"The Flood and The Mercy" features performances by former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.
"I've known Peter since the early 1990s, and I was huge R.E.M. fan since forever," he said, "but I hadn't spoken to Peter or any of those guys for five or six years."
Kowalczyk said his producer, Jamie Candiloro, who helped record several late-career R.E.M. projects, was at a wedding several months ago and ran into Buck. Buck asked Candiloro what he was working on, and Candiloro told him about the Kowalczyk project.
Buck reportedly said, "Tell Ed I said hi and I'd love to play on his record."
The guitarist wound up playing on nine of the 11 songs.
"We recorded out in Portland and hung out," Kowalczyk said. "We just ate, drank, played music and went to record stores."
It was good to have Buck on board, he said, but writing the songs for the record was a lot like what Kowalczyk said he did when he was the frontman for Live.
"What I would do with Live is allow the song to emerge on acoustic guitar, mostly," he said. "I'd bring them in relative stages of completion to the band and, mostly, we'd get together, and the band would put their stamp on it in the arrangements, but 90 percent -- the lyrics, the melodies -- that was mine."
His solo material is very similar, with themes of spiritual and emotional searching.
"I think you hope, every now and again, that you get blessed with some finding," he said. "There's a great beauty in the search, as well."
Fans of old Live, he thought, would probably like the new material, some of which is darker.
"I think on this record, I've gone to a deeper place than I've ever been before," he said.
He loves the new songs, but he hasn't given up playing the old, and just because he's been performing a lot of solo acoustic shows doesn't mean he's given up on playing in a band.
"I still play in a band a good bit, but the songs, the new and the old, really revolve themselves back into this acoustic environment."
Just the same, this winter, Kowalczyk and his band will tour Europe and Australia to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Live's breakthrough album, "Throwing Copper."
"Yeah," he laughed, "I'm staying busy."Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.