About the music


Released late in 2017, Grey of the Dawn saw a shift towards electric guitar and bass-dominated rock rhythms.  A number of these edgier songs had been building over the previous year for some unknown reason, and now seemed like the time to capture them.  The album’s theme – the angst of everyday life being redeemed by love and family – is evident in its structure, with hopeful beginning and ending pieces and a tempestuous middle section.  Our family’s Irish connection is invoked by the album photographs, taken on a 2016 trip there following Grace’s study abroad experience outside of Cork.  Notes on each song:

  • In the Morning – With the sparse introduction evoking a sunrise that then spills into an upbeat, driving chord profile, this song sets a hopeful tone and features a dynamic piano solo by Grace Walsh and tight drumming by Joe Churchich. In the Morning lyrics
  • Grey of the Dawn – Written in response to a challenge to compose a piece for our homesick daughter living in Ireland, this piece captures longing both for that magical island and for distant family.  All album cover and liner photos were taken in southeastern Ireland (Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve).  Crisp drumming by Joe helps make this song. Grey of the Dawn lyrics
  • Every Time I Sleep at Night – Woke up one day hearing the main chord sequence in my head, then drafted lyrics to fit. Every Time I Sleep at Night lyrics
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Came up with the bass line while messing around, then added guitar and another nice piano solo by Grace.  The edgy nature of this piece was reminiscent of a line from the poem “The Second Coming” by Irish poet William Butler Yeats, written shortly after WWI, which depicts a long-slumbering man-beast awaking and turning its less-than-savory attentions towards humanity.  Also the title of a book by Joan Didion.
  • The Storm – The main guitar melody came from experimenting with an arpeggiated chord progression, and the lyrics followed to fit this angsty piece. The Storm lyrics
  • Sink or Swim – Another tune high on the angst scale, this song was developed chorus-first, with its dark chord progression then calling for a minor-scale verse section.  The lyrics were developed to match the mood, as well as fit the tempestuous theme that developed for the middle portion of this album. Sink or Swim lyrics
  • Stem the Tide – Rounding out the tempest-oriented mid-album, this hard-rocking number is an anthem for frustrated office workers everywhere.  Written after a nonsensical day of nonproductive meetings, it was originally slated for the 2016 Slickensides release but was held back for some reworking. Stem the Tide lyrics
  • In the Sky – This somewhat trippy reflection on death came about from noodling with chords in the D family and then matching lyrics to fit the mood of the piece. In the Sky lyrics
  • Blue Sundress – This song captures the rawness of love at first sight, the title reflective of what Amy was wearing when we first met in the romantic setting of sedimentology class at the U of M, Ann Arbor.  Blue sundress, long may you run! Blue Sun Dress lyrics
  • Reflection – A sentimental, well, reflection on my appreciation for what my better-half brings to the relationship.  The chord sequence came first, followed by the lyrics that just seemed to fit. Reflection lyrics
  • Lullaby for My Daughters – This resonant, meditative instrumental consists of guitar and bass only, and builds from a quiet, arpeggiated phrase into a sonic, strummed middle section before descending once again.  Composed for two of the lights of my life.
  • Sail Away – This arpeggiated ballad invokes the sentiment of chucking it all in and heading off to a deserted island.  Written as a possible wedding song, it signals the triumph of love and family over the madcap world around us, and is a fitting end to the album. Sail Away lyrics



Released in 2016, Slickensides carried forward the moody, instrumental and acoustic guitar focus of Warm Enough to Snow, while adding a couple of more upbeat, fully-instrumented pieces.  The title is a geology term referring to a rock in which parallel grooves have been cut either from movement along a fault or glacial action, hence the album cover design.  Go geology!  Notes on each song:

  • Three Pounds of Honey – Composed after a friend gave us an unusually large jar of honey, this hard-driving, blues-rock song forms a nice complement to “Ten Pound Bee” from the previous album and features a nice guitar solo by David Lyons. Three Pounds of Honey lyrics
  • Run to Pass – This song came about in my typical mode – starting with establishing an interesting chord progression and then developing lyrics that fit the mood.  It turned into a philosophical reflection on discordant relationships. Run to Pass lyrics
  • Cnoc na gCapall (Hill of the Horses) – This instrumental was composed in memory of a feature on my namesake paternal grandfather’s family land in the little village of Culleens in County Mayo, Ireland.  Cnoc na Gcapall is Irish for “Hill of the Horses,” in this case a small knoll that rises from the adjacent flat farmland.  A nice accordion overlay by Bob Tipping brings depth to this tune and mimics the sound of braying horses.
  • Falling Through the Floor – The chord progression of the chorus seemed to call out for the title phrase.  Once that was established, the rest of the song concept followed suit, basically a reflection that there’s more than one way to find fulfillment. Nice accordion work by Bob. Falling Through the Floor lyrics
  • Golden Daylight – A celebration of the preciousness of a warm, sunny day in Minnesota and the need to overcome the darkness that can tug at us.  Composed in a fashion similar to the preceding song, the chorus was established first to match the chord progression and the verses followed suit. Golden Daylight lyrics
  • Slickensides – The title track for the album is an upbeat, funky little rhythm and blues instrumental built around a guitar phrase that’s repeated throughout.  Bob brings a deft touch on the blues keyboard to this tune.  As noted in the album description, this track is an homage to my profession and fellow geologists.
  • Cloths of Heaven – This is the William Butler Yeats poem “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” put to music.  Always a favorite poem of mine, I finally worked out a chord phrasing that seemed to capture the mood of the piece.  Lovely vocals by Grace and excellent cello accompaniment by Luke Pickman round out this pretty tune. Cloths of Heaven lyrics
  • Echoes – An acoustic instrumental piece who’s repeating, call-and-response main phrase evokes echoes in a cavern.
  • Undertow – Featuring Emily’s superb voice on accompanying vocals and a nice accordion interlude by Bob, this dark, haunting melody is a reflection on introspection. Undertow lyrics
  • Human Chromatography – This song developed into a sort-of rap about what it takes to get ahead in today’s world.  Chromatography is a lab technique for separating chemicals in a mixture based on their characteristics (mass, for example).  To me, this seemed analogous to how we may not all be poised in the same manner to “win the race,” for a variety of socially-imposed reasons. Bob’s accordion gently weeps throughout.  Human Chromatography lyrics
  • On Table Mountain – This acoustic instrumental was written in memory of a 2013 trip to South Africa in which we met Emily, who had been on study abroad in Kenya, and traveled to Cape Town where we hiked up this iconic mountain.  One of the windiest places on Earth, in evidence on the day of our hike as the trolley’s were shut down due to high winds, this upbeat tune evokes the exhilaration of making it to the top of this windswept edifice, and the stunning views of the southernmost part of the African continent that stretched out below.
  • Tracing Steps – This gentle tune came to me a while ago and finally made it onto this album.  It’s an acoustic instrumental that invites reflection.
  • Call it Off – The only cover done to date by OPR, this is Emily’s stunning acoustic take on the Tegan and Sarah song.
  • Down the Road – A simple acoustic reflection on heading on down the road of life.  Nothing fancy, but fun to play and a nice sign off for the album.



Released in 2014, the maiden album included a collection of tunes that had been brewing for several years.  Many in this grouping were tilted toward sparse, finger-picked acoustical guitar numbers with minimal accompaniment.  Exceptions to that included “Ten Pound Bee,” a blues take on a gardening interaction with an unusually large bee, and “Wonderer,” a beautiful, reflective number enhanced by Grace’s piano accompaniment.  Here’s the rundown:

  • Warm Enough to Snow – Composed during the long, cold spring that followed the long, cold winter of 2014, this song began as a take on the harsh climate but then altered to a reflection on the chilly state of human affairs.  Features nice harmonies by Emily. Warm Enough to Snow lyrics
  • Cascade – An entrancing, finger-picked acoustic melody that reminded me of a mountain stream.  Still one of my favorites.
  • Morning Light – The first in a series of songs, continued on to the following albums, to feature a reflection on the redemptive quality of both light and morning. Morning Light lyrics
  • Cut and Run – An instrumental with a little bit of an edge to it, this tune has some nice guitar overlays to the underlying melody.  One is the “cut,” the other the “run.”
  • Looking at You – The chord progression of the verse seemed to call out for this title phrase.  After that was established, the rest of the song was developed as a reflection on the challenges and rewards of relationships in middle-age.  Features nice harmonies by Emily and Grace. Looking At You lyrics
  • Bringing Maggie Home – Composed shortly after the death of our beloved lab, this instrumental attempts to capture both the joys and sorrows of pet devotion through alternating major and minor arpeggiated chord sequences.
  • Hard Time Today – This moody song features lots of hammer-ons and pull-offs, creating a somber take on failed relationships.  Not based on any particular personal experiences, more an overarching view of the issue that fit the melody. Hard Time Today lyrics
  • Eclipse – Another finger-picked melody, this one evoking celestial activity.  Among the earliest OPR compositions.
  • Ten Pound Bee – The song that started it all!  The first composition by OPR, this song quite simply captures what happens when someone as silly as Jim encounters a large bee while gardening, all in 12-bar blues format.  Features a nice bee-like guitar solo by Jim and accordion solo by Bob. Ten Pound Bee lyrics
  • Finally Home – A family favorite, this haunting, rhythmic, finger-picked melody with the steady bass-line captures the emotional release of home and features a number of familiar house-sounds recorded accidentally, including dog footsteps and tail bangings, and Amy’s impromptu arrival from work, pronouncing, “I’m finally home!”
  • Can’t Get Back the Feeling – An edgy take on the news of the day, this tune features Bob’s accordion throughout, giving the tune an eastern European feel. Can’t Get Back the Feeling lyrics
  • Underdog Blues – A personal favorite of mine, this is my homage to the downtrodden Everyman – the glue and clay that hold it all together.  Features nice harmonies by Emily and Grace. Underdog Blues lyrics
  • The Tide – Composed for Amy’s 50th birthday, this lovely tune captures my feelings for my blushing bride.  Features a haunting accordion solo by Bob. The Tide lyrics
  • Wonderer – A pretty tune, if I do say so myself, with the main melody established by a repeating, finger-picked guitar phrase and beautifully accompanied by Grace’s piano.  A great tune to relax to and, well, wonder.