"Travis John" won the Grand Prize from "Music to Life" at the 2006 Kerrville Folk Festival. The songs of Kate Power & Steve Einhorn caught Garrison Keillor's attention and he invited them to join "A Prairie Home Companion" when he came to Oregon. "Pearls" is a favorite of the real grandfather of folk, Pete Seeger who bought a bunch to share with his friends and says, "It's wonderful!" The music of Kate Power & Steve Einhorn lands in the heart, takes root and grows. It's good medicine.
"Pearls" was created commemorating their young neighbor with the haunting "Travis John" and a dozen top songs from their popular releases.
"Travis John" is dedicated to the memory of Corporal Travis John Bradach-Nall, one of the first young Oregonians to be killed in Iraq by a landmine. This song has attracted attention in local newspapers and television because of it's compelling words, music & story (see story below). The song is based on the true story of this young soldier killed while clearing land mines in Iraq. Along with "Travis John" leading the album, a dozen favorites from our other 4 albums follow this poignant piece.
Travis John Bradach-Nall lived in our neighborhood. He graduated in our son's high school class. He joined the marines for noble reasons. Travis was killed by a land mine in Iraq on July 2, 2003. He was 21 years old.
We are all connected in the fabric of life. When we heard of Travis' death, it felt like the death of one of our own. He joined the marines to be the best he could be in troubled times. The oldest boy in his family with his mother, Lynn and his brother, Nic, Travis had everything a parent could hope for in a son. It was terrible to lose him with his whole life still waiting for him.
Deep in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon I wrote this song. I was teaching at a writer's retreat with Steve. It was July 10, 2003. I remember because I'm one of eight children and that's my mother's birthday. I was feeling a strong sadness for Travis' and his family knowing that his memorial was being held back home in Portland that day. They said 7 limousines carried the members of his large family to the memorial. Playing on my banjo with the deer grazing near me outside the cabin where I taught songwriting at Fishtrap, a song started up in one direction but, as often happens, this song came out instead.
I felt then, and I still feel, that this song came from Travis, that it really is his song and it's sung in his voice. I just sang it out loud for him. It doesn't matter which side of the war you stand on, the loss left is just as deep for the ones who loved their young soldier. We give this song to Travis' mother, Lynn and his brother, Nic along with the rest of his kin who loved him and will miss him being here.
Steve and I recorded this song to lead a small collection of songs we've sung over the years and recorded on various albums. We recorded "Travis John" on August 3, 2003 at Billy Oskay's Big Red Studio in the Columbia Gorge. We wanted it on record so we could send it to radio stations and homes all around the country. We spent a day recording all of it, just Steve and me and Billy at the board.
The next time we saw Billy, he had a "spooky" story to tell us. Word had gone out about Travis' song and Travis' uncle called Billy to remind him that Travis had been on his crew and had actually helped him build "Big Red Studio" a few short years ago. Travis John's uncle was the foreman who built Billy's studio. Billy was stunned. He remembered Travis well; hammer in hand and a grin on his face. He was a good worker. Suddenly, more pieces came together; our communion with this song grew in another way we couldn't have predicted. Coming full circle we manifested his song in the studio Travis had helped to build.
We hope here that by releasing Travis John's song into the world, he will be remembered; for the difference he made, for the ones he loved and left behind, as well as the rest of us strangers who have come to know him in the wake of his young life.