Liner notes for IN THIS CIRCLE Album

Marshal and JamesBrand New Day

Music by Marshal McKitrick & James McKitrick/ Lyrics by Marshal McKitrick
Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocals-acoustic rhythm guitar
Paul Schwabb/ lead guitar
Frank Huizar/ bass
Brian Rogers/ drums
Ken Berger/ B3 organ

Song style & theme: Upbeat dance tune with Spiritual Positivity

I have learned that every day is a “brand new day”, full of possibility and promise. I sing this song as a positive affirmation to remind myself and others of this. I can re-start my day when it’s going sideways or not the way I would prefer. This one’s for you, James! “Just shake it off, ‘cause it’s a “Brand New Day…”
To read more about this song in my blog, click here.

You Have Come Here for a Reason

Written by George F. Peckham & Marshal McKitrick

Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocals-acoustic guitar
Tom Charlesworth/ piano
Frank Huizar/ bass
Brian Rogers/ drums

Song style & theme: mid-tempo folk-country/ Spiritual Collective

I have been doing my best to “live my life’s purpose” since I was a young man. My good friend, George, is one of my favorite song writers. He had written the bulk of this song and I had played it with him a few times until, one day, I was inspired to sing what became the second verse. That’s exactly how song writing magic happens with spontaneity and joy! The other surprise came in the studio when Brian and Frank came up with a country two-step for the chorus. And, I love Frank’s rubbery bass line that shows up here and there. Nicely done, guys!

Thread of Love

Written by Marshal McKitrick
Credit: Inspired by William Stafford, “The Way It Is,” reprinted in Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems. Copyright © 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocals-acoustic guitar-acoustic guitar w/60’s pedal effect
Chuck Breitsprecher/ flugelhorn
Frank Huizar/ fretless bass
Meadowlark street choir: Dena McKitrick, Jeralynn Strong, Karene Piccolo, Joe E. Franklin, Chris Conyers
Song style & theme: folk ballad/ Spiritual Anthem

I’ve been honored to be a member of the Noah Project in Berkeley since the early 2000’s and have enjoyed many a fine evening of singing with Doug von Koss and my Noah Project brethren. The seed for this tune was planted one evening in the soul-soaked soil of harmonies and an old upright piano. It was inspired by a poem written by William Stafford, one of my all-time favorite poets. Over time, the rest of the song was birthed at home. I recall bringing it back later to the sacred singing circle to share with my singing compadres. We sang it in an upstairs room in Richard Naegle’s old house on a magical rainy evening and it was perfect! To read more about this song in my blog, click here.

When I finally got around to recording Thread of Love in the studio, four folks from my spiritual community joined myself and Dena to sing the chorus together around the microphone. And, on this glorious day, the Meadowlark street choir came to life! I extend my warm gratitude to Joe E. Franklin, Karene Piccolo, Jeralynn Strong, and Chris Conyers, as well as Dena. You all brought my folk choir vision to life on this spiritual anthem. It was a joy to witness all five of you, working and singing together. Bravo!

Also, kudos to my men’s group buddy, Chuck Breitsprecher, who blessed us with an appearance in the studio to add the melodious voice of his flugelhorn and make this beautiful ballad even sweeter. Thank you, Chuck!

 

First Secret (for Stella)

Words by Jason McKitrick & Marshal McKitrick/ Music by Marshal McKitrick

Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocals-acoustic guitar
Ken Berger/ B3 organ

Song style & theme: sensitive ballad/ Fatherhood (family)

This song was inspired by a poem written by my oldest nephew, Jason (aka Jake), for his oldest daughter, Estella (aka Stella). She was named in honor of her great-grandmother (and, my mother), Jean Estella McKitrick. I had a deep conversation with Jake some years back while we were both visiting my parent’s house in Manassas, Virginia. We were talking about the power of creative expression and music and he mentioned that he had written some poetry. After asking him if he would be willing to share some of it with me, I received three poems that he had written for each of his children; Estella, Ben, and Pilar.

Eventually, I transformed his first two poems into songs and this album includes First Secret (for Stella). I plan to record First Secret (for Ben) down the road and include it on my next album. Pilar’s poem has yet to inspire a song through me. It seems my songwriting Muse has not yet whispered in my ear about that one. I offer my humble apologies to Jake and Pilar, along with my hopeful anticipation of that final song arriving, so this family trilogy may be completed.

Gaia’s Voice

Written by Marshal McKitrick & Doug von Koss

Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocal-acoustic rhythm guitar
Ken Berger/ B3 organ
Frank Huizar/ fretless bass
Brian Rogers/ drums

Song style & theme: groovin’ lope-along/ Spiritual/ Natural World

This tune is yet another Noah Project inspiration. One evening, Doug introduced a new song that became the seed for a song I later titled, Gaia’s Voice.

I am a small green plant, I am a lake on the plain, I am alive, I am alive
I am a flying bird, I am a diving fish, I am alive, I am alive

I was so inspired by this short piece that I was compelled to flesh it out. So, I wound up making it the chorus for a larger song that included verses and a bridge. I’ve had this experience before. When I hear a great short song, it just begs to be expanded on. I like to give it more elbow room in this big musical universe. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Doug and the men of the Noah Project. “I have had singing…!”

To read more about this song in my blog, click here.

Daddy’s Symphony

Written by Marshal McKitrick

Dad and my brother Brad at the piano

Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocal-acoustic guitar
Tom Charlesworth/ piano

Song style & theme: mellow folk ballad/ Family Album & connections

I’ve heard so many great father-son songs over the years (ex. Father & Son by Cat Stevens or Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin). So, this time it was my turn to write my own. This tune turned out to be another “family album” with appearances by my sister (who got me started on playing guitar) and my son (he’s a serious and competent writer himself). My father’s greatest gift to me was the love of music. I always get that happy-sad feeling when I listen to or sing Daddy’s Symphony. Even though he and I never got to play this song live together as a duet, I was able to create that feeling in the studio with Tom’s elegant piano on this track. I can see Dad’s tender visage as the notes flow.
[Note to Dena: insert photo of Myron and Brad at the piano from the blog post below.]
To read more about this song in my blog, click here.

Familiar Strangers

Written by Marshal McKitrick

Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocals-acoustic guitar-Kurzweil piano

Song style & theme: quiet folk ballad/ Relationship Journey

O.K., I admit it. This is just one more love song added to the growing mountain of love songs already in existence. However, it’s NOT “silly.” For me, it comes from a deeper place of how human relationships are interweavings from the past. Sometimes, I think of it as a “karmic love song.” The original recording of this tune was done with my partner in music, Christian Heilman, after he had closed down his friendly Sacramento recording oasis, Bender Studio. We had one session at another local musician’s studio and I recorded two tracks of guitar and vocal. It was our last time working together before he moved to Seattle. That session primed the pump for me to come back later and finish the musical production. Guess it was an opportunity for a “do over.”

This one was sparked during the time when I was attending Sacramento City College back in the mid 80’s. I would leave the campus and cross Freeport Blvd. to walk through William Land Park, so I could get to my parked car. I literally passed by a couple standing under the trees and talking with each other. Suddenly, “Bam!”, a phrase started to come to me. “The geometry of bodies in the quiet sunlit places, I can hear the couple talking with their eyes.” It might have helped that I was in the process of taking an Elementary Algebra class at the time. I figure if it works, use it.

No Changing the Truth

Written by Marshal McKitrick

Personnel: Marshal/ lead vocal-acoustic rhythm guitar
David Clark/ mouth harp
Frank Huizar/ bass
Brian Rogers/ drums

Song style & theme: rockin’ blues/ Spiritual with an attitude

No Changing the Truth is my personal homage to the great American folk songwriter, Bob Dylan. It reminds me of his classic song Everything is Broken, from his 1989 album titled Oh, Mercy. The title holds a dual meaning for me. First, Truth is Truth and there’s no way to change it, as in “The Truth doesn’t care who speaks it…” At the same time, there is “no change in the Truth,” no matter what happens in the world.
This tune features the smokin’ harp of David Clark, a long-time member of a local blues band called The Soul Shakers. Even though the band broke up in the last few years, Dave still has his chops. Rock on, brother!

To read more about this song in my blog, click here.

Water, Mountain, Sky

Written by Marshal McKitrick

Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocals-acoustic guitar-Kurzweil strings
Alan Klein/ 2nd acoustic guitar
Jon Merriman/ lead guitar & “mandolin flutters”

Song style & theme: folk ballad/ Spiritual Seeker/ Natural World

Jon Merriman - contemporaryThis is my earliest written song that has made it into the new century. Now, that’s longevity! This one came to me in my early 20’s while I was at a spiritual retreat somewhere in Washington state. I was sitting on the edge of a lake on a quiet afternoon with my guitar and looking over the water at the mountains in the distance. And, in that peacefulness, the song just naturally flowed simple and elegant, “Water, mountain, sky and here sit I.” I think it helped that I was meditating on a daily basis, along with other spiritual practices, so I was tuned in to a greater vibration of life. It’s true that the lyrics have changed a bit over the years, as I have matured. However, it still holds that original energy of clarity and serenity.

This tune features the lead guitar stylings of my long-time musical friend and all-around good guy, Jon Merriman. He last appeared on my Older and Wiser album to play on another ballad of mine, Four Corners. When Jon plays guitar, I feel his honesty and exuberance for life shining through. Yes! Also, this tune features some tasty & clean acoustic guitar playing from my Harmony Brother, Alan Klein. Hey, why limit a song to only two guitars when three is even better?

It Ain’t Natural

Written by Marshal McKitrick, Dena McKitrick, & Jeralynn Strong

Personnel: Marshal/ lead vocal & acoustic rhythm guitar

Dena McKitrick & Jeralynn Strong/ lead vocals
Paul Schwab/ lead guitar
David Clark/ mouth harp
Brian Rogers/ drums

Song style & theme: country kickin’/ Social conscience with humor

This song is dedicated to the spirit of Fair Play Farm, along with all the unsung and unknown organic gardeners and farmers and conscious souls who work in harmony with Mother Earth and her multi-faceted web of Life, both in the country and in the city. Together, we are co-creating a new world for all to share in joy and abundance.
I see this as a folksy protest song with a sense of humor that helps the message go down easy. It Ain’t Natural is a “problem-solution” song, especially with the suggestions included in the last verse. “Now, that’s what I call natural!”

Everytime I play this song from the album, I get happy listening to Paul Schwab’s country picking lead guitar. The guitar solo sounds straight outta’ Nashville to me. Yeehaw!

To read more about this song in my blog, click here.

Breaking the Chains

Written by Marshal McKitrick

Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocals-acoustic & electric rhythm guitar-Kurzweil piano
Paul Schwab/ lead guitar
Frank Huizar/ bass
Brian Rogers/ drums

Song style & theme: mid-tempo rocker ballad/ Family “Workshop”

I’ve done a lot of healing work around my family of origin experience. Although I wrote a few other songs on this topic when I was a younger man, this one is from a different perspective. Energetically, it feels like a blend of my younger, intense self with my older, relaxed self. So, even though the musical arrangement has a heavy tone, the lyrics speak to the place I find myself in at this point in my life. The bottom line is I’m grateful for the support I have received from other men in doing my own work to grow and deepen into the man I was born to be.

On this track, once again Paul Schwab lays down just the right lead guitar work to help bring across the message of the song. You rock, dude! It’s a joy to work with a talented lead guitar player such as yourself!

O.K., time for a little behind-the-scene recording studio story. I had been struggling with the overall sound for Breaking the Chains since Paul had recorded the lead guitar solo track. I thought it still needed more lead guitar work in other parts of the song and it just wasn’t working out. At some point, I had the creative inspiration to try adding a keyboard track. So, I had Ed set up his Yahama DX-7 keyboard with the Kurzweil Midi interface. At first, I tried the Hammond B3 sample and played a few takes. It sounded o.k., however, it just wasn’t happening musically. Then, I chose to take Ed’s suggestion to try out the piano sample. Bam, that’s exactly what was needed! I had a great time rockin’ out with stabbing chords and even adding a downward glissando near the end of the song. More importantly, I was having fun! Ah, the joys of creative expression. Gotta’ love it!

P.S. In my musical imagination, I hear a band like Aerosmith or Bon Jovi playing this power ballad. Who knows, it could happen?

Beauty Rises Forth

Written by Marshal McKitrick

Personnel: Marshal/ lead & harmony vocal-acoustic guitar
Bruce O’Brien/ bansuri flute
Alicia Patrice/ harmonium

Song style & theme: dreamy & meditative/ Eastern Spiritual/ Natural World

Beauty Rises Forth was born out of a visit to the Garden of Saints which is located at the Vedanta Society of Sacramento. Most noteworthy for me were the lotus blossoms out in full bloom in a pool under Grandmother willow tree. Dragonflies danced above and around the lotus flowers. And, I was delighted to see large koi fish drifting lazily in the pool below.

The essence of Beauty Rises Forth is in its chorus. “From the mud deep below, Beauty rises forth. Out of Great Mystery blossoms Divine worth.” As I stood by the sacred pool, taking in the stunning beauty, I visualized the lotus blossom roots down in the mud below the water. I considered how similar human spiritual growth is to those lotus blossoms. I concluded that the lotus blossoms must have mud, water, koi fish, and dragonflies to support their growth. In a similar way, I have the roots of my physical being grounded in the mud of this physical world. Out of that muddy matrix of life, I’ve grown. I am supported by the rich nutrients as I continue to evolve as a human being. Finally, I am empowered to express my Divine worth to the world and my Creator via the blossoming of my own soul. May you always be reminded of and guided to your own beauty among the garden of Great Spirit…

To read the full article about this song in my blog, click here.