wrote those words in "House of Broken Dreams" on his
Dry Bones Dance
LP in 1990. There was a prophesy buried within the lines, whether he knew it or not. Heard passed away two years later, in August of 1992, but his words have echoed on in the hearts of all who knew them. And now, with
Treasure of the Broken Land: The Songs of Mark Heard
, many more hearts can join the chorus while marking the 25th anniversary of his passing. Available June 2 on Storm Weathered Records with a limited edition vinyl to follow,
Treasure of the Broken Land
is distributed via Redeye Worldwide.
Jeff Grantham, the project's mastermind, another lyric sums it all up: "Time marches away like a lost platoon" (from "Strong Hand of Love"). Because two prior Heard tributes that were done in the mid-90s are both now out of print, Grantham felt like the time was right to revisit the catalog. "It was concerning to think that memory of him as an artist might fade away completely with the passing of our generation," he explains.
As a back-stop to Heard's possible obscurity, Grantham recruited producer
Phil Madeira and an army of Americana artists to render the songs anew. Before and during the project,
Rodney Crowell, Drew Holcomb, Sierra Hull, Buddy Miller, and others each came to know Mark and his music on their own terms.
For Over the Rhine's Linford Detweiler, a Heard-penned essay was the original entry point. "There was something about Mark that felt like a kindred spirit, a brother in arms -- although we never actually met," he says. "He seemed to be struggling with how his music fit into the world."
Introduced to Heard's music by an early guitar teacher,
Holcomb felt a similar simpatico: "I loved his alternative approach at making music about faith and life that was confessional instead of prescriptive." Other artists on the album were newcomers to the Heard catalog, each thoughtfully recruited by either Grantham or Madeira. Then, together, they set about pairing each singer with the just-right song culled from Heard's three final releases:
Dry Bones Dance, Second Hand, and Satellite Sky.
Matt Haeck, who opens the album with his roots rock take on "The Dry Bones Dance," went through quite a process to find his way into that particular tune. "First, I have to listen to the song about 400 times," he says. "and I have to listen in different ways. If it's an honest song, I'll find something within the song to connect deeply to, even if it takes a lot of repetition."
Karin Bergquist deployed her own personalization process for Over the Rhine's sparsely sober spin of "Look Over Your Shoulder," though Holcomb had an easier go of it when he tackled "Tip of My Tongue" with all its juke joint swagger.
When a songwriter's work transcends time, space, and category as Heard's does, artists from any era, genre, or gender can connect, as evidenced time and again on
Treasure of the Broken Land. That's because, according to Madeira, "The best songwriting comes out of wrestling and conversing with yourself. It's a spiritual endeavor." It certainly was for Heard. Rooted in his religious upbringing in Macon, Georgia, he wrestled "with belief, doubt, pain, and ultimate resurrection," turning vision into verse.
While bringing awareness to Heard's stunning body of work is certainly one of the main goals of the project, Grantham also hopes
Treasure of the Broken Land will make Mark's widow, Janet, and his daughter Rebecca proud. Further still, "I have a loftier goal in mind," he confesses. "In these challenging times, 'music heals' has become a mantra for many artists. I sincerely hope this collection of songs is part of the healing process and that it has a positive impact on those who hear it."
The Dry Bones Dance - Matt Haeck
I Just Wanna Get Warm - Levi Parham
Rise From The Ruins - Birds of Chicago
What Kind Of Friend - Lily & Madeleine
Everything Is Alright - Sean Rowe
Nod Over Coffee - Rodney Crowell
Mercy Of The Flame - Cruz Contreras
House Of Broken Dreams - Amy Speace
Tip Of My Tongue - Drew Holcomb
Worry Too Much - Willie Sugarcapps
Orphans Of God - Amy Helm, Cindy Morgan, and Levi Parham
Strong Hand Of Love - Sierra Hull
Satellite Sky - Red Dirt Boys
Nobody's Looking - Humming People
Freight Train To Nowhere - North Mississippi Allstars
Treasure Of The Broken Land - Buddy Miller
Lonely Road - Sarah Potenza
Look Over Your Shoulder - Over the Rhine