Ignite Your Bones …

You’ve likely heard the phrase “like water & oil.” It’s a way of saying that two things/people/circumstances just don’t go together. Like water and oil, they don’t mix.

In 2020, we had a set of circumstances that didn’t mix. There was a global pandemic (you might have heard something about it). That, combined with civil unrest, violence, deepening ideological divisions, and heart-breaking isolation led to this album. These things aren’t like water and oil, though. They don’t stay separated in neat layers. They mix like fire and oil. They ignite. They smoke and spread and they burned through every corner of this country. None of us were left untouched. There’s no easy fix. Water won’t put out an oil fire. 

Like Fire & Oil is an attempt to make sense of the last year. At a loss for words, I turned to words penned by other people. Musicians, our culture’s popular poets, gave voice to the emotions and thoughts that I was struggling to process. Like Fire & Oil is an album of despair, exploitation, violence, injustice, hope, family, isolation, beauty, and love. They said it better than I could. So, I used their words.

Why this album? Why these songs?

Music, for me, has always been a place for expressing and processing emotions. Other people singing about that thing you feel gives you the freedom to say, “Yes! That! Me too!” You don’t have to figure out how to say what’s in your heart, someone has done it for you already.

And that is the real reason that I recorded these songs. 2020 was a really hard year for a lot of people, myself included. Every one of these songs connects with something that I felt in the middle of that mess. Some of them are silly, tongue-in-cheek ways to make light of a terrible situation (Fever and Try Not To Breathe) and some are just for fun (Dance Monkey and Remember Me). There is commentary on pointless violence (Pumped Up Kicks) and systemic racism (None Of Us Are Free). And there’s a lot of good, old-fashioned cries for help and songs of lament.

Every track on here was chosen for a reason and expresses something that I needed to get off my chest. The album is a time capsule for this moment in life and captures things that I don’t want to forget. In the process, I hope I’ve created something that people will enjoy.

But, if they don’t, it’s alright. It was for me anyway.

Why Howl and not Chris Dumoulin?

The short answer is that “Dumoulin” is too hard to spell and, therefore, too hard to find in a Spotify or Apple Music search.

The real answer, however, is that being objective about your own stuff is hard. I’m not a singer. I’m not really a guitar player. I’m definitely not a drummer. What I am is a passable bassist and I went and handicapped myself there, as well. I only laid one major constraint on myself for these covers which was, if there’s a bass on the track, that bass would be my upright, Betsy. (Turns out, I’m not nearly as good a bassist on upright as I am with an electric.)

I needed a way to separate myself from what I was recording. In writer’s terms, I needed a character to write for. Who was the person making this music? What did he feel? How would he approach these covers? And so, Howl was born. In reality, Howl is me and I’m Howl. He’s just an aspect of me–a distilled part of my psyche–that could record these songs without getting upset that they were imperfect and ugly. Howl doesn’t care. He’s gonna holler them into the night anyway and feel better for having done so.

Thinking of these tracks as “Howl’s tracks” instead of “my tracks” helped me to take some of the emotion out of re-recording, editing, and processing. It helped me be less precious about these songs when it came time to critique them.

Howl also gave me a place to offload some of the emotional baggage of this past year and process it separately from the rest of my life. Howl is expressing these feelings and I can resonate with them … but with some distance that allowed me to process without it crushing me. Which, if I’m being honest, almost happened several times over the course of recording these songs.

Long Time Travelin’

This is the only public domain song on the record. It’s over a hundred years old. A lot of times, it’s actually titled White after the person who is often credited with writing it. Long Time Travelin’ is a hymn of weariness and grief–two emotions that I felt in abundance as I was putting together this album. The album starts with just the chorus of the hymn to set the tone. You know, let folks know what they’re in for. Even songs that were originally upbeat, fun tracks will not feel that way here.

It wasn’t that kind of year and it’s just not that kind of album.

Pumped Up Kicks

Man, this song is a study in contrasts. The original version of Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People is a fun, snappy dance track … with some seriously messed up lyrics. When I slowed it down and gave those lyrics room to breathe, I found a song that did a good job expressing the pointless, exaggerated anger and violence that we’ve seen in the United States over past few years. There are so many stories of people getting fired up over stupid stuff and popping off–often literally–at their fellow Americans. So much violence and death that could have been–should have been–avoided with just a little perspective and empathy.

Our priorities have gotten skewed as a country. We want what we want and will take down anyone who stands in the way of us getting ours. We go out of our way to berate others who aren’t like us or who hold different opinions than ours or who want to live their lives differently. We use social media to tell people that they’re wrong. Even when it’s well meant, it’s more often than not abusive. Sometimes it causes people to break and lash out violently. Sometimes that abuse becomes deadly.

If we just stepped back and saw people as people instead of seeing them as their opinions, life choices, genetics, or ideologies, I have to believe we would all be better off. You don’t have to agree with someone to treat them with kindness. You don’t have to live your life the same way that someone else does to respect their humanity.

Dance Monkey

Originally, this was just for fun. The original by Tones & I is a guilty pleasure of mine. It was one of the first songs I recorded early in the isolation of the pandemic. It’s fun and upbeat and a wonderfully sardonic take on life as a performer. But, when I gave it the Howl treatment, the song took on a new double meaning that resonated with me. In this year of cancelled everything, so many of my friends and former colleagues in the music industry went from feeling the original meaning of the song (It’s never enough. There’s always another encore, another show, another “when’s the next album coming out?” You’re always on and, if you don’t keep performing, jumping through hoops, and being a dancing monkey, you’ll never survive.) to feeling a new thing. A sadness. An ache to perform again. A deep desire to do anything to be able to play for an audience again. A near-panic-attack need to feel that rush of feedback from the audience that tells you that what you’re doing matters.

So, for my people whom I love, this track is a two-sided coin. It’s silly. It’s fun. It’s too real. But it would also be nice to get back to a place where this is something they can complain about again.

Try Not To Breathe

What do you cover when the world is in the grip of a deadly respiratory illness transmitted via airborne particles? A song called Try Not To Breathe, of course.

This was another one that started as a tongue-in-cheek idea and came to mean more. For me, like many folks over this year, isolation meant a lot of self-examination and lot of forced closeness with my family. There’s no better mirror for all of our imperfections than living cheek-to-cheek with the people that you care the most about in the whole world. You can’t help but see your own issues reflected back at you by the impact that they have on your family.

I’ve definitely struggled with feelings of being a burden and a trial for my wife and child. I’ve also found myself actually feeling my age for the first time. Don’t worry, I’ve spent a lot of time working through this stuff with my therapist, I promise. I also had this song to help me express the feeling and release it. I think I’m coming out of this past year better, wiser, and more in control of myself than I ever have been. Not that there’s not still work to be done. That’s just life.

There’s always work to be done.

Ft. Worth Blues

I love traveling, but there was none of that in 2020. No, sir. We, like everyone else, were locked down at home for the most part. I hadn’t heard this song until this year but, when I did, I knew it had to go on this album. It was too perfect. It expressed the joy of travel, the sadness of loss, and a love for this town but it wrapped all of that up in a blues song about Fort Worth–something I was feeling very strongly stuck here … in Fort Worth. Even though I’ve come to love this city, this song almost perfectly painted the picture of how it felt to be stuck here.

Paris really is my kind of town, though. Love that place.

Fix You

I can’t. I can’t with this song. I come near tears every time I listen to it.

Ellie had come out to record Remember Me and asked if she could stay as I worked on overdubs for other songs. I told her yes, so long as she was very quiet. She was not. In fact, if you listen carefully, there’s a weird clunking noise near the beginning of the song. That was Ellie getting out of her chair and making noise. I can’t bring myself to take that noise out, though. Because, as soon as I was done with that take, Ellie asked me if she could sing on the song, too. I said “yes” figuring there was no harm in it and it would be fun for her. I didn’t intend to use her vocal tracks.

And then I listened to them. And I listened to the words. And I put the two things together. Suddenly this song had a whole new meaning for me as a dad. At some point, she’s going to grow up and she’s going to go out in the world and her heart will be broken and she’ll deal with loss and failure and pain. As a parent, it is part of our job to let our kids go out and get hurt. We try our best to prepare them for it but, in the end, they have to test themselves against the world.

And when my little girl does and it hurts her and breaks her? Lights will guide her home to me. And I’ll do what I was made to do. I will try to fix her up and put her back on her feet so that she can go back out there swinging and storm the gates of her dreams.

The lights will always be here to guide you home, my beautiful Ellie Rose.


I knew I needed a reset song for this album. There were too many big-name pop songs in the mix and, even though they’re done down-tempo, I wanted something that would act as a bit of a palette cleanser and reset expectations for the second half of the album. This song by Roanoke fit the bill perfectly. It calls on the imagery of old spirituals, crying out for help and declaring that there’s nothing left but faith that, somehow, God will bring us through this mess and we’ll find ourselves on the other side of it.

None Of Us Are Free

I could not record a covers album in 2020 without directly addressing racism. This year has been so hard in part because of the blinding spotlight that’s been thrown on our country’s systemic and endemic racism.

I grew up in Alabama. Racism is nothing new to me. I saw it on display daily in my school and city. Once I moved out of Alabama, I found myself in circles where race really and truly didn’t make any difference. It became a nearly invisible factor in relationships and I, like many folks my age, forgot the fact that, for people we love, their race has an outsized impact on their safety, wellbeing, and opportunities.

That naivety was shattered by this past year. As a generation–as a country–we sat at our computers or stared at our phones as a black man was murdered in public by someone who was sworn to serve and protect while other authority figures looked on and even defended his actions. We read story after story about people who look just like people we love being singled out, mistreated, and killed. In many cases because of how they looked and, even when that wasn’t the primary factor, it was a factor.

As a kid from Alabama it was like waking up to a nightmare. One thing about growing up in the heart of Dixie: we didn’t get the option of ignoring the horrors of systemic racism. It’s in our history books. We learn about it in school. We know people who wear the scars of it. To see it alive and snarling from the screen of my phone was horrifying.

I chose this song for two reasons. First, it’s a song of absolutes. If we’re not all free, none of us are. If we can’t all walk down the street assured of our safety, none of us can. If we’re not all safe from police brutality, none of us are. I believe this. But this song is also dripping with hope and optimism. It calls out from a position of belief that people are rational and good. That they can see the truth of things, wake up, and make things better. I believe that, too. I see it in the lives of those I love trying to make a difference. I see it in the way my daughter interacts with her friends. I believe that this doesn’t have to be the way things are.

Don’t Stop Believin’

I mean, what do you follow a song like None of Us Are Free with? A song about believing in the power of love, right?

There’s an additional layer to this, though. Eight years ago, when we were expecting our daughter, I made a video showing off the nursery we’d build for her. To try to convey the feeling of anticipation and hope that we felt, I started to record a cover of Don’t Stop Believin’ as a backing track. I ended up using a partial cover of the arrangement because life was too crazy at the time for me to get around to finishing it. I revisited that arrangement for this album. It was the last song that I recorded for the album, in fact.

I came back to it because I really believe that our kids–MY kid–hold the answer to all this crap. They can make things better. Ellie can make things better. She will make things better by simply loving people the way that she already does. I believe in change because I’ve seen it in my daughter’s eyes.

And I won’t stop believing.


This track was actually a request, believe it or not. A friend said, “Man, I’d love to see what you could do with Dreams by The Cranberries” and I thought, “Huh. That’s actually a really good song…” and decided to give it a go. What I ended up with was a perfect fit for the album.

The song is essentially about falling in love and finding your dreams realized by someone who’s amazing. This past year was challenging and it put a lot of stress on us as a family. The “new normal” kept getting changed on us as soon as we got used to it and we found ourselves at each others’ throats regularly. We all had uniquely individual things that we wrestled with and it just brought a lot of high emotion to the household.

But we worked through it. We sought out help and made the effort and I truly believe that we are coming out of the other side of this thing a stronger family than we were before. I regularly find myself looking up at my wife and daughter and thinking the lines of this song: “A totally amazing mind / So understanding and so kind / You’re everything to me…” I trust in us in a way that I didn’t before. In a way that I didn’t even realize that I didn’t trust before.

I Believe In Miracles

It is no secret that the Ramones are probably my favorite band of all time. I just love the sheer, nihilistic, joyful abandon that they bring to their music. I Believe In Miracles is easily one of their most positive and upbeat songs. It’s a real joy.

So, of course, I had to do a downtempo, sad-sack version.

This was actually the second song that I recoded for this album towards the beginning of the pandemic. We were solidly into self-quarantine as a country, school was happening in person, I was figuring out how to work from home on the regular, and we were just watching the death toll climb to unimaginable heights. On top of that, this country was tearing itself apart along its political and racial seams. It felt like everything was falling apart and we were just a few short steps from a Mad Max movie. I needed some way to process all of that.

I Believe In Miracles is a beautiful counter-point to the stereotypical punk image. It’s just so optimistic. This chilled-out version of the song is my way of expressing the truth that I really do believe in miracles while acknowledging that it didn’t feel like there was any way things were going to get better. Here we are, slowly pulling through to the other side of the pandemic, and we know that things can get better … but it sure didn’t feel like it when I recorded this track.

So, hey, miracles do happen. The future is here today.


Heh. Fever. Get it?

This was the first track I recorded for the album. It was a joke and an excuse to play Betsy (my upright bass) on a jazzy track. I remember letting Jess listen to the original version of this song and it taking her almost a day before she realized that I’d recorded a song called Fever in a pandemic!

This song sounds nothing like that original recording, though.

As I neared the end of this project, I had a few people listen to a nearly-finished version of the album and the overwhelming response was that this song should be cut. But I loved it. So, I decided to figure out what it was that wasn’t connecting with people and find a way to fix it. The song got a complete overhaul. I gave the rhythm section a makeover, added a few tracks, rearranged the lyrics and the instrumentation, re-recorded the vocals, added a harmony, and completely changed the post-processing plan. The end result is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s jazzy and chill and still has the rough edge that set the tone for the whole project.

Remember Me

This is really a bonus track. Ellie and I have been singing this song together for a long time. I love it. I love singing it with Ellie. I love pretty much everything about it. Sure, it doesn’t really fit the aesthetic of the rest of the album but I don’t care.

This one’s for us and it makes me smile.

… takeaways …

In audio engineering, we have a term that we use use to describe the ambient noise level in a room. It’s called the noise floor. It’s the amount of noise that you have to overcome or compensate for in a live sound or recording situation. The higher the noise floor, the more work it’s going to take to make something sound good. You have to make the good stuff louder in relation to the noise.

This past year has had an exceptionally high emotional noise floor. It has taken so much more effort than usual to get above the noise of stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, and fear so that I can feel joy and hope, engage in rational conversations, extend trust, and offer the benefit of the doubt to those around me. I think I’ve done a decent job of it overall but it has been significantly harder than it has in the past. The noise floor has just been so high. It’s been work.

Like Fire & Oil has been a critical tool for dealing with the emotional noise floor of the past year. It has helped quiet the room. Is it a great album? No. It’s rough and ragged and I’m really not a very good singer. Did the world need me to record these songs? Nah. They’re covers, for crying out loud. The world already had these songs. It sure as heck didn’t need my take on them.

But I did.

I needed this album. I needed to record these songs. I needed Howl. I needed the space to process these thoughts and release these emotions.

Hopefully, other people will get a kick out of these covers, too. But, if not, it’s alright. That wasn’t the point. The point was to find a way to make the world quieter so that I could hear the good stuff and love the people around me better.