The Making of "All Over the Road"


The Process.  Beginning in March 2020 when the whole world shut down, a lot of creative people ended up flourishing. The enforced turning-inward nature of life simplified matters and made the making of art, whatever the outlet, a healing and life-affirming thing. As you probably know, today musicians can record in home studios with most of the tools they need in a laptop. 

The songs on this record have developed over the past seven years and the making of the CD took two+ years start to finish. But it began decades ago at Ohio University when a young audio engineer and a young songwriter/guitarist made friends, an association that has endured to this day. Mike Joseph produced and engineered my first serious recording session back then and also the majority of this new record, for which I will be forever grateful. While the music, lyrics, vocals, and instruments are mostly mine, Mike is everywhere adding flavors--guitars, organ, percussion. And when you hear a slide guitar, that's him. We were we in the same room together for exactly four days; he’s in Kansas City, I’m in Portland, and the internet was the bridge in between. 

The Artwork. The front and back covers and disc art on “All Over the Road” began with a portrait by Sarah Silliman Vinson which, with the skillful assistance of fellow artist and friend Bryan Fleming, became what you see. Most days my hair doesn’t really look like this. 

The Title: In between my early and late music careers, I worked in radio as an announcer and producer in a rock format known in the industry as AOR, which stands for Album Oriented Rock. Some of the playlists at these stations were so diverse, the joke was that AOR actually stood for All Over the Road. Hence this CD title—there is so much variety on this record that one critic will write, “Genre-defying! Amazing depth and breadth” while the other critic will write, “An aptly titled release from an artist who doesn’t know what he wants to be…” 


The Songs

I’m Just a Pilgrim.  In 2016 Lis and I hiked all the way across northern Spain along the medieval pilgrim road called the Camino de Santiago. This song was born from that experience. That's Mike Joseph on slide guitar. Lyrics

Water. A mostly metaphorical song about water in all its states. Mike's on organ. Lyrics

The Last Possible Moment.   Inspired by a Native American origin story, “When the people and the animals were one…” My friends tell me their dogs love the ending. Lyrics 

Hanktown.  A true life story about a true life guy named Hank. For real! Lyrics

If Love is a Crime.  I wanted to write a song with the lyrical perspective of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me.” But rather than try for a Motown sound, I opted instead for a bluesier thing that Mick and Keef might have written. If you know either of them, please pass this tune along. Lyrics 

Lonesome Here in Heaven.  This is the tune I figure John Prine would have written about two weeks after he died and went to Heaven. Lyrics

What About the Love.  I had a guitar student who, as she began to write her own material, asked me for “the secret of a successful song.” Like I had the key! One bit of advice I did offer was to make something universal from her own personal experience. This song is a good example—the universally relatable experience of unrequited love. Lyrics 

The Planet’s Gonna Be Just Fine. Inspired by a classic George Carlin rant. Search “Save the Planet” on YouTube and you’ll find it. Lyrics 

Black Crow on the Roof.  Proof positive that you can write a song about anything. Mike again on slide.  Lyrics

Sarah J.  I’m a big fan of the Texas singer/songwriter/multi instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz. So I wrote her an imaginary love song. When we talked before a concert one evening, I told her, “You probably get a lot of fan mail but I bet you never got a fan song.” She broke into a big smile and said, “Thanks so much!” Then she called security. All true except the last bit. Lyrics

The Ballad of Sean Murphy.  My father’s ancestors came early to America from Northern Ireland in the 1780’s. Scots-Irish they was. I wrote this tune thinking of him and them. I didn’t intend for it to become a ghost song, things just worked out that way. Lyrics