Meyer & McGuire
Song of the Month #2 - “The Good House Is Built Upon A Rock”
(Track #7 on the Caught in the Middle CD)
Lyrics: If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read. Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy Caught in the Middle Songs from Napster”. Then, click on "The Good House Is Built Upon A Rock." You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).
*Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.
Since 1974, I have lived in Canandaigua, a beautiful little town in the Finger Lakes region of New York. However, my good fortune did not start when I came to Canandaigua. It started long ago in another little New York town nestled in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains along the Hudson River shore. Saugerties, the place where I spent my childhood and teenage years, needs no description for anyone who has grown up in small-town America. Like all small towns, it has its memorable characters, great stories, wonderful events, and genuine friends, those people who are always there when you really need them. “The Good House Is Built Upon a Rock” is a tribute to those people who were there when I needed them.
You see, when I was sixteen, a junior in high school, I went blind after sustaining a fall during a cross-country race. Most of you know the details of the event because I think I have told it at least two or three thousand times, usually while sitting on some bar stool in some local watering hole. It’s amazing how much people need beer to ask you what they want to know, isn’t it? Anyway, if you don’t know the details, and you want to know, e-mail me, and I will give you the scoop.
Following my accident, the people of Saugerties rallied to give me an unbelievable amount of support. The obstacles I faced were difficult, but these people made mountains seem like rolling hills. I could never come close to repaying them for all the wonderful things they did for me, so I wrote this little tune as an expression of my deep appreciation for the outpouring of their love for me.
Now that you know what motivated me to develop the song, it’s time to get into the nature of its construction. Siobhan and I usually get back to Saugerties about three or four times a year to visit my parents, who, by the way, still live on quiet little Elm Street. When we are there, we inevitably go out walking to burn off the millions of calories we absorb from my mother’s cooking. One night we were walking up by Cantine field, the local park where just about every sport is played. If you are from Canandaigua, just visualize Jefferson or Baker Park, and if you are from somewhere else, put yourself in your local park, and you’ll be with me.
As we walked across Cantine field, we were each engaged in our own thoughts. Mine reflected back to when I used to watch the Babe Ruth League baseball games. When I stood in the grand stands years ago, I would often look to the west and look at the sun setting on the beautiful majestic Catskill Mountain range. As Siobhan and I walked, I thought about Saugerties being nestled between these mountains and the Hudson River, and the first line of the song was born. I love internal rhyme, so when I stumbled across the phrase, “foothills of the Catskill’s,” I knew the line was a keeper. Although I am not really proud of this, the first verse emerged like the introduction to a five paragraph essay. I’m afraid when you teach something day in and day out for thirty-two years, it stays with you on a subconscious level forever.
The first verse concludes with the lyric “those good things that small town gave to me,” and this becomes the driving force for the rest of the song. While driving back from Saugerties to Canandaigua, approximately 250 miles, my mind kept identifying just what those “good things” were. When a song won’t leave you alone, it’s like having popcorn in your teeth; you don’t feel right until you get it out. Upon returning to Canandaigua, I took all those “good things” and carved out a meter and rhyme scheme for them. Once again, I fell into that five paragraph trap. Oh well, I am too old and comfortable to try to be something I am not.
After the verses of the song were in place, I worked at developing a chorus that would unite them. During the thirty-two years I have been in Canandaigua, life for me has gone very well, and in reflection, I see that much of that success can be attributed to what I absorbed while growing up in Saugerties. The seeds that were planted in me in Saugerties blossomed when I got to Canandaigua. This is also true for many of my friends and acquaintances from Saugerties who are now spread throughout the country and the rest of the world. We are all ambassadors of this little town and its wonderful values. To represent these ambassadors, I developed a chorus with a series of metaphorical clichés concluding with “the good house is built upon a rock.”
Following the completion of the song, Siobhan and I tossed around some options for arranging it. We settled on a hard driving sound with somewhat of a bluegrass flare. I liked this decision for two reasons. One, it is a song about going on the road to travel back to a previous point in time and place, so it is nice to have the movement of the song reflect its content. Two, Siobhan bops around when she’s playing a fast tune, and everyone enjoys watching her.
We recorded this song in 1998 at The Garage, a little studio in Rochester, New York. The Garage, as I have told you before, is owned and operated by John and Joe Dady, two quintessential musicians. When you record with them, you can always count on great coffee, good stories, and an aching stomach from laughing.
John, Joe, and Tim Chaapel, another fine musician, truly enhanced the sound Siobhan and I brought to the studio. With just a banjo, guitar and snare drum, they capture the “road tune” feeling we want the listener to have. I am no Doc Watson, so John Dady backs me up with some hot licks on the guitar. Joe Dady, who can play with the best of them, picks a mean banjo on this one. Joe and Siobhan drive the song with just the right touch on the snare drum and the acoustic bass. Tim Chaapel, who occasionally plays with Siobhan and me, sings back up harmony. Tim developed a nice idea for the start of the song. It opens with him and John Dady and me singing an a cappella version of the chorus. I like it, and I hope you do too. When I hear the song start, I, once again, begin to see those foothills of the Catskills.
I highly recommend John and Joe if you are interested in recording. Also, The Dady Brothers, John and Joe’s group, have many recordings of their own, and they tour the United States and Ireland. Check them out on the web.
Tim Chaapel owns Mobile Music, a great music store in Canandaigua. If you think you might be interested in playing an instrument, stop in. Tim will get you off to a great start! He has guitars that make you look really sexy! Also, if your instrument has fallen on hard times, Tim will get it sounding like new in no time.
Well, there you have it. I’ll have another song of the month for you next month. If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me. This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.
E-mail us at McRiley@Frontiernet.net