Updated: Sep 9, 2022
KARYN: A couple of months ago, John gave us an insight into side one (Signs) of his upcoming second record, Signs & Wonders. In this post, he tells us about side 2 (Wonders) and the thought process that went into these songs. I hope you enjoy reading about S&W, due to drop in October. Keep up to date at www.SunKingRising.com.
JOHN: While side one of Signs & Wonders is focused on southern soul with lots of horns and gospel-like backing vocals, the songs of side two have a more southern rock vibe. It leads off with another view of the same Jubal and Suzanne story told in the song Jubal Takes a Wife at the end of side one.
I sing She Was a Blonde from the perspective of Suzanne’s unnamed lover. Basically, we find that old Jubal is a domestic abuser, prompting Suzanne to seek the comfort and aid of a lover. Things turn dark and, together, they plot Jubal’s murder. This track features astounding guitar playing by my cousin, Steve Schuffert, with an explosive solo at its climax. Suzanne’s lover has dispatched Jubal to the cane field to set fire to it (call the story Southern Noir).
The second song on this side is One More Story to Tell which is about a somewhat cynical singer/songwriter who uses his craft to impress his female followers. IMO, this song has a great hook in the chorus and I’m thinking that it may end up being the second single off the album (after “No. 6 Magnolia Avenue”). My favorite part of the lyric in this song are the lines “This country Byron lights a fire in your eyes, I can twang humbly when necessities arise”.
The third song is titled Low Wine and Cruel Ruin and it is a straight-ahead southern rocker that tells the tale of a young man who falls for an older woman of questionable virtue, known to run “a mighty fine still.” His family isn’t happy with the situation and attempts to interfere. Sung from a first-person perspective, he defends her honor when he sings “People say she has a base-born heart, but I know that’s a thick spread lie, When the time comes to put me in the ground, I will meet her in the sweet by-and-by”. Then comes another incredible guitar solo by from Steve. The term “low wine” refers to an interim step in the generation of moonshine.
The next song, Anchorless, is probably the most epic of the album. It is a bit like Madman Across the Water from Elton’s early period. The piano on this one song is some of my best playing on record to date, including a piano solo that I am quite proud of. Like nearly all the album’s songs, it features my fantastic rhythm section of George Perilli on drums and George Elliott on bass guitar. They channeled Elton’s legendary rhythm section of Nigel Olson and Dee Murray beautifully. It was an honor to have these two guys on the album.
Anchorless is another first-person story about a southern drifter who finds fleeting love on a hot and humid summer day: “Before the world wakes, she gives me her prize, I’m anchorless yet worthy in her eyes”. It is a complex production with multiple melodic and harmonic twists, a time signature change, and climaxes with a dramatic orchestral section. I had fun writing it. Cousin Steve throws yet another stunning guitar solo into the mix.
The final song on the album is titled Alabama Nocturne. It’s a simple ballad with sparse instrumentation—grand piano, fretless bass, a string section, and my lead vocal. Classical music buffs will appreciate my introductory piano quote from Debussy’s piece “Pour Invoquer Pan”. The lyric invokes a fragrant Alabama summer night and focuses on a woman with secrets. This song closes the album out in a wistful, yet hopeful, manner.
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