Who: Singer-songwriters Cal Scott and Kathryn Clair
What: Concert to benefit The Dalles Wasco County Public Library Expansion Project
When: Saturday, June 1, at 7 p.m.
Where: The Mint, 710 E. Second St., The Dalles
Tickets: $15 at Klindt’s Booksellers and Columbia River Music
Cal Scott returns to his singer-songwriter roots in his latest CD, “Carved Wood Box.”
“I started out as kind of a singer-songwriter and came up that way and then my career took a lot of divergent paths,” Scott said by phone Wednesday. “I got into a lot of different music: rock bands, jazz bands and lots and lots of film scores.”
One of the things Scott is best known for is his work with the Trail Band, which performs a Christmas concert in The Dalles every year.
“I’ve been a songwriter all my life and I do some of my songs with the Trail Band, and I usually perform a couple when I play with Kevin Burke,” he said.
Two of the CD’s songs are collaborations tied to those performing gigs. The title song was written in partnership with Marv Ross of the Trail Band, while Scott wrote “London Town” some time ago with Burke, and the duo have frequently performed the song in their concerts.
Scott’s CD is a mix in many ways of both old and new songs, and varied song styles.
“There are several songs that are new, or written in the last two years, and some that go way back,” he said. “I decided that, rather than focusing on all new material, since my audience past Portland doesn’t know some of the stuff I’ve written. It’s all new to most people, so I decided to focus on what I thought was my best material.”
The work also serves as a song-writing demo that Scott hopes will draw other performers to want to record some of his tunes.
The collection has the potential to appeal to a lot of musical tastes. The title song is a multi-layered work of nostalgia for an old mandolin.
“If you have an old instrument, you always wonder who had it before you and what kind of music was played on it,” Scott said. “What kinds of stories could it tell if it could talk.”
But the song’s deeper meaning ties to the idea of mementos saved by generations past. The carved wood box of the title is one of Scott’s family mementos, as are all the items assembled in the cover still life photo taken by Keith Buckley.
Scott draws from varied inspiration for his songs.
“They are kind of like short stories, really,” Scott said. “I try to take the listener on a little journey. I see about creating characters and see how you can tell a whole story inside of five minutes.”
Some are about people Scott has known, like “Jimmy’s Waltz,” which tells the story of Scott’s Italian immigrant next door neighbor. “London Town” centers on the stories of Burke’s upbringing. It’s main character is a man from Burke’s father’s generation.
“He immigrated to London in the 40s,” Scott said.
“Paid Too Much for the Diamond” is loosely based on the experience of Scott’s nephew. Earlier this spring, the song won first place in the Great American Song Contest.
Sometime a song will start with a single line, like “The Will and the Wind.”
“I knew what I wanted to be about, the will-and-the-wind dichotomy between choice and fate,” Scott said. “Using that kind of seafaring or sailing metaphor ... That one took several years to write. Some songs take a lot of just hard work. Other songs will kind of flow out. Every songwriter says that.
Kathryn Claire, who will perform with Scott this Saturday at The Mint, also performs on the CD, providing fiddle and backing vocals.
“When you hear her voice and mine on listening for love, it just blends amazingly well,” Scott said. “She’s a great fiddle, as well.”