Bloomington musician Edward David Anderson recorded his new album "Chasing Butterflies" in the musically fertile Muscle Shoals, Alabama, area. He said he wanted to use musicians in that region to organically build and arrange his newly written songs.
He also wanted those songs to harken back to a simpler time, when people could disagree, even politically, without damaging friendships.
"Dog Days," "Best Part of Me," and the album's lead track “Harmony” reflect that idea.
She’s been singing songs with her mama since the age of three
She learned to sing the high parts sittin’ there on mama’s knee
Well they loved to sing together
It came natural, it was fun
Sang so many songs, their voices were like one
It’s a beautiful thing when two people sing
Anderson said “Harmony” came out of watching a Netflix documentary on the legendary Carter country music family.
“That first line is me singing about June Carter,” said Anderson. "And then I started thinking about it from a different angle about harmony that wasn’t necessarily about two human voices, like what about colors on a canvas and human beings living in harmony?”
In this political climate, it’s understandable that every lyric is now dissected for a partisan meaning.
“I feel I say what I want to say through the songs on this record,” said Anderson. “I don’t need to make some grandiose political statement and start some controversy. If you want to know how I feel, listen to these songs. And this song ("Harmony") is exactly how I feel about all this.”
The album’s title track deals with a gypsy lifestyle and the concept of home, something Anderson can speak to from years crisscrossing the country with his former band Backyard Tire Fire and now as a solo artist.
I was never one to follow
I was never one to fear
I keep good time to the beat of my own drum
I ain’t allowed in Texas
I smoke cigarettes for breakfast
It feels like half my life’s been on the run
Anderson said the song isn’t about him.
“The chorus is definitely something I can feel a little bit, but all the verses are about a friend of mine,” said Anderson. “He’s an older gentleman who has lived a very interesting life. He’s been married five times and been in and out of jail.”
Why write about him? Anderson said he was someone that used to play with him, and sensed the stories he told would eventually find their way into Anderson’s music.
“We were shooting a video for ‘Fireflies’ (a song from Anderson’s previous album). My wife was shooting and was trying to capture an image of a butterfly landing on a wildflower out near Saybrook. It was windy out on the prairie and she couldn’t get the shot, and I said, ‘This is like chasing butterflies on the wind.’ And I said, ‘That’s a song.’ But it’s also a metaphor for my friend's life,” said Anderson.
There’s so much to explore on this album. “Crosses” humanizes the “all the crosses by the side of the road” by reminding the listener they "were once people who will never get to grow old.” “Bad Tattoos” pokes fun at his inked up left arm.
If I had to choose
I’d do it all over again
Me and my bad tattoos
"The Ballad of Lemuel Penn" is a tough listen, and somewhat of a departure from other mostly upbeat songs on “Chasing Butterflies.” It’s a memorial of sorts to the 1964 murder of the decorated WWII veteran by members of the Ku Klux Klan. The July 11 killing was just nine days after passage of the Civil Rights Act. Anderson said he didn’t quite know why he wanted to write about Penn once he stumbled onto the story.
“Is it my place to tell that story? I don’t know, because he’s got family out there. The song just flew right out of me, but I was wondering if it was my place to tell that story. Ultimately I decided it was. I’m just basically giving facts, you know, like this is what really happened,” said Anderson.
Lt. Col. Penn and two good men
Drive off into the Georgia night
They were heroes in the war
But it was 1964
So they were looking to say out of sight
Unbeknownst to them three bad men
Were out late driving around
They saw the out of state tag
And the driver was black
So they followed him right out of town
Though he wrote the song in 2016, its release so near the conviction of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for murdering 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald is difficult to ignore.
“I think that’s partially what struck me, is that it’s still happening today,” said Anderson. “Unarmed young black men are still being gunned down. I want people to know who this guy was, and that he was a great man and was just senselessly murdered for no reason.”
It's probably one reason Anderson often prefers the company of canines. And he wrote about his on “Dog Days.”
“His name is Ernie, but for the last few years we just call him Bobby,” laughed Anderson.
He puts up with my fits
We never get into it
And he don’t care who is President
“Dog days for me are days you wish you could change places with your dog. And that happened to be one of those days. I think everyone has those days when you see this little guy sleeping on the sun and he just has no clue. And I’ve said this before, no offense to humanity, but I do prefer the company of canines to humans a lot of the time … they’re so innocent and don’t want to argue,” chuckled Anderson.
Edward David Anderson will play with a full band when he debuts “Chasing Butterflies” at the Castle Theatre in Bloomington on Friday, Oct. 19. The Bloomington rock 'n' bluegrass band Kickin’ & Pickin’ will open the show.
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