This week I made two new home videos revisiting the title tracks from the Humming My Way Back Home and Stop, Drop, and Roll albums. The studio versions of both songs feature band arrangements, so these videos brought the songs back to the way I wrote them.

Humming My Way Back Home

"Humming My Way Back Home" was the first song I wrote with the funky little three-stringed instrument known as the Strumstick, which years later also gave birth to "Eight Days in January." As mentioned in my post about "Eight Days," singer-songwriter Jennifer Kimball inspired me to pick up the Strumstick in the first place, and in particular her gorgeous Strumstick song "My New Vow" opened my ears to the possibilities of using the instrument for a lyrical, emotional ballad like "Humming." Where her song marks a relationship ending, mine is about reuniting and renewal. Here's the solo video. For comparison, here's the album version, on which I played cajón, guitar, and bass, and Hanna Richardson sang harmony vocals. In concert these days with my duo or band, Wendy Sassafras Ramsay adds a lovely flute part to the instrumental bridge.
The lyrics
Stand by the window and raise it wide Open your ear for a song I’m turning the corner and coming inside Weary but never so strong I’m humming my way back home Humming my way back home to you Humming my way back home To rest with you, as night rolls through Living is longings and lessons half-learned Our words tangle up in a knot Let’s forget what we’ve given, forget what we’ve earned Give thanks for the love that we’ve got Chorus Winter is coming, the leaves blow down Daylight is slipping away Stoke up the fire and gather around There’s no place where I’d rather stay Chorus To rest with you

Stop, Drop, and Roll

The initial spark for this high-velocity acoustic rocker came from my son when he was in elementary school. His teacher had shared "stop, drop, and roll" as a lesson for what to do if your clothes ever catch fire (!). I'd never heard the phrase before and loved it—it sounded like a song to me. Eventually I connected the phrase with a hard-driving minor-key guitar groove, and this song was born. (If you ever happen to catch me in concert in late October, you may hear me play a goofy story song called "A Dark, Dark Night of Halloween" that uses the exact same fingerings in a different rhythm. Always great to steal ideas from yourself when you can!) In the lyrics of "Stop, Drop, and Roll," I tapped into images drawn from a recurrent nightmare, in which I find myself in an unfamiliar dark room, alone, with no idea how I got there, and can't find my way out. As suggested by the title phrase, there's a fire in the building too. To add to the feeling of urgency and emergency, I wrote the lyrics so they drop into the middle of a thought, without explanation or setup; the first line is "Because the spark falls," which seems to answer a question that is never posed. As with many songs, writing these lyrics was all about translating into words the movie I could see in my head. Here's the new solo video. I recorded the album version with drummer extraordinaire Josh Dekaney—just the two of us, live in the studio. I love the raw intensity of the acoustic guitar and drum combo. For me, it's so much more visceral and powerful than electric instrumentation (or a bigger band) would be.
The lyrics
Because the spark falls The wires are crossing And the heat is thick Your mind is tossing You’re alone, awake A figure on the fray Because the smoke rolls A slow train coming And you can’t recall When you left home and In the room the lines Are blurring into gray One small window swollen tight Can’t crack open to the night You feel the singe, the choking air No more wondering when or where You’ve got to stop, drop, and roll That’s all Because the flame licks The paint is peeling And you can’t escape The headlong feeling Of the tick, the tock The chances slipping away Because you bang and bang And bang your fist Against the wall and still The hard resistance And there’s not a dent You can make today One small window, can’t jump down Too far distant from solid ground You feel the singe, the choking air No more wondering when or where You’ve got to stop, drop, and roll That’s all Because the spark falls The wires are crossing And the flame licks Your mind is tossing And the tick, the tock The chances slipping away Because you give until There is no giving And you lose the life Inside the living And there’s not a shred Of reason to delay One small break and you roll on through You choose the exit that chooses you When you do the thing you do not dare You find yourself in the clearing air You just stop, drop, and roll That’s all