Great Lakes-Ways Of Escape

Ways of Escape is the most personal Great Lakes album that singer/songwriter Ben Crum has worked on, and the first where he’s the primary songwriter.  In the past, Great Lakes consisted of Crum and his longtime collaborator Dan Donahue, and had always been his Donahue’s lyrics set to Crum’s music.  In the early days of their collaboration they had very similar ideas about the musical direction of the band.  However, in 2008, they began to feel at odds.  Psychedelic music just wasn’t resonating with Crum in the same way anymore.  The music he wanted to make sounds pretty much exactly like “Ways of Escape;” rather than the psychedelic sound of their first few albums, Crum wanted to explore country-ish musical elements.
This didn’t go over well with Donahue, who wanted the band to delve further into the psychedelia of their first three albums.  As Crum says, “Once the music part was done I sent it to him, and he was unhappy with what I’d done.  At that point, at his insistence, I promised not to use his lyrics.  I decided to write my own lyrics to all of the music.  After I had re-written the lyrics, probably six months after we’d had our split, we spoke on the phone, and by this point he’d moved back to Athens from New York.  Things had cooled off between us, and he basically told me to use whatever lyrics of his that I wanted to.  Because I had never re-written the lyrics to [single] “Summer Fruit,” I told him I’d put it on the record if he wanted me to.  That’s how “Summer Fruit” ended up on the record after all.”
In many ways, Ways of Escape became something of a semi-concept record for Crum, with the experience he’d had with Dan taking centerstage lyrically, but also serving as a metaphor for many other things as well.  If you look at particular songs you can see this, and how it plays out over the course of the record.  “Rev War” begins the record by addressing what Crum sees as his artistic revolutionary war:  “It’s not NOTHING I am fighting for.”  Much of the over-arching theme of the record has to do with this theme of self-actualization and the basic existential quest.  The song “Ghost Brother,” too, shares this theme.  There’s a Native American idea that the Ghost Brother is like an alter-ego that a person can end up relying on.  With its frank and personal folk- and country-influenced songs, the record has a bare emotional style that’s far from the innocent optimism and lighthearted psychedelia of the band’s early records.

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