When the Blizzard of 1978 hit the Northeast I was living in the small country village of Coventry, Connecticut. I shared a second floor apartment in an old house with my girlfriend who was studying painting at The University of Connecticut. My cat, who would go on to live 25 years, resided there with us.
Playing nights with a Texas swing band in the seedy bars of Rhode Island and Connecticut, I spent my days visiting film schools and writing songs. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a filmmaker or a musician. The fact that I was, in fact, already a musician, with a growing pile of songs waiting for the right band eventually tilted the scale toward music. But the love of movies, of cinematography and stories, has never stopped being a big part of what inspires me.
One of the songs I wrote during that time was “Bluewhite”.
It began as a poem about snow, specifically the shadows of blue and white that are created by snow and sunlight. I fastened these lines onto some bars of music and the song grew, very slowly, from there.
You see these bluewhite shadows on bright February days, driving around the snow-filled hills, country roads and old mill towns of Connecticut. This wintry light has a look that is unique to the Nutmeg State. It is partly because of the shapes of hills and valleys here that gather and distill it. And it it because of the way the many stone walls of this state go slinking across the fields toward the edges of the woods. The cliffs and curves, trees and bushes, meadows, rivers and brooks are of a scale that is like nowhere else. It is a landscape size bigger than the quays and inlets and rocky yards of Rhode Island. But it’s not real, real big like the Green Mountains of Vermont, or seriously steep and craggy like the notches of New Hampshire or as ferociously vast as the pine forests of Maine.
No, bluewhite is a very Connecticut thing.
I would walk the five miles from my house in Coventry Village to the campus of UConn where I’d find an empty practice room with a piano. There, with two or three coffees to go, I’d inch my way forward in this film in my mind. The scenes unfolded with images and words about snow, the way it looked on distant hills and in cornfields, by brooks and stone walls, in the brief bright daylight of Winter and in the quickly fading dusk.
It wrote itself, really. Instrumental sections appeared and vanished, then demanded to be heard. Tones of instruments and shades of vocals became clear. Above all, the feeling of it all just felt exactly right.
All ten minutes of it. Long by the standards of radio, even college radio, but I wasn’t thinking about that.
When it was what I considered not “done” but waiting to be performed, I set it aside until a year later when I formed The Grayson Hugh Quartet. I taught it to the musicians and recorded it. I performed it twice with this band, once in 1980 at a concert at The Children’s Museum Planetarium in West Hartford and again in the same year at a club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan called Trax.
It was one of my favorite songs and always knew I wanted to do more with it, but it wasn’t until I was assembling the songs for “An American Record” in 2007 – 2010 that it finally found a home. This was my first release in fifteen years, and I wanted this album to be stretch the limits of my musical styles.
Here, then (on, as I write this, a cold February day in New England) is “Bluewhite”. It seems only appropriate that it should be presented as a kind of movie, a slide show, if you will, photos by yours truly.
I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did creating it.
To watch the video click HERE.