Two Highways
1977. I’m at my dear friend Henry Baker’s apartment in Lexington, KY.
We’ve been up roaring nearly all night long, playing and listening to music. Henry is a blues aficionado and always has cool records. We’ve been having waayy too much fun I suppose. I wake up about 8:30 AM (although we laid down about 3:30 AM) to a unearthly headache… pick up my guitar which is sitting propped up against the couch I’ve been sleeping on.
I start fooling around with a tune trying to get my mind off of how bad I feel… Predictably, the melody is very melancholy, just like the mood I’m in.
I’m not at a real good place in life, working a job I can’t stand, in a relationship that’s beginning to break apart (although it will last another 3 years), feeling pulled in different directions. I feel like I’m at a cross roads of sorts. Hey! I’m beginning to piece something together here. Uh?... wait, I’m looking a two highways that go off in entirely different directions. One leads off toward dreams of music and the other toward a more likely dull but safer reality. The love interest is involved in here too. Henry is still sleeping in the back bedroom so I’m kind of trying to be quiet but I’m really beginning to feel the song…. I scrap around, find a pencil and get the first verse of this thing really quickly. Then, the second verse starts coming to me. I stick to it. I’m still trying not to make too much noise as Henry is still sleeping sound. I hardly notice the time. I’m so absorbed in the song. It’s Sunday & I’ve got to get back to E. KY but I ain’t givin’ up now. Dang it! I wish Henry would wake up so I could play him what I have so far. Oh no! Of all things nature calls. But I am still not willing to let it go. I head to the bathroom with pad & pencil in hand and write the chorus while I’m on the throne… you can’t make this stuff up! I’m still sitting in there when the end of the song comes to me so I write it down. I’m not 100% sure of the melody but I think I’ve got it close. By now it’s early afternoon & I’m getting my stuff together to get on the road when Henry comes stumbling through the house looking for a beer. I tell him I want to play him a new song I’ve been working on. He seems to like it and tells me he thinks it has good possibilities. It’s a ballad, sort of a Jackson Brownish, (a California songwriter/singer whose style I love) thing.
Fast forward to 1980. Henry gives me $2500 to make a CD of my original songs. I get Ricky Skaggs (who is still living in Lexington) to produce it for me. We cut the sides at Cecil Jones’ Lemco sound, in Lexington, Ky. “Two Highways” the song I half wrote while on the throne @ Henry’s is on the sessions, along with “Highway 40 Blues”, “ The Hero of The Ctreek” and several other of my early attempts at songwriting. In 1984 Ricky records it for his “Country Boy “ record. It is a brilliant recording and is scheduled to be the 3rd single of the CD…. that never happens but nonetheless it’s a stunning performance with Lloyd Green playing some chillingly great steel guitar.
Fast forward again to 1988. I’m recording demos, at Welk Music’s, Champagne Studios, on music row in Nashville. Alison Krauss is singing on the session. She says to me… I have recorded a ‘bluegrass’ version of “Two Highways”. I hope you’re not mad at me.
I assure her I am NOT mad. I ask her how she heard it that way & she said she was working out while listening to Ricky’s record & can’t explain it. "I just heard it that way," she says. It’s the title of her new CD (her 2nd release on Rounder Records) and is the first #1 record in Bluegrass Unlimited’s new national chart, tracking the most popular, heaviest played bluegrass songs in the nation. It stays #1 for 6 months and is in the chart for about a year. I see Alison in 2004 at Earl Scruggs’ birthday party and ask if she will do a duet with me on the CD. She says yes. Boy oh boy does she ever give a performance here