When I talked with trucker/singer-songwriter Paul Marhoefer this week he was “enjoying this little December reprieve we’re having here in Indiana” where he lives, he said. “I’m sort of relaxing –- when you’re out on the road in that battle mode, when you come home, you realize how tired you really area.”
He was also, at least partly, celebrating the recent release of the five-song Volume 2 of a previously released “Raw Cuts” full-length album. That second volume showcases five tracks recorded at the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, the session part of gift from his daughter Audrey, who’d “saved her tips from a pizzeria” in part to fund it, he says.
You can find both volumes of “Raw Cuts” out there available on digital-music services from iTunes and Spotify to Google’s Play service. The tracks there showcase Marhoefer’s soulful roots approach to music — one of the cuts on Volume 1 regular readers and attendees of the Trucker Talent Search this year in Dallas will well remember. “Jacksonville” tells the story of a trucker who drove for his company “for a good 20 years” whose health was beginning to fail, as he tells in this performance of it.
The track at the top of this story is another that springs directly from his experience of the trucking industry, with the roots of its tale in an accident that destroyed his Western Star an eighth of a mile from the truck stop he was headed for, running as an owner-operator in 2001. “It broke my neck in three places and scarred me up pretty good,” he says, as the picture here well suggests.
Marhoefer’s wife, Denise, notes that the first call she received about the accident was “from a trooper who said they had just called in the coroner because there is no way anyone could have lived through such a wreck.”
Fortunately for Marhoefer, however, he did, and no one else involved in the three-vehicle collision had been hurt, he says. At the time, he didn’t have gap insurance to cover the difference between what he owed on the truck and what it was worth. The $19,000 difference after the insurance he did have came through, coupled with a long recovery period, brought on a “very hard time for our family.”
In part, that’s chronicled in the track, “God and God Alone.” It wasn’t just memory of the wreck that inspired it, however. His previously mentioned daughter, Audrey, this year graduated from the College of Charleston, another daughter, Anna, from Ball State. Given his accident came right in the middle of their formative years, and knowing his history and what he calls his own failure to “capitalize on all the advantages I was given” as a child, their own accomplishments with “fewer advantages,” he adds, simply overwhelmed him with gratitude.
Looking at how far they’d come, as he sings, he gives credit where he feels it’s due: “It was God, and God alone, that took us here from there.”
Catch the tune above or at the head of our “Music to truck by” SoundCloud playlist below. And stay tuned for more. Marhoefer’s taken further inspiration from fellow songwriters among truckers he was able to meet as part of this year’s Trucker Talent Search event, too, seeing a “Roger Bannister effect” in “getting to know people like Tony [Justice], Don [Whatley], Nate [Moran] who had all taken their music somewhere.” Bannister is the runner who first broke the four-minute mile. Thereafter, several others did the same.
“It was an inspiration to me,” Marhoefer says. “It’s enabled us to think that if they’ve done that, maybe we can do this, in our way.”
He’s planning more releases for the coming year and beyond. “I’ve got about four more albums in me,” he says. “If the creek don’t rise, Lord willing, I’ll be putting out a lot of material in the next few years. … I have a sense of urgency. I want to put out all the stuff I’ve written as fast as I can. That’s not how it works, traditionally. But if I find something online today that I like,” for instance, “I really don’t care when they put their albums out. The rules have changed” with the ease of self-production and -distribution.
“Twenty years ago, somebody,” whether a label or music management company, he adds, “had to say yes. That’s no longer the case.”
His next record, he says, will feature full-band instrumentation rather than the one-man, one-guitar approach he’s taken to date, including expert guitar work by a fellow trucker he’s collaborating with.