The Trumpeter

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

When a songwriter is writing a song like this one, they are seeing countless scattered images in a mental time lapse and their job is to pull pieces of time together in one cohesive storyline - or at least that is my process.

I'm going to be vulnerable and tell you that the day this song was recorded in Amarillo, I was listening back to the daily rough mix of it on my way back to Hansford County. I had to pull over on the side of the road to release a flood of tears that went so deep I didn't understand them and knew that it was not necessary to understand, but that there was some sort of bittersweet intercession involved for things way beyond my comprehension. So, I just let it come.

When I finished singing the scratch vocal in the studio earlier that day, the engineers and musicians stood with their arms crossed staring at the board in total silence. The vocal was flat in places and had a few wrong lyrics in it. It was only a temporary placeholder vocal. But, when the silence broke, Steve Tillisch - our sound consultant said, "Jill whatever you do, don't replace that vocal." Glenn Storlie, engineer and studio owner silently shook his head in agreement. Even though it was not perfect, everyone seemed to agree that something "had happened" in it. Tillisch then said, "Tell me what the difference is in this song and all the others."

Eddie Gore, engineer producer RCA Studio C, has had the challenging job this week of mixing in the fixed lyrical lines while maintaining that original take. Stan was with me in the studio watching Eddie click around faster than any engineer I've ever worked with as he pulled off a sound miracle in front of our eyes. He also explained some things as he went along. It wasn't anything super complex. It just took a truly gifted ear to know what to do and as he did it, I knew that he is "one of them."

A few years ago, as a favor for a friend, I dropped off a piece of equipment to Dave Cobb (Producer: Chris Stapleton, Jamie Johnson, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson). This was shortly before Dave's (and Stapleton's) career burst into success. As I was driving to Dave's home studio the Lord said, "Take a drive around the block. I want to talk to you about Dave Cobb." (I had actually never heard of him at that point.) As I drove, He showed me some amazing things about Dave's future and then the Lord said, "He is one of my architects of sound." I had an understanding of what that meant backed by some biblical studies on the "artisan's anointing." Just listen to the records he has produced. You'll hear it. I believe Eddie Gore is an equally anointed architect of sound. So, be on the look out!

I'm planning to release this song Monday but before I do, let me tell you the story behind this song which I believe explains what "happened" in the vocal and what the difference is between this song and all the others. It is the most important song on the entire story album to me. In the first verses, my beautiful grandmother, Velma Lee is living on the homestead with my grandfather in the early years of their marriage. "She's as pretty as a pretty picture - a halo of golden curls." Jimmy Durante ran into my grandmother in an elevator in Dallas in the 1940's. He looked right at her and boldly said, "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen." Later in the parade that she had traveled there to attend, he saw her again in the crowd. He got out of the parade car carrying him, walked up to her and said, "I'm going to say it again. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen."

The lyrics go on to say "Her long skirt sweeps across the prairie and this land is her whole world." After she passed away, I discovered a five year journal that she had kept during her last years of high school and first years of adulthood. She was dating my grandfather and married him after they graduated. "Her five year journal told me the story of the simple life out on the plains." What I saw as I thumbed through the unique layout of the pages of this journal was small mindedness - pure, simple, untainted, small mindedness. In reading this journal I was suddenly able to understand an aspect of this story that I had never seen before. Though she was very young as she noted daily life in this journal, still it was evidence of the narrowness of the thinking of the entire culture and community at that time. The small and simple frame of reference of those who did not see and experience the things that my grandfather was forced to experience as a soldier in World War II was the dichotomy that changed the trajectory of my views on this entire story.

I believe that it was literally maddening for him as such a young man to realize over and over that from then on, no one would ever really understand him again, including his passionate stand on things. That maddening reality was in addition to the tormenting PTSD symptoms he suffered - symptoms that we now understand so much more and are much more equipped to heal. It was such a relentless and cruel verdict over their lives - over all of their lives. It helped me understand the brothers' position in the inheritance redistribution decision so much more clearly. It enabled me to release a forgiveness - a pardon of sorts over all of them, over my entire family, and that forgiveness broke me that day. The tears came from a deep, deep joy. It was the joy of the reality of God's vindicating redemption over all of our lives.

My mother's high school trumpet was handed down to me. I've used it symbolically throughout this project, in the film, in podcasts, and in different promotional materials. I didn't set out to write this story album as a fault-finding whistle blower. I wrote this story album for future generations as a trumpeter blowing a clarion call to divided families encouraging them to return to love and celebrate heritage.

"And each of the builders wore a sword at their side as they worked to rebuild. But the one who sounded the trumpet stayed with me." Nehemiah 4:18

Love to all,



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