Other important contributors to the album include: Demetrios Christo (for his front and back cover photography,www.blueolivepress.com), Mike Collier (for mastering the CD), and John Katchur (for his blazing guitar solos on two of the tracks).
The new CD is our third release in just 30 months. And our second release in 6 months — all of you DO HAVE my holiday music CD, December, don’t you? And before that, there was Bring Love Home, released in November 2009. From the earlier two CDs, I’m sure you learned that I very much enjoy singing standards and pop classics. But even the first CD — while featuring classics like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and the Les Miz number, “Bring Him Home” — — had lots of original compositions on it. Ten, to be exact. On December, even though the amount of holiday music to choose from seemed overwhelming, I managed to sneak in three of my own songs — most notably, “Little Yellow House.”
For This I Promise You, the entire song list consists of original compositions. But don’t worry — I still love singing well-known ballads and pop tunes. I just need to keep my own songs coming out, too. My 62 years have given me a lot to talk and sing about, after all. And it’s so important to just . . . get it out! I’ll give a quick run down on each track after the jump. And I’ll expand upon these comments in later posts.
The title track for the new CD (released May 2012), “"This I Promise You,”" sets the tone and musical style for what’s to follow. Although the music on the album includes strong rhythms as well as featured instruments, my music is really about the voice and piano accompaniment. Throughout the album, the added musical layers are intended to complement that central theme, not overshadow it. For "“This I Promise You,"” I drew inspiration from a book (Boise Boys) by my Idaho friend and writer Burny Wells. In the book, there are two unlikely lovers — two gay men from very different circumstances — who somehow, find each other and manage to fall in love. I think of this as a song about pure — the unexpected grace that can visit two people who open up their hearts to each other.
Two of the songs that follow, I wrote as tributes to musical genres that shaped my early musical development. My hope is that “"Each Day of the Week”" sounds like it could have been on a Four Freshmen or Crewcuts album from the late 50s. And I’d like to think "“I Cried for You"” might have been sung by one of my childhood idols, Patsy Cline — maybe as the B side of “Crazy” or “Walkin'’ After Midnight.” OK, I’m dreaming!
I called upon my own experiences in life and love for inspiration on the album’s two “pop-rock” tracks: “Not a Game to Win” which recounts the unrequited love between a certain, young gay man who falls in love with his straight, best friend, and “Never Once,” the grittiest song on the CD, which tells of a less-than-satisfying relationship — or maybe several, as the liner notes suggest. “Never once did I raise my voice when you pissed me off,” goes the opening line. This song also features a brilliant lead guitar solo by my friend and accomplished musician on the San Diego scene, John Katchur.
Then we have a wedding song! I wrote and performed “Two Hearts” for a ceremony in 2011 uniting two lesbian friends in a beautiful celebration of love and commitment. The entire song, especially the central lyric — “Your gift of love I will hold in my heart all my life, you’re my wife” — was written as though the two women were singing it to each other.
“In the Hearts of Others” resulted from the request of a dear friend who wanted to honor, in turn, her friend and colleague, Dr. Jerry Lee — the visionary responsible for the startling success of National University over the last couple of decades. He is indeed an impressive fellow and I hope to sing the song to him in the coming months. Here’s some of the lyrics — general enough that I expanded the dedication to include all educators: “In the hearts of others, lies the measure of our own / Each smile, each touch, each kindness that we give / Might inspire another to pass on the favor shown / We shape each others’ worlds as we live.”
For the last twenty years, my most requested song in concert has been “El Centro” — a gay cowboy love saga (although the two main characters perform in a dance troupe, not a rodeo), included on my first CD, Bring Love Home, and borrowing the distinctive melody of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso.” On the current CD, I have included an energetic and totally original sequel, “I Wanna Feel the Heat.” As this latest chapter tells the continuing story, the two dancing cowboys won the dance contest and have gone on the road with the troupe, but one of the men gets weary of touring and just wants to go home: “I wanna dance on the street, I wanna feel the heat of the town I grew up in. I wanna see El Centro again!” Although I never lived in El Centro, I always imagined that the small, conservative farm town east of San Diego is similar to all of Air Force towns I grew up in and eventually had to escape as I became aware of my own sexuality. I have had the pleasure of performing the original “El Centro” in the town that shares the song’s name and I hope to sing the sequel there some day soon.
“We Are the Village” was originally written (in 2010) to assist with the fundraising efforts of the Cambodian Village Fund, founded by my friends Nancy and Bill Bamberger. As a result of their efforts — including the benefit concerts that we held — a new school now stands in a village in Cambodia. This reaching across the world to help a poor village demonstrated to me how members of the human family are inextricably connected and dependent on each other. And that’s what inspired the song.
Almost as a rejoinder to this anthem for the global village, I then offer “Give Me Your Arms” — a testament to the power of romantic love to restore us, to help us carry on in a stressed-out, war-torn, and troubled world. The opening lines of the second verse reveal my perspective on the human family and my commitment to progressive, humanitarian causes: “So many wars, so much famine, leave me crying in my heart / So much hatred on this Earth, keeps her people torn apart.”
As a noted dog-lover (one friend said that, in his next life, he wanted to come back as my dog), I end the album, appropriately, with “Roscoe’s Lullaby.” The love between dog and human, I think, is like no other and stretches us as a species to be something better. And this flawed species we call human needs a lot of stretching, in my opinion. Roscoe, our 9-year-old lab mix, rounds out the family that I rejoice being a part of — two Dads and a dog. The song has proved to be a new crowd favorite and I have lately been singing it as an encore at concerts.
This I Promise You is easily the most personal and heartfelt offering yet from the Hassett-Massicot team. I am immensely proud that we managed to get as much of the sentiment, the honesty, and the music on the CD that I felt in my heart.
For more information on my music, as well as upcoming performances and projects, please check out the main website (www.chrishassett.com) and the Music page (with song clips). You can always leave a comment here if you have questions or just send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).