“This Is The Part Where We Kiss Good~Bye”/WPA vol.17 by Bill Mallonee
Old songs. New versions.
What to say? Many of you know my “perpetual ritual” of selling gear to keep “wolf from door.” All of this comes with the territory of being an indie artist. No surprises, really.
You learn there are no guarantees in this world…But, that alone becomes the “raw data” of songs, in my book…
I had to part with the “Killing Floor” guitar a few years back. (“Killing Floor” was an album that “broke” the band I was in at the time to a national level.Vigilantes of Love” was a plucky/indie folk-rock phenom at the time)
The guitar? An old Takimine. Nothing vintage or spendy…but to me?
Well, by the end, I’d probably had written 1000 songs on “her.” C’est la Vie.
Anyway: The WPA recordings have been the moniker I’ve used for some 22 EP/albums. These are new versions of songs that were standard stock hits” for my band Vigilantes of Love in the first few years. They’ve remained in the set list almost perpetually. They’re also some of the most auto-biographical songs I’d written up to that point…
Tools of the trade:
All done on a 4 Tracks recorder. The WPA (stands for Works (in) Progress Administration) records have been characterized, generally, by lots of immediacy; in the moment renderings, with a heavy emphasis on lyrics & an adventurous spirit on the guitar arrangements.
Now you know.
SO: Before i shipped the guitar off to it’s new owner, I re-recoded some of the “hits.” They all went to different places. Hope you’ll dig it.
Below is the track list AND a short essay I sent forth as a bit of a eulogy for an instrument who treated me well…
Enjoy, if you have time…
AMERICA, AMERICA 05:41,
JUDAS SKIN 05:16,
RUN THROUGH MY VEINS 05:25
PARTING SHOT 05:55,
JUDAS SKIN (alt mix) 05:16
AMERICA, AMERICA (alt mix) 05:41,
RUN THROUGH MY VEINS (alt mix) 05:25,
PARTING SHOT (alt mix) 05:55
~ Shaking Hands With The Past ~
Dear fans, friends, & the just plain curious,
I hope you will enjoy, “where these songs went,” as i played them one last time on this guitar that has become a dear friend of mine..
This guitar was responsible for how part of myself was born, nurtured and formed. From that stand point, it’s really not anything epic. But the fact that, like a prospector’s pick, it tapped a part of me that’s “birthed” over 1000 songs is well, pretty unique.
Here’s how the guitar & I met:
The legendary Mike Guthrie (Athens, Ga.’s only vintage instrument dealer) called me one day in the summer of 1991. “i know you’re playing more acoustic these days,” he said, so i think you should get down here and see what just came in.”
As it turned out a Univ. of Ga. music school student had just come into the store and sold his Takimine acoustic guitar. “It’s perfect for you,” mike said. “It has a great pick-up, great tone…and it best of all? It looks good one you.”
At a “slightly used instrument” price, i walked with it that day.
I had just started an off-shoot band called Vigilantes of Love. (Athens scene musicians were always playing in side projects in those days. VoL was myself, accordion player Mark Hall with an occasional guest appearance by harmonica player, John Evans. It was initially & thoroughly an acoustic project, a detour away from my more electric/pop band “The Cone Ponies. I’d been writing at a rate of about 50-60 songs a year for the previous 4 years. Most of those early songs were written on an old 6-string National dreadnought. (It was then quickly adapted to a paisley-pink Fender telecaster (ooh la-la!) and played electric.
But, this new Takimine was my first “serious” acoustic guitar. With the acquisition of the “Tak” my writing seemed to move into a different sort of world. The guitar was very playable. It enabled me to explore technique and alternate tunings. It allowed a world of ease when writing, rehearsing and playing “live.” All of those variables combined with everything I was listening to in those early days. I relished the tone and immediacy of Dylan’s early acoustic records; was enthralled by the warmth and technique of a player like Neil Young on his epic album, “Harvest;” I was smitten by the simplicity and tender beauty of Tom Waits rendering “Time, Time, Time.”
These “influences” combined with two other dynamics. The first was that of the energy of the early Athens Music scene (still fledgling in 1990.)
VoL’s club was not the “Fabulous 40 Watt” nor the “Uptown Lounge.” Our watering hole was the small but vibrant subterranean “Downstairs Cafe,” located on Clayton street.
It was here that Mark & I previewed countless songs that would eventually surface on the albums “Jugular,” “Driving The Nails,” “Killing Floor.” There were at least another 50 or songs we played. I was writing up till the time of a show frequently.
(Sorry, no recordings exist of those works.)
We were, quite often, selling out two shows a night on weekends….but then again, the cafe could only hold 40 folks at a time. This was 1991-1992, folks…
Still, for someone who never felt embraced by the hipper “powers that be” in the Athens scene, it was affirming enough.
And so: Nothing breeds success like success.
It is significant that this is where i first, marked out my ritual of “write it, play it “live” asap, record it…and take it on tour.”
I’ve done that now for 50 plus albums over 22 years.
Armed with my sweat-drenched Takimine, and some “fake-swagger-as-a-coping-mechanism-for-my- shyness,” it truly felt like new worlds were opening up to me both as a writer & as a performer. That guitar, it’s feel, it’s tone, and it’s growing-song-by-song-relationship, enabled me to write about all that was sad & fractured in my world; and all that was possibly hallowed and beautiful.
Maybe something buried within, needed a “nomenclature” to be brought to the light & rendered less destructive to me.
That guitar was that tool for such an excavation.
SO: When I tell people that the guitar was “something like a salvation” I am not joking.
Guitars are funny. They are beautiful, as well.
Although they are “things,” this guitar became a friend.
“She” was on almost every album. I could pull it out of the case & instinctively “know” that something GOOD was going to happen.
Whether that “Good” came in the form of a new song, some new little technical flourish or a gateway to a new set lyrics, it became (to me) a loyal & trusted friend.
It “turned the inside out.”
I now believe that’s what a good instrument is for.
~ “HERE’S THE PART WHERE WE KISS GOOD~BYE” ~
Recently, the guitar (which as most of you know) had to be sold. It was sold to stare down impending financial crises. Such crises have been a constant issue for me for near a decade now.
Maybe that’s just the life of a troubadour.
Was i pushed or did i jump?
who cares, really.
I suspect i was “chosen” by the vocation as much as i think i did the choosing.”
I’m doing “life without parole,” you know?
All I have to “offer” are the songs. And I have amazing, incredible fans. They’ve ‘been there” for me, through thick & thin…
They still listen to songs & music as if it matters.
On those 2 strengths, I have attempted to run something of a “cottage industry” outside the supposedly “real” industry.
And while I have had great “ink” spilled on my work for many years, it’s never made for anything like financial stability.
dunno. Maybe, I don’t have the “killer” instinct and maybe that’s what it takes to “make it” in the music world.
I’ve also heard about getting such things as getting a “big break.”
Sometimes it felt like showing up at the ball park, with my glove and bat and uniform, but never being chosen to play on the team.
There’s only so much of “reality,” if any one can control.
What to do?
Simple: You start your own league…
It was always about the love of the song and it’s recording. And never about the “game” of “making it” in the music biz.
Or at least I got over the “biz” part of it early on. It seemed to be peopled by a lot of “soul-less” shakers & movers & poseurs. I/we distanced ourselves from that as far as possible early on…right into oblivion.
75 some records later, “oblivion” and i are on a first name basis
I love what I’ve done and i still love what I do.
But, it has been extremely hard and (i won’t lie to you) often bitter.
I find myself struggling (like many, many people in these changing times) to just barely pay the bills.
This is NOT whining, I assure you.
Just an observation; A taking of inventory of the heart.
Still, such a sad “outcomes” seem to stare me (as it does many folks) in the face daily.
No one tells you this stuff on the front end.
You experience it, embrace it, distill it…and drink deep.
It all goes back into the songs…That’s life.
I suppose it’s also my deepest “spiritual struggle.”
How to make sense of it all?
To tell the truth? I’ve probably given up trying.
Details on this album: I recorded, over the course of the last 3 days I had the guitar, 5 old “Vol standards.”
“Judas Skin,” “America, America,” “Andersonville,” “Parting-Shot” & “Run Through My Veins,” seemed likely choices. Those tunes were written on the Takimine, as well.
(Sure, there could have been another dozen or so, given only a few days to record, over-dub other parts, mix & upload the songs before heading out on tour, choices had to be made.)
The arrangements? All new, each with a new intro. (You may not recognize the songs initially.) They have been embellished (when appropriate) with strings, mellotrons, cellos & orchestral harps.
These sounds are some of my new loves.
I have always tried to let songs breathe and grow as they will.
I think it happened here.
I think they were “made better.”
As I said: I hope you will enjoy, “where these songs went,” as I played them on this guitar one last time.
I am glad the guitar will have a new home.
You were so very, very good to me.
Thank you for so many years loving service.
Long may you run.
And so the end of the matter?
The songs keep coming, and fans (like “you”) keep buying albums online & at shows…and so I can’t complain.
Life may still seems sad and fractured, but it is nuanced with glimpses of hallowed-ness, beautiful beyond description.
*As a side note:
when listening, please add a bit of low end &/or shave some of the “treble” response on your playback systems as you see fit.
I found the new compressor i was using to be slightly “toppy.”