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Song of the Month #30 - “Blue Highways”

(Track #8 on The Road Less Traveled CD)


RLT Album Cover                                     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 The Road Less Traveled Songs from Napster”.  Then, click on "Blue Highways."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

                                                      *Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.



There are many ways to reach our destinations when we are traveling, and, unfortunately, constraints on our time very often force us to use the fastest way to get to where we want to be.  It would be nice to weave along the back roads and visit all the little towns from New York to Los Angeles, but most of us just don’t have that kind of freedom to take such a trip.  Siobhan and I, like most people, are victims of time, too.  However, whenever we can, we travel the back roads looking for interesting small towns with little out-of-the-ordinary places.


As with most regions of the country, the Finger Lakes area of New York has a myriad of its own unusual sites.  Over the years, Siobhan and I have visited many of them, and one of our favorite spots is the Rose Corner Bakery and Restaurant.  Although the eatery closed in 2008, it was a thriving place in downtown Canandaigua for several years.  Siobhan and I worked as musicians there, and we spent countless hours sipping coffee and listening to the hilarious and tragic accounts of the owners, Gretchen Gerstner and Paula Housel.  In addition to Gretchen and Paula’s intriguing tales, many of the eccentric patrons also kept us entranced with their unbelievable stories.  Going in there was like going into the Whistle Stop Café, the restaurant in Fanny Flagg’s book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.  Alas, as with all good things, the Rose Corner years came to an end.  After Paula unexpectedly died and Gretchen sold the restaurant to Scott and Jess Teerlinck, the stories and good times continued for awhile, but unfortunately, Scot and Jess could not compete with the chain restaurants, and they closed the business.  When Siobhan and I walk by the empty store on our late-night walks, we often find ourselves still reminiscing about the good times we had with the great folks from Rose Corner!


One early Sunday afternoon, shortly after we returned home from a late breakfast at Rose Corner, I sat on our front porch musing about all the pleasure I received from going to all the little mom and pop operations in the Finger Lakes region.  Eventually, my thoughts drifted into thinking about many of the little spots Siobhan and I encountered in our travels throughout the country, and I began dwelling on the appealing similarities of all these places.  First of all, most of them tended to be hidden in attractive locations that were off the beaten path.  Second, their drinks, whether coffee or beer, were always soothing and the right temperature.  Three, their food, while not always good for the arteries, was always very satisfying to the soul.  Finally, most of their customers were friendly, interesting, and good story tellers.  Well, in the midst of mulling over these similarities, my thoughts moved to thinking about William Least Heat-Moon, an American travel writer.


After losing his teaching job and separating from his wife, Heat-Moon embarked on a 13,000 mile trip around the United States, only traveling on the back roads and staying in small towns.  Blue Highways is his account of this journey.  He derived the title from the road atlas makers, Rand McNally.  Their old style maps marked the major highways in red and the back roads in blue.  As I sat considering the similarities between Heat-Moon’s experiences and my own, the chorus of “Blue Highways” dropped out of the air and into my soul.  Of course, when it arrived, it came as a hard driving upbeat tune wanting to be played on the back roads of America.


With the chorus in place, I wrote three verses about different areas of the country: Duluth, Minnesota; Monterey, California; and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  The verses about Monterey and Cape Cod are somewhat autobiographical, but I have never been to Duluth.  I chose Duluth for three reasons.  One, I wanted an area in the middle of the country.  Two, I needed a word to rhyme with “Booth.”  Three, one of my songwriting heroes, Bob Dylan, came from that area of the country, and despite his fame and fortune, he always seemed to me to be somewhat of a “blue highways” kind of guy.


“Blue Highways,” pure Americana, is an upbeat road tune that gives its listeners a sense of the interesting people, conversations, and places they might find as they travel along the back roads of America from one small town to another.  By the request of many, Siobhan and I recorded this song without the help of any studio musicians.  In addition to our basic sound of the guitar, harmonica, vocals, and bass, I gave the recording some depth by dubbing in some additional harmonies, an electric guitar, and blending harmonicas.  Pay attention to Siobhan’s bass in this one!  It’s superb!  It will make you want to hit the “Blue highways” immediately!  Pop this one into your car CD player when you are getting ready to explore a new obscure spot.  Remember!  The real secret to life is staying off the “red highways!”  Hope you have time to check out the song!  I like it, and I hope you do, too!


I dedicated this song to all the wonderful people we have met in the small towns connected by the “blue highways.”  I can’t remember all the names and all the places, but I do remember the essence of all of the encounters.  Here it is in a nutshell.  We came together for a short time.  Quite often, we ate and drank together.  Sometimes we talked about our tragedies and triumphs.  Other times we talked about our hopes and fears.  However, most of the time, we talked about nothing, probably the best topic of them all because the content of the conversation never really mattered very much.  What was important to us was realizing we were all traveling on the same road, and though our journeys were different, we made each other’s moment in time just a little bit nicer.  Thanks for enriching my life, and I hope we meet again sometime!  Nevertheless, if we don’t, it’s OK!  For all of us, there are many more “blue highways” to travel, and along them, there are many more awesome people who will make life just a little sweeter than it already is!


This song was inspired by William Least Heat-Moon and the patrons from places like the Main Street Café (aka Rose Corner), José and Willy’s, Maloney’s Pub, etc.  If you are interested in traveling the back roads of America, I highly recommend you check out some of Heat-Moon’s books.  They will definitely give you some ideas of what you should look for when you are out there exploring.  If you are in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, here are some out-of-the-way spots to check out:  Jose and Willy’s, Canandaigua; Maloney’s Pub, Hammondsport; Patty’s Place, Canandaigua; Brown Hound Bistro, Naples; Wally’s Pub, Canandaigua; The Pilot’s Lounge, Middlesex; Canandaigua Brew Company, Canandaigua; The Fish Shanty, Canandaigua; Buffalo Bill’s, Shortsville; Don’s Tavern, Canandaigua; Sweet Solutions, Ionia; Lafayette Diner, Canandaigua; Naples Hotel, Naples; Lumberyard Grille, Canandaigua.  Of Course, there are many more places, but these are just a few to get you started.  Hope to run into you at one of them!  Safe traveling!


We recorded this song in 2008 at Rich Cooley Studios, a little studio in Canandaigua, New York.  Rich Cooley Studios is owned and operated by Rich Cooley, an excellent singer/songwriter, music teacher, and recording engineer.  When you record with Rich, you can always count on him for a relaxed recording session with a genuine and sincere effort to produce the best recording possible.  I highly recommend Rich if you are interested in doing some recording on a small scale level.  Rich is most comfortable when he is recording a solo artist or a duo.  Check him out if this is what you need!


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-Mailed 9/18/09)





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