Additional Liner Notes
Composer's notes on each song
. . . and then the light shone through - I first thought of this as the title for the song on December 14, 2020, when I was pretty much finished with composing it and we were getting ready to record. Two major events happened that day that affected everyone in the U.S.; the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered and Joe Biden officially defeated Donald Trump as confirmed by the electoral college.
These two things, that carried such an immense, negative emotional weight, were being lifted and hope for a more positive future was in sight with this day marked as a turning point. After a little more thought, I decided to give the album the same title and focus the album artwork around this theme.
G.G.G. - In 2012, I was in Malaysia, giving a series of presentations to music schools on a student model steelpan called the Jumbie Jam. This instrument has only 8 notes (the G major scale) and I wrote a short melody to play at each of the presentations to demonstrate its sound. I decided to take this melody and write a song with it. The first 10 bars of G.G.G. are the original melody.
My wife, who grew up in Malaysia, has a group of friends that have kept their relationships going, despite living in different countries, throughout their entire adult lives. Some of the women in the group have known each other since kindergarten but most since high school. They call themselves the Good Girls Gang, or G.G.G. Although the name of the group is a little cheesy, the fact that they have managed to stay friends is endearing.
Disappointment Ointment - I like the groove to this song. The slow, driving sixteenth notes have a reassuring and uplifting feel that puts me in a good mood. Once all the original band parts were recorded, I felt the song needed more, a change that would make the song stand out from all other songs on the album, and decided to write the horn parts and add the organ part.
North Coast Road - Trinidad’s most famous beach is Maracas Beach on Maracas Bay. It’s about a 35 minute drive from the capital Port of Spain via North Coast Road. North Coast Road was constructed by the U.S. Army in 1944 and for someone accustomed to driving on Midwestern flat land with few curves, NCR offers harrowing hairpin turns, steep inclines and drops, and is barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. There are some beautiful views of the ocean at the higher elevations but stealing a quick glance is all you get as the sheer cliffs and survival instinct keep your eyes on the road. The kind of experience that makes you feel exhilarated to have survived. Then you relax on the beach, do some body surfing, eat a bake n’ shark sandwich, and then get in the car to drive back. F-U-N!
As Old As She Was - Think of a time in your life when a family member had died. In most circumstances, the person was likely elderly, you felt the pain of loss, that that person was no longer there, but you could accept their passing as a part of life. My older sister Brenda died 6 days before her 43rd birthday. It was sudden and a shock. Brenda’s death was a life-changing event, in many different ways, for my whole family. As I approached 43 myself, I spent a lot of time thinking about how Brenda’s life was over at that point. It has been sobering to face the fact that I could die at any time, however unlikely it may be. I dedicate this song to the memory of my sister Brenda Heuer.
Waves (feat. Liam Teague) - This song was originally written in 2006 but without the Afro-Cuban 6/8 feel or double time feel changes. Prior to adding those changes the song just felt flat and uninspired. After I added those simple meter changes, without any changes to the melody, the song suddenly became a lot more fun to play. I wanted to have Liam Teague play on this song for several reasons: he is an amazing steelpan player (hailed as the”Paganini of the steelpan”) who I’ve admired for over 30 years, and I was confident he would give this song a real flair with a spectacularly flourishing ending. He did.
Songo Machismo - The first recording of Songo Machismo was started in 2013 but never finished. We had repeated issues with personnel changes that spanned several years which delayed restarting the recording process until 2019. Finally, after Jordan Kamps joined the band, we started our new recording project and Songo Machismo was one of the first songs we tracked. Unfortunately, Jordan had only started learning to play steelpan just two months before our first recording session. I decided to ask Jonathan Scales, a steelpan performer and composer of steelpan music whose work I've followed for years, to appear as a guest on our album to cover the steelpan part on Songo Machismo. He accepted my invitation and we’re happy to have his great playing and improvising on our album.
Maroon - I had had the first two minutes of this song in my head for years but was never able to develop it into a full composition. After many drafts and versions of this song I finally finished writing it towards the end of the recording process. The struggle was very much worth it and this is one of the songs I’m more proud of.
I do not have perfect pitch but some people with perfect pitch I’ve inquisitively spoken to regarding their innate ability, often talk about associating colors with pitches. When I was deciding on a title for Maroon, I thought about the color maroon, a darker red that matches the mood of the song well. It also has other characteristics and here is the description from www.99designs.com:
“Associated with passion and beauty, maroon is a warm color that evokes both relaxation and creativity. Bold ideas of strength and courage also go along with maroon.”
Menacing Fez - More people have commented on this title than any other title on the album. You can hear a Middle Eastern sounding scale called the Persian scale, which I’ve used previously on Yasmyn Blossom and The Mysteriousness of Her from our previous album, Global Impressions. I love this exotic sounding scale and Menacing Fez, is my next, but not last, song to use it.
Nothing But Trouble - My daughter Evelyn was 3 years old when I titled this song. The playfulness and character of the song remind me of Evelyn and I enjoy telling audiences that the song is named after my daughter. When she was 5, while at one of our performances, Evelyn was sitting in the front row and felt compelled to join the conversation I was having with the audience between songs, She raised her hand (something she had recently learned in kindergarten) and when I said, "yes Evelyn?", she replied, "I love you Daddy".
When A Delicate Mood Turns - A twist on a traditional cha cha with an odd meter section in the middle of the song. I used a conventional approach to the percussion parts and created a 7/4 version of the typical sounding congas, guiro and timbales with cha bell. I know that doesn't mean much to non-musicians but you'll have to create your own version of the cha cha if you try dancing to it. It's fun for us to see what people come up with when we perform for audience members who dance to our music.
Scott Johnson played double tenors on tracks 1 - 4, 7 - 8, 10 - 11, marimba on tracks 3, 5 - 6, drum set on track 9, percussion on track 4, pan solo only on tracks 5,9, marimba solo only on tracks 9,11, drumset overdubs on track 5
Terrance P. Peeples played drum set on tracks 1, 3 - 8, 11, percussion on track 9 - 10, marimba on track 10, tenor pan on track 2
Dr. Brooks Truly played marimba on tracks 1, 4, 8, 9, percussion on tracks 1,5 - 7, 10 - 11, drum set on track 2
Jordan Kamps played double tenors on tracks 5,9 marimba on tracks 7,11, percussion on tracks 1 - 4, 8, 10
Ron Stark played guitar on all tracks
Bob Ferraris played bass on all tracks except track 6
Liam Teague played the pan solo on Waves
Jonathan Scales played pan on Songo Machismo
Horns on Disappointment Ointment - Mark Heuer trumpet, Doug Daniels soprano sax and tenor sax, Ty Staehlin trombone
Strings on As Old As She Was - Charles Pikler violin, viola, Melissa Bauer cello
Bass on Songo Machismo - Tyler Seawood
All Songs composed by Scott Johnson
Produced by Scott Johnson
All songs recorded at Kiwi Audio, Batavia, IL
Tracking engineer for all songs except Disappointment Ointment and North Coast Road - Brad Showalter
Tracking engineers for Disappointment Ointment and North Coast Road - Dan Nichols and Mark Alletag
Engineer for additional tracking on Disappointment Ointment - Brad Showalter
Mix engineer - Brad Showalter
Mastering engineer - Nick Stetina
Album art - Melissa Bauer
Pok Ling Chin-Johnson
Dr. Rick Kuracz
Dr. Corey Harvin
Dr. Jim Yakas