Just wanted to reinforce what Steve said and reassure all here that I am perfectly capable of writing songs with the express intent of offending (humorously or seriously) those who deserve to be offended; if anyone would like an example, I'd be glad to slip them an .mp3 of, say, "Trim The Shrub," "We Belong to the World," and "Dead Animals and Leaves." For dark and/or edgy, may I direct you to "Devil Wind" and "A Man Could Hurt Himself," on my CD "Ghosts and Angels;" lyrics are on my website www.sandyandina.com. Have yet to record "Anonymous Dead Anglo-Saxons," which is probably guaranteed to offend traditionalists, popsters and alternafolkies equally, but can send anyone the lyrics if they'd like to e-mail me. And rest assured I have quite a supply of introspective wrist-slitters, but for the most part, that's what I pay my therapist for--I don't expect an audience to pay me for the privilege of being my surrogate shrink.
"The Con Man" came about after I had finally been subjected to one too many horribly butchered open mic versions of "The Dutchman;" after coming up with the smartass chorus, I decided to run with what would happen if Michael Smith had decided to write not about an aging boatman in Amsterdam but rather about someone a bit closer to home: a fading Mafioso in Smith's own native New Jersey. (Lest anyone find me too reluctant to offend, I have encountered more than a few hardcore classic folk fans who are profoundly insulted that I would dare poke fun at such a beloved song). In case anyone is wondering about other dreadfully overexposed open mic staples, well, all I can say is that I have declared open season on those multitudes who have murdered "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Have yet to record that one either, but lyrics are available.
In defense of "Season of Hope," let me say it was written (specifically by request for a holiday showcase I was invited to play) as an interfaith holiday song that was more than yet another puerile invitation to play with dreidels. Growing up decades ago in a majority-Jewish neighborhood in NYC, I was spared the lifelong experience of having the commercialization of Christmas shoved down my craw (or more precisely, I have other priorities and far more important things to get riled about, and Stephen has filled that niche quite nicely anyway). But I felt frustrated that there weren't any songs that addressed those of us who fall between--or straddle--the cracks of what may be mutually exclusive but not diametrically opposed celebrations. (I also wanted to respond to those who would pillory me for having both a tree and a Menorah). If I wanted to write an angry holiday song, I certainly could--but Stephen just happened to beat me to it and I didn't want to reinvent the wheel. Moreover, I have had so many requests for copies of "Season" by people who'd like to perform it that I decided to record it, and it was included on the CD both for that purpose and as a counterpoint to Stephen's darker and more cynical song. It never occurred to me to write a cynical and edgy interfaith holiday song, and I suspect the world does not need one.
As to "Safe Home," my intention was not merely to write something inoffensive, but to reassure the military that no matter how angry we may be at the $%^&*( who got us into this war, we're not angry at THEM and just want them to come home in one piece, sooner rather than later. Nobody else seemed to be singing about that at the time. As I said earlier, I have splashed plenty of musical political vitriol in my time; but this CD just did not seem like an appropriate project for it. (Perhaps if I can afford it--or someone stakes me to it--I will release a one-off disc of my political and protest songs; but I have neither the money, the equipment, the skills nor the time at present to record them properly, especially songs that if they prove effective would have a short shelf life). I have had many more people (most of them who share my own antiwar leanings) come up to me and thank me for playing it than those (and the term "those" is an exaggeration) who have expressed to me a need to stock up on insulin after hearing it. As Stephen said, it's possible to express an opinion without anger. (The song has also been cited several times by leaders of songwriters' circles in response to those who have clumsily wielded topical lyrics as blunt instruments).
I perform in various permutations and combinations, with different purposes. My own solo work is more stylistically varied, because as a soloist I have more latitude to be provocative. In that setting I do not have to accommodate the output and wishes of a musical partner, nor do I have to provide any stylistic balance with anyone but myself. My work with Stephen and in SASS! is more about harmonic and instrumental symbiosis, mutual energy and entertainment. Both my singing partners are as prolific as I, and the last thing either duo needs is for me to start a p***ing contest over how many of whose songs get recorded. Of necessity there have to be some compromises. Moreover, there are time, money and disc space constraints as to just how many songs can end up on a given CD, and balance and variety are important. (This is as true of selecting the songs for a duet album as it is in structuring a live set with a partner with an equally prodigious output). We just happened to have had more duet recordings of Steve's darker songs than of mine, and needed to provide some contrast and pacing. Perhaps the next release will see the tables turned.