1. The Gale
My roots are the Great Lakes, the Great Freshwater Inland Sea. While we don't often have hurricanes, we have gales. Since the days when shipping on the Great Lakes began, men and their ships have been lost. Over 6000 wrecks are believed to be buried in their silent depths with a staggering 30,000 lives lost. Almost all were due to the much feared storms that arise in this unique inland sea. Located in the center of a continent, the lakes have always been subject to the weather extremes of the north-central plains. The plains themself have terrible tornadoes, droughts, sudden changes in weather from summer to winter. These huge bodies of fresh water, with their immense humidity, give rise to great wind storms on par with hurricanes: gales. Fall is especially prone to storms with the warm lakes feeding humidity. Then ensuing cold and powerful low pressure systems sweep in from the north and undergo explosive development. Not until recent years could they forecast. Recall the loss of the gigantic ore carrier the Edmund Fitzgerald (memorialized forever in the song by Gordon Lightfoot) happened as recently as 1975.
Thus my fascination with gales can be understood. I have experienced and filmed them for many years. The power of the icy wind is beyond belief. The gigantic waves pounding the lighthouses and burying them in tortured spray is stunning. In the winter a gale will coat lighthouses and shore structures in inches or feet of white ice creating shapes that remind me of the ghosts of the lost souls.
I recently filmed a vicious November gale in Ludington MI (Lake Michigan) under almost impossible conditions: winds exceeded 60 kts and the temperature was near freezing. Nevertheless planning paid off. I hid in the wind shadow of a concrete concession stand, just inches from its wall. The wind did not reach my camera and I shot at 120 fps to be able to reveal the awesome power of the waves hitting the lighthouse in slow motion. You can see the video as well as music here: https://youtu.be/VjKd_Fa0xw4
2. Hello My Friend
This song is happy and friendly and I heard the lyric say "Hello My Friend", which is often how I name my songs. Brief but saying all I needed to say. Jake-olson-y-la-luz-de-nebraska/
The song seemed to wash away the past sadness and grief and promised a new future, hence the name. The photos used for the album covers are mine, taken in Ludington MI on a calm July evening. They are special because it was the last time I was able to stroll the beach with my brother, who would soon be diagnosed with incurable cancer. I only had my pocket camera, which was a good one. We were stunned by that sunset scene and I quickly began to photograph the most fascinating aspects such as the aligned clouds and the children immersing themselves in the cold water. An appropriate cover indeed.
Ah, my fascination with ice has been with me since I was a boy. It is forever changing in unexpected ways, which is both a delight and a menace. Too often I climbed the towering shore ice to photograph the wonders. Foolish even later in life, I got some of my best shots that way. It scares my even now that I did what I did. Later I turned to drones to gather new views of this fascinating state of water. Much safer indeed. The photo here, however, is from my days of danger. Never again, I got my shots and then came to my senses.
5. Far from Here
I have traveled much in Central and South America. Being nearly fluent in Spanish allowed my wife and I to get off the beaten track and understand cultures from first hand experience. Despite the stereotype of danger in Latin America, we were treated with extraordinary kindness, charmed by the innocent and untarnished cultures, invited into homes and told about their vision of America... which varied from good to bad but regardless all wanted to go there someday. They asked very astute questions. Education about the fundamentals is always very good in Latin America.
One trip was different. We caught an old schoolbus/commercial bus from LaPaz in Bolivia to get to the southwest part of the country, the altiplano with the unrelenting and biting wind. It took all night on a dirt track, being tossed considerably. Fortunately we got the seats right behind the driver so we could snuggle up the the engine compartment in our sleeping bags and stay warm. One stop only. I got out and the town was largely unlit but still alive with people. I have never, ever seen such stars. We arrived the next day in Uyuni, a small town on the great salt flats of the same name. We had heard you could hire a driver with a rugged Toyota Land Cruiser to drive you around on the altiplano to see things that were stunningly beautiful: flamingos at 15,000 feet eating brine shrimp, numerous hot springs laden with dissolved minerals, boiling steam caldrons and of course the relentless freezing wind. We stayed in stables or sheds, wrapped up in winter sleeping bags. We met the few people who lived there and talked with them. We split the cost with a Dutch couple and a German couple (German tourists are everywhere). They were wonderful people and we all became instant close friends. Finally, after 4 brutal and starving days we arrived back in Uyuni and bade farewell to our fellow travelers. Never have we had an experience like that: at once so physically demanding yet so indescribably rewarding. The song was based on my indelible memories of that trip. The photo is one I took of gigantic boulders strewn across the barren sands.
6. My Siren
As a musician I was always fascinated by the story of Ulysses and the Sirens. What music could cause a man to jump off a ship and drown?! Another interpretation of the myth came to mind: that alluring beauty can cause the downfall of a man or woman. We all have our own sort of siren calling us but we know we mustn't look or listen. But not everyone does.
Taliesin was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a home and studio in Wisconsin. He spent many productive days with his new wife and step children. Idyllic in every way. Then one day he lost it all in a horrible horrible way. I was forever changed when I learned of this. I was compelled to write this. My artwork.
8. River, Hills and Sky
My traditional ode to my second home, West Virginia. This song has the unmistakeable Celtic hint brought by the miners from the English isles and I loved this state for their appreciation of live, impromptu music.
9. A Man on the Run
The title of this song again came from a lyric I heard: There is a man on the run, got no bags, just a gun. Such a lonely life, never to be able to go back; friends and family left behind. All for what?
10. Nightfall at Avebury
Avebury is a site of many ancient and mysterious monolithic stones, arranged in some secret way to somehow bring knowledge. There are mysterious burial chambers called barrows, with impressive stone domes for ceilings. It also attracts all sorts of neopagans and fringe believers. It DOES invoke a feeling of ancient magic just being there.