Two Roads Home:
These are Bryan’s Handy Notes For the Tracks on Sweet Shadows
(with the occasional comment added by Abby)
Eyes Open (Words and Music Abby Zotz)
Dark, very dark, but challenges our concept of fear and honours its ultimate usefulness. I’ve always been interested in songs which exist under some sort of veil, and this is one of those songs. (Abby: that’s what he always says when he doesn’t get the song!) Very poetic lyric and haunting tune by Abby, kicked over the edge by a DADGAD riff that I carried around in my back pocket for a couple of years. Mix in some inspired performances - “lead bassist” David Woodhead, Alyssa Wright’s stunning cello, and ghostly harmonies featuring Katherine Wheatley - and the result is a pretty tasty mélange.
Call You Back (Words and Music Abby Zotz)
Inspired by the speed-picking style of “Some Journey” from our first record, fast fingers sound right at home on this great song by Abby. Jerry G. used to comment on how quickly my fingers moved when we played this song. Bryan may not play well, but he plays fast! The song runs three minutes forty seconds on the recording, but I’m trying to cut that down to a personal best of 3:35 when we play it live! Sweet brush strokes by Rick (Monsieur Roo-ah) Roy, and chugging rhythm & bluegrass-inspired riffs from Geoff Somers. Nice work, people! Btw, not only will Abby call you back, she’ll also leave you a pretty detailed message. Abby: True. But not funny.
The Briery Bush (Words traditional, music and arrangement A. Zotz and B. Williston)
Wow! We played this song live so many times, it’s great to finally get it on record! A true TRH song, with solo bits and harmonies, this is our take on “gallow’s pole” type tunes from the English folk tradition. The original text included about seventeen verses, where the young woman at the gallows thinks she sees everyone approaching from the Lord Mayor to the fishmonger to the clerk at the donut shop. Having mercy on the listener, and using very sharp knives, we were able to give you the highlights in a mere three verses! Features some very cool interplay between Geoff and Duncan on mandolin and fiddle! Abby’s voice absolutely soars! Abby: OK, you’re back in my good books.
Belief (A. Zotz)
A beautiful song by Abby, written for the Ban Righ Centre Awards Gala at Queens University. The Centre supports brave women who return to school often against incredible odds. A powerful lyrical prize - a message of hope and strength, gift-wrapped inside a deceptively simple melody. Begun on the first day of recording with James Gordon on October 25/06, it was to be the last time we would work with our dear friend and colleague, Jerry Gonnelly. Jerry is survived by his sweet and sensitive mandolin playing on this track, and I was honoured to have played a posthumous duet with him during the solo- something we had never done together in life. A gifted musician in Renaissance, celtic and traditional music, Jerry was at once abrasive, hilarious, cranky, complimentary, critical and supremely kind. Our lives are richer for having known him.
The Amphion (Words Holmes Hooke, Music Bryan Williston)
I first heard Holmes Hooke recite this piece as a poem in my home folk club, The Vital Spark, in Whitby, Ontario. Telling the story of a true-life ocean rescue carried out by living, breathing Canadians, “The Amphion” is a heroic tale of incredible courage. Inspired by the man and his work, I screwed up all of my courage after the show (I knew him, but not well), and asked Holmes if he would mind me setting the song to music. Generous fellow that he is, Holmes kindly gave his consent. The song went through a number of changes over time. When I first wrote the melody, I was working as a solo act, so the arrangement was a little sparse. All of this changed when TRH got their grubby little mitts on it! What you hear on the record is the result of years of working this song out live, as well as a great deal of creative work in the studio. Great ensemble playing by all involved, resulting in a pastiche that is part celtic, part maritime, and all Canadian!
Allison (A. Zotz)
Hawthornian imagery meets Lightfootesque melody meets Townshendian flourishes in this sonic free-for-all!. At the risk of getting all Sgt. Pepper on you, dear listener, please forgive us our momentary excess. This is a hidden gem from Abby’s back catalogue of songs, and we had an amazing time getting it ready for twenty-first century ears. Since we are not usually given to a great deal of production, it was an absolute thrill to work with our guest musicians on all of the layers that you hear on this track. Highlights include Abby and Katherine’s vocal interplay, and more amazing cello work from the highly talented and efficient Alyssa Wright. Not sure who this idiot ranting at the end is, though...
All songs SOCAN.
©Copyright 2006 Two Roads Home
Banks of the Sorrow (B. Williston)
Not much to say about this song that isn’t in the text itself. Grief, while painful, can also be sweet. Original concept by Jalaluddin Rumi, the Sufi poet of love. Setting transplanted to Black River, New Brunswick, where my grandparents lived and are buried. I sing this song and I am there, seeing the sights and smelling the smells, where fresh water rivers meet the salt of the sea. Beautiful gypsy violin by Geoff, and atmospheric accordion by our Mr. Gordon.
(A. Zotz, B. Williston)
Another poignant piece by one Abby Zotz, that honours friends both living and those who have passed on. The arrangement for this song evolved over time: Jerry and I used to double the little pull-off, hammer-on figure that you hear between verses. I distinctly remember playing this tune at the Free Times Café in Toronto, July 2005, and people singing along to that little guitar/mando bit. Very cool. It was also the night the neck nearly broke off my old Guild. Jerry, Duncan and Abby saved the gig by lapsing into a variety of celtic tunes while I frantically performed surgery (and later last rites) on that guitar. Good times.....
Nowhere But Somewhere to Hide (A. Zotz, B. Williston)
In the spirit of true collaboration! This song began as one line (“Hard times demand an open mind”) that I heard in a movie... Or was it on the bus? Or was it in the coffee shop? All I know is that it wasn’t uttered by me. Someone else is always writing my next song. The line lay dormant in my notebook for quite a while... Cut to rehearsal at Abby’s place, much, much later. Abby is strumming the chords from the old tune “The Rose & The Heather,” while I leaf through my notes. Something about the rhythm and the tune jump out at both of us. After a few aborted attempts at applying melody to my very sketchy notes, we both retreat to different corners of the house and write frantically for 20 minutes. With a few edits, our result that day is pretty much what you hear on the recording. This is Two Roads Home at its archetypal core: Abby the poet/dreamer, and Bryan the storyteller/retrospectivist. Enjoy!
The Country Lass (words traditional, music and arrangement by A. Zotz and B. Williston)
There is, of course, a message here: COUNTRY GIRLS RAWK!! This takes us back to our roots as adaptors of traditional folk. Abby looked up the text after hearing The Toronto Consort perform the song. We threw it into the TRH blender with an original tune and a country attitude, and set the whole thing to “purée.” With a bit of luck and a strainer, you can still see some of the original component chunks. Love the little violin plucks (thanks Geoff!), and the way the harmonica, violin and accordion play nicely and take turns during the break. Also, notice the sheer joy in Abby’s voice - you can take the girl out of the country, but....
Sorry the Day I Was Married (Traditional, arranged by A. Zotz and B. Williston)
Well, The Chieftains had a conflict the day we recorded this song, so we got Duncan Cameron instead! Luckily, Duncan is an amazing multi-instrumentalist who is single-handedly responsible for “celticizing” this tune. It also doesn’t hurt that this is a traditional Irish song! Abby and I cut our teeth as musicians playing love songs at weddings while we were in our teens, but we recognize that not all marriages are meant to endure. This song is the perfect foil to some of the ohsoverysweet songs of our youth. So if any of you would like us to sing at your un-wedding, you can reach us through the website!
The Pouting Porch (A. Zotz)
This song is pure Abby, and I am proud to be a part of it. Despite what she may have told you though, “extrication” is indeed a word - it is the noun form of the verb “to extricate,” meaning: 1. to free or release from entanglement; disengage: to extricate someone from a dangerous situation, and, 2. to liberate (gas) from combination, as in a chemical process. Abby will read this and laugh, but you and I know the truth. Abby: ask the drummer…he knows best!
Rollin’ Down to Old Maui (Traditional, arrangement by A. Zotz and B. Williston)
Like many of us, the first time I heard this traditional west coast whaling song was courtesy of Stan Rogers. We got into the habit of singing it at Toronto Pirate Festival ‘06 with Jerry & Rick, and occasionally with our friends in Ceol Cara. It seemed only natural that we would try to capture this song’s energy in the studio. This track was recorded live, late in the afternoon of October 25, 2006. Rick Roy plays his amazing percussive wooden box (the cajon), with Abby, Jerry and I gathered around a single microphone in the adjacent room. This track is important for a couple of reasons: it marks our final performance in that incarnation of Two Roads Home, and it is the last time we performed with Jerry Gonnelly. After we listened to the playback, Jerry left the studio to go home. It was the last time I saw him alive. The next day, Jerry suffered a bad fall down a flight of stairs. He died on November 10, 2006, from complications arising from his injuries.
We are so fortunate to have had a friend like Jerry. He was so integral to our sound, and was key in how we worked together. I won’t lie - there were times when we weren’t sure about the future of the act, or what we should do. We decided to forge ahead with this project, and I’m very happy that we did. When I hear the final track, I’m reminded of the good times and of all the wonderful music, and that we still have many roads to travel. Be good! -Bryan
All songs SOCAN.
©Copyright 2006 Two Roads Home