Focus 2022 03 31

Hi All!

I'm excited to say that the mastering for my forthcoming, 4th album, "The Crosswinds of Kansas," is done! With the album art for the CDs and Vinyl also soon to be completed, I'm feeling really good about how things are moving forward and about getting that much closer to being able to share this new music with you all this summer!

On my previous two releases, "Through These Waves" (2017) and "Now I'm Free" (2019), I pretty much limited myself to just singing and playing acoustic guitar, and left the rest of the instruments to a cast of amazing artists who joined me in performing on those records. With this new record, I've stretched a little bit, playing electric guitar on three tracks, and some mandolin, dobro, bells and Native American flutes on others.

It felt really good to play electric guitar on some of these songs. It's something I've always had a passion for, but I intentionally stopped doing about ten years ago—for the sake of focusing on my songwriting rather than on my guitar soloing. It was a lot of fun getting reacquainted with my old Les Paul and 335 after all that time, and getting back to creating music with them. The rest of the electric guitar parts are covered by Juan Solorzano. I've spoken about Juan in previous posts so let me just say here that, I can't overstate how great Juan's playing is. You can hear him on “Now I’m Free” (2019) too.

Several years ago I had written a song on dobro, and while working on this album I decided it was a good time to finally record and release it--no slide work, just finger picking. It was really fun to play and it fits great with the other songs on this record. Brent Burke plays dobro on the other tracks. I've also talked about Brent before and if you haven't heard him play dobro yet, you’re really missing out. I’ve known Brent since 2015 and he’s just the best. You can hear him play on this new record, and also on “Now I’m Free” and “Through These Waves” (2017).

As for the mandolin, well, I’ve always loved the way that that instrument sounds! I bought a Gibson a few years ago and since then, I've mostly enjoyed playing around with it on the front porch, just for fun. Using it to create music in a composition, is a whole different mindset though, and I'd never attempted it before this record. Then, one day when I was in the studio, I got curious to see where it might take me if I approached playing it with more focus and creative intent. Now that it’s all said and done, I’m really happy with how it worked out. It’s me playing mandolin on just the fourth track though. I had Will Kimbrough cover the rest of the mandolin parts on the other tracks. I've mentioned Will in previous posts too. This will be the third release of mine that Will can be heard performing on.

Something else I’ve posted about before is how I took to experimenting with Native American wind and percussion instruments on some of these songs. The voices and tones of the NA instruments add such an incredibly soulful presence to these tracks and so much interest to this album.

Playing the NA flute is a relatively new experience for me. I started learning on my first flute sometime around 2018 or so. Now I have four that have been created for me (three specifically for this album). Aside from almost all of them being in different keys, they each have a uniqueness in  how their voices sing and in the character of the spiritual essence that can be invoked from within each of them.

Working  with the NA flutes eventually led me to the discovery of some very cool Native American drums and percussion instruments. Neilson Hubbard played the NA drums and percussion on this album, including a large Powwow Drum and several hand-held medicine drums and shakers made from Buffalo, Moose, Bear and Horse Hide, turtle shells, and seed pods among other things. Having these instruments available in the studio to experiment with was awesome and so much fun. I did some research into Navajo culture and some traditional beats and their significance, and attempted to stay true to them in the production of the songs that these instruments can be heard on, on this record. I wanted to keep that focus true on some of the tracks, but on some of the other tracks we wound up using them in ways that non-NA drums are usually used. There's a different tonality and essence to them, which can be felt as well as heard in a perfect balance of the unique and the familiar. For a lot of the songs, they just sounded better than traditional drums, and I feel very fortunate to have found them and to have been able to use them in the ways that we did on this record  

Having other artists add fiddle, viola, cello, Hammond B3 organ, piano, banjo and other instruments and voices, brought all of theses new songs home. And that’s where they are now, living their best lives on this album, just waiting to be heard!

To me “The Crosswinds of Kansas,” as an album of 13 songs, lands solidly in the acoustic Americana spectrum of genres, with a good mix of Bluegrass, Folk and Roots music running through it. I'm proud of what we've done on this record and I can't wait to share it with you all this summer! Having my music heard, and hearing from you all how it brings you joy and comfort, fills me with so much gratitude. I appreciate all of you and thank you  for your love and support. I invite you to check back here again for more news coming soon. Until then, be well, be safe and stay present.

With so much love…

All the best,

Bill S.