On Friday, March 13th 2020, school ended for the year. We had no idea at the time, of course, but students were not to set foot in the school building again. For undergraduates this was, although a big deal, not necessarily catastrophic. For seniors, though, it was everything. Prom. Concerts. The spring musical. Graduation. Everything gone, and even worse, it was a slow drip of cancellations over many weeks until we realized there was nothing left. We spent some time figuring out how to teach our classes into computer screens, but the bigger questions were left unanswered; namely, how do we replace the irreplaceable things? With my daughter a senior herself, I had a decent insight into what they were going through. There’s nothing that can take the place of a concert, but technology still allows us to make music. So that’s what we did. Every senior, instead of polishing and performing their usual classical solo, picked a piece to record, for an album we would release by graduation (whatever that ended up being). For copyright purposes, we needed to stick to either original music, or songs that were at least a hundred years old. We ended up going down a rabbit hole of 1890s hits, looking for those that still somehow spoke to us in the modern age (and trying not to be horrified by how incredibly racist so many of the other songs were). This was the beginning of what became “From the Inside Out”.
“Wayfaring Stranger” was the first song chosen for the album, after “You Love”. There was never any question that it would be a feature for Colby Dagwan Santos, whose unique voice and wonderful sense of ornamentation were a perfect fit for this plaintive old folk song from the early 19th century. The arrangement is in 4/4, rather than the original 3/4, with a mix of strings, slide guitar, and old Fender amp vibrato. I had Emmylou Harris in my brain, the whole time we were recording it, even though the song sounds nothing like her version. Her inspiration gave us this, though, and we are incredibly grateful.