An Almanac opens

It’s yours. It’s mine. Wave it around in an infinity sign.

Hi, I’m Tris McCall. For the past two years, I’ve been discovering America. Today I’m ready to begin sharing what I’ve found there. And since all American projects deserve a nice gonzo American user interface, we’ve designed a website called McCall’s Almanac that will work asa conduit for my reflections. Imagine something not unlike the Old Farmer’s Almanac, but with fewer soybeans and more synthesizers.

Go on, click on it; it’s pretty. See that map of the United States? Every Tuesday at noon, from now until I run out of content to provide, I intend to add another page to it. Each page will represent a different American city. On that page will be:

  • A song set in that city,
  • A cartoon drawing of the narrator,
  • A short story directly (or sometimes indirectly) related to the song,
  • The lyrics to the song and maybe a photograph or two,
  • A few tour-guide type recommendations divided into three categories: House of Worship, A Bike Ride, and a Vegetarian Option.

We’re kicking off the Almanac with three city pages and three new songs and stories: Seattle, Denver, and New York. Exactly one week from now, we’ll add a page for San Diego. After that, the road gets a little murkier — it depends on what I finish and when — but I’m determined to crash across the country as irresponsibly as I can. Ride shotgun if you like; I’m a good conversationalist. Much, much friendlier than I seem on the Internet.

The Almanac site was designed by Chris Littler, who fronts the Chamber Band. Ingrid K. Richter, George the Monkey, and Professor H.J. Englert helped me develop and refine the idea. The illustrations currently on the site were drawn by Una Bloom; there’ll be another artist too, but we haven’t gotten to those songs and stories yet.

Most importantly, I owe an enormous debt, both emotional and practical, to the musicians and producers who helped me recover my songwriting voice after I’d put it in drydock in 2009. That means Michael Flannery, who helped me cut many of these tracks at the Farm in West Chester, Pennsylvania and Bass Hit Studio, and Jay Braun, who oversaw the sessions at Water Music in Hoboken and Sunnyside Guitars. There’s a full credits page on the site, but today I’d like to take the time to acknowledge and thank drummers Eric Tait (who runs the Farm) and Brett Whitmoyer, bassist Justin Braun, synth player Dan Flannery, singer Ronni J. Reich, and Rachel Drehmann, who graced “Conspiracy Theory” with her French horn.

The songs I’m doing with Mike will be released later in 2017 on an album called American Almanac. The Jay Braun-produced album will be called You Needn’t Be So Mean, Baby, or maybe The Unmapped Man; I keep going back and forth. These are separate projects with different sounds; Jay and Mike leave very personal aesthetic imprints on everything they do, which is part of why it’s fun working with these guys. But all of these songs were similarly motivated: I felt something had gone awry in America, and I wanted to figure out what it was before our country had defamiliarized itself completely to me. So this Almanac is instant historical fiction — a to-the-minute record of my encounter with the smoking beakers and suspicious-looking test tubes of the ongoing American experiment. That makes it sound like all the songs and stories are serious; they aren’t. Some of them are downright silly. This is a Tris McCall project, after all — I’m the guy who gave you Brandy Balls. Remember that number? No? Well… maybe that’s for the best. Let’s make this a fresh start for everybody.

In order to provide some context for the Almanac and to remind you to check in each Tuesday, I’ll also post a little background on each song and story on this site. Since we’re launching with three numbers, I’ll space it out this week, and discuss each separately, but here’s the capsule version: the Denver song is called “Conspiracy Theory”, the Seattle song is “Take Me To The Waterfall”, and the New York song is a prog-out called “The Prince Of Daylight.” Each of the stories is about three to four thousand words and designed to be read with the songs playing in the background. Check them all out, and remember: there’ll be another next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, just the way it works on the webcomics that inspired me to do this in the first place. Much love and respect to Meredith Gran and Ashley Cope; this wouldn’t have happened without them.

Should you appreciate what we’re doing, tell a friend via the news-spreading mechanism of your choice. Digital network, major media outlet, bullhorn, whatever you like. Make a racket. Happy travels.