About bill mallonee

Indie Singer/songwriter, ex-Vigilantes of Love. 80 plus albums, 25 years recording, touring, performing life. I tell folks, "you're broke most of the time, but it's good work if you can get it." Joy & courage on your journey, folks, bill

Getting Free…by bill mallonee

A good day. Some new songs show up & just thinking about how all this shakes down for “Mother-Lode.” (It’s July 2020. We’re stuck in the midst of Covid-19 overdrive with a science denying president.)
Mother~Lode. That’s the working title for the new album now being written. I’m about 50 song ideas into the demo-ing process.);
These days, I tend to bury my records the very same day they’re born;
I’m always “braced’ for that news from the nursery. You get use to it.
“It’s a girl! Sounds great! Man, those songs! Love the cover!
Alas, so sorry ‘she’ didn’t live, Mr. Mallonee.”
“Thank you, nurse, ” I say.

In my “better moments?”
I’m deeply blessed to have a wonderful (a stalwart!) handful of folks who have allowed my work a continued place in their lives; That’s huge given the amount of work I’ve released. All my dark moments, especially the ones that whisper “futility,” go back into the next songs; Or at least such moments sharpen the lenses of my ragged soul to see and thank God for all I’ve been blessed with.(I wouldn’t have life any other way except for wishing whatever these current health issues (still somewhat mysterious) would be healed.)

A side bar?
I spent a year reading almost every single old-school jazz artist’s life story.And you know what?Deprivation and a fair degree of Obscurity were part of the “formula.” Made ’em what they were. Their passion and heroism and talent was beyond belief.
I get that…
I tend to distrust the whole pop (indie or otherwise) marketing dynamic of “how” an artist “breaks big” anyway. I’m just not mesmerized by it anymore;
As if there’s some “silver bullet” that exist that if you play the game right, you “win.”
“a Silver bullet?” I really don’t think there is one.
There’s just “the real,” “pretty-close-to-it,” and the fake.

I grew up heavily immersed in rock and roll from about age 12 onward, as a drummer first; It was later that I turned to guitar. Songs started coming at a startling rate, about 75 a year.
My mother was a port. She impressed upon me the magic and perfection of words & language well used.
Words became my tether to the world within and the world without, as well. This was all happening when I was was sorting out teh claims of biblical Christianity. I had no interest in a being a preacher with a guitar for God or any such notion. I still don’t.
There’s two kinds of truth.
I suspect we’re all privy to both of them. And perhaps Volition is part of it.
There’s a truth that fits with reality and there’s truth that one might have to “stretch the muscle of faith a bit” to embace or be embraced by.

I had no interest in “breaking big.” I wanted to write things that would tell me who I was;
Things that would give me faith; Faith in God, faith in myself, faith in humanity…and put a smile on my face. That was some 30 years ago.still pretty much the same methodology I’ve employed across 80 plus albums over 30 years.

(I follow nothing anymore in the music world. Too much energy waste. I just do my thing)

But I remember the 90’s thru the first decade of the 2000s;
All the buzz & filigree that got tricked out in the press on emerging bands in the name of NextBigThing; We were touring then & living in a van much for many years, (from Killing Floor 1992 thru Perfumed Letter 2004) just trying to attract the attention of the “inner circles” & “shakers and movers” of the record biz… to no avail.The whole thing, the ambition, the grasping, the manipulation just started to feel like 90% of it might just be pretentious nonsense.

That hunch alone made it easy (easy for me anyway) to retreat from “scene-ster-ism” shortly after Audible Sigh came out. That fine recording, Roof of the Sky, and Perfumed Letter felt like perfect records. No shame in any song.
Again, nothing happened.One may get sad over such outcomes, but one gets use to it after a spell.

But I learned something during that time:
I learned to turn the deaf ear to whatever responses we garnered or whatever neglect we met;
I was so ecstatic about the music I was making…
And then I realized that that was all that ever counted. Indeed, it was the only reason I ever picked up a guitar in the first place.
Just to create something that would make me smile.Everything else? Pretty much an illusion.That’s when you’re “free.”

I tell young artists frequently: Find YOUR voice (not someone else’s);
Get good, keep working, get better;
Please have something to say;
And have fun, for God’s sake.
And make us believe in things like “Love at first sight.”
Make us bet the farm on a better world where lions lie down with the lambs.
Where the balances are evened out…
Make us believe.
If you’re not embarking on that sober, serious, beautiful, riotously fun enterprise, then why are you doing it?

So, yeah. I keep writing, trying to dig a little deeper each time; I keep exploring the guitar. melody, recording new material, playing; Maybe, I’m even getting better.

In the end? When you realize that you don’t need an “inner circle’s” permission, or even that perhaps the audience left a long time ago, or you can tune out some of the cultural static?
Well it’s then that you can start to hear your own voice. Really hear it.
Put any & all experiences in the life you’re living into the songs, into the art you’re rendering.
What you’re making is likely something unique & lasting.

And then? Well, then you’re free.
You may be dirt-broke, but heck that’s a big club, you know?
But, you’re free.
And honest to God?
There may be nothing better.

bill mallonee July 2020



The Creative Process is a form of prayer for me…and prayer is a way of becoming “whole.” ~ bill mallonee c.2018IMG_7582 (3)

“These are observations, not accusations,” I once heard an old priest say.
So are these…a bit of a “My Year in Review.”

For me, much of 2018 has been a year of graces un-imaginable.
Graces lavished on an unworthy fellow.

I’ve been the recipient of more goodwill & good wishes than you can (as they say in the South) “shake a stick at.”
And for those graces, I am “lump-in-the-throat” thankful.
Nothing like a “brush with mortality” to help one put things in perspective.

Inventory? Hard not to take.
I’m an artist; a songwriter to be exact; one with lots to say. New songs (a triple album’s worth) surfaced this year, I chased as many as I could and recorded them.
I’ve “been at this” for over 25 years now as a professional recording & touring artist with 80plus albums under my belt. Honest.

Not for lack of trying but “Flavor-of-the-month” scenes were never all that kind to me, nor the gatekeepers of the so-called music “biz.”
Sometimes you just do what you were meant to do without anyone else’s permission.
And that’s a lonely place to be, but a necessary one.
Everyone wants to be loved and appreciated;
But when it comes to art? well, perhaps Love & Appreciation are over-rated

I’m lucky. I have a few fans who “get it.” Get the life, the fragile-ness of it, the broken-ness of it…and the joy beyond words of it, too.

Moved out to the Great American west (and I mean rural west) almost 10 years ago.
Most creative time in of my life. That “relocation” to New Mexico has yielded lots of songs, lots of albums.

I’ve noticed a few things that never change, though.
One? My name is rarely, if ever, included among the “shakers & movers” and usual suspects of the Americana scene; Seems like it’s always been that way since my first band appeared on the national scene. That was 80 albums ago.
I began to create and render my work completely outside the superstructure in 2000;

It’s still that way.
Honestly? I have no idea why I’m still able to hang on;
I know it’s that way for a good many good Americans these days;

I do know that something inside of me will die, and likely me along with it, if I stop.
Externally? The “locust years” have been unrelenting;
’18 was no exception.
Again, just to keep it focused, friends: “These are observations, not accusations,”

The gains? My prayer life has grown by leaps and bounds. I think my faith in miracles has, too. That’s the only thing that could explain many things that keep my world relatively sane and me alive.

Songs, concepts and ideas keep coming, unabated;
The guitar and the making of songs has become something of a portal for me

I love it.
The “creative process?”
Call it a form of prayer…and prayer is a way of becoming “whole.” No getting around it. Something strange & wonderful happens to me whenever I pick up a guitar & there’s a blank empty page in front of me to be filled.
I grin a lot in the process.

Best not to unpack or scrutinize that gift too much, I suppose.
Sometimes movements of the heart fuse with chord progression, fuse with a melodic solo and there’s that damn lump in the throat;
and yeah, sometimes I’m in tears.

Added a few new instruments to my “vocabulary.”
Lap Steel, bass, baritone guitar, to mention a few.
Guitar playing much improved since being out here in the West;

“Here’s the wind up and…”
I’m still here…still pitching.
A year of swinging for the fences with burgeoning new ideas and songs.
>New recordings (Forest Full of Wolves, Orphan Songs);
>A year of writing & recording over 40 new songs for a new album due up early next year, “Lead On, Kindly Light;”
>A year that saw an old VoL album, Killing Floor released on double vinyl;
That’s not all:
>2018 was a year of producing 8 song/video & guitar tutorials
> and the introduction of the “52 New Songs in 52 weeks” series started 4 months ago, a series that’s rendered a new song/video for 20 weeks.
Not many takers this year…

Where are any of these observations going?
I have hoped for years that what I think is good art would somehow, if even in a paltry way, pay the bills…but it never does. Debt is stratospheric and there really seems to be no reversal of the trajectory. I forget how to smile.
But again, I ‘m lucky i have a remedy.
I get to look at the same mountain peaks that naturalist, writer and lover of the planet John Muir gazed upon and was smitten by and feel a lot better

Locust years do make for some harsh, sad epiphanies.
When I was on the road some 20plus years, we saw so many folks in this country just barely hanging on.
Of course, I can tell you, it’s been that way for artists for hundred’s of years, as well.
Perhaps I’m in “good company.”
Ah, c’est la Vie!

“What the heck do we “take away” from your ramblings, Mr. Mallonee?”
Well, for what it’s worth,  I try to address all that’s grim, sad & hopeless in my work. I don’t really do this for you, as much as i have to do it for me.
It helps me stare it all down.
My hope?
Simply this: If I’ve done my job well, then I’ve excavated something like “truth” and given it a proper “nomenclature.” Meaning it’ll resonate with a few, perhaps many folks.
No artist does this perfectly but, in my opinion, there are some who get closer than others.

If writing is a form of prayer then perhaps it is also a type of prayer in which we cry for help. Who knows what pen & ink, instrument & electricity will awake within?
I hold these songs, these “prayers,” up to the Light.
Because, Light has been known to obliterate the shadows & the darkness…at least for a little while.
Hopefully, what I’ve rendered across these many albums over many years will, in the end, be valued as an honest testimonial; one suffused with a consistent wrestling with the issues of faith & hope…and why I think Love has the last word; Hundreds of songs that manifests a realism, excavated from our human heart’s deeper yearnings…

Because, as I’ve said frequently: We are all living in the same skin…

Let’s make that bond of our soul-ish commonality our strength this coming year.

Carrying on. Be the change,

Where The Gold Lies…

We are to be about “making worlds.”
Write, Paint, Compose & Film as if your work was the first of any of it…even the last there will ever be.

I turned the radio off in 1992, shortly after our 3rd national album, Killing Floor, was released; It seemed to be a good thing. There was so much great energy on much of 90’s indie radio, but I did not want to be one who was borrowing others ideas; My own path seemed to be one of experimenting with themes and accompaniment that I was just beginning to “hear in my head.”
sure: I knew (and loved) primitive blues, Gospel, folk and country artists. It just took low-rent touring, failed relationships and betrayals to see just how very much their stories existed beneath my own skin.
In ’92, I also stopped reading most of the then-current pop-press and rock music periodicals, as well.
The increasing lack of journalistic integrity (friends blogging about their friend’s bands in the most grandiose superlatives is hardly journalism; That coupled with the ever-present push towards the info-commercial rendered classic “rock-journalism,” irrelevant, at least to this reader.(Perhaps it’s making a come back now? I don’t know.)

As harsh, nay even as “arrogant” as all of that sounds?
At the least, I found that I was beginning to care less & less about what the masses were embracing. “Hipster driven scenes doth not necessarily great art make.”
You catch my drift.

Sure, I was able to make plenty of 3 to 4 minute jangle-y guitar pop songs for the radio when I was a signed artist; but such “requirements” were becoming less and less engaging.
Again, all of this was all working it’s way out in impressions and nuances of the heart.
Here’s the thing: It seemed to me that the depths of love & lust, loss & gain, mortality & the eternal, pain & pleasure were buried in the grooves & soulish-ness of the archives of the past;
The spirit of a “the song” unadorned emerging through hardship, woe and joy are what captivates me now. I find myself drawn to much “world music” in an effort to dig beneath and “hear” what it is that produces similar passions reflected in their art & music.

(Such soulish energy & transcendence is similar to what I experienced as a kid growing up with a stack of vinyl and a beat up 1930’s Slingerland drum set in a dusty basement in Chapel Hill, NC.)

And so what has happened has been a self-imposed “retreat.”
A retreat to begin a journey; an attempt to frame & answer the question:
“Why do I do what I do in the way I have chosen to do it; engage in it far from the mainstream, out of the limelight, with few resources, save the songs themselves?”
Stay tuned, those who will…

American songs.
Our “old” songs and the places, movements & spirit they were conceived, carried & birthed in?
Well, those “old” are ever new.
Eclipsing space; transcending the confines of time.
You’ll likely find them drenched in uncertainty & conviction; blood & healing,lust & fidelity, promise and betrayal…
But ably tempered with faith, hope, love and wisdom;
The “tried & true.” The place where lines between “art” and Life dissolve;

“Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls,” thus saith the Lord.
Jeremiah 6:16-19 King James Version

Standing the test of time, such songs still extravagantly nurture & reveal.
That’s the work that interest me… ~ Bill Mallonee

An interview with singer/songwriter Joel David Weir

(Interview conducted by Bill Mallonee)

The new Ep is Tell the Truth.

1. Joel, judging from my familiarity with your previous work, I was expecting a barbed and unrelenting political diatribe, one with “teeth.”. Instead we’re treated to very restrained, almost gentle collection of songs. Explain!

Tell the Truth ‘happened’ in the midst of recording the upcoming, big, full band studio album “The Last War”. We got done with the tracking for TLW, I took those songs back to my home studio and did additional work on them, but in the midst of that process, there were some songs that emerged that I quickly figured out were a different “thing”. The debut JTS EP was “Closet Songs I”, which I wrote and recorded in one week as an antidote to my procrastination problem. The idea of that one was, one mic, one guitar, in an actual closet in my home. One song a day, write it and record it. I ended up adding some textures on that, but all acoustic guitar. On TTT I ended up capturing what the late night sessions of writing on ideas (some songs are actually older, but had not yet found a home, while some are brand new) and exploring not only lyrically ‘risky’ areas but sonically as well. I think its pretty fragile and vulnerable, but in a different way that Closet Songs was. I open with “Liar” which is sort of a ‘laying bare’ the idea that, while on the record I explore themes of mortality, politics, fear, doubt, even sexual assault culture, I cannot even state with certainty my own purity of heart or motivation. I like to introduce “Liar” live as “the most honest song I’ve ever written”. But, to get back to the initial question. I think its interesting that the ‘barbs’ don’t come through more sharply. I actually feel like some of the songs have among the sharpest lines i’ve written, almost hard to perform live. Especially on “Boys will be Boys’ (based on experiences of women very close to me concerning the ‘ol boys club’ culture of campuses and corporate america), and on the closer “The Heretic”. That’s one that I actually think could get me in trouble in certain venues (lol!). But it just flowed. I see, though, how it could be heard at first as gentle, based on some of the arrangements. Its a weird record. Maybe the gentleness sensed is more of a woundedness- these songs have a theme of wounds – of being at a place where telling the truth is the only way for the wounded to find justice, but also the only way that those in power can realize their humanity – to admit their own wounds, their own fragility, their own mortaility.

2. The instrumentation is wonderfully sparse.
Acoustic guitars with minimal treatments, keyboards supply melodic underpinning, a few drum loops and vocals. all giving way to a wearier vocal delivery.
It’s a significant departure for you.
Thematically, what were the truths you wanted highlighted here?
What are your inner reference points here?

Joel: So, musically I love understated arrangements. I love when you wait for that one little ‘bit’ in a song that only shows up once. I also felt that the songs demanded a fragile treatment – it should sound beautiful, but it should also sound like it could fall apart at any moment. So, a reference point for me, in the type of music I write will always be records like Jay Farrar’s “Terroir Blues”, just ones I listen to and think – ‘man, that’s a whole world created there, but its not “BIG”, its got a strong anchor, but its gutsy, weird, surprising, and takes some commitment to “get”.

“Tell the Truth” is a very purposeful them. In the ‘post-truth’ era I wanted to dive deep (or, more accurately, I would say, it just kind of showed up that it was the theme) I wanted to explore what it was to tell the truth. First there is the willingness to say ‘i don’t know everything.. I could be wrong’ (Liar), then a spotlight on the courage it takes for someone who is victimized, never believed, and up against the odds to speak a truth to power (Boys will be Boys), “Laserbeams” is a transition – a moment of questioning one’s preconceived ‘truths’, wondering what is going to remain if that ‘truth’ is questioned, what are the repercussions? What remains? “Fragile” is a contemplation on mortality – once all is broken down, what do we have left? What still connects us? And then “The Heretic” is a post-script – what does one do when one must speak the truth even if it means losing everything?

Inner reference points? Well, I’m not a “christian artist’ (I actually despise that term), but my reference point is Christ. What I mean is that I still try to refer to the one who always found himself among the broken, the lost, the failed, the abandoned, the loser, and spoke that good news to them – to us – ‘I see you – I know you – you are more than what you are called, what you are labeled, what you are seen as. Man, to me, there’s nothing else. But it has to be connected with the real, felt, experience of the wounded.

I can give a few specific examples for this record — “Boys will be Bcoys” is directly connected to stories from women I know who were vicitmized by sexual violence. That violence affects every aspect of a person, including dignity and sense of worth. I believe Jesus is with the survivors of that and calls the perpetrators (including those who idly stand by and do nothing) to repentance. “Fragile” is very personal. I lost my sister in law, Naomi this year – a week from her 33rd birthday she succumbed to her battle with colorectal cancer. I also lost a dear friend, suddenly, at the beginning of 2017, to a heart attack – way too young, way too sudden. I believe Jesus is with the ones suffering, for whom pat “Christian” answers bring no relief.

3. The record has a rough hewed dynamic; as if the songs were written very quickly and then recorded as quickly, thus capturing a magic and instilling a sense of urgency. Am I onto something?
The delivery and “work ethic” here seem to be part of the EP’s themes as well.

Joel: Its interesting, because all but “The Heretic” were written and even performed for some time before the recording of them. In that way it is different that “Closet Songs”. The immediacy was more in the arrangement. “Hey, see what that Casio MT68 sounds like there — cool! Go with it!” Now -I’ll admit that, more than on other records, I did obsess a bit over some panning, effects, etc. But never in order to make a ‘clean record’. The idea was it to be weird, even unsettling at times, I guess.. Fragile is really the best word for it. I didn’t want it to be ‘guy with a guitar’ at all. I wanted to evoke a space different than that. So, except for “The Heretic” its a bit of fun with sound, within my very limited, very ‘indie’ home setting. I mean, I’ll be honest – it was recorded on free Audacity software on a super old Mac, using a couple of mics, a keyboard legit from the 80s that my father in law gave me, and, well… of course my tele, vox, and martin. But its great fun to work within limits. I find it exhilarating. I’ve been encouraged by quite a few folks I really admire to try to never lose the sense of urgency – of capturing the take – of worrying less about perfection and more about the feel the ‘it’ of a song. I’m still learning. And what you hear on TTT is me pushing some of the boundaries of my own knowledge and equipment – so, I could listen back a few years from now and think “Oh, man! I wish I would have done that this way.. It would have sounded cleaner”or whatever…. But… I dunno… in the times we’re living in I just decided there’s no guarantee of anything.. And.. well.. Nothing new under the sun, so there never is… so go for it.. Try at least.. To tell the truth while you can.

Tell The Truth is up for a listen and or purchase at: https://joeldavidweir.bandcamp.com/album/tell-the-truth


The Writing Life. (The essays included weekly in this section are taken from a series of articles & notes from my seminars on the creative process.)
Here’s another one:
“AS WORDS GO BY…” by Bill Mallonee

I’ve probably written near 2000 songs in my life. Honest.
80albums & counting have made it to light, anyway….
The various nuances of each hopefully lend some credibility to these following observations…
As a songwriter, I often just write to see what the words feel like as they go past.
No shuck & jive, no “hoo-doo,” no angle to work, no goal to achieve, no agenda to parlay, no propaganda to disseminate.
Just a search for the raw beauty of words unlocking or sealing up; revealing or disguising; inspiring or wrecking one’s philosophic house of cards.

It’s all fair game; all brought to the table when I’m writing lyrics. One word leads to another…
…and then the song’s done.

I’ve learned to not disturb the “space” between one thought to another or the “thought prompts” words are bound to conjure. One can have content & intention and not negate the joy & beauty of spontaneity.

It always feels like whatever the results are, those words, lines, verses are “spun” with gossamer-like materials. I find I’m a bit superstitious about breaking any part of thread;
Words can be like bombs; maybe more like a mine field. You read and it’s like picking your way through dangerous terrain; Anything could happen…and who knows where you’re heart will wind up?

With every word that goes by, you may have barely “survived” a near death experience.
They can also be “near-life” experiences.
And that is why I write at all.

When I’m writing lyrics I often don’t have a topic or theme in mind.
I’ve forgotten many of them. Many of them are languishing on cassette tapes, never to be dusted off or listened to again.
So, how has any of that worked out in the day-to-day of doing what one does in order to survive?

I think I found out early on that the “Music Industry” (whatever it was then or is now) wasn’t ever set up to release even 30 songs a year by one artist. For me, it was too much to try and acclimate to. The constant ritual of write, record, release, rehearse & tour just inspired too much in me to be content with 12 songs every 2 years.

Hence, my gravitating back to “indie” status.
To me, “Indie” in today’s commercial-tweaked, consumption driven climate, has been like the breath of fresh air for nearly 20 years now.

It’s like Gospel. Sure, some of it seems scary;
But, it’s with that “gospel” that you’re freely given a grace to be what you were meant to be; free to make mistakes, free to mature, free to find others on the same path, free to grow up into the full stature of something templated deep inside the universe.

But, the “music biz?” (yawn)
If it’s not the good news of liberation, grace & freedom?
Then it ain’t “good news” at all.
Of course breaking out of such a prison often comes at a certain price. The “lady poverty” (whom St. Francis often spoke of) and I are on a first name basis.
I usually buy the first round…
We go back a long way, you might say.

Still, you should know, there are at least 2 plus sides of such an arrangement; At least there have been for me anyway.
1st plus side of the arrangement?
Well, the songs keep coming, real & unfettered…
And second?
I sleep well at night.
No compromises. No surrender.
I suspect, withdrawing from illusion (in this case the “music biz) always manifests itself in such a fashion.

Back to the writing & rendering of lyrics.
Most folks who know my work have heard me say that I try not to “over-think” it.
There is a certain freedom in letting whatever is within just “show up.”
Or, perhaps, it’s “something out there” asking to gain admission; requesting an audience; demanding a hearing.

On a side-note?
I find it of passing interest that I wrote a lot of songs in my “Vigilantes of Love period” with the idea of an “end” in mind. My songs had a certain forgone conclusion. I don’t think that invalidates the song.
I always tried to “dirty them up a good bit;”
Let them “live on the streets” a few years, before recording them.
But, now if I hear foregone conclusions coming on too strong, I tend to tune it out, if not dismiss it entirely.
I certainly don’t disown any of my songs. But, artists (the good ones anyway) grow.
If I wrote it, rehearsed it and recorded it? It means the song was “good to go.”
And that I stand by it, heart & soul.
In the writing process, back then, I may have double checked them a few times (for things like brevity and internal cadences); but, I almost always went with my gut-level initial impressions and initial renderings.

Here’s my point:
When an artist “finds his voice,” I think it has more to do with that trusting of one’s gut, turning off the blare of radio, not reading the bought & paid for “Best of Lists” compiled by townies & blogger journalists.
Who cares what others think?

No,it looks more like a lonely taking of the road less traveled.
It can also be a stumbling but unrepentant forging ahead on that path where nomenclature gets wobbly if not outright fails altogether;
An ear to the ground and nose to the air, an attempt to catch a scent of things unseen;
Things that might just feel like (on many days) kissing (or being embraced by) Something or Someone transcendent.

And here’s the thing:
When that occurs you will feel like you have heard your soul speak something you heretofore knew not.
And that’s all I want to say about that.
I just write to see what the words feel like as they go past. And you hope & pray that they are pulled from a deeper well; one for which you are eternally grateful…

~ Bill Mallonee c.2017

A Short Word/Advent 2017

The world see
ms dark & getting darker.
Confusion & Uncertainty reign.
Arrogance & Ignorance have grabbed the wheel.
I understand that “religion” has been a “bad trip” for so many.
The sins of greed, abuse, ignorance & compliance, when found among those who supposedly represent Jesus, are heinous & reprehensible. Such sins seem to be “written larger” than ever these days among those who claim His Name.
I’ll play my cards:
This world is either charged with a Meaning & Mystery, a hallowed “something” bigger” than ourselves; a something that we, in our finitude can’t competently explain or “nomenclature,”
or it isn’t.
If it IS suffused with such a meaning?
Then things like Love, Compassion, Sacrifice, Birth, even Suffering & Death can lead us to a final Wholeness, a final Redemption, a final Restoration.
The evidences of that inexplicable Something Wild, Beautiful, & Good are what draw me back to the Christmas story year after year.
And, yes, I truly think I “see” such Wild evidences all around me:
In Creation, family, & friends; In little acts of random Kindness & Mercy.
Call them little messages, small nudges from Beyond.
The world? Dark. Dark & getting darker.
It’s in times such as these that Christ’s words of Forgiveness, Peace & Wholeness seem like all we have left…
But in reality?
They were all we ever needed.
Grace, Courage & Joy on the journey,
~ bill mallonee

painting by:
Gerard van Honthorst – Adoration of the Shepherds (1622)


FFWFrontCover CHRIS TAYLOR 2Liner notes.
Anybody remember those?
I write them like my life depended on it. I have quite a few essays & installments at the bandcamp site on many an album.
And I’ve re-posted them wordpress site: Songs for the Journey & Beyond
But, here ya’ go:
For those who may benefit from a challenge?
“FOREST FULL OF WOLVES: Some liner notes & thoughts behind the upcoming album. The new album drops this January, 19th, 2018.

Here’s a track to listen to, as you pore through, should you decide to read the liner notes…
Before The Darkness Settles In
~ bill
Gold from dross,
Wheat from chaff,
Truth that nurtures vs. falsehoods that destroy us from within…

I’ve wrestled with it & written about it as truthfully as I know how from the vantage point of the road, poverty and broken-ness for 25 years through 78 albums.

Some call it an age of Confusion. Social commentators, journalists & duplicitous politicians race to place blame, spotlight the “villains,” name & punish the guilty.
Me? I suspect it’s deeper than that. It’s something closer to a sickness, a malaise. |
(Perhaps) something closer death.
And at the end of the day? To some degree, we’re all complicit.

Whatever “it” is, we all set the thing in motion, whether we’re inclined to acknowledge or role in that or not.
We manufacture the weapons (literally & figuratively) and then scratch our collective asses wondering why the body bags are filling up.

The Confusion? The Malaise?
It’s playing out on many levels. All the templates for “getting ahead” are broken.
That “north star” of the heart (that one comprised of time-honored convictions, virtues and courageous action) seems to have vanished, as well.

Even worse? It seems that a deep and sad spiritual malaise has made it’s way into our bones.
We pass emptiness on to our kids, to our loved ones, to our colleagues.
We bury ourselves in virtual realities that can neither diagnose or heal us.

Here’s the thing:
This “malaise” doesn’t even have to be nomenclature-ed in the verbosity of “religious language” or elucidated in the warring compartments of “schools of thought” or “political leaning.”
With all due respect, modern academia has had little “luck” in providing leadership that sees very far ahead of the darker trajectories our daily choices are falling towards.


This malaise is in & around & among us all.
“It” rallies, bullies, and blusters. It boasts of the most expensive war-machine on earth while stealing bread from the starving and turning a deaf ear to the cries of homeless, the displaced and the refugee.

“It” swears allegiance to a flag without examining how that plays out in policies that, lacking compassion, compromise “the weightier matters of the law.”
“It” dwells beneath the faces of listless kids glued to devices, looking, surfing, searching;
Your children. My children. The planet’s children.
Children who are forgetting how to dream; forgetting how to play, how to laugh;
Children slowly losing their souls.

A world of many voices competing for our attention, our affections and our allegiances.
A forest full of wolves.

Me? It makes for rock & roll of the best kind. And yes, rock & roll can be “diagnostic.”
I’ve been working on FFoW for 6 months; working with a set list of about 35 songs.
It’s been a beautiful time, a searching time and a cathartic time.

You’ll hear big guitars stretch out; noble, melodic, over-driven by small tweed amps from the 1950’s, taxed, eloquent, shaking off dust of the age they were born in. And you’ll hear a wrestling with these “weightier matters.”

And so, here’s where I stand and, for what it’s worth, where I play my cards:
As an artist, I am always trying to engage my spirit first. It’s my “bounded duty.” I have no “right” to speak anything to you unless I have first done something of the hard work of brutal self-scrutiny. Real artists (as opposed to poseurs, hacks & entertainers) “owe it” to their listeners/viewers to at least attempt to “know themselves” before they open their mouths, take up pen, pick up paint brush, snap the photo or make the film. That’s the “preliminary” I try to engage in on every set of songs write. I think this album succeeds.

I hope I have offended no one nor insulted anyone’s intelligence here or in the songs I’ve made for this record. I doubt I have.
Living in the same skin, whatever “side of the aisle” we’re on, I suspect we all have a sense that “something’s not quite right.”

I’m a “hold out.”
I believe in Hope.
When hope dies? Well, just look at any of the great “empires” that have risen and fallen.
“Bread & Circuses.” Look the term up.
Be amazed.
That’s quite possibly “where we’re at.”
Hope? It may come in fits & starts, but yes: You can build a kingdom on Love, Compassion…and Hope
If you’re a believer?
It’s ours for the asking, but not without work on our part.
I think the warning alarms are going off and have been going off for a long time;
And I think we have frequently chosen deafness, failing to heed those alarms for just as long.

The power to make, mold and shape the world you want?
It’s always been there.
It still is.
High time to get to it.

It’ll help us to know what kind of world we want and what we’d like the future of this planet to look like;
If we don’t lay the foundations aright, then (just like Jesus’ parable of the man who built on sandy ground) our best efforts will likely be a stumbling in the dark,
a desperate grasping, and then a collapse.

Me? I passionately believe we can do better.
And I believe we “deserve” better; as do all peoples, as does the planet we all inhabit together.
We may be running put of time…

That’s really what this album is about.

Grace, always Grace…and Courage to everyone,
bill mallonee

The “Audible Sigh” Years: Vigilantes of Love 1997-2001. An historic record. A blistering band. A reminiscence…

The “Audible Sigh” Years
Vigilantes of Love 1997-2001
An historic record. A blistering band. A reminiscence.

They say life is risk. So here’s a life risked over a 4 year span.

First, it starts with a sound…or a combination of sounds and words you hear in your head. You pick up an instrument. You wrestle it; coax it till your fingers bleed, learn a song or two;
Build your knowledge by an algorithm of trial & error; Develop an expanding encyclopedia of your own likes & dislikes, strengths & weaknesses; note the approaches that “work for you.”
And over time, you become friends, you & that guitar. Deep friends, if you’re me.
She always teaching you something, unlocking new secrets and “takes” on a world within & without.

Songs. I’ve never written a single one with any particular audience in mind.
It’s a great road to poverty, but I’ve never felt like I’ve “sold out.”

Songs. I’ll take mine raw & unvarnished. Straight, no chaser.
The top-shelf stuff high on the “proof” column.

Songs. “Sobering Truths.” A pulling aside, if but for a moment, something like a veil between the here & now and…….who knows?
If you write, then you & your “friend” learn to tap the inside and turn it outward.
You find your voice, your “nomenclature” for telling your part of the story…and then (occasionally studying your pose in the mirror) you start to dream a bit….
How do you know when you’re making a bit of history?
18 years ago I made an album with 3 of my friends.
The album was “Audible Sigh.” Perhaps, a grim title in some ways. Still, the “American Experience,” when held under our history’s microscope, elicits deep sighs & sadness.
Sure, it’s the stuff of great songs. Our past ought to be a teacher we listen to, but we rarely seem to learn…But, that’s another story.
Audible Sigh, with it’s dark, plaintive, street-wise themes of abandonment, betrayal, dislocation, and vulnerability, when set along side the now famous “train-wreck” cover, played out with an almost prophetic ennui.

Such had been our consistent experience as rock & roll “band in a van” for the previous three years. A small label in Nashville gave us some coins to walk into the studio of national treasure Buddy Miller.
It was, as they say, a dream come true. What the listener hears on “Audible Sigh” was was pretty much the set we’d played every night for those previous years. I’ve always written incessantly. We took a near 75 song set list and narrowed it down to 21 songs.
In some ways the recording ritual itself, was “just another gig.” With incredible musicianship and song sensitivity from guitarist, pedal steel & mandolin player Ken Hutson, bassist Jake Bradley and borrowed drummer Brady Blade,
we seemed to deliver one flawless take after another.
(Drummer, Kevin Heuer, became our permanent album & road drummer shortly thereafter; I’ve never met a more song-sensitive drummer.
Kevin played on numerous recordings including the Ep recorded at this time called “Room Despair.”)

I think we made a great record; an historic record to some people’s minds
3 weeks. 21 songs. Killed it.
The album was intense, tender, suffused with world-weary insight, fueled with hunger. Genuine, authentic.
I call it Americana rock & roll.

Why do I mention this?
Many folks told us to expect great things. After all, we’d be stalwarts on the Americana circuit for years. Mis-management, label politics and poverty are things all bands deal with.
But, in many ways it seemed to be our common motif; not the occasional exception to the rule.
I ‘ gamely tell folks: “well, it’s life. It all goes back into the songs.”
And it’s true. The whole of it made my writing better.

Up to a point.

Deprivation & uncertainty are part of the job description.
Those can also the little lies you tell your sad self, the over-romanticizing you engage in, just to get through the pace of 200 days on the road a year.
Maybe we were on the verge, maybe the right time, the right place. Maybe what folks said was true.
But, like a boxer in the ring being worn down, you can only pretend it doesn’t hurt for so long…

I had the songs. We were an undeniable band with years of experience on the road..
And yet, and yet…
Critics went nuts over it. Fans bought multiple copies as we searched, in vain, for a “real” label to release it (our initial label having gone belly-up, just prior to the record’s release.)
We sometimes said to one another, while driving the next 300 miles to the next show: “Wow. This could really happen! This album could break big.”
Folks still talk about it.

The whole experience changed my life.
I’m sure it changed Ken, Jake & Kevin’s life, as well.
It’s still changing my life in ways I never imagined.
I won’t/can’t/should not go into the variables that forced us to call that chapter of the band “quits.”

I will share only this: I learned that Life is a game of “insider’s circles.” VoL never had that skeleton key that allowed us entrance into such cliques.
Those associated with those cliques made it almost impossible to gain traction.
What we DID have was the BEST fans. That and lots of pluck. It kept us going…for a spell.
But the sense being used & a being excluded from those insider’s cliques meant never being able to rise above a certain level.
It all contributed to something like a sad post-script one finds at the end of a book.
You do learn, over time, to integrate such experiences into your spirit, into your work.
My music has been a hundred times better for it.
After all, none of “that” was ever the reason I picked up a guitar in the first place.
It was never about that false measuring stick of artistic “Goodness” called Soundscan numbers of lack thereof.
It was always about the songs.
Which has made it a little easier to “lay it all to rest.”

I listened to this recording just before writing these notes;
Got inside the songs again and the rendering of them you hear on these 4 sides.
And I realize there are still places that ache within, where I will likely always be “walking wounded.
Produced by Buddy Miller & myself, it featured many a guest appearance by Emmylou Harris, Phil Maderia, Julie & Buddy Miller, & Brady Blade. Such wildly talented artists!
But at the core? It was always about “us” 4 guys.
Guitarist Ken Hutson, bassist Jake Bradley, drummer Kevin Heuer and myself.

The flotsam & jetsam of this record’s watery history?
“Audible Sigh” was celebrated by many a critic as one of the best Americana records of the 90’s.
It still continues to make many “best of” lists.

Me? I was probably too wrapped up in the future possibilities. That’s what happens when you “risk.”
Your heart loses perspective.
You become a walking target.

There were so many, many people to please and make happy. Too many, really.
Impossible schedules & demands & no resources or superstructure to guide us.
We were on the high-wire with no safety net beneath us.
What most folks didn’t know (not even my band-mates really) was that I was slowly crumbling under the weight of it all.
When we bottom out, we’re often the last to know. I know I was.
I have always been terrified of failing everybody.

The incongruity of it all. A great record. A band on the verge of it’s biggest break through.
We had laid the foundation via heavy touring and 2-3 albums a year;
The 100plus songs written during this period were visceral, raw, tough & tender, immediate;
But the “failure” the album to elevate the band and gain it a scrap of recognition was too much on my spirit.
My universe went numb.
It was in shambles…

Stupid me. I began questioning every metaphysical design one might frame the universe with to make sense of it any of it.
“Why?” I asked.
Through 5 albums & an EP, from 1997-2001, we delivered those songs passionately every night;
(I don’t remember an “off” night.)
Delivered them (sometimes) on great PA systems; on other nights on sound systems that might have been built by Fischer-Price.

There were so many promises made to us from people in “the industry.”
Folks who were suppose to be looking out for us.
In the end?
Sure: It was few lies, but mostly it was just a cocktail of industry incompetency & short views among our own “team” that carried the day.

What do you do when you realize that people with small views (and sometimes “tin-ears”) were dictating your future?

I don’t think any of us wanted fame, nor fortune. I just wanted to feel a bit safe from one day to the next…like we were being watched over a bit.
I wanted a future for the music and the songs that I kept writing.
Me? I tried to be the resilient band-leader; put the best construction on the story…but, in reality, it was all starting to border on a nightmare.
We soldiered on as a band a bit, post 2000, but, as I said above, but it felt like drowning by slow degrees.
Bands live in vans. I re-listened to the albums we made during this time. (Roof of the Sky, Audible Sigh, Electromeo, ‘Cross the Big Pond and Resplendent/Audibly “Live”);
I hear a band that is hungry & alive. Full of energy. Immediate, relevant, giving it’s all.
But, even better than that? I hear a band having serious fun.
And let’s face it: Rock & Roll can be serious joy.
A repertoire of nearly 100 songs is an amazing set for any band. Each of those those gentlemen were, and still are, my heroes.
We were on the road nearly 200 shows a year. There was never a “safety net.”
We laughed. We joked. Argued. We fought.
We looked out for each other as brothers.
We ate, drank, slept.
Fought weariness & depression.
Drank, told stories; Closed out a bar or two.
Hit the Super 8’s & Motel 6’s…
…and slept the sleep of dying dreams till we could romanticize it no longer.
Musically? I think we knew what we had was magic. Night after night we delivered raw, heart-on-sleeve music with passion & spirit.
Lyrically & thematically? I like to think that many of the themes we delved into were unique.
Because, ultimately, I think we’re all living in the same sad skin.
It all started from this premise: the world is cold, hearts are sad, and we all need nurture.

We all saw the “writing on the wall,” at least far as the outcome goes.
Life “owes” no one anything. And if there are too many “train-wrecks” and too much bad luck?
Well, i can only answer for myself: I just started to lose your faith in everything & everyone.

Living as a “band in a van,” we became immersed in the terrain of this wondrous country and it’s heroic people; You all became gifts to us.
Playing our rock & roll in bars & dives; in theaters and a church or two; against the backdrop & glory of this country’s four seasons, we bonded.

We looked after each other.
The perfect dysfunctional family.
And then it was gone…
SO: Here’s what I’m grateful for;
Here’s what I get to walk away with:

I got to spend 3 years in a van. Saw the world. Played my music with one of the best bands “out there;”
And above all?
I got to play on stages, big and small, with 3 of the coolest souls in the world.

They come no better than Kenny Hutson, Jake Bradley and Kevin Heuer.
This is the truth.
You pick up an instrument. You wrestle it. Tap the inside & turn it out. Find your voice, your nomenclature for telling your part of the story…
You “get good.” You start to dream a bit. Work against the odds.
You’re allowed brief reveries that lead you to feel, believe that “this could could all go somewhere.”

But, never forget: No one can do it all alone.

So many, many, many of you who bought the various renditions of Audible Sigh were out there pulling for us. It was humbling. We developed such deep bonds of trust with you folks.
Where the industry & “gatekeepers” tended to kick VoL to the curb, so many good hearts were “there” for us. You pulled for us; encouraged and prayed for us.
You bought our records. We felt your love & goodwill.
We’re deeply, deeply grateful.
Because, in the end, you were all we had.
They say life is risk…and so it is.
So there’s a life risked for a 4 year span.
The highest elation. Filigreed with some transcendent moments…
By the end of 2001 it was in shambles and all over.

To be honest?
As I look back over this piece, I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten over it.
I’ve never put so much trusting energy into work, people or anything in my life.
Vigilantes of Love?
Rest in Peace
Which brings us to, 18 years down the stretch, since Audible Sigh.
On the “bad days,” I’m never sure if what we do here counts much for anything.
I’ve been given to dark moods all my life.

But this was never a mood. It was a death. And every death deserves a proper grieving.

But, I’m also a blessed man.
Acts of affirming others, gestures of kindness, love & compassion seem to me to be what we were made for; perhaps all such gestures are the blueprint for the Kingdom Come.
I’ve received more than my fair share of such.

Sometimes, I wonder: Is it only in our youth where the days often seem like good dreams?
Harsh reality ushers in the thieves who break in and steal the dreams;
Debacles & sins that wear away our spirits, wear away at our faith, if we’re lucky enough to have any.

But what if the Good Dreams happen to be real enough?
Then they charge the “child within” each of us; Charge us with a sense of purposefulness and a recognition of the hallowed-ness of this world & of all people.
Those are the dreams I dreamt anyway;
In the end, that’s what VoL & Audible Sigh always were for me.
Vigilantes of Love
Never have I seen, or been part of something since, that was driven by so much integrity;
So much hope. So much fun. So much rock & roll beauty
I confess: I wept inside for years after it was over.
(“Perspective, old chum! For God’s sake man, pull yourself together!”)

Forgive me…

Well, sure. I got to write songs people still sing.
We made an album that, I think, is still breath-taking.
Lyrically, musically & sonically…

It was all so very “there.”

I mean really:
How often is one allowed to “open a vein;” to “say one’s piece” in this life?

As a band, we got to make magic, transcend a bit of time;
Maybe, once in a spell, even move our spirits (and yours) to the fringes of something bordering the Eternal. The Joyous.
I am such a very, very “lucky” man.

We’ve all heard of near death experiences.
Perhaps these were “near life experiences…”
Of course “gaining perspective”could also be a sort of thing where one cynically explains things in terms of the cold & hard, material reality of one’s senses alone. A “what you see is all there ever is” proposition. A “Life Good. Life Bad. Eat, drink, be merry for tomorrow we die” rendering.
Really? Really?/
I, for one, doubt such a “take’ on things. A materialist view is too shallow, too easy.
The senses alone, when in riot, seem notoriously spot on when interpreting rightly the heart of the universe. “Go with you gut,” is the phrase.

It sure works in songs.
Probably works in “religion.”
Instinctively we know that “It” is all so much more than that.
That’s why I write and why I play rock & roll.
if you learn how to excavate, it surfaces in something beyond words.

You really are chasing the Spirit.

And so: Here’s to that sad, stumbling, distorted but ultimately redeemed world.
The world is our orphanage.
One day Someone will come & claim us.

That’s some of what Audible Sigh was about.
Now-a-days? Songs keep coming. They keep me tethered to the earth.

But Audible Sigh? The album, the years of touring, the life inside a van with Vigilantes of Love?
I’ll recall it as a wondrous, beautiful, enduring “snapshot” of a ragged, glorious moment for all of us.
Maybe a golden/eternal moment.
Anyway, it was part of my part of the story.
It was part of what I got to tell.
I’m proud of it all;
Proud of VoL
Proud of my beloved, sacrificing band mates
They were good, good friends to me.
And I am proud of our generous fans….
I will always be deeply grateful.

Like the old standard says:
“Thanks for the memories…”
Bill Mallonee
Summer 2017




ON OCCASION by: bill mallonee

There is something both out side & within
both distant, inscrutable;
seizures & welling-ups

i came into this room a stranger
it was cold, but i made do.
grew up with ramshackle, paltry thoughts,
mere impressions cascading in grey matter
some discarded;
some undergoing crude attempts at integration
cobbled ideals for living or just getting by

no sufficient nomenclature (as of yet…)
just a grief permeating everything
and one responding with
a game
of waiting
& distraction

i walked among those of sealed lips
lived, breathed the elan of the age
numbed the dark with the potions of the day
timed my laugh to fit the cadence of conversation
to fit in with those of the sealed lips

each of us now artists at dodging Question
till there are no more questions one could dodge
an old western gunfight,
too many bullets
from all directions
from black hats
in the dark

even now, i can make it out on occasion…
(the optics here? Less than visionary)
…make out the contours of departure;
a stammering, struggling exit
both distant, inscrutable,
in need of bright defiance

My Year In Review

MY YEAR IN REVIEW by bill mallonee

Me? I get to speak truth for a living. That notion itself reeks of Pomposity & Audaciousness; Let’s face it: It’s almost Laughable.

It’s also what audiences have always expected a good artist to do. Anyway, that’s what I endeavor to bring on every recording. Talk about living in delusion.
And so across the tape of 77 albums over 25 years, I keep hands to the plow;
A glorious enterprise or a fools errand? I still don’t know…
Faith stumbling, falling, failing hard, getting up and taking the next step, I guess.

The recordings themselves? Almost all of them fiercely & proudly independent releases. Who needs the so-called industry’s “permission” to be what one is?

“Slow Trauma” & “Mule” were this year’s offerings. (“The Rags of Absence” was written & recorded, as well. “She” drops in Jan. 2017.) Anyway: Lot’s of songs.
More than got recorded. There’s at least another 30 songs I wrote o’er the last year, peering through the glass of the nursery; waiting to be find their “home” on a new album.

They’ll wait their turn.

Me? I edit my work, but not obsessively; I deeply scrutinize what I do, examining the motives of why & how I say what I feel needs to be said.
And what shows up?

The songs themselves. They still feel great, still feel visceral, still feel painfully & personally relevant. Such are my cross-bars.
There is, nor has there ever been, a particular audience in mind…
Honestly? I have the best gig an fella could have.

 That journey? well, of course, it’s mostly within.
The mad, fragmentary diary of affirming & negating realities.
From the depths of despair to the visions of a neo-Jeremiah.
(He was known as “the weeping prophet.”)
All thrown out on the poker table.

All that’s cloaked within our sad, hungering flesh & expendable blood.

I am grateful for those kind folks who have made, and who continue to make, that journey with me…

And if none of this ever makes any sense?
Well, you can always laugh…
~ Bill Mallonee/December 2016