a trap that owned your time and life in exchange for a decent living. The railroad was also my first connection with Amarillo, Texas. I was part of the Ground Zero network that tracked the nuke bomb-laden White Trains from Pantex near Amarillo to the submarine base in Bangor, Washington. I was a spotter at O'Fallon's Switch. Knowing where the trains were going let us organize protests along the route. A train can be escape or trap, life or death. It takes a song to encompass these dichotomies.
It's The Breath. Mick McLaughlin was my music partner, compañero of the long nights, and inspiration as a wildly creative, deeply talented and all-in dedicated musician. He died in 1998, leaving a silent rupture in the creative universe. He also left a box of tapes filled with hours of music, some finished, others works in progress. Opening that box and listening and cataloguing Mick's music knocked loose so many emotions - sadness, elation, nostalgia, gratitude, intense missing. I came to understand that music only dies when it no longer pushes air, that like any living thing, a song needs to breathe. Otherwise, it's as good as dead. So, I perform a couple of Mick's songs at every gig, to keep them alive. I wrote this song as an expression of that aspiration, imagining Mick still opening my eyes to what a song is about. Nate Todd helped me out on organ and lap steel guitar.
Comayagua Cabaret. Song ideas can come from anywhere. The seed of this one was planted after I read an article about the negative impact of the American military on the people of Honduras. The U.S. government supported a cast of nefarious characters in 1980s Central America, facilitated by an air force base in Palmarola, Honduras. I was deeply moved when I read Maria's story and turned it into a song that contrasted her humanity with the unfeeling geopolitical shenanigans of the powerful. This song was the soft, sad closer of The Skyotes dark, raucous, rocking album Fax The Pax.