Funeral Songs/”ManicPhaseShifter” by Bill Mallonee

ManicPhaseShifter. VoL Live @ Schubas, Chicago,Il 4/27/2000

Here is an essay is called "Funeral Songs" They are the liner notes for Vigilantes of Love last "Live" recording, ManicPhaseShifter. The performance was incendiary, mercurial. on April, 27th, 2000. Live at Schuba's Tavern, Chicago, IL. 23 songs. On sale @ www.BillMalloneeMusic.Bandcamp.com

Here is an essay is called “Funeral Songs” They are the liner notes for Vigilantes of Love last “Live” recording, ManicPhaseShifter. The performance was incendiary, mercurial. on April, 27th, 2000. Live at Schuba’s Tavern, Chicago, IL.
23 songs. On sale @ http://www.BillMalloneeMusic.Bandcamp.com

This historic performance was/is dear to my heart. So it needed some liner notes.
It proved to be one of the band’s “last hurrahs.”
This mastered recording from the board was a storming, mercurial set played Chicago in one of our favorite rooms, Schuba’s. The set was as intense as the day is long.
The little band that could. And did.
Here’s how it all felt at the bitter end…
Enjoy the essay/liner notes.
Love & Grace, friends,
~ Bill Mallonee
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Liner notes for MANICPHASESHIFTER

“FUNERAL SONGS” by Bill Mallonee
I think songwriting is a type mourning. The older I get, and the more miles I log on the road, the more I am convinced that a wordless, intangible spirit emanates beneath the veil of this reality. And it seems to be something akin to grief.
It is as beautiful as a heart-beat of a new-born or the passion between two lovers. All nuanced with a certain transcendence.

How else to explain it?

I think from day one I’ve always tried to give that heart-beat a nomenclature, if only to make sense of it for myself.
You learn that one can mourn with both tears of joy & grief in the eyes at at he same time.
Grieving. In a world of no guarantees perhaps grieving is the loudest declaration of faith left to modern man.

From the git-go, there was always so much inside.
So much needing to get out, then hold up to the light. Fine tuning (in the form of songwriting) came later.
So much to place on the table of the marketplace. Back then, I wrote a a clip of something like 75 songs a year. And while the clip is down to something like oh, 40 songs a year, the thrill of making new songs is still the same as it was in the early days of the band. Writing is a salve.
Salvific, even.

“Good work, if you can get it,” I say.

But always first: I wrote to save myself, to make sense out of a broken world within.
I have never written a single song with a particular audience in mind.
Why bother?
We’re all living in the same skin. Tell the truth, or some shabby, well-intentioned version of it, and we’ll all “get it.”

Me? I played out my quest make sense out of the world within & without via a little rock band called Vigilantes of Love. I divulged as much as I could to everyone who passed through it’s ranks.
I was lucky/blessed to have great band mates, those other passengers on the trip.
Sometimes all one can do is throw on the last shovel-ful, breathe a sigh and then walk away.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Love, Loss & Transcendence.
Those are the songs that interest me.
This whole live set sounds freighted with a desperation that is bleeding with such things. Such things always takes you by surprise.

I included the studio song “Hat in Hand.”
The coda. A symphony of grief & and feedback.
The swan song in this collection.
I included this studio song in this collection because it has such a “parting shot” feel to it.
A garage anthem.
In essence, a funeral song.
“And then they were gone…”

People ask me if I miss Vigilantes of Love.
Of course, I do. Every incarnation, but especially this one here. It had a chemistry that I have rarely seen in any other band. It was brutally honest, gutsy and authentic. We always knew the “end was near.” How we laughed and wrote our way through it is, I believe, a testimony to each individual’s sheer “cussed-ness.”
And the grace of God.

Mostly, though, I miss the friendships.

And yes, I mourn for what should have been and could have been if the right folks in our industry superstructures (managers, labels, agents) had done half the amount of work we did as a band.
I DON’T miss the truck loads of BS we put up with from suchincompetent people.
BUT, I will say this:
Being victimized consistently by incompetent industry people opened my eyes to one thing: You don’t need any superstructure to give you “permission” to be an artist.
How does the song go?
“Sew your heart onto your sleeve…and wait for the ax to fall.”

I don’t know any other band that released so much work & toured so hard over 10 years (and 15 albums) with so little results than VoL.
What to say? I think we took as much of it as we could, romanticized it for another 10 albums over the last 5 years of the band’s run and then said: “Enough.”

This finale is about the “enough.”

At the end of the day we were about the song & the moment; the delivery & the spirit…and the rock & roll.
Jake, Kevin & I hope you enjoy the set here as much as we did playing it.

Oh, and just what is good rock & roll?
Love, Loss, & Transcendence….(Rinse & Repeat.)

~ bill mallonee

Spring 2015
(Copyright by “Once More, This Time With Feeling” BMI 2015)
released April 16, 2015

Bill Mallonee; Guitars, vocals, harmonicas
Jake Bradley: basses (guitars of Solar System, Judas Skin)
Kevin Heuer: drums

(Michelle Thompson; bgvs on Nothing Like A Train, She Walks on Water,
Good Luck Charm & Starry~Eyed)

(All songs by Bill Mallonee except “My Back Pages” by B. Dylan)
Administered by BMI.

Mastered by: Bruce Neher at: Disc & Dat, Monument, CO

“The “source tape” for this was double disc soundboard recording from Schuba’s Tavern, recorded 4-27-2000. All in all a great, high energy show, and I’m very happy with how it all turned out after mastering and some editing.” ~ Bruce Neher/mastering engineer for “Manic. Phase. Shifter”~ Vol Live at Schuba’s

The “Audible Sigh” Years Vigilantes of Love 1997-2001

*****The Audible Sigh Years*****

An historic record;

21 songs produced by Buddy Miller & Bill Mallonee at: www.billmalloneemusic.bandcamp.com

21 songs produced by Buddy Miller & Bill Mallonee at: http://www.billmalloneemusic.bandcamp.com


A blistering band.
A brief reminiscence.

“You pick up an instrument. You wrestle it. Then, you learn to tap the inside and turn it outward. You find your voice, your “nomenclature” for telling your part of the story…and then you start to dream a bit….”
How do you know when you’re making history?
17 years ago I made an album. It was called “Audible Sigh.”
Sure: A grim title in some ways. Such had been our experience as rock & roll “band in a van” for the 2 years leading up to walking into Buddy Miller’s studio in Nashville.
We were on the verge; all the variables in place, we thought.
I had the songs. We were an undeniable band with years of experience on the road.. And yet, and yet…
We made a great record. In 3 weeks we recorded 21 songs.
Killed it.

Folks still talk about it.
Critics went nuts over it.

The whole experience changed my life.
It’s still changing it in ways I never imagined.
In some place, deep within, i will always be “walking wounded” because of those 4 years (1997-2000) with 3 of the coolest musicians in the world.
Produced by Buddy Miller & myself, it featured many a guest appearance. (Emmylou Harris, Julie & Buddy Miller, Brady Blade, & Kevin Heuer). 
But at the core? It was always about 4 guys.
Guitarist Ken Hutson, bassist Jake Bradley, drummer Kevin Heuer and myself.
“Audible Sigh” was celebrated by many a critic as one of the best Americana records of the 90’s. 
It still continues to make “best of” lists.

The band was on the potential verge of it’s biggest break through. 
We’d laid the foundation via diligent, heavy touring and 2-3 albums a year. We worked hard against overwhelming odds.
The 150 or so songs I’d written during this period were visceral, raw, tough, tender, full of soul, spirt and post punk energy; 
And they were well-played, night after night, by Kenny, Jake, Kevin and myself.
Through 4 albums and an EP, from 1998-2001. 
We made many friends. Many of them here on this newsletter.
We are still very grateful for each of you.
It was a surreal & strange 4 years. 
Through the albums Roof of the Sky, Audible Sigh, Electromeo, ‘Cross the Big Pond and Resplendent/Audibly “Live” what I continually hear is a band that is hungry & alive. Immediate and relevant.
and giving it’s all.
Our repertoire was nearly 100 songs. That’s an amazing set for any band. Each of those those gentlemen (Ken, Jake & Kevin) were, and still are, my heroes.
But, looking back? I honestly think I saw the “writing on the wall,” at least far as the outcome goes. Life “owes” no one anything.
You pick up an instrument. You wrestle it. You learn to tap the inside and turn it outward. You find your voice, your nomenclature for telling your part of the story…
…and then you learn and then you start to dream a bit. Then you work hard, often against insurmountable odds…and slowly you start to see, feel, believe that it could “go to the next level.”
But, no one can do it all alone.

So MANY of you here on this list were there. You pulled, encouraged and prayed for us. You bought lots of records. We’re grateful.
Thank You all.
So many promises made to us from “the industry.”
From labels, to managers, to booking agents. 
In the end? 
All lies. Lies characterized by incompetence & neglect; flippancy and short-views on their part. 
When you realize that people with small views and tin-ears are dictating your future? 
Well, it was bordering of nightmarish.
We soldiered on a bit, post 2000, but, as I said above: the writing seemed to be on the wall.
Bands live in vans. 
We were on the road 200 shows a year.
We laughed. We joked. We fought. Ate, drank, slept. 
Fought through weariness and depression.
Rejoiced. 
Immersed in the backdrop & glory of the four seasons of this great country, we bonded.
We looked after each other. 
We were family.
And then it was gone…

Musically? 
I think we knew what we had was big magic. Night after night, under the most adverse, discouraging circumstances, this was a band that delivered; Delivered raw, heart-on-sleeve America-roots music with passion & spirit. 
Me? I rarely saw what VoL delivered equaled by any of the more “resourced,” “successful” acts.

They say life is risk. 
So there’s a life risked for a 4 year span.
The highest elation. Filigreed with transcendent moments…
and, in the end, the deepest despairs. 
By the end of 2001 it was in shambles and all over. 
Irreplaceable.
To be honest? I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten over it. 
I’ve never put so much trusting energy into people or anything in my life. 
VoL
”rest in peace”

17 years down the stretch, since Audible Sigh, and I’m never sure anymore if what we do here counts for anything anymore. Is it only in our youths that there were days when all seems like a dream; but dreams real enough to be charged with a sense of purposefulness and hallowed-ness?

Never have I seen since or been part of something driven by so much hope, expectation and sheer “pluck.”
I wept inside for years after it was over.

“Perspective, old chum! For God’s sake man, pull yourself together!”
Forgive me…
I got to write songs people still sing. I made an album that, I think, still sounds better to be in the Americana word than 99% of what passes for country-alt today.
I was allowed to “open a vein,” to invest heart & soul in each performance on every stage all across this country and in the UK.
As a band, we got to make magic, transcend a bit of time, and maybe even move to the fringes of something bordering the Eternal…
We’ve all heard of near death experiences.
Perhaps these were “near life experiences…”

Or maybe “perspective,”is dropping back to sheer material reality.
Life Good. Life bad…
Life in it’s wondrous incongruity.

Who knows? Who cares?
It’s my little part of the story
I’m proud of it all; 

proud of VoL;

proud of my friends; 

proud of our fans.
As the old standard goes:
Thanks for the memories…

~ bill

“THIS IS THE PART WHERE WE KISS GOOD~BYE” (An album release and essay on selling a guitar)

“This Is The Part Where We Kiss Good~Bye”/WPA vol.17 by Bill MalloneeTHIS IS THE PART WHERE WE KISS GOOD~BYE_2
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…
Grace,
bill
AMERICA, AMERICA 05:41,
JUDAS SKIN 05:16,
ANDERSONVILLE 05:01,
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.
I
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…
Me?
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.
My 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.
Above all?
Life may still seems sad and fractured, but it is nuanced with glimpses of hallowed-ness, beautiful beyond description.

Bill Mallonee
Easter/2013

*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.”
https://billmalloneemusic.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-the-part-where-we-kiss-good-bye-bill-mallonee-wpa-17

Lands & Peoples/ The new album’s Liner notes

Bill Mallonee/Lands & Peoples cover
Dear reader,
You can listen while reading (we encourage it!) or purchase the new work (if interested) at: https://billmalloneemusic.bandcamp.com/album/lands-peoples-bill-mallonee-cd-vinyl-download-formats
Thank You grass-roots readers and fans, bill
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Task Is Ever Endless (Liner notes for Lands & Peoples by Bill Mallonee)
Lands & Peoples was recorded in the high desert of New Mexico between Jan & March of 2015.
Thematically, it is both a very personal & “outward” looking record, as well.

I’ve spent most of my adult life on the road. I joke with people, when on tour, that I had to join a band to get out of the South. Now, 60 plus albums and a million miles of road, it’s in the blood.
The road. The lands. The people. You can’t help but “take notes.”
Directions are crucial. It’s always good to know where one is.
Call it signs of the times:
Hearts fail for fear & grow cold. A certain malaise & confusion reigns.
Yep, from every quarter, leadership has failed us.
And Money has spoken all too arrogantly.
No matter where one chooses to lay the blame; whether you bet on the Left or the Right, we are a now a nation that
is wounded, burdened, even haunted.
The task that lies before us of healing (and redirection) seems impossible, endless.
I am well aware that folks (especially artists?) who make these sorts of assertions lay themselves open to the charge of being grandiose;
of possessing an inflated sense of self-importance.
Forecasters, prognosticators, doomsayers?
(How does the old joke go? What’s 5000 critics at the bottom of the sea…?)

If that sentiment is your inclination well, all I can offer is a “you’ll just have to trust me on this one.” In a day and age where everything from politics & religion has been reduced to bumper-sticker or facebook meme phras-ology, we tend to be not so much knowledgeably informed as conduits of simplistic notions. But that’s another post.

SO: Let me own it; make it personal from the “git-go.”
My vantage point is more like that of a concerned traveler; one with an ear to the ground, and an eye to the skyline.
One with a guitar & notebook in hand.

I’ve explored similar themes on past recordings.
But, the songs on Lands & Peoples (at least for myself) were a new starting point for me.
The writing & recording of these songs (some 40 written in all) provided me with something of a space. Something like a tract of land or a harbor…in the end, a sanctuary.
You drop anchor & look at the coastline of the past.

The Past. Modern man is usually busy charging beyond the past. Somewhat blindly, I think, he presses on to a future that, at best, is shadowy, suspect and charged with nuances of the apocalyptic.

The Past. These songs were a harbor where one could lament what could have been but was left undone in our history;
~ a place to acknowledge the sad chapters of our past;
~ a space to weep over the silencing of voices of Goodness & Truth when they appeared on the scene;
~ a small parcel on which to mourn the lives that were lost in this mad, uncritical rush to the altar of modernity.

What did we lose? What did we fail to keep? And are such things lost forever?
I think about these things. I think about them a lot.
What I think is that it’s important to let the Past interrogate us.

What to say?
Our own Greed & Fear dictates our path far too often.
The grim alibi of pragmatism (“It was for convenience’s sake”) is tragically employed.
(And God knows, old habits die hard.)

Maybe there’s a bright side in these songs as well.
Me? I’m always looking for a skeleton key to let a few of the better angels of my nature (if such things exist) to show forth.
Healing is often found closer to home, and maybe after such a finding, it never leaves.
Maybe, after we let the Past interrogate us, there something like a cleansing; one with a more sober vision that is birthed inside of us.

Perhaps, it’s like making a good confession.
“Go…and do better next time. We need you out there,” saith the Lord.

Where to go from here?
If our country is wounded, burdened and haunted then educating ourselves can’t hurt.
Nor can employing the lost virtue of listening compassionately to one another.
Of actually “seeing” one another.
The jury may be out but perhaps Love, Compassion, Prayer & Diligence may still carry the day.
And I betcha a little Courage will go a long way.
“Grace…and dirty fingernails,” my friend Dwight Ozard always use to say.

But, first there’s the field of one’s own heart to tend to.
Personal & social sins to “call out,” confess & repent of.
It’ll keep us busy. After all: We’re correcting our mistakes on an exam we’ve all failed.
After that, there are our own spirits to refresh, re-focus & nurture.
Hope to be refreshed and then hands to be placed upon plows.
Oh, yes, and dreams to dream again
If good things start in dreams, let the dreaming begin.

Perhaps, these songs were a way of doing that for myself.
Perhaps that’s their only value.

Because after listening, you may still find yourself to be more of the calculated, “realist” temperament.
And sure, you may easily dismiss these songs & renderings as simply those expressions of yet one more grandiose songwriter;
(“Clearly one with an inflated sense of self-importance,” you may say.)
Ah, well, to thyself be true then.

The Good Lord knows, I’m not the first to voice such observations.
There are still running around, those who dream of better days in a new & better world;
one birthed, brought to life after much travail, and finally sustained by changed hearts.
Hearts, in their own stumbling ways, attempting to pursue those “weightier matters of the law.”
You know ’em: Justice, Mercy, Faithfulness;
It’ll take a whole lot of Grace. “Grace & dirty fingernails.”

So, “ring them bells.”
In every dark age there have always been a few dreamers.
Why, the task is ever endless. ~ Bill Mallonee

“Detours To A Better Highway” by bill mallonee

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(Bill Mallonee is a singer-songwriter with over 50 albums to his credit. Rolling Stone has said: “Mallonee the troubadour has remained fascinated with the shadowy emotional toils and struggles inherent in the American experience; compelling, insightful, he continues to probe through Americana rock and roll proving that sometimes the only story worth telling is that of the journey.”  – Rolling Stone
Releasing as many as 4-5 album/EPs a  year, he  is constantly engaged with an inner dialogue that seeks to be made manifest. “I’ve been writing, recording & touring for 20 years,” he says. “The songs still come because the journey is still new & alive. If i do my job right, I assume it’ll resonate with others experiences. We’re all basically living in the same skin.”  The excerpt below are liner notes from a compilation album of songs he recorded on a 4-Track recorder. These songs were recorded in cabins in Appalachia, adobe casitas in the high-deserts of New Mexico and in his hometown of Athens, Ga.)

“Detours To A Better Highway” by Bill Mallonee

“The WPA series of recordings (there have been 20 installments over 4 years) was born out of situations both external & internal. Life, in its ideal, is lived by compass points & co-ordinates. Having something to navigate towards is a blessing, I suspect, we too often take for granted. After the dissolution of my first marriage & the “disowning” of my work by a certain cross-section of previous fans, I found I was without label, manager, booking agent or any of the resources that I had to make records & tour with. I had labored long & hard for over 10 years, writing, recording & touring. Now, it all appeared to be in shambles. There is no doubt life as an artist can be “hard.” The life that seems so alluring & fulfilling often has unseen “price tags.” For artists there are “never any guarantees” about how things will fall out. These things happen daily to all of us, of course. I am under no illusion. No one is exempt from life’s harshness.

Still, as one who at that point had spent 10 years in a van, young, hungry and willing to please, the overwhelming sense of dis-ownership by fans over my divorce was heart-breaking. All of this was taking place while each new release was being praised, each new tour was seemingly successful. Call it a “run of bad luck, ” but the litany of other betrayals both personal & professional was sobering. All of it? A wake up call.
There was also such a thing as disgust with one’s own self. Not a new issue, but a chronic, if not neurotic, sense of guilt and failure had been driving my psyche all through college and well into my first years as a husband and new father. The unsuccessful attempts to tune out & stare down such dark intrusions was a candle burning at both ends. I suspect songwriting was always an attempt to “make sense” of a world within in which I often felt invisible, if not outright dammed. “Bad religion?” The most destructive thing on the planet.Sometimes you make songs just to keep the dark away. That was one of the impetuses behind my approaching song-writing differently. With no band to help or abet the fleshing out of new songs, song composition was to become a more solitary venture.
Anyway, in this desert-land of self-doubt & discouragement the Works (in) Progress Administration EPs were “born.” I have always written a great deal.  These recordings, consisting of 5 to 8 sings each, emerged about every 3-4 months. A limited, simple Zoom 4-track recording device became a path out of the sad terrain.
The songs came fast. The lyrics, faster still. Quick audio-sketches, hit with authority. Postcards from the terminal ward. Suddenly, (and almost effortlessly) a new world opened up. I now had the chance to write & record secondary & tertiary guitar parts, weaving them harmonically and responsively with one another. For hours on end I would play parts over & over (driving Muriah crazy, I’m sure!) until some new aspect, some new musical statement was realized. Lyrically, I wanted vulnerability & immediacy to be the hallmark in these songs. whether they were of a confessional, or grieving, observational or cathartic nature, I was having fun again. Songs were fleshed out, more parts added. I experimented with what sort of melody lines should be allowed to “speak” in a song, what weight to give to vocal phrases. Things like this opened a whole new world of just “what” makes a song a wonderful thing.
Initial ideas grew, took shape, and finally were recorded as well as i knew how back then and released in the WPA format. I sorted through the vast treasure trove of Americana art, posters, and nostalgia works. I began to read in depth and at length the great works of American authors of the period in our nations rise & expansion. Hundreds of histories, myths, legends, photos & diary excerpts found their way into my hands. Stories we should be proud of, stories we should stand in awe of…and things we should be ashamed of.And Music? It became a challenging & joyous thing a again; something full of promise, beckoning; And yes, something healing. (Eventually, many of these songs would up on very large plains indeed! The national releases of “The Power & The Glory” & “Amber Waves” received fantastic press & garnered “fab” reviews.)Though we may feel only the stumbling & inconstancy of our steps in day-to-day existence, m

aybe God “loses” nothing in our lives. Perhaps the place where our new-found “wisdom” and experience meet, while intensely personal, is something that has to be journeyed through in order to become real and lasting.
I know that the best “sermons” are the one’s you write and preach daily to yourself.

Whether it was through my guitar arsenal of an ancient Gibson,  a beat-up old Spanish guitar, or a 50 year old arch-top that one had to wrestle into submission, or raw Neil Young “Harvest” era electrics, I was becoming free inside and more confident with each WPA offering. In the process, I was able to trust my intuitive sense, my gut level. All became effortless again.
“Renderings” is by no means the totality of musical landscapes that I was traversing, locked away in a small room with guitars & coffee. There were easily 50 to sixty songs written during this year. But these selected tracks from Volumes 1-4 do represent some of the mile-markers that I crossed as I tried to regain a sense of self.

Call this all a “small” experiment. “Self-absorbed” was putting it mildly. Still, the anodyne these songs yielded brought confidence back and were the catalyst to creative growth and my soul’s integration.
It goes without saying that the themes of grief, wayward humanity and (finally) hope surfaced here.
After all the work, and the settling of dust, I found I could draw an affirming breath again. I’ve never lost sight of whatever gift or grace was extended to me during this time. I don’t know whether it was something wrestled from the hands of angels, as I was driven to create something new from the wreckage of my past, or it was something more like pure gift making itself manifest in my work. I was able to breathe something that was invigorating…and full of new possibilities.

If you choose to drop in on the record (It’s up for free listening at the site below) I hope you enjoy the excursion as much as I did.
~ bill mallonee
credits
released:  January 2013
Bill Mallonee: acoustic & electric guitars, vocals, bass, drums, harmonicas, piano.
Muriah Rose: piano, accordion

credits

released January 2013
Bill Mallonee: acoustic & electric guitars, vocals, Bass, druns, Harmonicas Piano.
Muriah Rose: accordion
WPA vol. 1-4/”RENDERINGS”
RENDERINGS (A WPA vols.1-4 Retrospective) cover art

2 New Albums by Americana singer-songwriter Bill Mallonee; Liner Notes to “Beatitude” & “Heaven In Your Heart”

Aside

THE BEATITUDE COVER_2_2_2

Before we get started:
I’m flattered if you, dear reader, even read 2 paragraphs here. You owe me nothing. And God knows, our worlds are cluttered with “type” everywhere you look, all demanding your attention.

So yes: I’m glad you’ve stopped in, even if it’s tentative.
There are two sets of liner notes here. They are connected with the 2 new albums I’ve released in the last 2 months. If you’d like some “background music,” you can roll over to Beatitude & Heaven in Your Heart/WPA 18 at the bandcamp site and listen as you read. Let me know what you think.

Making music is what I do & writing about what’s under the skin of each album (There have been 55 albums, now) is what I do, as well. As a few of you here may (or may not) know, I’m a singer-songwriter. “Americana music” is the genre critics place my work in. So be it.
Yes: I’ve been at it a while. And “yes”, I’ve got some national “cred.”
I’ve released near 55 albums over 20 years. Myself (and a few bandmates) have been through all the glorious stimuli/response dynamics of various label deals as a recording artist that played out in a band-in-a-van ennui for 12 years (1991-2002)…and then on into my current world that is more solo acoustic driven.

The road is a friend. Most of the time. Usually the silent type. Spend time with anyone for a spell, and they change you. The road is no different. Days on the road from the inside of a van; Nights on beer soaked stages, or in small town cafes; the occasional theater. Playing original music. Dragging it all back home to wife & kids just to say: “Well, the folks seem to like what I do. Here’s my take.”
A fool’s errand to some. During the “locust years” you try not to think about it too much.

No, it was never riches, but it was always good enough to get by to the payment, the next trip to the grocery store, the next doctor’s visit…the next album.
All part of my schooling.
Off the grid.
Out of the box.
Making it up as we went along.
…that part of the road that changes you.

Maybe it takes years of doing something long & well before you “wake up” and realize that you’ve put your own style, or own imprimatur on it. Perhaps it took years of writing songs, recording albums & then laying the wares in front of folks every night for me to “spark;” to feel comfortable in my own skin.

Here’s where it went:
Eventually, one comes to that (glorious, liberating) place as an artist where you can leave the hipsters to their hip-ness, be amused by the cultish-ness of the blogger/critics, and walk away from trends.
Eventually you can say: “Hey, this is what I do. Maybe not for everybody, nor is it meant to be. But, it’s good and it’s what I do.”

Maybe that’s how an artist is “born.”

I’ve never had much to offer except perspectives gleaned from exploring the human predicament through the windows of a songwriter’s life. Most of it has been lived below the poverty level. I count that as a feather in the cap of  something like “authenticity.” Calluses on the hands. The work, and the groundswell of folks who have been listening for a long time, has been enough to outsmart the wolf at the door, so far. Never had to go without a meal or a roof over my head. God, be thanked.

For me, the song, the story, and the “delivery” is mostly what I’ve always “been about.” That’s what you’ll hear on these two recent recordings. “Beatitude” was recorded with my old band, Vigilantes of Love, in a classy studio.  “Heaven In Your Heart” was recorded  in our home, a small adobe casita way back in a canyon in the high desert of New Mexico, where my wife & I live when we’re not touring.

Here we go on the liner notes. Let me know if the songs & work speak to you. That’d be cool..and, if you’ve read this far, generous thanks for your attention!

Grace & joy on the journey,
bill
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“HEAVEN IN YOUR HEART”/WPA 18. by Bill Mallonee
"HEAVEN IN YOUR HEART"/WPA 18 cover art
~  “HEAVEN IN YOUR HEART” LINER NOTES ~
(Album released July 4th, 2013)
“Bruce Springsteen released Nebraska in 1982. Sparse, brutal and passionate it was (and has continued to be) a record that both repels & compels.
I think “Heaven in Your Heart” might be my “Nebreska.”
Musically? A 1947 Gibson ES-125 and my old Martin D-35 carry the weight of the 10 songs & their arrangements. The battered guitars, the dull strings,the ghost-ing of our porch chimes in the high desert wind, dogs barking, and the creak of an old wooden chair…these combine to paint a mood even before words & stories are sung.

For the characters in these songs life has become harsh & unpredictable. They wrestle with their fate like Jacob with the angel. Outcomes are up for grabs. Everything is tainted with failure & fear. Belief is strained. For these characters, salvation is elusive.
Grace, if it surfaces at all, might just be luck-of-the-draw.
And just why is it’s Face so often a hidden one?
And why, if it exists at all, does it visit some and not others?

But, doubts are not only born of external-ities.
Often they are the sons & daughters of our own inability to be true to ourselves. Creatures of perpetual compromise. We fail to stay aligned to our own deeper principles, tossing compasses overboard.
For these characters here a sort of inner integrity has died.
Those sorts of little inner deaths are confusing, lonely.
And still, and still, such epiphanies have there own salvific and bracing work in our wayward hearts.
That’s some of what this album is about.
Dust & rust homilies of sorts.

And so, here’s “Heaven In Your Heart.”
I hope you’ll find a place for it in the collection.
And if not? Well, maybe some day under a different set of circumstances these songs will make contact and “have their say.”

Courage,
bill
Summer 2013

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Beatitude” by Bill Mallonee & Vigilantes of Love. Released June, 2013

"BEATITUDE" Bill Mallonee & Vigilantes of Love cover art

“Beatitude/Field Notes”
Loneliness. The earmark of the 21st century. You can only wear it like a badge for so long. Loneliness is what makes you listen for a voice inside yourself. We’re tweaked for a transmission of sorts; some thing like a “contradiction” to the cut-off-ness you sense.  A search, an inventory of what is within or with out, that you are not as alone as you feel.
A word about the characters in these songs. I know ’em all. In my line of work, you tend to meet so many folks who are “just holding on.” I dunno if it’s representative of what’s going on in the rest of the country, but after 20 years on the road, it’s hard not to take the stories told me as some sort of “pulse” of the nation. And even if my “field research” is suspect, you get the feeling that even if the lines of our lives have fallen in pleasant places that all of that comfort zone is vulnerable to being “rearranged.” Life’s web hangs very fragile. Some of that spirit is what’s going on here on this album.

If we’re all living in the same skin, the “sighs & groanings” of the spirit are our “vernacular.” Our “everyday tongue.” All of the characters here have some desperation as the common thread of their existence. Probably just like you & I.
The characters are the usual unsung saints: coal miners, small farmers, grieving spouses, burden-bearing letter carriers & boxcar transients down on their luck, looking for work. It’s all very close to home.
I hope you enjoy these places these folks go, what they have to do to survive…and, more importantly, think about how they got there. It seems we live in a day & age where all the old templates are shattered and all the formulas are up for grabs. “Beatitude” was recorded with a full band in the studio, this collection is the best produced group of the songs I’ve written in the indie-folk/country-alt delivery. Many of these songs we play a lot in our current “live” set. We went for a “live-in-the-studio” feel on these songs. There are some famously grand moments here. It is always a joy to play & record with one’s own friends. And, if you find some aspect of your own journey reflected here in these songs always take comfort in the fact that you are never alone. peace,
bill

personnel on “Beatitude” (released 07 June 2013)

Bill Mallonee: acoustic & electric guitars, vocals, harmonica
Muriah Rose: piano, vocals
Kevin Heuer: drums, percussion
Bill Pratt: pedal steel, banjo
Bert Shoaff: bass, double bass
Jake Bradley: bass, guitar

OF SILVER BULLETS & GLASSES DARKLY…

Perhaps, there are no guarantees and no predictable outcomes in this life, even if you “do it by the book.” Good people with good hearts too often “leave the party too early.” I’ve ceased to try and understand it. To do so would simply mark you, in a matter of speaking, as “one of Job’s friends.”

Too many of my friends & acquaintances have died. I’ve refused to ask myself “where they were with the Lord when the died” anymore. Such questions strike me as arrogant, insulting to the courage that the deceased person exhibited…and irrelevant. Sure, I believe that a person can have a greater or lesser apprehension of God’s “nearness.” But if God is Love, then the point is simply that the Lord, whether the dying knew it or not, was tenderly near each of them.

On most days, I do believe that “it all means something.” That it’s all going somewhere. God seems to have built that dynamic of hope & expectation into the tapestry of things. There’s gracious plenty in the world that’ll rub that affirmation raw in 5 minutes, of course. But, I still believe that God “gets the last word.” And, I suspect (call me a fool or a heretic) that word He gets will be a good one.
No. Most often, what staggers our credulity is His utter lack of good timing. Timing by our watches, anyway. It’s the “when” will He speak such a word?; The “why is it taking Him so long?”; That “when will He show up?” that stymies, frustrates, unnerves all of us.

How does one wait without throwing in the towel? How does one hold on and not be undone by futility or overcome by bitterness? Perhaps, the “trick,” in the here and now, is to affirm whatever little shred of grace you see in your life & in the lives of others. Began to sense it, look for it, and (when it’s finally seen) be quiet before such revelations…Indeed, be amazed. Amazed because you may begin to find such graces everywhere. And in Everyone. The world my start to explode with meaning. You’re developing an instinct beyond the intuitive.

That, to me, is where a life of “faith” is affirmed and in fact “con-firmed.”

Sure, it takes courage to live by such faith. There’s a lot that’ll always seem “up for grabs.” Maybe it takes a dogged stupidity as well. 
It’ll be a courage of strange origins. You, more than likely, won’t know where it comes from till much later. It surfaces through many conduits. It takes falling down and despairing of ones-self. There are no schools to learn such lessons in. It likely wouldn’t be faith you “bought” if it was avialiable via a Univ. of Phoenix course.
And now, the scary part: It’ll take entrusting ones-self to a Love that knows no bounds in it’s Mercy & Concern for you. It takes getting up (after stumbling and falling) and seeing that your life really is, in so many intangible, wordless ways, a wonderful Gift, a wonderful Life. But of course, that Love may ask you to begin to give your heart more & more to it’s vision and it’s way of seeing things; It’s way of loving.

I’ll go out on a limb here:
If you happen to be an “Ex-Church-Person-in-Recovery,” a someone who had “religion” rammed down his/her throat, it might mean taking a different tact when it comes to declaring “for or agin” Life’s understandability.

Call it a quest, a holy inquiry. Call it an interrogation.
It might mean demanding proof, or convincing, or insight or grace from God that all of this hallowed/crazy/broken thing we call “LIfe” actually means anything at all. It might sound more like: “Lord, give me one good reason why I shouldn’t quit on this today,” and less like some worn credal recitation, or some other spiritual brownie-point-earning endeavor to “re-assure ourselves” that we’re “OK.”
Call it “skipping the formalities.”

“Ante-up. What’s this all about?”

But here’s the catch:
If He does respond, if He does reveal Himself then (to quote the old Robert Johnson song) “you gotta move.”

We so often act as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist. We try (often vainly) to arrive at some apprehension of God, of His will, of His goodness by the “mind,” while leaving the elements of “dialogue” out of the equation. And by dialogue, I mean simply that you talk to Him & He talks to you, listens to you, answers you, weeps with you and rejoices with you. Approaching Him only with the mind starts to feel…well, a little over-rated. He’s been known to whisper some amazing poetry into some folks’ ears. Sometimes ears need wildernesses to retreat to hear such Love’s deeper & healing declarations…
And let’s face it: Tidy doctrines & formulas are so much easier (and “safer,” too.)

I suspect God is both “big enough” to handle our deepest questions and equally passionate enough to give us (His beloved) an adequate reply.

“Faith” will never be struck from the inquiry, from the interrogation. To do so would be like covering your ears and expecting to still hear Him answer. Faith is like your relay tower to apprehend His side of the dialogue. Yes, the dialogue will be honored and that, out of love. You’ll see, hear, apprehend His “Is-ness” in the  world, including your world. 

But take note, beloved seeker: His replies may not be the answer that “wins” the whole shooting match. No. It may look more look like one silver bullet, held by the faith He gives you…to get you through one more day. You’ll “know” where it came from and who gave it to you.

But maybe that’ll just be enough.

It’ll be enough, because you took Him to task once, to be able to take Him at His word a million times over…