Because I don't play the violin it became more than just a minor discussion point when I insisted on having my father’s vintage instrument accompany me on the cover shot for the "Sighs of the Times" CD. Some opinions expressed concern about it leaving the impression that this is an album about a man with a violin, when the reality is more like it being a poet with a song. My wishes won out on the strength of the argument that it is, in a way, about the influence of a man and his violin.
My late father's violin figures prominently on the CD, thematically as well as actually. It is also a significant ingredient in who I came to be as a performer — be that choices of musical stylings, the importance placed on presenting content able to resonate in someone’s midnight hour as much as pleasing the listener in the moment, or even the creative channeling of emotion in environments where grown men don’t cry.
When I began to conceptualize the album, the recitation "My Father's Violin" was its thematic axis. Though the concept expanded to become an anecdotally sequenced essay on life passages, the violin hung around until it succeeded in insinuating itself into other pieces once the recording process began. Which is just as well, seeing it exists also at the core of my creative self, for reasons described more fully in the liner notes.
The violin has appeared with me on other stages, including at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. in 2011. Susan Freed and I, who had been in a group formed at the Steve Hurst School of Music years earlier when it was in Nashville, used the occasion of an appearance at its 20th anniversary celebration to unveil "My Father's Violin". The backing in that performance was different than what appears on the CD, however: one song ("Farther Along") instead of a three-song violin medley, and with well-known gospel pianist Josh Singletary providing accompaniment.
Dad’s violin began making appearances after decades of laying in its case, silenced by a snowmobile accident that rendered the fingers on his left hand unusable. Then came Alzheimer’s. And finally death. And yet I hear its voice, softly calling, in my midnight hour.
Neither the recitation nor its inclusion on the CD are intended as expressions of regret. (Though were there a regret I could identify it likely would be one associated with the thoughtlessness of youth: the times I tore through the house not noticing things such as the man with the violin sitting by the window in the fading light going over and over a passage he had just mastered.) It comes, instead, from a place of acknowledgment and is presented in the spirit of any artistic work: a visual lifted up so that the viewer might realize a truth.