Tracks Along the Way

by Michael On

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In the 1990s, at a time when there was a definite distinction between “local acts,” “regional acts,” and “national acts,” Michael On Fire occupied a unique place in American music culture when he became “a local act all over the Country.” Playing a circuit of gigs that spanned the entire geography of the United States, he traveled to towns hundreds and thousands of miles apart three and four times a year, where he became familiar, with and to, “the locals” in a way that removed the usual separation between “the person on the stage” and the people in the audience. Articles and interviews appeared regularly in the “local papers;” the local radio stations played his music, and he appeared on local TV shows. Other local bands and musicians played his songs at their gigs, just like they might do with more well-known national acts, only he and they played in the same venues. The scope and the sphere of his influence was national, but the perception and the relationships were more akin to a local band. By this point in his career, he had already been writing and recording and gigging for over 20 years, all original music. Signed early on as an artist and songwriter to Groovesville Music, he cut his teeth working out of the famed United Sound Studios in Detroit with the great Don Davis, and through him with a stable of artists that included The Dells, the Dramatics and Johnnie Taylor; in the still-early days of Country Rock, he recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound in Alabama with The Swampers, playing his songs; Stephen Stills and Joe Vitale produced him in Los Angeles, where artists he respected came to his gigs to hear him play. And he played all the time, all over the place, in blues clubs and jazz clubs, and dive bars, and concert venues and festivals, as a headliner and as support for many of the top names in rock, blues, jazz, and roots music. He was, and had long been, a full-time musical artist, with thousands of gigs under his belt. He lived in Detroit, and Los Angeles, and Nashville, but mostly out of a van and motel rooms. This was before the digital age; before social media and YouTube, before every band and musician had their own website, and before cell phone use by the general public. The world was moving into a new millennium with technology leading the way, but Michael was determinedly old school. While others were keeping in touch electronically, he was still pulling up to phone booths with a bag of quarters. As the 20th Century drew to a close, his band mates and traveling companions “ran out of gas” and called it quits. Suddenly solo, Michael paused to envision the next phase of his life and journey as a musical artist. Perhaps in an attempt to have a more normal family life, he came off the road and out of the clubs for the first time in a dozen years. He made a solo album, one voice – one instrument, in Nashville. He wrote and recorded instrumental music that became among the most played music on The Weather Channel, and would remain so for many years. But it wasn’t enough – to keep his marriage and family from breaking apart, which left him with a broken heart; and that became a predominant feature moving forward. When he came through on the other side of the personal and cultural changes, he found himself standing in a world that looked and felt and, in fact was, very different. In almost all of the towns, the venues he played had closed down, and the people who owned and booked and frequented them weren’t around anymore. The local newspapers and the writers who worked at them were disappearing at an alarming rate, and the local radio stations all got bought up by the media behemoth that stole the airwaves, fired the DJs and switched the formats to automated programming. Consolidation, homogenization and compartmentalization were the order of the day, and that which was “out of the box” was out of the loop. A new network of venues and promoters and broadcasters, and alliances and guilds and organizations arose, which operated according to a different paradigm. More than ever, image overshadowed essence and form eclipsed content. As often happens during times of transition and relocation, some things can get lost or misplaced in the process, and in this case it was “the file” on Michael On Fire; the record of his feats and adventures and accomplishments. His data was not recognized by the new operating system, and what moderate assets he had managed to accrue were deemed to be no longer of value. While this is not a typical tale, neither is it entirely unfamiliar; cultural and technological changes often yield casualties of transition. That’s why the oral record is scattered with reports of lost legends and hidden treasures, and why when we discover them in our midst it is important to identify them in the lineage and if possible acknowledge, support and sustain them. Many have asked, and I often wonder, how it could’ve happened that the dots didn’t get connected; how each of the towns remained discrete and isolated from each other. The answer lies in the unique phenomenon of being “local all over the Country.” Local media doesn’t affect or connect with other local media; it takes national media to do that. For an independent artist whose grass roots travel places him below the radar and the awareness of national attention, the way to get national media is to pay for it, and as Michael reveals here in his song “No One to Kill,” – “I’m not one of those who pay …” (and some would add, nor is he one to sell, as in “sell out.”) Michael On Fire is no longer “a local act all over the Country;” now, he’s more like one of our mythic winds, like the Santa Ana, also sung about here, in that he blows in every now and then, shakes things up, and then moves on out. He has never stopped writing, recording, gigging or touring, and as his longtime fans will attest, he continues to get better and better. A lead reviewer at Maverick Magazine (UK) said Michael’s last album “epitomizes all that is so good about the Americana genre,” calling it “honest, rootsy music by a veteran artist who makes music on his own terms regardless of current fads and fancies,” which is true, by the way, and adding, “we celebrate artists like that, especially when the music is of such uniformly high quality.” The reviewer noted his surprise at having never before heard of Michael On Fire, given the number of albums he has out (this is his 20th.) And that gave us the idea: If, like that reviewer, you are a fan of Americana/ roots/singer-songwriter music and you don’t know of Michael On Fire then allow us to introduce you. We saw the release of The Solstice Session as a perfect opportunity to do just that. What follows is a compilation of recordings that span a 25-year period; we call it Tracks Along the Way. The songs included here were chosen, not because we necessarily consider them the best but because each one reveals some essential quality or character to serve as an introduction to Michael On Fire. -RC REP, 2017


released February 26, 2017

© 2017 Real Eyes Productions (REP056B)
All songs written by Michael Colone aka Michael On Fire
© 1990, 1992, 1993, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 Michael Colone
published by Prisma Galacti Music (BMI)
Produced by Michael On Fire, Bear Erickson, Joe Braus, James Ascenzo
Michael On Fire (acoustic and electric guitar, piano, keyboards, harmonica, bass, banjo, drums, percussion, lead vocal, background vocal),
Bill Flores (lap and pedal steel, accordion, mandolin, dobro)
Tompeet Frederiksen (drums, background vocal),
Bear Erickson (electric and baritone guitar, fretless bass, background vocal),
Tyson Leonard (violin),
Tobias (drums and percussion, background vocal),
Ced Curtis (electric guitar),
Stevie Ray Davis (electric guitar),
James Ascenzo (bass, drums, dobro, mandolin, piano, organ, background vocals),
David Reinstein (tenor and soprano saxophone),
Todd Glass (drums), Jack Dryden (bass)
Co-Produced by Tompeet Frederiksen, Ron Colone
Recorded at Erickson Sound Labs (Buellton, CA;) Braushaus (Van Nuys, CA;) Reelsound Audio (Novi, MI;) McDonald Productions (Otsego, MI;) Black Box Sound Studio (Atascadero, CA;) Wonder World (Keego Harbor, MI)
Engineered by Bear Erickson, Joe Braus, James Ascenzo, Brent McDonald Ky Takikawa, Tyson Leonard, Michael Colone, Ced Curtis Mixed by Bear Erickson, Joe Braus, James Ascenzo, Ced Curtis, Brent McDonald, Michael Colone
Mastered by Channel Fuse Music
Cover Graphics by Cavalier Design
Photos by Ron Colone, Jeremy Ball, John Fitzpatrick, Beth Robinson, Greg Sadler, Ann Hubbard.
Thanks to everyone who made these recordings possible; to the patrons and advocates, and to the friends and fans for your ongoing support and connection, especially the Artist Advocacy Foundation (, Ron Colone, Carole Ann Colone, John Poitras, David Katz
Real Eyes Productions, PO Box 1672, Santa Ynez, CA 93460, USA (805)688-0383 · ·



all rights reserved


Michael On

Michael on Fire, singer, songwriter, musician, and storyteller, is lauded by his fans and fellow musicians alike for his powerful lyrics and profoundly emotional performances.
For the past four decades he has toured relentlessly, constantly creating, performing and recording original music with an unswerving singularity of purpose, telling his truths in song and story.
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Track Name: Get Out of the Way
Did everything right – always yes
Denied the pleasure of my own success
Jealous of the ocean
Envying the birds
Borrowing a laugh
Careful of my words

That voice inside tells me every day
Get out – get out – get out of the way

I visualized it
Jumping to my fate
Never meant to struggle
Never meant to wait
To me it seems simple
I may be wrong
The last to leave has stayed too long


The water is murky
The skies are grey
Let the sharks have the water today

When destiny
Steps into the game
Decision doesn’t matter
The outcome is the same
How some people do it
I haven’t a clue
When playing stupid
Is the smarest thing to do

Track Name: I'll Make You a Drum
Many moons many suns over 99 years
The buffalo died on the wise open range
So the great spirit left, so we sell cigarettes
And the warriors dance on the Idaho plains
Will you make me a drum, will you make me a
So I can make thunder, and bring back the sun
When the trees come alive and the deer start to
When the river gets warm, I’ll make you a drum
I heard sounds in my heart, I felt pain in my ears
A fence made of laws to keep us all here
I will run like the wind, I will fight like a bear
You can’t buy my heart, and you don’t own the air
In a house made of wood, In the shape of a
My body might be, but my spirit’s not there,
In a circle of strength, In a warrior’s wheel
The sound of the soul, It’s a sound you can feel
Track Name: Climb These Walls
It’s the first time in a long time
That the fires cooled in hell
There ain’t no place you can hide from heaven
I saw you on your knees praying to be free
Take these chains off
I no longer need them

Climb these walls and let me go
Climb these walls, let me go

All the ivory in the jewelry
All the ivory in the world
Ain’t nothing you can do for no one
I saw the rockets launched in Southern California
And I saw the rainbows of diffusion

Climb these walls and let me go
Climb these walls, let me go

All the guns, and all the words, and all the laws and all the cops
Can’t make you live against your conscience
I know you as a good man
And I know you as my friend,
There ain’t nothing you can say to hurt me
Track Name: Chief Redbird's Violin
I learned to play the Fiddle on Chief Red Bird’s violin
A gift to me when I was 21
He had long since left this world and it sat for many years
And gathered dust and longed to play again---
I could feel those Northern Nights—long laced gowns and smoke filled rooms
I could see those young brides and young grooms and hear those old tunes
I learned to play the fiddle on Chief Red Bird’s violin
Only wish that I could play like him

Never even met the man but I could feel his soul
Every time I held his violin
When I touched that ancient wood the past would seem to sing
When I touched that horse hair bow to string
Maybe he was Chippewa—Ottawa or Wyandot
From the Huron—the Iroquois—Pottawatomie
I learned to play the fiddle on Chief Red Bird’s violin
Only wish that I could play like him

Something seemed so mystical when I held his violin
And smelled the inside of his beat up case
I could just imagine as I watched my clumsy fingers
Dancing gracefully across those strings
He was touched when he was born with the amber blood of the burgundy maple tree
Anointed by the autumn dance when the trees turned gold in 1933
Learned to play the fiddle on Chief Red Bird’s violin
Only wish that I could play like him
Track Name: Warm Wind's Blowing
Business is a church. Money is a god
Oil is the army. Consumers are the squad
Fear is the method. Drugs are the tool
Politics a game. Technology the rule

There’s a warm wind blowing through the streets of the world
A warm wind blowing through the streets of the world

The right side of my heart. The left side of my brain
Shadows of the flag. Poison in the rain
Oxycontin criminals, with medical degrees
Pasteurized and synthesized. The queen can’t find her bees

Throwing rocks from the buildings. Shooting guns in the air
Rogue radiation’s in the food everywhere
Looking for a loved one that’s been swallowed by the Earth
Praying for a miracle, whatever that’s worth

View the war from my telephone
Someone’s always watching. You’re never alone
No one believes in the system
The system is corrupt

There’s a warm wind blowing through the streets of the world
A warm wind blowing through the streets of the world
Track Name: The Lost Sea
In the Cherokee caves,
at the Lost Sea,
Deep in the hills
of eastern Tennessee

You'd know what I mean,
If you've seen what I seen,
If you've been where I've been,
If you lived in my skin

There ain't no colors,
If there ain't no light,
Underground fish,
a wondrous sight


The fire still burns,
after 10,000 years,
you can still smell the smoke,
of the tribes that were here.


The poor rebel soldiers,
lay down and bleed,
The runaway slaves
fight to be free,
and the Yankee boys
don't know what they hear
The echoes of hell,
The demons of fear
Track Name: Silence
Nightclub eyes like candles burn. Ghosts of smoke at every turn
Psychic hands of revolution. Talk in tongues of cruel confusion
Rain reflects the neon signs. Headlights, horns, the daily grind
Lonely street just caught on fire. cRide that street car called desire

Silence – I need silence
Solitude and peace of mind
All alone I need to find

Passing strangers, ice-like eyes. Circumstance turns truth to lies
Bleeding hearts and tears of passion. Last year’s fad is next year’s fashion
Running down the avenue. Naked city, cold as blue
Front page headlines made me wonder. Blatant lies as loud as thunder

Silence – I need silence
Solitude and peace of mind
All alone I need to find
Track Name: Healing Waters
In the days of the human beings
In the battle of the thunder moon,
when the sky was dark with war,
and the air was on fire

the dancers shook the earth,
the ancestors dwelled in the arrows and the spears,
the brave ones fought the souls
of those who died

The Healing Waters of the Great Spirit
Heal the pain,
Peace and honor
The Healing Waters

The fighting stopped when the blizzards came
the rivers froze and the wind was cold,
the Ute and the Arapaho,
in the mountains long ago


and at dawn when the night time spirits rise,
floating to the sun
the shadows of the leaves
look like ghosts climbing trees
Track Name: Before the Wind
Before the Fire, Before the Wind
I bowed my head, drank to my friends
I tried so hard, I'll try again
Before the Fire, Before the Wind

Before the Winter, Before the Fall
Before the Fences, Before the Wall
I pledged my love to you again
Before the Fire, Before the Wind

Hold Your Glasses High
Hold Your Glasses High

I Swear My Love Will Never End
Before the Fire, Before the Wind
Before the Color, Before the Light
Before the Storm, Before the Night
I love you Now, I loved you Then
Before the Fire, Before the Wind

Hold Your Glasses High
Hold Your Glasses High

I Swear My Love Will Never End
Before the Fire, Before the Wind

Before The Sun, Before the Pain
I prayed the Sky would send some Rain
It's coming down, I don't know when
Before the Fire, Before the Wind
Track Name: Whatever Happened to America
Whatever happened to the big front porch
Whatever happened to the corner store
Whatever happened to the acorn tree
Whatever happened to the neighborhood
Whatever happened to the tower.
Whatever happened to the drive-in
Whatever happened to the PTA.
Whatever happened to Saturday
Whatever happened To America
Whatever happened, America

Whatever happened to the radio.
Whatever happened to the farmers
Whatever happened to the family meal.
Whatever happened to cowboys
Whatever happened to the air we breathe
Whatever happened to the river
Whatever happened to the old cafe
Whatever happened to the church bells
Whatever happened to America
Whatever happened to America

Whatever happened to the five and dime
Whatever happened to the playground
Whatever happened to the unlocked door
Whatever happened to Halloween
Whatever happened to the heroes.
Whatever happened to the teacher
Whatever happened to the politics.
And my God whatever happened to the preacher
Whatever happened to America
Whatever happened to America
Track Name: Jubilation
The silvery moon shone high above
The lucky wheel the fisted glove
The 21 monks the cursed and the blessed
The grains of sand and the golden nest

The bow of truth. The Earth is changed
No more lions roam the range
The sign of peace and the sign of the cross
The traded slave shall be called the boss

Jubilation Jubilation

The holy dementia it comes and it goes
Protecting the hearts of those fragile souls
The vow of numb the truth of dough
The winds of change begin to flow

Jubilation Jubiltaion

The saints have died the outlaws have quit
To mix champagne with human spit
To pray at banks and spend in church
To find a cure to end the search

Jubilation Jubilation
Track Name: La La La La La
One hot night by accident a shot was fired and someone died
Four were fingered, but ran away, found guilty, but never tried
Politics and circumstances called for blood and someone's head
Four were strangers, therefore guilty, didn't matter what was said.

One went down to Mexico, disappeared and changed his name
One is dead, and one's still running, one's locked up in chains
La La La La La La La La LA La La

Reputation's a one way track
Once an outlaw, can't turn back
Once the victim, once the fool
Reality can be so cruel
In a moment when an hour turns into a year
The colors of an angry man, the ecstasy of fear


In a daydream, when the silence turns into a prayer
The music of the holymen, the visions in a stare
Run for glory, take the rap
The power of a sigh
Art of Angels like a picture painted on the sky
Track Name: Strength Power Love
Time advances slow and steady
Can you take it, are you ready?
All the hipsters in the world are coming out,
All the beatniks who survived are saints

Concrete rebels worship neon
Some use makeup, some give blood,
Call it entertainment if you want to
Seems the times are changing once again.

All Your Strength and All Your Power, All of your Love
All Your Strength and All Your Power, All of your Love

Brother, brother, sister, sister
Have you seen it, have you felt it?
Thee sorrow in your eyes will turn to wisdom,
The sadness in your heart will turn to joy

All your sweat, and all your pain,
All your passion, all your passion
Your frustration and your fantasy,
All your passion

Déjà vu, I saw this happening,
I saw me seeing all this happening,
Ain’t it such a drag when your heart gets broken
These are the times, these are the times

(for) All Your Strength and All Your Power, and All of Your Love