Heart Broken Open // 2009

Making this album was a journey that began when I first started writing these songs in the late 1990s, during a time when I was going through a crisis of belief and a test of mental mettle. But what really set things in motion was my move away from my home, friends and family in New Jersey to the relative seclusion of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, followed by the break-up of my marriage, a relationship that spanned nearly a decade of my life.

The tracking for the record began in the winter of 2005 in an old red barn in the woods, where I lived alone and worked. From those humble beginnings of raw acoustic guitar, piano and vocal tracks, the production grew into a major undertaking, drawing upon the talents of more than 20 musicians, engineers and producers hailing from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Working closely with long-time friend and co-producer Thom Soriano, I was taken on a journey of discovery, as the songs showed us where they needed to go, how they wanted to sound. During the long and winding process, there were many, many twists in the road, many moments of surprise and revelation and plenty of deconstruction and painstaking rebuilds. This one certainly took its own time to come through, but the finished piece is something that, I feel, reflects all the care, love and life that was put into it.

With Heart Broken Open, I tried to examine and express the things that I felt were keeping me from experiencing the all the love and joy I knew was possible for me to feel. Mostly, I was trying to explore my difficulties with love, with faith, with trust, with fear and with a tendency to stay locked up in thought rather than fully experiencing life. Also, I tried to express the grief I was feeling over the breakdown of my marriage. I explored these themes in the lyrics. I also used the musical arrangement as a way to express the conflict between opposites like love and loss, faith and doubt, hope and fear. I tried to represent tension between these opposite forces with acoustic, organic instrumentation tending to represent the former and glitchy electronic sounds representing the latter. After an hour meditating on these themes and experiencing this tension in the music, the album culminates in a "breakdown" when the electronics malfunction and the music stops briefly, creating a moment of silence in which the heart can burst through unobstructed by the machinery that had held it in check. The album offers, in the end, the hope that by examining and expressing the dark difficuties that hold back the heart—and letting them run their course—new life, love and joy are possible on the other side.

1. An Innocence Inside
2. Empty Chair
3. You're Not the One
4. Heart Broken Open
5. The Unknown
6. Long Long Time
7. Gone
8. Secrets
9. Homeless
10. Before Us
11. The Silencing
12. Lost and Profound
13. World Weary Love
14. I Just Wanted You To Know

Released: May 15, 2009

Joy Askew: vocals
Clayton Colwell: electric guitar
John de Kadt: percussion
Justin Hillman: acoustic guitar and backing vocals
Jalal Wade Hines: acoustic and electric guitars and e-bow
Anne Legene: cello
Jason Loughlin: electric and slide guitar and backing vocals
Eric Martin: violin, viola
David Nagler: string arrangement
Robert Oakes: vocals, piano, synths, acoustic guitar,
electric guitar, bass, bamboo flute, percussion, dulcimer
Lisa Parise: backing vocals
Luthea Salom: vocals
Jason Schultheis: drums
Josh Smith: percussion
Kate Smith: backing vocals
Thom Soriano: bass, electric guitar, programming, loops and samples
Vinnie Zummo: atmospheric and solo guitars, lo-fi vocal fx

Music and lyrics by Robert Oakes (BMI)
©2007–2009 Robert Oakes, Jr.

Co-produced by Robert Oakes and Thom Soriano

Recorded at:
Off the Beat-n-Track Studio, Sheffield, MA.
Muddy Angel Music, Richmond, MA
First Mark Music, Richmond, MA
and at a number of home studios

Engineered at OBT by Will Curtiss and Will Burns
with input by Todd Mack
engineered at Muddy Angel and First Mark by Justin Hillman

Mixed by D. James Goodwin with Thom Soriano
and Robert Oakes
at The Isokon in Woodstock, NY

Mastered by Garrett Haines at Treelady Studios, Turtle Creek, PA

Art and photography by Kate Smith
Layout and design by Robert Oakes