All instruments and vocals by Alson
5. "Dancing in the Dark" (Bruce Springsteen) – I came up with this arrangement years and years ago--maybe even 20 years ago. I've always been one to let the lyrics guide the music, and that's basically what this arrangement amounts to. It wasn't just about taking a fast song and making it slow. It's a wonderful song and one of my favorites to sing. I ended up working with/on behalf of the state of New Jersey for almost a decade. I was able to visit Springsteen's stomping grounds several times, and the Jersey Shore (the actual shore, not the "reality" show) came to mean a lot to me. I almost feel like the song attracted that job for me. Even though I'm very much a Kentucky boy, I always felt when I was in New Jersey, that's exactly where I needed to be. It's a beautiful state with some really fabulous folks who taught me a lot.
6. "Summer, Highland Falls" (Billy Joel) – From one of his earlier albums, Turnstiles, I picked this song because I love the piano part, and the melancholy lyrics are right up my alley. It's my understanding he wrote the song while living in Highland Falls, NY, during the same time he also wrote "New York State of Mind." I've done a lot of work across NY and in New York City. So, this was my nod to that.
7. "A Picture of Me (Without You)" (Norro Wilson & George Richey, recorded by George Jones) – My mom likes for me to sing this song for her. I've been singing it for years, and it just made sense for me to make a recording.
8. "Love Will Turn You Around" (Kenny Rogers, Thom Schuyler, & David Malloy) – This is probably my favorite of all of Kenny's songs. I love the lyrics, and I thought it might be fun to play around with the beat a bit. So, I did.
9. "On a Bus to St. Cloud" (Gretchen Peters) – For the past five years, I've done quite a bit of work in Minnesota and have been through St. Cloud several times on my way to visit my friend Renee and her brother and sister-in-law. All of the places mentioned in the song are significant to me, and I think it's a wonderfully visual song. This is another album highlight for me, personally.
10. "The One That You Love" (Graham Russell) – No disrespect to Air Supply, but I recorded this song as a sort of joke a long time ago. When I shared it with friends, they had a strong, positive reaction to it. And the more I listened to it, the more I came to better appreciate what a terrific song it is.
11. "Simple Man, Simple Dream" (JD Souther) – A few years back, JD did an album called Natural History, which was a collection of songs he'd written over the years, including a couple he wrote with/for The Eagles, re-recorded in a rather stripped-down way. Most all of the songs used only a guitar and/or piano. I loved the album because I imagined that's how those songs sounded when he first wrote them, and I think the best songs are the ones that can withstand an understated arrangement. In fact, that album is one of the main inspirations behind Points of Interest. "Simple Man, Simple Dream" was not on that album, but while looking through my Linda Ronstadt record collection, I came upon it and decided to include it because I had also been wanting to do one of her songs. My arrangement is more like Linda's than JD's. She obviously loved his songs because she recorded several of them, and a couple of her albums were named for them (e.g., Simple Dreams).
12. "Saturday Night" (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, & Bernie Leadon) – I love a good waltz, and this is a fantastic one! Waltzes give me a sense of nostalgia, and these lyrics play beautifully into that. From the Desperado album, I think this is one of their most underrated songs.
13. "Birds" (Neil Young) – Neil Young packs a lot of punch in his songs. "Birds" is one of many stellar songs from his After the Goldrush album, and I chose it because I thought its simplicity was the key to its power. I am particularly fond of Neil's songs and recordings because he often uses only piano or guitar, and he sings in my range.
14. "Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)" (John Denver) – There are two deceased celebrity musicians I miss dearly as if they were close friends or family, even though I never met them. One is Karen Carpenter and the other is John Denver. John wrote so many great songs and seemed like such a nice, gentle man. I picked "Some Days Are Diamonds" because I know it's one of Sandy's favorites. Mine too.
15. "Sky Blue and Black" (Jackson Browne) – I first heard this song at the end of an early episode of Friends. They only played one or two lines of it, but it was enough to hook me: "If you ever need holding, call my name and I'll be there." I think this song is a masterpiece. I think it's rare for a male writer to be able to write lyrics that are this heartfelt and vulnerable. Often when I'm on a beach, especially at sunset, I think about this song and sing it in my head. This may be my personal favorite track on the album.
16. "Put It There" (Paul McCartney) – We didn't have cable TV for a long time when I was growing up, but when my oldest sister started living on her own in Lexington, she would often record music videos and send them to me on VHS. One of those tapes included "Put It There," which had been recorded from CMT. The video was very sweet, as would befit the lyrics, and it always stood out to me even though it's probably one of Sir Paul's lesser-known songs. But then again, what a songbook he has! I didn't necessarily hear it as a country song, but I thought adding the banjo and handclaps worked well.
17. "Our Paths May Never Cross" (Merle Haggard) – I came across this song one day on Amazon Music, thanks to Alexa. It's straight-up country, but I think it has a nice jazzy tone.
18. "One Small Heart" (Mary Chapin Carpenter) – Oh mylanta! I could have picked any number of Mary Chapin's songs. She's one of my favorite songwriters. There are just so many that soak me to the core. "I Am a Town," "Only a Dream," "Where Time Stands Still," "The Moon and St. Christopher": the list goes on and on. Many of her songs seem to have been sparked from her travels and how those experiences have shaped the way she sees herself and the world around her. I really relate to that, and so that's why I decided on "One Small Heart." I love my home, but there is something particularly liberating, calming, and inviting about the open road.
19. "Why Me" (Kris Kristofferson) – Several months ago, I played for a funeral Mass at my church for a man I did not know. He knew he was going to die and had asked the priest if it would be OK to have a recording of Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me" played as a prelude. His request was granted. It was very moving, even if you didn't know the man, because the song is just so honest. A couple of weeks later, it was the deacons' turns to do the weekend preaching, and Deacon Snyder came to me and said he'd like to include that song as part of his sermon, which I thought was a fantastic idea because the song is a sermon in and of itself. He just asked if I would cue the CD and press play when the time came. I said, "Sure. I can do that. But would you like for it to be played and sung live? I can do that, too." He looked at me, surprised. That idea had not occurred to him. He said, "I think that might be very effective." So, that's what we did. He went into his sermon, and he cued me when to play and sing the song. Both the song and the sermon were well received, and for weeks afterward, "Why Me" stuck in my head. I knew I wanted to end the album with a gospel song, and I finally decided that "Why Me" was the perfect choice. I've known that song most all of my life, but it's not one I remember ever having sung before. I'm glad I included it here.
1. "Southern Accents" (Tom Petty) – Southern accents are very stigmatized, and I like how this song makes some positive associations and creates some powerful imagery.
2. "Nick of Time" (Bonnie Raitt) – "Life gets mighty precious when there's less of it to waste." That just about says it all. This song hits home with me probably more so than any other song on the album. But I do have to say that I love how she turns it around with the last verse, giving it a hopeful message.
3. "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" (Jim Croce) / "Hello Again" (Neil Diamond" – As I was going through my music library trying to decide which songs to record, I knew I wanted to pick a Jim Croce song and a Neil Diamond song, but I wasn't sure which ones. Somehow these two got stuck in my head, and I realized that blending them together made perfect sense.
4. "The Circle Game" (Joni Mitchell) – Joni Mitchell is an incredible poet who just happens to be a heck of a musician. I chose "The Circle Game" because it makes me think of my niece and nephews as well as my own journey around the seasons.
Points of Interest – Track Listing
Brief Commentaries Regarding the Song Selections
There are many ways to pour your heart out through music. With my debut album, Small Town Scars, I wrote songs that in one way or another told my story in terms of some of the people and experiences that shaped my life. With Points of Interest, the idea was to select songs I wish I had written because they are so personal to me, particularly with regard to the past several years of my life.