You hear about family in "Hillbilly Rain," which Flannery created in honor of his father after collecting thoughts that formed as he stood in the coaching box at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. There, Flannery stared across the field through the mist toward Kentucky, from where much of his family hails.
And, as the title indicates, you hear about the grandest feeling of all in "Footprints of Love." Flannery wrote it for his daughter, Virginia, who got married earlier in November.
Flannery, 56, has put the "giving" in Thanksgiving by pledging every penny of album sales to assist Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was brutally beaten in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after the 2011 season opener. Stow sustained serious brain damage and likely will require constant care costing millions of dollars for the rest of his life.
Such philanthropy comes naturally to Flannery, who has played many benefit gigs with his band, Lunatic Fringe, and donated tens of thousands of dollars to defray Stow's medical expenses. "For me, it's another chance to help," Flannery said recently.
Yet, Flannery's 13th album goes beyond being a charitable endeavor or a serenade to those near and dear to him. It also reflects the bond that has developed between him and San Francisco, where he began spending baseball seasons in 2007 as part of manager Bruce Bochy's staff.
Flannery was well-established in San Diego, having served as a player, coach, Minor League manager and broadcaster for the Padres. So accompanying Bochy to San Francisco was something of a risk for Flannery. "I left my house, my family, my job and came up there with no guarantees of anything," he said.
That mirrors what San Francisco represented for people who flocked there in the 19th century, lured by the Gold Rush. The city's "Outside Lands," which today consists of the thriving Richmond and Sunset districts, were nothing but sand dunes then. The expanse was considered useless and barren. Perceptions changed after the Gold Rush, prompting the area to become part of San Francisco in 1866.
"A lot of people through that time came there to chase their dreams, find their goal and chase whatever they were chasing," Flannery said. "Not all of them succeeded. It was a hard time, it was a tough place and I kind of [think] I probably did the same thing."
Thus, Flannery said, this album is "like a photograph of where I've been the last [several] years."
The city has embraced its heritage, conducting an annual "Outside Lands" music festival at Golden Gate Park that attracts an extensive variety of performers. Meanwhile, living in San Francisco for half of each year has helped Flannery immerse himself in the area's musical heritage. Hence, Flannery has performed or acquainted himself with numerous local artists, such as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Jackie Greene, a Salinas native.
"I want this album to sound like it's coming right out of Golden Gate Park," Flannery said.
He also wants to help Stow. Flannery said that at the moment Stow was assaulted, "everybody in his family became full-time caregivers for the rest of their lives. That became all that they had in front of them. Everything else became secondary."
Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt shares Flannery's commitment to Stow, promising to contribute a matching $25,000 to the victim's support fund when album sales reach that level.
Obviously, Flannery's dedication to Stow is enduring and genuine.
"He's also been a part of what's gone on up there," Flannery said.
But often, sources of inspiration are less obvious. For example, when the threat of a tornado and an accompanying downpour postponed the Giants' May 31 game in St. Louis, Flannery's evening yielded a wealth of songwriting material -- despite the absence of a game.
As Flannery left Busch Stadium, an usherette told him, "Be careful." Flannery pointed out that there was no need for worry, since the Giants' hotel was directly across the street from the ballpark. "Be careful," she repeated. The woman's politeness and concern got Flannery thinking about the imperative to tell people how you feel about them, which doesn't happen enough.
Ensconced safely in his hotel room, Flannery heard the tornado-warning sirens blaring. He looked out the window just as a lightning bolt flashed. At about the same time, Angel Pagan, the Giants' sidelined center fielder, passed by in a glass-enclosed corridor. Flannery found a parallel between the twin contrasts: lightning in the darkness and Pagan's jet-black hair and white outfit.
Out popped some music. "I hear a siren sounding/I saw an angel in the night/she was walking on water/she was all dressed in white," was how Flannery began "Tornado Song."
The process doesn't always unfold so quickly. During Spring Training earlier this year, Flannery played "Twenty-One Days" for right fielder Hunter Pence, who cited a major flaw.
"Not enough triumph," said Pence, whose pregame exhortations rallied the ballclub during the previous year's postseason.
Flannery said that he "put [the song] on a shelf" for a few months. When he dusted it off, he added gospel singers in the background and guitar playing that provided edginess and "electric old school wah-wah." Late in the season, Flannery brought the song back to Pence, whose big eyes widened.
"I'm playing that every night before games," Pence said.