Anne Smith :: Blog for November 2011
Hi, Everybody! In anticipation of my CD release, this month's blog is an insight to the songs on the album, Separated by Words- how they were inspired, and what they mean to me. Coming up soon on this site will also be a lyrics page- with an eye toward saving paper and the expense of printing a set of lyrics for each CD.
It was a pleasure to sit next to Chris Muth at Taloowa Corporation in Yonkers, while he mastered the CD. He is a real Renaissance Man! I'm excited to finally get this project out there. Marc and I are in a flurry of activity to tie up loose ends here in NYC before moving to Florida for a year. It's a little crazy….but you know what? Everything is going to be all right.
Wishing you all safe travels over the Thanksgiving Day Holiday, and beautiful times with your loved ones.
Not Enough Road was inspired by a remark made by my friend Nancy one day, as she called me from the NJ Turnpike, stuck in traffic.
Dream by Dream was originally titled "Out of the Blue", a poem I wrote years ago in a journal just after I moved to New York from Massachusetts. I was walking in my neighborhood one evening, feeling very alone; as I passed the entrance to a building, a familiar scent in the air triggered a memory, and I wrote a short poem. Years later, I was reading through old journals and decided to extend the poem to include parts of that memory that haunted me, like the reference you hear to "A Kind of Blue", and the use of a Miles Davis-inspired riff.
Separated by Words is a phrase I read in an essay by Jean-Paul Sartre. The song was written very quickly, and is obviously about the escalation of conflict, beginning at first between individuals, then spreading to groups, nations and regions. I love language, writing and communicating through songwriting; sometimes words are inadequate and only lead to more conflict. I am trying to say, through this song, that every person who is here on this earth is meant to be here; that there are two sides to every situation; thus the phrase which compares a two-sided coin to the sun, which shines equally on us all. I deliberately chose to use a child's voice for this statement, to evoke an innocent and nonjudgmental image.
Tillman's Tale tells the story of Corporal Patrick Tillman, a professional football player who left his career to join the military. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 by friendly fire, a latently published fact. This ultimately angered the American public, who had been duped by an elaborate coverup created under the Bush Administration. It was basically a huge lie to glorify and promote the war in Afghanistan, and it capitalized on the emotions of the American people. I used the reference to Hollywood to convey the outrageous level of fantasy and deceit used in creating the coverup. In the studio session we collaborated and spontaneously wrote a somber, funereal military tag to take the song out. John Kilgore deliberately processed the acoustic piano in the mix to sound detached, as though it were coming through a megaphone at a military base.
Still Dangerous follows three songs related to loss….whether this song speaks to you about a past relationship, or about a loved one you have lost, it attempts to describe the vulnerability one feels when thinking about that person. I think that the lyrics are so strong in this song that they needed to be offset with a very gentle arrangement Julio's guitar statements add so much emotion…..it's one of my favorite compositions.
Picasso-The title was originally "That Blue River" but I didn't want to have so many titles with the word "blue" on this album "Blue Tango" and "Out of the Blue". I decided to call it "Picasso" (who is never actually named in the song, so maybe it's best I did change the title). It has been suggested by some art historians that Picasso's famous "Blue Period" was inspired by the death of a close friend, Carlos Casagemas, who committed suicide. Through this song, I tried to imagine an isolated moment in Picasso's life, on the evening following his friend's funeral; the song portrays him wandering the streets of his village that night, searching for meaning. The Old Guitarist and The Blind Man's Meal are paintings from Picasso's Blue Period, but I included them, as well as the harlequin in the cafe, as scenes that he observed that night. The Blue River, of course, is a symbol for the paint, filling up the white of his canvas. Picasso once said, "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child" I tried to convey that essence in the last verse.
Mary, Do You Love? This song was written for my own need to express frustration over a spiteful remark made to me in public by a woman in my neighborhood. It became a sort of exercise in turning a character sketch into a song. Imagine a 40-something unhappy woman sitting everyday on the bench outside a cafe, doing her crossword puzzles, gossiping about anything and anyone, triumphing in others' misfortunes, and initiating conflict. Was she really married to an ironworker? Yes. Is her name really Mary? I can't say…it's not my place to reveal.
Blue Tango I wanted to write a song that used dance as a metaphor for a difficult relationship. The Tango is so intimate, so passionate and dramatic! It's easy to see its form in a dysfunctional couple who can't let go of each other, as they perform the same steps over and over. Thanks to the fantastic musicians who played on this album, Blue Tango turned into a moody and campy kind of song that captures the nuances of a complex situation. I especially love the way Gary Schreiner's accordion playing accents the phrases.
Temporary Suicide is the title of a play written by Roxanne Alese, about the insidious effects of recreational drugs. When she asked me to write a theme song, I thought it would be more effective, ironic, to write a melody that was beautiful and haunting, in contrast to the horrific lyrics. It's a short piece on purpose-because it's a short message. If there is anything positive at all to be read into this song, it is in the word "temporary", which suggests the possibility of recovery.
Transitional Girl Of course we've all been there. We just don't want to call it what it is. This happens to be one of my favorites as well, because it taps a common situation, yet there aren't too many songs written on the subject. I think it describes the denial and frustration as well as the vulnerability a woman feels in this kind of relationship. There's dark humor here, in the voice of a smart girl who sees the writing on the wall, but isn't ready to make a change just yet. I think John Scarpulla's sax playing is over the top, and makes this arrangement so raucous and fun!
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