Visit my AUDIO PAGE to download the free MP3 of "581."
This is a brand new recording of which I'm very proud - the definitive version of "581." It's one of my very earliest songs, written way back in 1993. A primitive early form appeared on my now-out-of-print 1994 album Wherever and I played the song in concert frequently back in the 1990s.
There's even a YouTube clip online of me and my band performing it in Chicago back in 1999. See it here.
This new recording of the song was completed and mixed this Summer and I'm thrilled with the results. Drummer Lowell Michelson (who also played on the 1994 version) re-recorded the rhythm tracks with me in my basement studio in Minneapolis in 2005. Over the years I gradually added more instruments: guitars, bass, and my 1939 Hammond A organ (an instrument that originated in the sanctuary of First Lutheran Church in Iron River, MI). I recorded the vocals last Summer in Ishpeming while I was in town visiting my parents. At the time, my Dad had taken possession of his childhood home, the house where my Grandparents lived for decades. The house was sitting empty and in disrepair, so I brought over my laptop and microphone, went upstairs to a bare unfurnished bedroom and sang the vocal tracks. It was an amazing experience for me...I wondered how my Grandparents would have felt if they knew back in 1940, as they lived in that house, that their future grandson would use that building as a studio 70 years later!
For those of you Yoopers who read this, I thought I would give some lyrical analysis of the song, pointing out some of the rather obscure local references.
words and music by Jonathan Rundman
you wanna get to where the pavement ends
when I was growing up, the pavement on 581 turned to gravel out near Perch Lake...I think they've extended the pavement since then...
you wanna watch it as the acres fall
this is a reference to all the logging going on out South of Ishpeming...it was amazing to me how much the landscape would change after the loggers came through
you wanna cross the south branch on the narrow bridge
this refers to the Escanaba River which crosses 581...my family had a camp there for a while in the 1980s
find a passage to the reservoir
as a high schooler I learned that you could access the Greenwood Reservoir by taking the back roads via 581
you take 581
some kind of trouble waiting back in town
you need the county road to take you far away
you take the S-curves to the Wayside
the S-curves are just Southbound beyond the Stoneville Road/581 intersection
and The Wayside was a small roadside tavern...I think it's closed now.
don't stop 'til you leave Faith behind
and this refers to Faith Lutheran Church, at the intersection of 581 and the Beagle Club road
are you farther than you've ever been before
I've gone pretty far down 581 during my life, but have never driven its entire length. This past Summer I was driving the Felch Road from Escanaba to Crystal Falls and I saw the end of 581! It was amazing to see where it ends...but I have yet to drive its entirety.
can you feel the Project closing in?
this refers to the Navy's extra-low-frequency communication system called Project ELF that was installed out on 581 back in the late '80s. I remember the locals were worried that it would make all the wildlife radioactive.
you pass the clear-cut and the airfield
This refers to more logging, and of course the private airport near Perch Lake. I flew out of there a couple times with some teenaged friends who got their pilot's licenses.
don't you wanna just fly away?