People ask about the songwriting inspirations all the time. Here are some of Dawn's comments for the songs on the For The Birds CD.
The title came from Don Happner, who also drew the chalk bird drawing used on the cover. As we were mixing, he pointed out that six songs had bird references and made the off-hand, teasing innuendo, “this album is for the birds”. I knew he was right!
Track 1: Chestnut and Cherry (5:22)
This is a great opening song because it reflects on "where I come from" - the special places of my childhood in southwestern Ontario. We lived in the country and across the road was a fruit orchard of cherry and apple trees. There were many spring days when I liked nothing more than to simply sit and breathe the blossom air in our yard. My extended family on my father's side lived in Kitchener and surrounding them were large chestnut trees in which we played regularly. I went back a few years ago and my my great joy (and amazement), the old mother tree was still there.
“On the corner of Chestnut and Cherry, the chestnut tree bends low. With gentle sways, she rocks the babes of birds she has come to know. She sweetens every bitter heart. Some even say she gave the start to the corner. … Just beyond the chestnut’s reach is the house where I was born. The stucco’s gray with coloured glass that winks at all who choose to pass by the corner”
Track 2: Bein’ Tender (4:29)
This song comes from my “life” philosophy that there is great strength in tenderness.
“High above the timberline I rescue my mind from the world’s embrace. Dusk comes in a burst of fire, the flowers retire to the mountains face …”
Track 3: If I Were A Bird (2:49)
This song comes from the “center” of my being. It is a wish of peace for you. The mark of a good musician is not how many notes s/he can cram into a second but how well s/he can shape one note through that second. It is as much about shaping the silence around the sound as it is shaping the sound. Don Happner’s “bird-like” movements in the second guitar part leave me in awe and with great respect for his outstanding musicianship.
“If I were a tender red-winged bird, I would take the anger that you feel for your world, I would take the redness on my wing, I would take it to the sun to burn through the hills at evening…”
Track 4: Moon Medicine (3:32)
I love singing jazz ballads so it comes as no surprise that I would write them. I wrote this as a Valentine's Day present to Don . I love the sound of a fretless bass - that smooth, sliding feel adds so much to the atmosphere.
“Lately it seems that all my dreams are of your kisses on my collar bone …”
Track 5: Gramma’s Apron Pockets (5:01)
This is my salute to the women of the world who give (or gave) their lives to their families. I used to clerk for a auction company and as I was getting ready for an estate sale, I overheard someone say, “Let’s go, it’s just junk here”. The “junk” was a table full of bake ware. There were well-used loaf pans, pie plates and cookie sheets that had seen the oven thousands of times. There was neatly mended linen and there were aprons. I realized that I was looking at all the material goods this woman left behind after a life in the kitchen, giving everything to her family. I thought of the women from my childhood and the love inside poured out onto the page.
“And love would pour out her oven door. That’s where time stood still. She always knew what to do to ease the trials the world put me through …”
Track 6: The Hungry Young (3:34)
This is a lament for life or lifelessness of the inner city. I love Don's repeating ‘sliding’ bass figure on the fretless which really adds to its kind of lonely atmosphere. Don is amazing to work with because he is so fabulous at creating atmosphere around my lyrics and melodies.
“Muted voice cries “Liberty!”, with the flag, fluttering in frozen freedom …”
Track 7: Rubber Galoshes (4:31)
Remember when you were young how much fun it was to splash around in puddles … then wade in right up to the top of your rubber boots, just to see how far you could go? I first released this song on a cassette back in 1995 but when Don came up with this hilarious mariachi guitar part, I just had to record it again.
“I never knew (plastic) pants so new could squeak with every step. My mom bought’em to keep my bottom dry when it gets wet! … I like the sloshes of rubber galoshes sloppin’ in the rain …”
Track 8: In The Moon of a Wintertime (3:11)
I love Canada's geography and the change of seasons. This is a love-lost ballad, highlighting the lonely beauty of winter. Don adds a great second guitar part to this with a real wandering feel, somewhat unusual for a ballad.
“In the moon of a wintertime, snow sugaring my face, night frost on a silver cobweb sparkles like a queen’s necklace. Northern wind like seasoned timber, you know she’ll never give. In the moon of a wintertime, got 20 more miles to live …”
Track 9: Cold September Rain (3:47)
Don and I love (and often perform) those old Brazilian bossa novas written by Jobim and Gilberto. Co-written with Don, this song uses an acoustic steel-string guitar played in a classical guitar style, reminiscent of those Brazilian sounds, only set in a more Canadian landscape. Don is featured with a beautiful, languorous, melancholy guitar opening. This was our first true songwriting collaboration and I enjoyed it so much, I’m not sure I’ll ever write completely on my own again.
“How hollow the wild reed. How brittle with frailty to green again in this cold September rain…”
Track 10: When the Whole World Marks Time (6:25)
I wrote this in response to the world domination of conservative thought. I thought about dropping this one from the CD because it is so sad (and long) but Don talked me into letting it stay.
"Where will I find peace of mind from the sounds of millions marking time, in these tender, treacherous and troubled times, when the whole damn world marks time? …”
Track 11: Quest For Freedom (4:16)
Most people list this as one of their favourites. I think it’s the drum. I did all the guitar work on this one and it was fun to stretch out as an instrumentalist for a little while. The song is about keeping art alive in daily life.
“Trust not the man who refuses to play in the sun. He won’t dance in the rain or spy as the birds feed their young. He’ll dirty the skies ‘til the sun burns out his own life and his quest for freedom, forever will be unknown”.