My oldest recollection of CP Butchvarov is associated with exhaustion and annoyance, circa 1974: I carried a 40-pound sheet of plywood on my back, hauling it about a mile into the woods. CP was the designer of the next-generation fort my friends were building in the wild undeveloped area behind Hickory Hill Park. To elude the bikers who kept tearing down our forts and firepits with axes, this one would be built underground.
This memory has had such an impact on me that I wrote the whole thing into chapter two of my novel Silver Sparks, which is to be self-published later this year, or as soon as I get organized.
Twelve hundred miles from home in summer 1976, I unexpectedly encountered CP again. He had a job at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, and I managed to sign up there a few days behind him. He had his guitar along: I’m pretty certain that in his entire life, CP Butchvarov has never traveled anywhere without his guitar.
CP wouldn’t play, you know, folk songs for party sing-alongs. His entire purpose in owning a guitar is to write and perform original music. I listened to him play a few of his songs, and he told me about a rock opera he wanted to write. I was intrigued by the story he had in mind, about a defiant philosopher to be executed for thought crimes. I wrote a page of verse from the point of view of his main character. CP heavily amended my words and incorporated them into a song called “When I Was Free.”
No other songs have been written to date for this rock opera.
(Incidentally, I predict here that CP is going to quibble with me about when we first met or what was our first song. Never mind: this is the official, authorized history.)
I’m writing a few gilded, hazy words about CP today to celebrate the release of our newest collection, “Dueling and Dancing.” https://cpbutchvarov.com/Dueling-and-Dancing/ All lyrics written by me on this album; all music, performances, and production by CP Butchvarov.
A torrent of my gratitude goes out to CP for making and recording these songs. At a point where our oldest collaborations are celebrating their 45th anniversary, CP told me he felt compelled to breathe life into some of them, to give them a showcase, to put them into the world. With this release, he has greatly exceeded that promise. The recordings are pristine and gorgeous. The musicianship is passionate. The songs are, well, some outstanding and some lesser. (I would say the same thing about “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”) Open the link, plug in your earbuds and judge for yourself.
I’ve written before about the joys and trials of working in a creative songwriting collaboration with CP. For me, this album comes along as one hugely rewarding and undeserved payoff. After spilling ink onto sweaty pages in years gone by, now these recordings come to the surface in order to provide royalties for my retirement! What? No royalties? We’re giving away the recordings for free?
I’ll write more about CP soon. Stop reading and go listen to these songs.