about the project

J. Matthew Gerken, Christian Kiefer, and Jefferson Pitcher

43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies

Buy a Physical Copy!

Direct from the Label
CD Baby

Buy a Digital Download!
CD Baby

(sound clips available at the digital download sites linked above)

CD 1

1. George Washington (Washington Dreams of the Hippopotamus) feat. Vince DiFiore (of Cake)
2. John Adams (Armed with Only Wit and the Vigor of the U.S. Navy) feat. These United States
3. Thomas Jefferson (The Mouldboard of Least Resistance)
4. James Madison (Zinger)
5. James Monroe (The Last Cocked Hat) feat. Marla Hansen
6. John Quincy Adams (Death in the Speaker’s Room)
7. Andrew Jackson (Benevolence) feat. Califone
8. Martin Van Buren (The Little Magician) feat. Tom Brosseau
9. William Henry Harrison (So You Don’t Have To)
10. John Tyler (In Hindsight) feat. Bill Callahan (of Smog)
11. James Knox Polk (The Other Is Better / The Landscape to Transform) feat. Monahans
12. Zachary Taylor (Rough and Ready)
13. Millard Fillmore (The Proof Is in the Pudding)
14. Franklin Pierce (My Only Enemy Is Myself) feat. Stephen Yerkey

CD 2

1. James Buchanan (God Will Strike You Down) feat. Reid Maclean
2. Abraham Lincoln (Malice, Charity, and the Oath of God) feat. Wooden Wand
3. Andrew Johnson (Was Ever Alone?)
4. Ulysses Simpson Grant (Helicopters Above Oakland)
5. Rutherford Birchard Hayes (The Beard of God)
6. James Abram Garfield (Seven Months)
7. Chester Alan Arthur (The Epitome of Dignity)
8. Stephen Grover Cleveland (Bees and Honey) feat. Tetuzi Akiyama
9. Benjamin Harrison (Kid Gloves Hands Surplus to Big Sugar)
10. Stephen Grover Cleveland (Rubbermouth)
11. William McKinley (Czolgosz’s Dream) feat. Magnolia Summer
12. Theodore Roosevelt (The Sherman Act Does Not Care) feat. Dean Haakenson (of Be Brave Bold Robot)
13. William Howard Taft (There Was No Longer Use to Hide the Fact That It Was Gout)
14. Thomas Woodrow Wilson (A Life Among Men) feat. Jamie Stewart (of Xiu Xiu)

CD 3

1. Warren Gamaliel Harding (An Army of Pompous Phrases)
2. John Calvin Coolidge (On Silence) feat. Radar Bros.
3. Herbert Clark Hoover (Woe Is a Spoon-Shaped Heart)
4. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Illuminating the Bright Lines)
5. Harry S. Truman (Suits and Fine Trousers vs. Hiroshima) feat. Denison Witmer
6. Dwight David Eisenhower (When Ike Walked the Land) feat. Mark Kozelek and Alan Sparhawk
7. John Fitzgerald Kennedy (There Is No Plan)
8. Lyndon Baines Johnson (Ladybird Take Me Home) feat. Steve Dawson
9. Richard Milhous Nixon (2 Under Pay Off the Coast of Africa) feat. Tom Carter
10. Gerald Rudolph Ford (Now You See It, Now You Don’t See It)
11. James Earl Carter, Jr. (A Great Beam of Light) feat. Rosie Thomas
12. Ronald Reagan (Such a Marvelous Dream) feat. Califone
13. George Herbert Walker Bush (It Was Foreshadowed Here: The Beginning of the End)
14. William Jefferson Clinton (The Mighty Lion Will Not Roar Again)
15. George Walker Bush (Though the Night)


On September 9, 2008, Standard Recording Company released the release of a triple CD Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies, a collection penned by songwriters J. Matthew Gerken (of Nice Monster), Christian Kiefer, and Jefferson Pitcher (formerly of Above the Orange Trees). The set features a slew of special studio guests including Califone, Rosie Thomas, Bill Callahan (Smog), Alan Sparhawk (Low), Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon), Marla Hansen (Sufjan Stevens), Steve Dawson (Dolly Varden), Vince DiFiore (Cake), Monahans, James Jackson Toth (Wooden Wand), and Tom Carter (Charalambides).

This project initially came about as part of “February Album Writing Month,” a website (www.fawm.org) that challenges songwriters to write 14 songs in 28 days. The three songwriters wrote and recorded rough demos of the first 42 songs in February 2006 (leaving only George W. Bush for later). “It was an amazing challenge to get that many songs written, even split three ways,” notes Kiefer. “Blasting the first four or five is easy and then you’ve used up all the ideas that have been floating around and have to come up with new ones. And you have to come up with those new ideas right now.”

It was decided soon after that the project was too interesting to leave in the demo stage and so the recording process began anew with guests coming into the fray as time and schedules allowed. The project is now in its final phases. “It’s a walk through American history and an inquiry into what makes us Americans as filtered through the lens of our highest public office. There’s heartbreak and beauty and criticism and revelation. We’re trying to make it work like a big beautiful historical novel.”

The released project includes a 100+ page book featuring individual images of the Presidents by 43 different artists, all hand-selected by art curator Pitcher to be included in the project.  To quote from Kiefer’s song about President Tyler: “Oh!  Hell yes!”

Kiefer’s album Dogs & Donkeys (Undertow) appeared to favorable reviews last year and featured guests Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker (Low), Nels Cline (Wilco, The Geraldine Fibbers, etc.), and Garth Hudson (The Band). Kiefer and Jefferson Pitcher also saw the release of their collaboration To All Dead Sailors via Australia’s Camera Obscura earlier this year, a project recorded in the midst of the Presidential madness. Pitcher’s recent concept album I am not in Spain was also released this year on Mudita Records. Gerken’s acoustic indie-math rock quartet Nice Monster is also in the studio recording a follow-up EP to their full-length Good Times + Sharp Knives (Grayscale).

May we humbly suggest you click on “Archive” on the right to access the ongoing project blog with regular updates from the participants and the label?  Or try the categories on the right and far below to find out what we’ve written about your favorite President…

Published on May 1, 2008 at 9:14 pm  Comments Off on about the project  
%d bloggers like this: