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Life events brought deeper meaning to Stan Ridgway's new album

of the Oakland Press

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Stan Ridgway had “another idea” for his latest album “Neon Mirage,” when he started writing songs last year. But when “a lot of things happened” — including the deaths of his father and an uncle as well as the suicide of a close friend and collaborator — he was inspired to alter his creative course.

“It became like a big, expansive record of questions — Why are we here? What are we doing? Where is it all going?” explains the former Wall of Voodoo frontman. “I kind of pulled (the album) back in my head and said, ‘I need to write a few more songs here’ and let it develop into what it was going to be.

“It’s not like the whole record is based on those events, but they certainly impact you, and ... it’s an opportunity to artistically explore some new space. I always loved those records by Tom Rush and Fred Neal and Buffy St. Marie and the early (Bob) Dylan records, of course, where you felt like they were really digging in for something. I wanted to do that, too.”

Singer-fiddler Amy Farris was working with Ridgway on “Neon Mirage,” and had even pushed him to re-record his song “Big Green Tree” for the set, when she committed suicide in September 2009. It wound up on the album although Ridgway says he “couldn’t even listen to” the song for quite awhile after her death.

“Amy’s last gig was supposed to be with me,” notes Ridgway, 56. “She didn’t make it; she called in sick, and we didn’t really think anything of it. She was a really funny person, a real bright person ... and immensely talented. She had perfect pitch; you could snap your fingers and she’s say, ‘That’s a B-sharp ...’

“Amy did suffer from chronic depression her whole life. She did a number of things to remedy it, and she fought the good fight, but it got her. It’s a complicated issue for everyone but ... We all miss her. And I feel fortunate this album has some of her spirit on it.”

Stan Ridgway performs Tuesday, Sept. 21, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

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