I carried the idea for the song,”The Heart of Dixie,” around in my writing notebook for nine years. I kept trying to write it and I would start and stop,start and stop until I finally realized that it would be written when it was time to be written. One fall,I took a weekend trip to an old sulphur water spa town in Tennessee called Red Boiling Springs and checked into one of two small historic hotels there.. I happened to be the only guest registered that night,so I had the place to myself. I had with me my writing guitar,a 1970 Fender Newporter acoustic that I had in college. It carries a great deal of sentimental value for me,so I pulled out my notebook and tape recorder and,as the Benedictines say,”I began again.” But this time,I could feel the song moving towards completion and I suddenly felt a sweet contentment at its finish. The last few lines of the song fell onto the page from that place of grace far beyond my intellect. I felt grateful.
As I began to put together a collection of songs to round out the concept of “The Heart of Dixie,” I turned to some of my favorite writers and their songs that I have collected over the past few years. As a writer myself,I realized that these writers had written exactly what I wanted to say,so there was no point in me trying to write it again.
Case in point…Kate Campbell. Kate and I wrote “All The Way Home” after sitting around one day discussing Eudora Welty,the South and the dynamic tension involved in trying to “go home” again…a complex subject. I needed some ‘lighter’ songs for the collection and her “Funeral Food” and “New South” fit the bill just fine. But her songs,”Look Away” and “Crazy In Alabama,” come perhaps the closest of all to expressing my feelings about my strong connection to and love of the South,her history and her people.
I recorded “Dixie” a cappella to showcase the beautiful melody of the tune,which,by the way,was written by a northern composer and was one of Abe Lincoln’s favorite songs.
“Page Out Of History” by Kenny Meeks gets the CD off to a great start,slide guitar and all,and “Henry” by Keb Mo resonates with me because a man named Jelly who worked for my grandfather on the IC railroad strongly resembles the character in the song.
Perhaps one of the greatest unresolved story songs of all time,”Ode To Billie Joe” found its place on this collection because I just love to sing it,and it was written by Mississippian Bobbie Gentry. Fred Knobloch’s “Feels Like Mississippi” (his signature song) is one of my favorites and I’m thrilled that Fred played guitar on the CD. That’s Buddy Greene you hear playing harmonica on “Honey Chile” with that second line kind of groove,and Davis Raines is the ‘spooky’ Sonny Boy Cupit bgv…way cool.
Don’t forget that this is an enhanced CD (thanks to Jerry Gowen Digital) with all sorts of extras that show up when you play it in your computer. I’m very proud of this work and I sincerely hope you will enjoy it…thanks for listening.
Page Out of History
Ode To Billie Joe
All The Way Home
Feels Like Mississippi
Crazy In Alabama
The Heart of Dixie