1. If They Ever Let Me Out
John Hadley and I had a couple of verses on this and I thought it sounded kind of generic. So we decided to go some place different in the bridge. The prisoner promising to be a good citizen is suddenly lamenting that, “You can’t get away with nothin’ anymore…” which, of course, is true.
2. Innocent Heart
This was a song that Gwil Owen and Richard Ferreira had started. I threw in a verse and some of the bridge. I loved what they had written and wanted to be a part of it. The idea of innocence not being strong enough is powerful. I really love Brock Zeman’s production on this song.
3. Don’t Try To Fight It
This was written with Kieran Kane. He already had the tune and three verses going. We were at his place in East Nashville. My mind was racing trying to think of something to add to what he already had. His cell phone rang and I just blurted out, “I hear a ringing, somebody get it…” His house is near the railroad tracks and a train went by and that became, “I hear a train, I want to ride it…” The interplay between his vocal and lyric and my vocal and lyric worked perfectly and we had a song.
4. Ferris Wheel
This melody had been in my head for decades. It has an odd little stutter step. I only had the first line, “I’m walking through the valley of the shadow of death…” I took it to John Hadley and we worked it out. I see a soldier remembering a high school sweetheart and the innocence of first love.
5. Crack In The Wall
I wrote this with help from John Hadley. Hurricane Katrina had devastated New Orleans. I thought about infrastructure and how it applied not just to levees and dams but personal relationships, as well. You gotta take care of that crack in the wall.
The ghost of Townes Van Zandt stumbles through this one. I see a night watchman walking his beat through some spooky industrial site. He senses something is terribly wrong but can’t put his finger on exactly what’s amiss. There is a sort of Greek chorus of monks who wander by now and then. One of them is whistling.
7. Sweet Sugaree
Written to the rhythm of the windshield wipers on the way to Rosemary Beach, Florida. The crack in the windshield is still there.
John Hadley was driving the bus on this one. He wrote the melody on the banjo. It’s a song that is so simple yet so deep. A hard song to sing because the temptation to emote is strong. I have to tell myself to step out of the way and let the song do the work.
9. Yesterday’s News
Written in my early years in Nashville. I was crossing the street to get to the old Exit Inn and a page of a newspaper blew by. The image was startling and became this song.
10. Big Top (Tornado)
Hadley and Kevin Welch are both from Oklahoma where tornados were invented. In my mind I see a flat Oklahoma landscape with a circus tent in the distance. The sky is a sick green and a storm is surely coming. In the foreground is a very concerned clown.
— David Olney