My wife was Googling works by Asheville painters, and came across this painting of an owl by Mark Bettis (http://www.markbettisart.com) . She handed me her iPad to look at the painting. The first thing I said was “this looks like an album cover”, and I gave her back her iPad. Several nights later I was out on our back deck looking straight up at the full moon through winter trees. I heard an owl up in the pasture and imitated his call. The owl responded so I did it again. He replied more loudly, now nearer by. I called once more and I heard him again. Somehow, silently, he was directly overhead. I turned off the outside lights. I looked up and tried to make him out. Then, magically, I watched him unfurl his wings and take flight. He was a perfect shadow against the cotton cloud, back-lit by the super moon. He was a giant. Suddenly, a second owl, even larger than the first, ascended and darkened the sky. Their wings had made no sound; such stealthy hunters. I realized right then I had both the album cover and title of my second album.
I contacted Mark immediately and asked if he’d be willing to let me use his painting as my cover. Graciously, he accepted the idea, and a couple weeks later I found myself up in Asheville at his awesome studio at the Wedge building looking at the actual painting. It’s titled “In Site”. The “x” over the owl’s eye is meant to imply the moment when the owl has locked in on his prey and is about to swoop down on the helpless victim. Mark had painted it as part of a series he titled “Spirit Animals” which included another owl, a wolf, a bear, a fox, and ravens. This animal painting was the only one left from the series only because he’d taken it home. He said he rarely hung his own art at his house, but this piece was special to him. We made our deal over the use of the painting as the cover. I kept looking at it, looking at it, looking at, and I couldn’t leave it behind! So here it proudly hangs in my living room. Thank you Mark!
I’ve named the album “The Hungry & The Hunted”. This comes from a loaded Springsteen lyric on his epic song “Jungleland” off his legendary “Born To Run” album. It just fit with the painting so well and it’s also a good way of summarizing the various narrators in the songs on the album. It basically all comes down to two groups: there are the ever-hungry hunters and the terrified “huntees”. Suffice it to say there aren’t many noble characters coming out of the songs on this record. Perhaps one: the patient boyfriend in “Take Me With You When You Go”. Other than him, though, it’s mostly a “basket of deplorables” who fit into one side or the other of the food chain equation. I’ll let you listen and be the judge of who fits where. I also want to give a shout out here to graphic designer Chris Eselgroth for realizing my cover vision and making it work. Just what I had in mind.