(The following notes are pulled off of the Bandcamp page verbatim. They're collected here as one document, or you can click through song-by-song on the Bandcamp page.)
This isn't a "greatest hits." I don't have hits. And what I do have is only debatably "great." It's also not a "best of" exactly. It's more just a collection of stuff I enjoy playing, alongside some stuff I haven't played in a long time, and supporting four songs I've never released as a solo artist before. When you've got 8 albums, sometimes people don't know where to start...so this is an introductory piece for new folks, and a different look at some old familiar songs for the long-timers.
Outdoor Summer Concerts
One of the "2015 Singles." The more peppy of the two--although the other ("Becca's Song") means more to me emotionally. I like this song as an opener. Played around with some of the lyrics/pacing. I like how it came out. The tone of this song set how I ended up approaching the rest of the process, including the mixing/mastering. Had to remove some "popping p" sounds, so it pretty much decided the whole EQ for the rest of the album! :)
Opening track from the "Ink-Stained Fingers" album. An uncharacteristically upbeat lyric, for me. I like playing this one. I get wrapped up in it. In this version, I got so wrapped up I said the word "fuck" where it didn't belong. But I'm keeping it. Sometimes an alternate version needs a fuck in it.
The Last Folk Singers*
NEW for 2016. This is my favorite of the new songs. The title and some of the concept (especially in the first verse) is lifted from Chris Bachelder's novel "US!" That novel imagines a world in which Upton Sinclair is resurrected from time to time to try to bring about a Socialistic society. And each time, he is inevitably murdered. There's a character in there that is supposed to be Sinclair's son, a musician who calls himself "The Last Folk Singer." I started writing a concept piece about just the idea of a "Last Folk Singer," but I couldn't crack how to do it without just stealing from the novel...so this song happened instead.
This is an example of why I said there are four "previously unreleased" tracks, instead of four "new" ones. "I Go..." has floated around at least three different bands of mine. And in fairness, I believe my brother and I did put out a version on our short-lived "Two Hangmen" project, of which there were only 25 CDs made and if you blinked, you missed it. (Might end up putting that out somewhere, sometime...who knows?) But this is definitely the first time I've officially released it as a solo artist.
The very first song on my very first album. It's interesting to be doing this one again almost twelve years later. I'm not really the same guy I was then. But I still believe this...just maybe not as optimistically. If I wrote it today, there'd probably be a few "if/then" statements worked into the lyric. Actually...if I wrote it today, it'd probably be "Transience." Huh.
I sometimes forget how emotional a ride this one is for me. I talk about my grandparents in particular in this song. I carry around some guilt for not doing more to be closer to them in their later years (particularly Grandma, who was in a nursing home at the end)... And lyrically, this one's kind of challenging to get through as a result. It turns out that feeling increases with time...learned that doing this album.
A more recent favorite of mine (and others from what I hear!). This one came out this year and has some word-play I'm pretty happy with. In my head, it's a Pearl Jam song. It's a fun take on seeing the end of the tunnel, even though there might be a shitload of tunnel left.
I've always liked this one. It's in many ways a nod to the Peter Sellers movie of the same name, but it's got an abstract quality that makes it stand on its own, without knowing the movie. This is one that I know I've got a few friends who've made it part of their personal soundtrack...so like I said on a different song, I don't want to say too much and risk ruining it for them. On the album, Becky Outlaw sang a background vocal part that was a nice echo-part. I miss that...but if I'd done it, it would've been completely against the spirit of these recordings. I think it works well enough without the echo, but if I had the option, there'd be a girl there singing it.
One of my favorites off the "Something to Look Forward to..." album. Also one of the few from that record that works as an acoustic track. It's a personal one, and fun to play on the guitar. As I said, this is probably how 30+ year old Derek is responding to the 18 year old Derek who wrote "Fall Apart." The "morphic fields and combo meals" line remains one of my favorite things I've ever written.
One of my favorite tracks on "Ink-Stained Fingers." It's another one I get wrapped up in when I play it. Every time I do, it feels a little different, and I liked the feel I got on this take.
"Hands" is one of the songs I think about when I think about the phrase "career spanning" in reference to my own work. Yes, it was on my second record...but before that, it was in my punk band, Uncle Dick. We've never formally released any of that work...but "Hands" was always a favorite of mine and when it became obvious that Uncle Dick was dissolving, it became a solo-song. It's probably as old if not older than half of what's on "Grounds." I tried a couple versions of this one, including one that had a slight reggae vibe, but ultimately felt the song works best sticking close to the original arrangement...so that's what you've got.
Live Your Life*
This one was written with the intent of doing it as a solo song, but then I tossed it on a round of demos for the band I was in at that time, and it ended up being a band song for a while. I like the version that "The Social Gospel" was doing quite a bit and maybe some day I'll do something with that, too...but it felt like it belonged on this release.
One of my favorites off "Grounds." One of my career-favorites, too. I wrote it with Jesus in mind. It works if you don't see it that way, too though... I've always been happy about that.
The Ring I Almost Gave Her
Probably one of the best songs I'm ever going to write. Mostly true story. Never really envisioned this one as an acoustic track, but played on a 12-string, I like it a lot this way. A friend of mine listened to the song and later told me, "That's not just a great country song, it's a great SONG. It defies genre." One of the nicest things anyone's said about something I've written. (Although somehow I didn't really think of it as a country song until then...)
Short and sweet hopeless love song. And I say "fuck" in it really casually. What's not to like? It was a tough decision deciding if I was going to use this one or "Pretty Much the Story of My Life" off "Ink-Stained Fingers." But I opted for this one because I think it's a little more catchy.
In My Heart
I've always liked this one. In acoustic-form, it feels like a solo Black Francis (Frank Black) song. Sort of a fun, looking back on a break-up piece. Been a favorite of mine amongst my songs for a long time.
Sometimes You Say Goodbye
A recent one, off the "Trigger Warnings & Sunshine" record. One of my favorites off that record. I'm not sure if it totally makes sense to anyone but me, but for me it's a personal one. I almost released it as an acoustic only track even on the record, so I'm glad to be putting it into this form here.
New Year's Eve
This song's got a special place in my heart. Wrote it in my "I'd like to be Michael Penn" phase. Originally demoed and recorded on a New Year's Eve, put on the concept album of the same name. I like the lyrics a lot. I've never really enjoyed New Year's Eve as an event, but I like the song I wrote about it.
Born in this Town
This is at least the third time I've released this song. You might say I like it. Long story short: Don't fall for somebody who's a missionary when you're not one.
El Santo Frente al a Muerte!*
I'm a huge wrestling fan and I've got a particular fascination with Mexican wrestler El Santo. El Santo spent his entire career wearing a mask, even when he wasn't in the ring. If he was out in public, he wore the mask. No one saw his face--it would break the mystique. When Santo retired, he went onto a late night talk show. Unprovoked and without warning, El Santo lifted his mask and showed the audience his face for the first time in his long career. One week later, El Santo died of a heart attack.
Just Another Day
This song has been around the block a few times, but still means a lot to me. It's on the "Wayne County EP" but some of my favorite performances were with my band The Social Gospel back when we were still together. This version's a little more subdued than usual, but I like to tone of it.