The Story of Arcana

This album was never meant to be. When I start a project I always like to have far more songs than I actually need. Songs grow in different ways during the production process. Some you thought were major creations can lose steam and fail to grow as different arrangements and instrumentation are examined. Others surprise you by going from nothing more than passing thoughts to become cornerstones.

I was following my usual process, developing something like 30 songs, headed towards an album that, as yet, was unnamed. A song came along that seemed important. So much so that for a short time it became the working title for the album. That song was One Day At A Time.

Then life got complicated. I moved from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Portland, Oregon. I gave up my studio in the process. And just before the move I lost a lot of files, the combined effect of technological gremlins and my own inexperience as a sound engineer.

I was devastated. I now faced the prospect of starting over. But in different studios, with a different mindset, and different musicians.

All I had were rough mixes I had done of 21 songs as the process was unfolding. I had created these mixes to evaluate parts I had just added. Electric guitar, dobro and keyboard parts I’d played myself – even lead guitar on My Father’s Son – always intending that these would be replaced by more talented players.

I took time away from the whole, frustrating mess. Then, listening to the rough mixes again after many months of inactivity, I found I liked them. And the idea of putting out all 21 songs began to take shape.

There was a quality to the writing, I thought. There was a quality, or I should say a tone, to the voice, I thought. These songs were born together – although some lyrics date back much further – and they seemed to want to stay together. There was much in the way of personal revelation and openness in these songs and the title Arcana came out of the blue. Yes it links to the Tarot, which I then used in the packaging design, but it is a word that means “secrets and mysteries.”

I added “The Lost Songs” in recognition that this is not a typical polished studio album. It is more like being allowed to listen in on a rehearsal. Like being given access to an earlier stage of the development of the songs. It will please some people and annoy others. So be it.

My thanks to Ben Durfee (drums) and Sam Bevan (bass) who appear on all tracks where their instrument is featured. To Tom Hampton (lap steel, baritone guitar and mandolin) who added his magic to a few tunes, most notably One Day At A Time and Reality Will Break Your Heart. And to Peter Farrell (keys on The Dreams Of Men) and Deborah Domanski (vocals on Love Ain’t Easy). My apologies to all of them for exposing their work in this ‘unfinished’ manner. Personally, I like the sometimes raw, natural, un-produced nature of these performances.

But my greatest debt of gratitude is to Rob Eaton. Rob agreed to master these mixes even though he knew there was a very limited amount of ‘fixing’ he could do. We had a simple agreement: he would make them sound as good as they possibly could. And I think he achieved that goal. Any shortcomings are mine.

– Dave Tutin, January 2018