Life is a tapestry of stories…
Music delivers us home to those stories…
In the silence of the early morn, she walks through her house while gathering what she needs for her journey. It is a small, but modest house and she has taken the necessary steps to make it her own. Her companion, a puppy who has grown to become her best friend, follows her every step. Her dog is eager to join her on this trip.
There is one room, of her house, that she is especially proud of. In the early morning, the sun casts a golden and gentle ray through the window adorned with sheer curtains to add a sense of warmth to this already humble space. This is the one area of the house that she had spent the most time decorating. Each piece of décor was carefully chosen to bring a tenderness and hospitality to her family room.
The family room is the one place where friends and family gather to enjoy each other’s company. With her family miles away, she has brought them here with pictures. The walls, tables and bookshelves are adorned with various photographs of her family, many of which go back several generations. The sensation of her ancestors is felt every time she enters this room. It’s as if they gather to welcome her home.
As she assembles the remainder of what she will need for her journey, she takes one last look into her family room...although she is heading back to her childhood home, in more ways than others, she is returning home...
For legendary Country Music entertainer Sylvia, home and family are the most important elements in her life.
Sylvia hit the country music scene in 1979 when she released her first single “You Don’t Miss A Thing.” A year later, she gained national attention with her song “Tumbleweed.” She followed that up with “Drifter” which was released in 1981. In 1982, Sylvia released her signature song “Nobody,” which earned her worldwide attention as well as making her a cross over artist into Adult Contemporary and Pop music. Her musical career would continue with other notable songs until the end of the 1980s when she decided to stop touring and recording. This decision allowed Sylvia to go deep within to emerge as a prolific songwriter.
Today, Sylvia returns home to the music that made her, with her new album called Second Bloom: The Hits Re - Imagined.
“It was even more fun than I imagined it would be. When John [Mock] and I first started talking about doing it, we said ‘yeah it’s a good idea. We’ve put this record out, All In the Family, it felt like I was kind of hopping back and forth when I would do a show. It’s like let’s go back to the 80s...yet I wasn’t performing these songs like I performed them in the 80s, with the synthesizers and all of that. It was definitely a more acoustic approach and the songs have evolved over the years.” tells Sylvia. “So it just made sense. So let’s just bring those songs up to date!”
This album features nine of Sylvia’s most notable songs including “Drifter,” “Snapshot,” “Cry Just A Little Bit,” “Tumbleweed,” “Sweet Yesterday,” “Like Nothing Ever Happened,” “I Love You By Heart,” and her signature song “Nobody.”
“As we got into the actual recording of the record, it just became this wonderful...almost like a puzzle. Okay, now we don’t want to use the synthesizers; but we want to bring those licks, because those licks are real intrinsic to that song. We were real clear that we did not want to make these songs really, really different from the originals. We wanted people to be able to recognize these songs.” adds Sylvia. “I think that we all have listened to re-makes of songs sometimes that artists do and you go ‘oh no, what did they do to that song?’ I thought I don’t want to do that! I want to honor the music and honor the things that I think really contributed to making them a hit. I wanted them to be recognizable, but I wanted the instrumentation to be more timeless. Hopefully, ten, twenty years from now, somebody plays Second Bloom...I’m hoping they’ll go ‘when was that recorded, yesterday?’ I wanted it to feel like it’s not stuck in any particular era. Though, I love the 80s music.”
Most will remember that the 80s style of music, revolved around the use of the synthesizer more than acoustic instruments. Nonetheless, taking the synthesizer sound out of these classic songs created an artistic elegance that one must hear to truly appreciate.
What is more surprising about this album is the cultivated beauty and refinement found amongst Sylvia’s vocals. Through the years, her vocals have aged to a fine attunement of a timeless and highly enjoyable tone.
“I feel that there is more depth in all of the songs. I feel like the songs have more...that’s the word… they have more depth. They feel more grounded now and like the song actually gets to shine in a whole new way.” shares Sylvia. “In fact, I’ve grown a lot since I recorded those songs… I was in my early to mid twenties when I first recorded those songs. You know there has been a lot of life ensued since those days! I feel like as an artist, as a singer and as a human being I have a lot more...there’s just a lot more present in my voice.”
I highly recommend this album as the re-imagined versions of these classic country songs bring out the true beauty of the original written compositions. Nonetheless, the final song of this incredible album begs for my attention.
“You Can’t Go Back Home” was originally supposed to be released as a single, however, the record label refused as it did not fit the mentality of country radio at that time. This song is so well written and performed that it begs us to pull it and add it to hit our list of Top Songs of 2018, while earning a nomination for the Spirit Award’s Song of The Year Award.
You Can’t Go Back Home
(Kyle Fleming, Dennis Morgan)
Flew in this morning on the 8-0-5
Had a couple of hours to spare.
I wanted to see the hometown again
It'd been years since I was there.
A taxi took me by the old grade school
But on the playground there was no sound
Windows boarded up, a rusty sign laying on the ground.
Drove in front of the movie house where I spent my Saturdays. A quarter got ya in back then, cost ya ten and a half today. Had him stop by Shipley’s bakery, but Mr. Shipley had passed away. I got back in the cab, I saw that everything had changed.
They say you can't go back
Anymore than you can stop the wind from blowing,
You can't change the changes going on...going on.
They say you can't go back and you can’t stop the door from closing. Once you're gone, you can't go back home.
Taxi pulled up in front of your house, I started to get out,
Then I, I saw a little boy open the door I quickly turned around. I told the driver, guess there's no one home,
I think he understood, you've got a plane to catch he said, the drive will do you good.
They say you can't go back anymore than you can stop the wind from blowing, You can't change the changes going on, going on. They say you can't go back and you can’t stop the door from closing. Once you're gone, you can't go back home. Once you're gone, you can't go back home...
“When I began thinking about putting it [“You Can’t Go Back Home”] on this record, I thought well, but it wasn’t a single. Should I do that?” shares Ms. Sylvia. “Then I got thinking about the theme of the song and how it is so much a metaphor for my approach to the record...as well! It’s like there’s another meaning intrinsic in that song. That I didn’t try to go back and re-record these songs note for note. I wanted to allow them to evolve and be where they are today and be where I am today and that’s different. That means there’s some change! It’s inevitable!”
Second Bloom follows Sylvia’s 2016 Spirit Award nominated album, It’s All In The Family. With the premise that revolves around family, this incredible album features twelve songs that relate to the ancestor theme. Sylvia teams up with fellow musician and friend, John Mock, to write or co-write nine of the songs.
“You know I always wanted to write. I always felt like I probably could write, but I worked at a publishing company around songwriters for the first four and half years I was in Nashville. But when I got my deal with RCA, things just took off so fast and I was surrounded by wonderful songwriters, so I didn’t have the time or energy to go there myself.” shares Sylvia. “So when my deal ended the end of the 80s, I thought this was my time to really focus in and develop myself as a writer. I wanted the music to be more of a personal expression of something that was meaningful to me uniquely, you know? I love recording other people’s songs, it’s great. But, I also felt like there was music inside of me and ideas and thoughts that I wanted to express.”
Sylvia started writing in the late 80s. She has continued to hone her craft as a songwriter through the years. Her artisanship really shines within her album It’s All In The Family.
Majority of the songs revolve around the family mentality; none more so than “Immigrant Shoes.” This American patriotic song captures an historic account of what it was like for immigrants when they landed at Ellis Island.
“I love that song! That song was so fun to write. I’m such a big advocate of looking into ancestry. I’m a member of Ancestry.com, had been for many years. I have my family tree up there and all that kind of thing. Occasionally I’ll go down that rabbit hole, to come up hours later!” laughs Sylvia. “So that was the inspiration for that song. I sat down with my friend Thom Schuyler to write a lyric to this music that John Mock wrote. He had written this incredible piece of music, “Immigrant Shoes.” At the time, you know it wasn’t named. We didn’t even know what it was going to be about. What I like to do is, when John writes a piece of music, I like to just live with the music for a while and just let it bring images to my mind. That’s what happens. So, I was sitting with Thom Schuyler after he and I had both done the same thing, lived with it a little while. I said ‘I’m getting pictures of family, like some of my ancestors I’ve never met.’ We began talking about that and I think Thom came up with the image of immigrant shoes and it just took off from there. We just began imagining what it was like for our ancestors coming over, hundreds of years ago. So that was the inspiration.”
Sylvia can trace her family roots to Ireland and so can John Mock. The two bring an essence of Ireland into much of this album.
Not too many country music albums include an instrumental song. Nonetheless, Sylvia includes one on this album that is remarkably significant to her, with “Grandpa Kirby Runnin’ The Hounds.”
“Well, it’s not him performing, but it’s his instruments. He died back in 1987.” replies Sylvia when asked if it was her Grandfather performing in the intro of the song. “But, I inherited his fiddle and his banjo that he played, those instruments, at barn dances, and family gatherings and hootenannies or whatever they played back in the hills. I have those instruments, but I had never really heard their voices! So, we called up Stuart Duncan, one of the best fiddle players in the whole world and we hired him to come and play on the record. I said ‘if you don’t want to do this, I totally get it.’ Well he picked up my Grandfather’s fiddle and he made the most beautiful sounds. I actually taped some of it on my Iphone. But, I was crying. It was like that voice of that fiddle came to life. It’s been dormant all these years and it was so emotional. Because the fiddle is so old and it’s not a fine instrument, he said we can play for a few bars and keep it in tuned, but after that, it will go out of tune. So, that’s what we did. The scratchy record part of that song, is my Grandfather’s fiddle and Stuart Duncan is playing it and my friend John Mock is playing my Grandfather’s banjo on that scratchy record part. Then it goes seamlessly back into their own instruments playing the song.”
Sylvia’s main goal with the instrumental song was to have the voices of those two instruments somewhere on the album.
“My grandfather...I felt his presence all through the making of this record. I just felt him smiling on me. I could just tell it made him joyful.” shares Sylvia. “He told me one time, he got to see the early part of my career. He didn’t die until ‘87. He said to me that he was so proud of me. He had hoped that one of his fourteen children would go into music, professionally. But none of them did. He was so proud of me that I actually made a career of music.”
Other notable songs on this album include “Somebody’s Daughter,” “Cumberland Rose,” “Hope’s To Hard,” and the title track. The album closes with a beautiful end of life song with “Do Not Cry For Me.” Many of these songs hit our list of Top Songs of 2016, while they earned nominations for the Spirit Award’s Song of the Year. This album also earned a nomination for Album of The Year. Although, none of these were honored with an award, they are still enjoyed today.
Please join us on Strictly Country’s Friday night radio show, Around The Campfire, as we welcome Sylvia as she shares a cut-by-cut of her two albums Second Bloom and It’s All In The Family on August 17, 2018.
They say that you can never go home and in some way that is true. One can never return to the memories one has; because we change each and every day. A new part of us emerges with the rising of the sun and at the end of the day; a part of us dies within the shadows of the night. You can never truly, go home.
Nonetheless, home is where the heart is. For Sylvia, home was always found in her music…
(This article was printed in the July / August 2018 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
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Dear Strictly Country:
I wanted to write and express to you how meaningful it was to me that "Second Bloom" and "You Can't Go Back Home" were nominated and then voted Album and Song of The Year! When an independent artist (or any artist for that matter) receives this kind of recognition - it is such a beautiful affirmation that what you're creating with your heart and soul is being received and touching other souls in a positive way. Thank you for your support - the wonderful article and positive words that give me energy and focus to continue making music!
With much love & appreciation!
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