You Can’t Get There From Here

I was daydreaming out my kitchen window, staring at the new I-64 road construction, when Ray yanked the guitar from my hands to show me how to properly make the Hendrix chord. “You can’t get there from here,” he said with a wry chuckle. A partially-lit Lucky Strike bounced in Ray’s mouth as he prattled through the sound of each note in the chord, while he raked his thumb-pick over the strings on his Gretsch Country Gentleman.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“What are you…eight now? You’ll figure it out when you get older.”

“It doesn’t sound right.”

“What’s that?”

“The chord.”

“That’s because Jimi played a Strat.”

Ray handed me the guitar to make another attempt, as he dug through his pants pockets for his Zippo lighter. I grappled for the next few minutes, fingering the new chord to no avail. After about ten minutes of smoke-filled mumbling, Ray packed up his guitar, stuffed my mother’s twenty-dollar bill into a ragged leather wallet and headed back towards Morehead, Kentucky. The tail lights on his 63 Rambler were barely out of sight before I forgot half of what he taught me, but I distinctly remember him saying, “you can’t get there from here.” Sometimes I wonder if he was right.

Guitar lessons were hard to come by in Grayson, Kentucky, during the 60s and 70s. Life lessons even more so. A restless spirit and a healthy dose of childhood curiosity often conflict with worldviews limited by fundamentalist religion and cultural mobility. I know mine did. As an only child, the experience of growing up in a small town with a small family certainly had its advantages—but also there were limitations. Looking back, I’m pretty sure Ray was taking full advantage of the ambiguity in language, in the form of a pun. But I knew U.S. Route 60 went somewhere, although the end of that highway was unknown to me at the time. I figured there was only one way to know: find out for myself.

I experienced a considerable amount “find out for myself” over the years. A short-lived football scholarship to the University of Kentucky got me out of Grayson, but those hard-to-come-by guitar lessons, countless hours of practice, and three CDs worth of songs have taken me around the world a few times. This universe’s pale-blue dot got a little smaller in my eyes, compared to the view from my kitchen window during my childhood.

At some point in life, I began to write my adventures in the form of songs, short stories, and poems. I’ve been lucky enough to record some of those adventures over the years, which is always an experience in and of itself.

My latest venture into the unknown is a new eleven-song CD entitled Hallowed Ground. The songs and sounds are wrought from the metaphysical ore of Appalachian Christian fundamentalism, Deep South racism, drugs, deceit, disappointment, and death. This third effort is an attempt to dig deeper into the soul, extricate life’s demons from their dark corners, and drag them out into the Platonic light masked by vague shadows cast upon life’s cave walls. Many of these wrath-filled, guitar-infused stories attempt to summon the wild-eyed emotion of a Southern roadside tent revival—where there’s no chance for a tortured soul to find redemption, with one determined to unearth the truth. There’s also a lighter side.

All the songs on Hallowed Ground stem from personal experience or observation, and I’m happy to share them with you. I think the best aspect of life comes by way of personal experience; the second best is sharing that experience with someone else. A shared experience might be an intimate moment with a loved one, or a story, song, or poem shared with a perfect stranger. My hope is that you find a bit of yourself in these songs and take a ramble down that path with me—wherever it may lead.

Maybe Ray was right: maybe you can’t get there from here, but it sure is fun trying.