Days Like Today

It started off as just another new recording project, with only the usual expectations, back in early 2020. We had our list of possible tunes on our white board, our notebooks out, music stands set up in the dining room for rehearsal and in the music room for recording. We had four tunes well under way when we went on a lovely trip to Mexico with a couple of dear friends, counting on the little vacation to give us some more momentum when we returned. The Mexico trip was everything we had hoped for and more. We had a lovely time in a beautiful place.

As we started to prepare for our trip home at the end of February 2020, we heard some ominous news reports about a new virus that was causing concerns in Asia. On our flights back, the airports felt different. Some of the passengers were wearing masks, and there was a palpable sense of worry in the air. By the time we arrived at SeaTac, there were reports of deaths in the Seattle area. We learned the name of the virus: COVID-19. By the time we got home in Oregon, all thoughts of working on the album went on the back burner.

That spring and summer were a blur, and then on Labor Day, 2020, the Holiday Farm fire hit. The beautiful McKenzie valley, one of the splendid natural treasures of our home area, was an inferno. Some of our closest friends were evacuated, not knowing if they would have a home to return to if things ever came under control. We couldn’t go outside for any length of time; the air was a dirty, smokey orange, and not fit to breathe.

As the fires burned on, the school year began, and we became full-time tutors to our grandsons. We had to learn along with everyone else how to do school over an internet connection. We relished the time with our grandsons, but worried about our friends and the fire, and struggled to learn to live with COVID. It was not a time to work on an album.

The continuing COVID years were a blur. We played some, wrote some, performed a little, and wondered a lot about when things might begin to approach “normal” again. Late in 2022, it started to feel that there was room again in our lives to begin doing some constructive work on the album. It felt good to get back to the music. And it felt good to finish; it had been nearly three years since we started. In a way, “Days Like Today” became our way to move on, to begin living and making music again. For us, it was a catharsis. We hope that it might be that for you, too.

The Songs

Reason to Believe (Tim Hardin)

Carleen, guitar and vocal; Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Dale Bradley cello.

When we first started playing and singing together in 1971, this is one of the first songs we learned. Tim Hardin is from Eugene, Oregon, our hometown. He was having some commercial success during the first years that we did the song, and we were proud of our shared Oregon roots. His untimely death of a heroin overdose in 1980 was a blow. We have continued to do the song ever since, because we love it, and as a tribute to a fellow Oregonian. [lyrics: this link goes to an external website]

House of Their Dreams (Carleen McCornack)

Carleen, guitar and vocal; Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Megan Perdue, piano; Andy McCornack, Cajón; Dale Bradley cello.

A few years ago we were invited by our friend Phil Ward to take part in a program he runs called “Now, See, Hear”. The program operates in conjunction with the Far West Folk Alliance, and can be seen and heard at The motto of the project is “Music. Art. Repeat.” It started with songs that were given to a bunch visual artists as seeds; they then created art based on the music they heard. But then, the broader magic starts. These completed artworks were given to different songwriters as seeds for new original songs. The cycle continues on after that, music-art-music-art, like a game of telephone in two languages, where you don’t want the final message to be identical to the starting message.

This was Carleen’s response to an artwork by Kathleen O’Grady and her neice Jillian.

[Carleen] -[go to lyrics]

Windy and Warm (John D. Loudermilk)

Mike, guitar, bass guitar; Carleen, guitar.

When we first started playing together back in 1971, we shared music back and forth as we looked for artists to provide inspiration for developing our own musical style. In the world of acoustic folk guitarists, no one was a better model of excellence than the great Doc Watson. Our first date (though we didn’t think of it as such at the time) was to see Doc and Merle in concert. We have been doing Doc’s music ever since. Windy and Warm is one of his best, and one we dearly love doing.

Days Like Today (Mike McCornack)

Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Carleen, guitar and vocal; Dale Bradley cello.

Mike wrote this somewhere around 1970 (BC: Before Carleen), when he was playing as a solo musician at a local pizza parlor. It is one that has occasionally popped in and out of our repertoire over the years. For some reason, it’s melancholy nostalgia seemed to especially fit the COVID years. [go to lyrics]

I Fell Asleep (Mike McCornack)

Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Carleen, guitar and vocal; Andy McCornack, Cajón.

When circumstances (COVID again) had taken away performing as an option, we decided we needed some musical rejuvenation. Our solution was a songwriting retreat at a secluded house on southern Oregon’s beautiful Umpqua River. Of course, being somewhere with the purpose of writing songs and actually writing songs are two different things. I will confess that this song is intensely autobiographical. [go to lyrics]

Where I Live (Bill Staines)

Carleen, guitar and vocal; Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Andy McCornack, Cajón.

Somewhere back in the 1990s we were invited by our friend, promoter Anna Ellendman, to share a concert with one of our favorite singer-songwriters, Bill Staines. We came to that gig loving Bill’s music; we left the gig loving the wonderful man behind the music. This was the beginning of a twenty-plus year friendship, and a run of opening for Bill whenever he brought his tour through the Northwest. Every visit continued a conversation we had paused the previous year, as if no time had passed. We were blessed to play with Bill on one of his last concerts, in Seattle, October 16, 2021. Bill passed away from cancer just a few weeks later, on December 5th. We still miss him every day, but are so glad that we have wonderful songs like Where I Live to keep him alive in our hearts.

Blue River Home (Carleen McCornack)

Carleen, guitar and vocal; Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Andy McCornack, Cajón; Dale Bradley cello.

[Carleen] [go to lyrics]

If I Had to Leave Today (Mike McCornack)

Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Carleen, guitar and vocal; Andy McCornack, Cajón; Dale Bradley cello.

The Holiday Farm fire really hit home when some of our dearest friends got the “Go, evacuate now!” order in September of 2020. Even though we didn’t have to make those horrible decisions ourselves, people we care for deeply did. It hit home for us in a very visceral way. Ultimately, these are questions we should answer for ourselves before circumstances force us to. [go to lyrics]

Dog Walk (Mike McCornack)

Mike, guitar and bass; Carleen, guitar

If you’re a guitar player, or if you know one, you know the problem. You pick up a guitar, you start to noodle. This little riff has been under my fingers for years, annoying fellow musicians, backstage folks, and audiences. Getting this album together was an opportunity to give it some form and direction. What was in my notebook for years as Sliding Instrumental became Dog Walk, dedicated with love to our labradors, Gracie and Beaumont, who deserve more walks.

Old Dogs (Bill Staines)

Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Carleen, guitar and vocal; Andy McCornack, Cajón; Dale Bradley cello.

One of our gigs with Bill was a pleasant house concert in a rural area outside of Corvallis, Oregon. A frequent topic of discussion when Bill came to town was our and Bill’s dogs. Bill had been especially fond of one of our Labradors, Bob. That night, when Bill played Old Dogs, it brought both of us to tears. After the show, Bill agreed to play the song into our little hand-held recorder so we could learn the song, which at that point he had yet to record. As we worked on the song after that gig, the problem of the tears was always a constant struggle. We can do the song now, but it is always an emotional journey.

Because I Kind of Love You (Mike McCornack)

Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Carleen, guitar and vocal

While on a walk one morning, the line “Because I kind of love you” popped into my head. As a lifetime equivocator, it struck me what a predicament a shy person is in when struggling to say “I love you” for the first time to someone. This love song is for all the shy people out there. I hope it helps. [go to lyrics]

Will the Penguins Remember Us (Mike McCornack)

Mike, guitar, bass guitar and vocal; Carleen, guitar and vocal; Andy McCornack, Cajón.

This was Mike’s response to another piece of artwork from the “Now, See, Hear.” program (see “House of Their Dreams” above for more information). The artwork is a beautifully fanciful piece by artist Gina M. Mike’s song is a humorous reflection on a not-so-humorous problem, Climate Change. Maybe the penguins, polar bears and cockroaches will win, after all. [go to lyrics]

The Musicians

Dale Bradley

Dale Bradley, cellist, composer and guitarist, is a Springfield, Oregon native, an instructor and alumnus of the Eugene Springfield Youth Orchestras, and longtime member of the Eugene Symphony and the Oregon Mozart Players. A graduate of the University of Oregon School of Music, he studied cello with Robert Hladky and composition with Hal Owen. He started playing cello in the 4th grade and also began composing at this time, filling up small notebooks purchased from the local music store with musical ideas. Dale’s compositions & arrangements have been played live in various venues on the west coast, from local retirement centers to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dale’s teaching activities include beginning String Academy classes in local elementary schools, various summer camps, and a private studio where he teaches cello, bass & guitar. Dale has played live and recorded with a wide variety of musicians. He continues to assist others in their recording projects, often arranging & producing in his home studio. Dale’s own CDs include “Solo,” “The Christmas Cello,” and “Generations.”

Dale has been playing with Mike & Carleen since 1989, when he contributed outstanding parts to their award-winning children’s recording “Beasties, Bumbershoots and Lullabies”. Dale frequently joins Mike & Carleen for live performances.

Andy McCornack

Andy McCornack is a drummer, percussionist and computer programmer who has played in jazz bands, the alternative rock band Glass Kat, the TNT country/folk/alt group, and with the University of Oregon Marching Band. Andy also joins Mike & Carleen in live performances as his schedule allows. Beyond his day job as a programmer, Andy provides web expertise and support for a number of musicians and musical organizations, including this site and Andy is also Mike & Carleen’s son.

Megan Perdue

Megan Perdue is currently the Director of Choral Studies at Sheldon High School in Eugene, Oregon. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music with emphases in Vocal and Piano Performance from University of Oregon and a Master of Music in Music Education from the University of Washington. Megan has performed with the University of Washington Chamber Singers, Oregon Bach Festival, Eugene Opera, Eugene Symphony, Luxe Women’s A Cappella, and the University of Oregon Chamber Choir, University Singers, and Divisi. Divisi was part of the inspiration for the book, movie and TV series “Pitch Perfect”. Megan began her piano studies as a young child in the home of her parents, Mike & Carleen. Outside of teaching music, Megan loves to spend time with her family, read, cook, exercise, and hold impromptu dance parties in her kitchen.

Other Credits and Notes

This is not a two-person project, especially in such interesting times. We are especially grateful for the other musicians who contributed so much to this album: Dale Bradley, Megan Perdue, and Andy McCornack. And how cool is it for us not only to have our children (Megan and Andy) become musicians, but to join us on this recording?

Bob Kerns, a longtime friend, contributed not only his artistic sense but his considerable photographics skills and talents to help us look good in his wonderful photographs. He turned a moody rainy day into the artistic photographs that grace the cover of “Days Like Today”.

Our friends Mary Collentine and George Pubanz contributed not only the extended use of some amazing equipment for the studio sessions, but invaluable musical feedback as we shaped the recordings into what became the final product. This continues a string of contributions they have made to many of our recording over the years. To say we are grateful for their help does not go nearly far enough to express what we feel. Thank you, G & M!

And a thank you to our friends Dave and Barbara Brazelton who have always had our backs, supported and encouraged us in our music, and introduced us to some life’s experiences we never would have had otherwise. It all becomes part of the music!