News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 1, 2013

The sounds of ‘The Wabash’

Second volume debuts Friday, raising funds for Dresser sculpture

TERRE HAUTE — A second musical compilation reflecting the Wabash River will be unveiled in a release party Friday at Art Spaces Inc.

“The Wabash: Volume II” compact disc features a dozen musical acts performing original and classic songs inspired by the Wabash — Indiana’s official state river and the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi River.

Volume one of “The Wabash” raised about $6,000, and the second CD is expected to generate about the same amount, said Mary Kramer, executive director of Art Spaces Inc.

All proceeds from the CDs will go to fund a riverside sculpture honoring the music of Paul Dresser, the Terre Haute-born composer of “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away.”

Kramer said Art Spaces is at 90 percent of its goal to raise $80,000 for the sculpture, but additional funds will be needed for landscaping.

“We will keep the momentum going as long as possible, as everything will benefit the project,” Kramer told the Tribune-Star on Monday.

Art Spaces has interviewed three sculptors so far, Kramer, said. Once all interviews are finished, artists are to submit proposals, due by the first of December. The winning artist will be selected in December, and the sculpture is to be dedicated in June.

“It is a big project, partly funded by the Terre Haute Rotary Cub, and this is [its] centennial year, so we really like to make it within that year, which ends in June,” Kramer said. “The artists knew coming into this that this is our timeline.”

The new CD features 12 artists, eight with original new songs, such as “Little Muddy,” from Tim Carroll, who has lived in Nashville, Tenn., for the past 20 years and 13 years before that in New York. He grew up in western Vigo County near the state line with Illinois.

His father worked in Terre Haute, “and we crossed the Wabash River bridge almost every day. You could never help but notice how muddy it was; you always thought of it that way, a very muddy, brown river,” Carroll said.

“I don’t know if anyone ever called the Wabash the Little Muddy, but you know they call the Mississippi River the Big Muddy,” Carroll said, relating how he named his song featured on the CD.

Carroll is a 1977 graduate of West Vigo High School and a 1981 graduate of Indiana University. “I am very excited to be a part of this album. It’s always nostalgic to think about where I grew up. Of all the rivers in the world, the Wabash is the only one I identify as being part of my roots.”

Paul Bertsch of Terre Haute wrote, “There’s a River” about two years ago. It’s basic theme “is coming face to face with your own limitations and as you get older,  you realize some dreams you thought you have aren’t maybe going to get fulfilled in the way you thought they were,” he said.

“And yet, in the midst of that, God is really working out his plan for your life. On one hand, the river kinda represents the course of our life as God leads us. There is the sense of the river as our world and our culture, and sometimes we’re kinda swimming upstream against it.

“That is its own battle in itself. How do we navigate life and the world when it is going a very different direction than you are?” he added. “It is pretty metaphorical.”

The Wabash River holds a special place for Bertsch as he proposed to his wife, Roxy, at Fairbanks Park in 1988. The couple will celebrate their 25th anniversary in December.

Cari Ray, who now lives in Brown County, is a 1992 graduate of Rockville High School and a 1996 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She wrote the song, “Wade On In.”

Ray grew up near the river, playing with friends at Montezuma. “I started thinking about the river, the water and all the connections that I had to that and to spirit and faith,” she said.

She discovered a vintage photo of people being baptized in the river. “I woke up at 3 in the morning one morning with the beginning of the chorus in my mind. So the song bore itself out from there,” Ray said. It was a interesting and different challenge, Ray said, to write a song on a specific topic, in this case the Wabash River “that felt real to me and really personal.”

Kramer, Don Arney, Ted Piechocinski and Mark Bennett served as executive producers of both “The Wabash” and the “The Wabash: Volume II.” Bennett, a columnist, feature writer and editorial writer at the Tribune-Star, wrote, “She Loves Me the Wabash Way” for the new CD.

“I wrote this song for my wife, Teri, using analogies with the beauty and movements of the river, which runs near the small town where I grew up, Prairieton,” Bennett said in an album news release.

In July and August, Bennett published in The Tribune-Star a five-week series of stories and columns about the river, from its headwaters in Ohio to its confluence with the Ohio River in far southwestern Indiana.

Arney said the second CD features a diverse compilation of songs, ranging from classical, Western swing, folk, alternative rock, punk-country, adult-contemporary to a piano-cello duet.

The disc opens with the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra performing, “River Fanfare: On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” an original arrangement from David Watkins of Terre Haute.

“The new CD has a bit more variety in terms of the genres that are represented. The two CDs together are a pretty darn good combination of so many musical styles,” Arney said. “It’s a good listen all the way through.”

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