"Don't Think That I Can Say Goodbye," from the Almost There album, is one of those new songs that feels like it has an old soul. During the writing process, I kept picturing a Nashville songwriter in the '50s or '60s... But I don't know country music from that era very well at all, and I couldn't pinpoint a connection to any specific songs or artists. A couple of days before Almost There came out, I was getting ready to interview the brilliant guitar duo of Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge for Acoustic Guitar magazine. I was listening to their album Avalon, and the song "Keep Me from Blowing Away" knocked me out—at first simply because it's a gorgeous song and performance, and then because it suddenly struck me that this song comes from a similar emotional and musical place as "Don't Think That I Can Say Goodbye." Anyway, I did some research about "Keep Me Blowing Away" and the songwriter, Paul Craft, who was indeed a Nashville writer and a friend of Chris Eldridge's dad, Ben (banjo player in the Seldom Scene). I shared this anecdote, and my new CD, with Julian and Chris when we met. And about a week later, I heard that Craft passed away. He arrived in my world and left so abruptly. One unusual aspect of "Don't Think That I Can Say Goodbye" is that it has an outtake verse that I like just as much as the verses that I sang on the album. I include it below. Which do you think is better? We recorded the album version live in the studio, with me on lead vocal and guitar, Wendy Ramsay on harmony vocal and clarinet, Josh Dekaney on percussion kit, and John Dancks on upright bass. The only overdub was Rani Arbo's fiddle, recorded a few weeks later in her house. The instrumental section, where the guitar and clarinet harmonize, is one of my favorite passages on the whole CD. DON'T THINK THAT I CAN SAY GOODBYE Words and music by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers Don’t think that I can say goodbye So I’ll just go Can’t figure how to quite forget So much that I know Some silver lining Is out in this storm, I’m sure But all I see are clouds So I’ll just go We reach for the reasons And find only traces and shards Trifles or treasons We can’t tell just what they are As the days blow by Let the pieces fall And crumble to dust under our feet We reach for forever But nobody shows us the way We think that we’re clever Believe all the things that we say But the painted lines Are in shades of gray Dissolving away into the night Don’t think that I can say goodbye So I’ll just go Can’t figure how to quite forget So much that I know Some shiny morning Out on a distant shore Nothing to say There will be nothing to say at all Outtake verse: We reach for the river For washing the sting from our eyes To be the forgiver Is harder than we recognize As the years flow by Will we see once more Open and clear into the light?