Gordon Thomas Ward | Welcome to the Past

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Folk: Folk-Rock Folk: Modern Folk Moods: Featuring Guitar
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Welcome to the Past

by Gordon Thomas Ward

This collection of acoustic and evocative tracks features a variety of moods and tempos ranging from an ethereal, introductory instrumental to memorable ballads, story-songs, and anthems performed in a solid, folk rock style.
Genre: Folk: Folk-Rock
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Equinox
1:42 $0.99
2. Welcome to the Past
3:48 $0.99
3. Hardscrabble Life
6:37 $0.99
4. For Emily
6:53 $0.99
5. Falling Stars
5:42 $0.99
6. Among the Yellow Leaves
4:42 $0.99
7. The Tale of Phyllis Parker
9:23 $0.99
8. Séan's Song
3:09 $0.99
9. Southern Man
8:06 $0.99
10. Rockabye
8:31 $0.99
11. Grandfather River
5:38 $0.99
12. Sky
2:20 $0.99
13. Best and Last
5:57 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The songs on this CD feature singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gordon Thomas Ward on lead and harmony vocals, 6-string grand concert guitar, 6-string jumbo guitar, 12-string jumbo guitar, classical guitar, 6-string Nashville high strung guitar, 8-string chromatic bass walkabout dulcimer, and percussion. Some of the songs are accented by musical contributions by a few special guests on National steel guitar, banjo, bass, vocal harmonies, and snare drum. The CD was recorded by and mixed by Eric Troyer at Charlestown Road Studios, Hampton, NJ. It was mastered by Paul Wickliffe at Skyline Productions, Warren, NJ.

Here’s a list of the CD’s tracks and their topics.

1. “Equinox” is an instrumental.
Gordon Thomas Ward: 6-string grand concert guitar, classical guitar, and wind chimes.
This piece was composed in 1977, and I was asked to play it for a wedding processional not long after that. When I decided to include this on the CD as an introduction piece, the guitars were tuned down to a half step in order to fit the key for the transition into “Welcome to the Past.”

2. “Welcome to the Past” is the title track about valuing one’s own legacy.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead and harmony vocals, 6-string jumbo guitar, and 12-string jumbo guitar.
This tune was written pretty quickly when it popped into my head one day. It wound up not only becoming the title track but one of my wife’s favorite songs on the CD as well. The reference to “the bit of earth you claim” is a nod to my book A Bit of Earth.

3. “Hardscrabble Life” honors the layers of history that create a sense of place.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead vocals and 6-string grand concert guitar.
I spend my childhood near Hardscrabble Road, an area in Bernardsville, NJ, that is steeped in history. The road got its name due to the difficult, rocky soil that was farmed by the region’s early settlers. It seems that the groups of people who lived in the area before and since that time have all struggled with adversity. These include the members of the Lenape tribe whose unmarked graves fill the hillside above Indian Graves Brook, the Revolutionary War soldiers who braved the winter encampments, the laborers in the mills and fields when the area was called Logtown, and the workers at the large estates of the early 20th century. This song gives each of these groups of people a voice to tell their story.

4. “For Emily” pays respect to the women (and men) who serve in the military.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead and harmony vocals, 6-string grand concert guitar, 6-string jumbo guitar, and 12-string jumbo guitar. Keith Goellner plays the snare drum, and Maggie Fischer added the whisper on the last chorus.
I was playing variations of G and C chords…just strumming, really…and I got this idea about telling the story of a girl who grows up to become a soldier. Women in the military aren’t really the subject of many songs, which made the topic even more appealing to me. I found the sound effect of the drill sergeant and thought it would make a good introduction, but I still wanted more of a military feel and decided a snare drum would do the trick. My friend Keith was gracious enough to lend his drumming talents to this track, but, while this song goes out to all our soldiers, this song about Emily called out for a woman’s touch. Maggie’s whisper made it perfect and all the more poignant. Some people have asked me if Emily is a real person. She’s actually bits and pieces of a few people I know. I didn’t grow up knowing one girl named Emily, but her persona can be found in the face of every woman in the armed forces.

5. “Falling Stars” deals with the end of an aging dancer's career and serves as a metaphor for life’s transitions.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead and harmony vocals and 12-string jumbo guitar. Eric Troyer: bass. Tom Rosenthal adds the perfect flair to this song with his flute.
I wrote this song at the age of sixteen. I remember being in high school and watching a friend of mine dance on the school’s stage. She was much admired for her abilities and even seemed to have groupies. When she sustained an injury, her dancing abilities became compromised. It was one of the first times I remember thinking that life can throw curves at you and alter abilities that are often taken for granted. While the song isn’t about my friend, her injury inspired this story about an aging dancer whose career becomes eclipsed by the talent and abilities of younger artists. In a sense, this song and its metaphors apply to us all.

6. “Among the Yellow Leaves” is a tribute to the life of poet Robert Frost.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead vocals and 6-string grand concert guitar. Maggie Fischer added her fluid voice on harmonies.
I was out for a walk with my wife and dogs along the Black River near my home in the autumn of 2012 and was impressed by the beauty of the yellow leaves. I associated the yellow leaves with the poetry of Robert Frost and was compelled to write a song about him. My approach was to tell a story by using the titles and subject references from Frost’s poems. There are twenty-six of them. Can you find them? (Repeated verses and choruses don’t count.) I consider this to be one of the most beautiful songs on the CD.

7. “The Tale of Phyllis Parker” reveals a tragic love story associated with a haunted tavern.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead and harmony vocals, 6-string grand concert guitar, 6-string jumbo guitar, 6-string Nashville high strung guitar.
There is a building in Bernardsville, NJ, that used to be the town library. Built in 1750, it is associated with one of the most famous ghost stories to come out of the time of the American Revolution. You can read all about the history, the story, and the paranormal investigation I’ve done at this building in my book Ghosts of Central Jersey. I had finished reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Haunted Houses” and had a couple lines stuck in my head.
All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.
I was noodling around with a picking pattern on an Am chord, and just started writing. By the time the song hit the recording studio, I had decided to add the wind sound effect to create the spooky setting for telling a ghost story. I enjoyed weaving together the different guitar parts in this song.

8. “Séan’s Song” remembers a lost friend and gives hope to others.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead and harmony vocals, 6-string jumbo guitar.
I wrote this song in fifteen minutes when I was nineteen after hearing about the suicide of one of my friends. However, it never felt like it was me writing it. It poured out of me so quickly that I could barely get pen to paper fast enough to keep up with the music and lyrics that were spilling out of my head. Séan was a talented piano player who used to play on our high school’s piano in the auditorium during free periods and after school. He and I jammed a couple times at a friend’s house. Séan was the first of my contemporaries to pass away, so it made a huge impression on me. The line in the song about him being a “wayward son” references a song that he loved at the time, “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas. I didn’t want to have the loss of his life be glorified or become the sole focus of the song because choosing to take one’s life is never the right choice, so I twisted the lyrics around to be those that can offer hope as well. I played this song for the first time in public at a gathering that some friends and teachers had for Séan in a church across the street from our high school. Godspeed to you, buddy. If you like the song, play along…it’s in C, your favorite key.

9. “Southern Man” reveals the arguments and the lessons learned from our country’s division during the Civil War.
Gordon Thomas Ward lead and harmony vocals, 6-string jumbo guitar, and percussion. Eric Troyer: bass drum. My friends Jim Kurzenberger (five-string banjo), and Dave Shapiro (National steel slide guitar) contributed much to the feel of this song.
This is my Civil War anthem. Truth be told, I wrote this song when I was sixteen. I was in a rock band at the time called Whipsaw. It was originally written as a balls-to-the-wall, hard-hitting, power chord rock song with drums, and electric guitars and bass. Audiences liked the song at the time. Thirty-eight years later, I decided to rewrite the song, make it acoustic, add a couple more verses, change the chorus section of the verses a bit, and add a repeating bridge. I wanted to create the ambiance of a handful of guys playing instruments on a porch of a backwoods farmhouse. I knew Jim from high school, and Eric introduced me to Dave. The combination ended up being exactly the sound I was hearing in my head. Eric added the bass drum to fit the rhythm I had in mind, one that also, with a little imagination, doubles as cannon fire. The chains were added by me for percussion and to represent the issue of slavery during the Civil War. I borrowed the chains from the entrance to a church cemetery. The verses of the song switch back and forth – north talking to south and south to north. In the end, the hope is that we will stand as one in peace, having learned the lessons of this conflict which claimed the lives of 750,000 Americans. See if you can find the quoted phrase from Abraham Lincoln in the lyrics.

10. “Rockabye” is the ghostly lullaby of a steam train’s engineer.
Gordon Thomas Ward lead and harmony vocals and 6-string grand concert guitar. Eric Troyer added the cymbals, which sound amazingly like the hissing and the bell of a steam train.
From 1888-1917, there used to be an American short line railroad that ran in front of the house where I now live. Named the Rockaway Valley Railroad, it was affectionately known as the Rockabye Baby Railroad because its low quality construction allowed the cars to rock its passengers and freight back and forth along the route. The last of the tracks were torn up in 1963, but parts of the railroad bed can still be seen in the woods and fields. I use a good deal of railroad terminology in the song. “Glory road” is a sentimental term for railroad. An “eagle eye” is another name for locomotive engineer. “Indian Valley Line” refers to an imaginary railroad "at the end of the rainbow," on which you could always find a good job and ideal working conditions. (It doesn’t refer to the former, twenty-one-mile railroad of that name between Paxton and Engels, Calif.) The term is also sometimes used to mean death or a railroader's heaven. On one moonlit night, I was imagining what it was like to be the engineer of one of these steam trains. I’d been told a local story about being able to hear the phantom sounds of the Rockabye train on certain evenings. I didn’t need much more than that to get me going. The song is told from the perspective of an engineer’s ghost who continues to ride the rails, his “glory road, beneath the sky.”

11. “Grandfather River” tells about the journey of explorers Lewis and Clark.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead and harmony vocals, 6-string grand concert guitar, and 8-string chromatic bass walkabout dulcimer. David Rimelis contributed his artistry on fiddle, and Eric Troyer added the shaker, bass, and hand claps.
In 1994, I retraced 1,800 miles of the Lewis and Clark Trail by bicycle, foot, and canoe. The life-changing experience ended up being told in my book Life on the Shoulder. In the spring of 2013, I was playing the riff to this song on my porch. It sounded catchy enough to develop a song around it. I had always wanted to write a song about the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806). After all, how many Lewis and Clark songs do you know? Yeah, I don’t know of any either. It took me a day or so to write the tune and another week to refine the lyrics. In the early 1800s, the Native Americans used to say that the Missouri River had a grandfather spirit. Since the Missouri River is the river on which Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the rest of the “Corps of Discovery” began their exploration, I thought “Grandfather River” was a fitting song title. It was lots of fun adding harmonies to this song.

12. “Sky” is about hearing the call of home in an Appalachian spiritual song style.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead and harmony vocals, 8-string chromatic bass walkabout dulcimer. My friend Maggie Fischer added her beautiful lead and harmony vocals to this track as well.
I wrote this song in 45 minutes while on a run in May of 2013. This is another song that felt as if someone else was writing through me. The whole song just appeared out of nowhere in this Appalachian spiritual style. I’m referring to heaven when I mention “sky” and “love,” but I suppose they could represent whatever or whoever you’d like. The instrument I’m playing was custom-built for me by Kevin Jones, owner of the Olympia Dulcimer Company. The walkabout is basically a dulcimer that has been turned on its side and redesigned to have a neck, body, and a chromatic fingerboard (optional). You end up getting a dulcimer sound out of an instrument that plays like a guitar or mandolin. I’m very pleased with the blending of the instrument’s sound with our voices on this track. Maggie Fischer takes the lead vocal on the bridge. The end chord was accomplished by Eric Troyer by recording and then reversing the sound of a walkabout strum blended with some strings.

13. “Best and Last” is a love song about finding love and contentment.
Gordon Thomas Ward: lead and harmony vocals and 12-string jumbo guitar.
I use an open D tuning for this song, which I wrote in 2010 and played at my wedding reception that October. Some songs are written quickly, and some develop over a good deal of time. This song’s music only took an hour or so to structure, but it has a set of lyrics that I kept revising time and time again, constantly making subtle changes. With a title and a purpose like this, what better anchor to this CD could there be?



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