Philip Gerard | American Anthem

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American Anthem

by Philip Gerard

A textured musical quilt of the American experience, from hoboes and cowboys to more personal songs of touring the open road and finding love under an Arizona moon, featuring flat-picked and finger-style guitar, fiddle, keyboards, and multiple harmonica.
Genre: Country: Americana
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. When I'm Gone
5:24 $0.99
2. Under Cape Hatteras Light
2:54 $0.99
3. Robert Johnson and the Devil
5:46 $0.99
4. The Patron Saint of Dreams
4:37 $0.99
5. Captain Parker's Lament
3:55 $0.99
6. Lunch in a Basket
2:41 $0.99
7. Kansas City in the Rain (The Ballad of Tom Brody)
4:31 $0.99
8. The Great Wide Open
4:04 $0.99
9. Old Flatwheeler
4:53 $0.99
10. Song for My Father
2:07 $0.99
11. Far Away: An American Anthem
4:08 $0.99
12. Delivering the Mail
3:08 $0.99
13. Let Us Cross Over the River
3:37 $0.99
14. Arizona Night
2:53 $0.99
15. Amelia
3:10 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
American Anthem


Philip Gerard with Martin D-12-20 in railyard of Carolina Southern Railway in Chadbourne, N.C. Glass-plate photograph by Harry Taylor.

The voice in the verses is that of someone who can’t stand living anywhere because he can’t get away from himself—as the refrain makes clear, with Dargan Frierson’s lively tenor harmony. The pedal steel break is meant to be playful and about as subtle as a big rig barreling down the highway.
PG: Taylor 12-string, Sho-Bud II pedal steel, lead vocals; Jim Ellis: piano; Dargan Frierson: Upright bass and harmony; Catesby Jones: drums;
Deb Ross: fiddle.

After high school, I camped out on Cape Hatteras for most of the summer, trying to become whatever I was meant to become. Every night we played music around a bonfire below the high-tide line. The Light was always a comforting presence, as if watching over me personally. The people I met—musicians, rangers, fishermen, surfers, islanders—were exactly the right people to help me along that stage in my life, and I remain forever grateful to them and the island itself. This song is drenched in the sea and sun of those wonderful days.
PG: Taylor 12-string, lead vocals; Rick Olsen: synthesizer.

The tale of Robert Johnson dickering with the Devil at the crossroads is older than the Blues. And maybe today the Faustian story applies as much to the wolves of Wall Street as it does to some dirt-poor bluesman hungry for fame. This was a chance to splash around on the Johnson steel resonator guitar that I picked up one summer in Floyd, Virginia, and have some fun playing loose. Rick Olsen brushes the cajon and a mystery guest chimes in on the session with his own running commentary—and prefers to remain uncredited.
PG: Martin D-45S, Johnson resophonic guitar, bodhran, shakers, lead vocals; Dargan Frierson: Upright bass; Rick Olsen: cajon

I spent many summers on the road, thumbing my way from Florida to California, through the great American prairie and the far West, camping out in the mountains of Virginia and Wyoming, in the high deserts of New Mexico and Arizona. Later I sailed through ocean storms and drove long roads through snowy wilderness. I never felt alone—always had my guardian angel, which I came to recognize as my mother’s calming presence, even after she died, whispering courage in my ear at exactly the right moments. Originally we scored this song with harmonies and background vocals, but in the end we scrubbed those out and kept it a simple twelve-string ballad. The Hammond organ tones played by Rick Olsen are a sly homage to Bob Dylan, the early songs.
PG: Taylor 12-string, vocals; Rick Olsen: Hammond organ.

When the British regulars marched out of Boston on the evening April 18th, 1775, they were already tired from being on duty all day. They marched all through the night, arriving at Lexington Green at dawn, hungry, exhausted, their feet wet from slogging through marshes—and could not control their killing rage. Captain John Parker, deathly ill from consumption, nonetheless stood up his training band on the Green and faced overwhelming numbers of Light Infantry and Grenadiers. The British shot and bayoneted seventeen Patriots, of whom eight died. This song takes place in the interim between the time the British regroup and march away up the road toward Concord, where they expect to find (but do not) cannons, and the time they reappear, marching back to Boston on the same “bloody track,” their ammunition exhausted—ripe for ambush. It’s an angry, sad song carried by Deb Ross’s haunting fiddle and the high, plaintive tinwhistle. The fingerpicked Martin guitar notes are meant to be sharp and aggressive, and the thumping bodhran (Irish drum) grounds it in a military cadence and an air of threat.
PG: Martin D-45S, bodhran, synthesizer, vocals; Dargan Frierson: upright bass; Deb Ross: fiddle.

The concertina evokes a kind of carefree, boyish happiness in this song, which I wrote in college, inspired by the initial image of a boy fishing in a creek on a summer day and seeing—to his delight—a pretty girl carrying a picnic basket his way. I grew up playing on (and in) such a creek with my two brothers and assorted neighborhood kids—we called it simply “the crick”—but alas, no pretty girl ever came bounding down the meadow bearing a meal. The best we got was peanut butter on white bread at lunch time, sluiced down by Kool-Aid or stone-cold water from the garden hose.
PG: Martin D-45S, Taylor 6-string, vocals; Jim Ellis: piano; Rick Olsen: synthesizer.

Kansas City became one of the great stockyard towns after the Civil War. A Confederate veteran from Virginia called Tom Brody (not likely his real name) went there to make his fortune sometime in the 1870s and discovered that it’s hard to outrun your past. He found unexpected happiness for a time with a woman named Elizabeth or Betty Ringold, the widow of a rancher, and then a bounty hunter and sometime U.S. Marshal named Hezakiah Dish (Desh, in some accounts) and his posse caught him out on the plains during one of the regular floods of the Missouri River. It’s not clear if Brody was guilty of murder and the theft of gold on the riverboat Natchez, as the wanted poster claimed. Dish collected the reward but never found the gold, which local legend says Brody left for Betty hidden in sacks of flour in the pantry of her ranchhouse. Jim Ellis’ light-fingered piano carries the weight of Betty’s bewildering grief. Dargan Frierson leads the cowboy chorus.
PG: Martin D-45S, Taylor 6-string, synthesizer, lead vocals and harmony; Dargan Frierson: upright bass, harmony; Catesby Jones: drums; Jeff Reid: harmony; Deb Ross: fiddle.

I grew up watching “Wagon Train,” “The Virginian,” “Rawhide,” “Gunsmoke,” and a dozen other Westerns. This is a playful tribute to those hard-riding heroes with their stoic ways, their sense of fair play, and their fast-draw Colt Peacemakers. The “Picketwire” or “Purgatoire” River flows across Colorado and features prominently in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance— the Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne epic that gave us this fitting epigram from the Shinbone Star: “When the fact becomes legend, print the legend.” The Number Ten Saloon is the place where Jack McCall assassinated Wild Bill Hickock in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, on Aug. 2, 1876. When those Westerns went off the air and gave way to a parade of gritty cop shows, something sweet was lost from the American heart.
PG: Martin D-45S, Sho-Bud II pedal steel, lead vocals, harmony; Jim Ellis: piano; Dargan Frierson: upright bass, harmony; Catesby Jones: drums; Jeff Reid: electric guitar, harmony; Deb Ross: fiddle.

In his hobo chronicle, The Road, Jack London explains that a “flatwheeler” is a railroad car with a bad or “flat” wheel—which is hell for the poor tramp riding it. It jars him so bad he gets off bruised and bunged up. In some cases, it could bounce him right off the train. I met a hobo in Barstow, Calif., during my hitchhiking days and I always thought of him as an Old Flatwheeler—beat up by life, his face seamed so deep he could never wash it clean of the railroad grit. He stank of wine and had almost no teeth, but when I saw him he was smiling and gabby. I never forgot him, and this is my small valentine to his rough and ready life on the rails. Deb Ross’ double-bowing on the fiddle grabs me every time. If you listen close at the end, you can hear the rumble of a freight train passing, the clackety-clack of the wheels receding into distance and time.
PG: Martin D-45S, Hohner Comet, lead vocals; Dargan Frierson: harmony; Deb Ross: fiddle.

This is one of those rare songs that came out full-blown-- I just started singing it one day. My father was very much alive when I wrote it, but with his passing it seemed to belong to him for good. I find it sweetly hopeful. The simple songs are the hardest to find and move me the most.
PG: Martin D-45S, synthesizer, lead vocals, harmonies; Jim Ellis: piano; Dargan Frierson: upright bass; Deb Ross: fiddle.

For so many of us, the American Dream was about kicking free of our small-town upbringing and finding a bigger, more exciting world—and of course carrying around a lifetime of nostalgia for that lost familiar place. The Tex-Mex Telecaster riff signals that departure from the local parlor piano song to a bigger stage. Patrick Leahman, my stepson, provides the melodic undercurrent of electric bass.
PG: Martin D-45S, Fender Telecaster, lead vocals, harmony; Dargan Frierson: harmony; Catesby Jones: drums; Patrick J. Leahman: electric bass;

For less than half a dollar, you can send a confidential hard-copy communication, guaranteed by the full might of the federal government, thousands of miles in just a couple of days, to any one of 319 million Americans located in any city, town, or rural zone. This astonishing everyday feat of the U.S. Postal Service inspired the metaphor “delivering the mail”—as applied to anyone who comes through day after day, no excuses. It was the perfect chance for an exuberant instrumental celebration on dueling tracks of a twelve-string Leo Kottke-model Taylor guitar, one played with a brass slide hand-made from an old church bell. The Taylor always delivers the mail.
PG: Taylor 12-string.

The title—and refrain—come from the last words of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson after he was mortally wounded by his own troops at the Battle of Chancellorsville: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” It’s a gentle exit line for such a bloodthirsty warrior, with just one word changed here to fit the melody. In 1865, when tortured, starving, and deathly ill hordes of Union soldiers liberated from the hellish prison camp at Salisbury, N.C., crossed the Northeast Cape Fear River into Wilmington, shoeless and nearly naked, they were met by comrades of the USCT-- the United States Colored Troops—who literally gave them the clothes off their backs, along with food and water. The USCT had erected a banner over the road proclaiming “We Welcome You Our Brothers.” There was much unashamed weeping—a fitting way to end such a terrible fratricidal war.
PG: Martin D-45S, lead vocals; Dargan Frierson: upright bass, harmony; Catesby Jones: drums; Deb Ross: fiddle.

Sometimes one night can last forever, especially when dancing under the stars to the crying notes of a steel guitar. All you can do is dance through the moment and cherish it. Let the Sho-Bud steel do all the crying.
PG: Martin D-45S, Sho-Bud Pro II pedal steel, vocals; Jim Ellis: piano; Dargan Frierson: upright bass; Catesby Jones: drums;

Amelia Earhart may be the most remarkable American woman who ever lived. Men loved her, women idolized her, and little girls wanted simply to be her. She dared to follow her heart, mustered courage even when she was terrified, and never settled for easy comfort. She took off on her last flight in 1937, and the world has been waiting for her to come down ever since. The deep pad under the melody is like the throbbing engine of her Lockheed Electra zooming through the sky. I like to picture her soaring high overhead in the skies of my imagination, eternally circling for a safe landing.
PG: Martin D-45S, vocals; Jim Ellis: piano; Rick Olsen: synthesizer.



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