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O Beautiful for Spacious Skies

Amber Waves of Grain

America is a beautiful place. In fact, it’s a collection of beautiful places. From the Florida Keys to Maine; from the major Eastern cities to the Midwest; from the South to the wide open West– the people, the climates and the cultures all coalesce into our great Nation.

My early settler roots go all the way back to the American Revolution on my mother’s side of my family. My great aunt had a piano in her “parlor” on which “My Country ’tis of Thee” was written. My great grandmother was a leader in women’s suffrage; my early settler roots go way back. My father was the son of immigrants. One of millions of beautiful stories about people coming through Ellis Island, “yearning to breathe free.” My immigrant roots also go back. My lineages are different- and both are American.

I was born in England, so I am of dual citizenship. I have spent a lot of time in England over the years and I feel a great and strong connection to the UK. This, combined with my early settler and immigrant American backgrounds have caused me to think deep about America and what it means to be an American– almost in the third person.

My music is rooted in large part in Anglican hymns, from the church in which I was raised, the Episcopal church, which is also the church of England– an interesting compromise of my mother’s Protestant upbringing and my father’s Catholic background, combined, somewhat coincidentally, with their home Church for many years in Northern England. When I traced the origins of early American folk and blues music, I found more than a healthy dose of Anglican “church music,” and, accordingly, I named my music publishing and recording business “American Music Partners.”

All this to say that I feel very much American- as American as “apple pie” in many ways, and perhaps more quintessentially and “traditionally” American than many in our country who are hijacking our values and claiming we are racist, misogynistic, environmentally ignorant, homophobic and isolationist. We are not.

Our America is of a divided view right now. Most of this has to do with money. Wealth disparity has grown and is the result of unbalanced taxation and corporate greed on a global scale. Tipping this scale back will be difficult, but it must be done. Corporate greed has infiltrated almost every aspect of our society and has devastated the music industry. This is especially sad for young artists and creators who now, at best, stand to make less than a quarter of what my generation was able to make, and I’m not talking about “rock stars” here, just normal writers and performers. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores but I have gained extensive experience in the economics of music and I am confident in my assessment.

So what about hope? Well, it’s ALL about hope and it always will be. The enemy of hope is fear, and I, for one, refuse to live in fear. I will continue to create. I will continue to treat others with respect. I will continue to be a little more generous than I can probably afford to be. I will continue to believe in a better future and the possibility of change. I am an American and because of that I am, at heart, a rebel.

So to live this, in the coming weeks the van Gogh Brothers will be tracking their first recording since 2013. It’s a song called, “I’ve Been Wronged” — a timely, slinky, blues-rock number that I wrote earlier this month which sits squarely in the pocket of the van Gogh Brothers’ sound. Last fall I embarked on a mission to return to “solo” writing to create a new body of van Gogh Brothers work, and this is part of the result. I’ll track the acoustic guitar and vocal here in Malibu and Paul, Clayton and Steve will track at Woolly Mammoth in early February. We’re all very psyched about this!

And in April, the original van Gogh Brothers will return to Vincent’s Worcester  (Massachusetts) on Friday the 21st and to Cafe Betterley (in Sterling, MA) on Saturday the 22nd. We cannot wait for these shows!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I am hopeful about 2017. I believe we are undergoing a major, global psychic change, the results of which we are already seeing and will see more of in the coming months. Remember, we can each make the world a better place every day, one kind gesture at a time.

Go well,

JC