The backstory behind my Feb 18, 2022 release: A Soul Can't Rest in Peace Beside the Four Lane.
Starting when I was twelve years old, my mom, my dad, and I would make the trek from Logan, WV to Morgantown, WV to visit my older brother and sister at college. Our route took us through the central part of West Virginia, and I was taken with the landscape as the farmland and rolling hills were so different than the steep, mountainous terrain of Logan. Being a fan of WV ghost stories, my imagination was on full tilt as we passed by old farm houses, barns, and family cemeteries. I wondered to myself, and out loud, if any of those places were the places of the ghost stories in one of my favorite books, the Telltale Lilac Bush. Over the next few years of travelling to Morgantown, Interstate 79 was under construction. While it was fun to drive on the big road, and it cut down the drive time for the trips, I became aware of a change it was bringing to these previously remote sections of West Virginia.
Years later as I made the drive myself back and forth from Logan to Morgantown for my college days, the interstate was fully complete. I was still taken by the cemeteries that were once quiet little spots on the hill above the family farm, but that were now within sight, earshot, and sometimes mere yards away from the incessant traffic and noise of the four lane. During one drive back home from Morgantown, something was pulling at me to exit the interstate at a particular spot in Roane County, and to follow the small road up to a little church that sat up on a knoll. As I wandered around the small churchyard lot I recognized the names of my great grandparents, realizing then that one of my own family cemeteries, one for which I had the vaguest of memories of visiting as a young boy, shared the same fate as those other cemeteries up and down the four lane.
The idea for the song, 'A Soul Can't Rest in Peace Beside the Four Lane,' came to me all those years ago. I carried the lines with me for next 35 years--never forgetting them, but never able to add to them. One songwriting trick for getting through a blockage is to pick up a different instrument. So a few years ago I was noodling around on my banjo and sang the line, “there was a day when the big highway didn’t make it out this far. “ For whatever reason, this time the rest of the song unfolded for me. It is one of my favorites, and it gets a heartfelt response from audiences when I play it in a show.
My producer, Ron Sowell, chose the song for inclusion on the album as the imagery resonated with him and some of his experiences down in Putnam County, WV. While the banjo is absent from the production, I don't think it will be missed. Ron envisioned a powerful arrangement, and the musicians brought it to life.
Look for 'A Soul Can't Rest In Peace Beside The Four Lane' on Friday, February 18!