Last year, J. Matthew Gerken, Christian Kiefer, and Jefferson Pitcher penned some songs about America’s founding fathers and beyond. The sprawling folk project proved to be an undertaking so large that they enlisted the help of many musician friends — ranging from Califone to the AON-approved These United States — to see it through. The result was Of Great and Mortal Men (43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies), a three-disc epic accompanied by a booklet of lyrics and original art depicting each song’s subject.
Originally, Raul and I planned a video shoot just as daunting as the project itself, however, that changed due to circumstances beyond our control — namely weather conditions and certain monument activities being closed for the season. Fate saw it differently however, as the election of President Barack Obama gave impetus for Christian Kiefer and some of his D.C. associates to throw a one-night performance of the songs — right in the Nation’s Capital.
Not only did the three songwriters come out amidst all the inauguration buzz, they also got plenty of help from bands like Jukebox the Ghost, Middle Distance Runner, and singers like Tim Fite and the talented Laura Burhenn, who played their own renditions of some of the songs. The resulting night was intimate, offbeat, yet still strangely patriotic. Perhaps it was the notion that three songwriters with a penchant for presidents past, present, and future, could fly to D.C. and arrange their music to be played by notable local acts for the first and only time. Well, that pioneering spirit just seems very American.