FOREST FULL of WOLVES

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
Enjoy,
~ bill
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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.

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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.”
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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

ON OCCASION

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

Advent & Christmas Reflections/Homilies by bill mallonee

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Dear readers,
What you’re about to find here are some thoughts, maybe more like “approaches” to the Christmas message. I’ve thought about these things for many years, as a song-writer and as a prose writer. But, I also find I ponder them anew each Advent & Christmas as one who so very much wants it all to be true; one who wants it to be the most wonderful dream beyond all telling come to life.
 
Me? I can boast no official theological “credentials.”I’m a song-writer, poet and prose writer…
I am simply an avid “fan” & deeply curious lover of the Christmas texts; I find their timeless-ness & relevancy both as “diagnosis” and “cure” compelling.
What they have to say to 21st century men & women seems to “fit.”
I like that God who seems to “show up” among us in the most vulnerable of ways.
I can only claim that I feel that I have immersed myself in these texts concerning Christmas; Prayed over them, written scores of songs about them (not your typical “hymns,” mind you); The “scratch paper” that I write upon for such pondering has been that of my own fallen existence, as I wrestle with the implications of Emmanuel, “God With Us.”
 
And so: If these “homilies” can be of help to anyone (layperson or pastor) feel free to share/quote at length.
 
May the Health & Wholeness of this Season of Hope be yours & your loved now and always…Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas ~ bill mallonee
 
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1st Sunday in Advent. Emmanuel “God With Us.”
The Birth of Jesus Luke 1: 18-25 (From The Message Bible)
“The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:
Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).
Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.”
 
Christmas.
Most of mankind’s wildest, most noble hopes are wrapped up in flesh & blood of Him who they call Jesus, the Savior of the world.
He came at a time when the ancient world was filled with brutality and fear, heavy-handed rule and political ambition.
It was a world starving for love. Social caste systems were inviolable and military might “made right.”
Things haven’t changed much.
Into that world is born Jesus Christ.
Vulnerable, helpless, lacking any worldly “credentials” that would have put one ahead.
 
He came with authority.
He came with healing power.
He came with a special love for the poor,
the broken,
the marginalized,
the disenfranchised;
He came to those who knew their own skin and what shabbiness dwelt beneath that skin.
He was loved by the poor, the down-rodden and outcast.
The rich & powerful and those of privilege tended to view him with skepticism at best & derision at worst.
 
He came with Beatitudes of the Kingdom;
Beatitudes that turned the values of the day upside down.
And He came with a Sermon on the Mountain guaranteed to blow your mind.
His words threw the religious world’s “magnetic North” off balance.
That text alone was the internalization (and one might add, simplification) of everything Yahweh had been trying to teach His people for centuries.
 
And here it was falling from the lips of a poor Jewish carpenter; laid out in bold, poetic, immediate terms.
Authorities & bureaucrats tend to have no time for “exceptions” to the rule.
Things were no different back in the time of Christ.
Here was Jesus, born of low-estate, from a back-water Judaean town delivering His message as a self-styled rabbi.
In the end, it was more than the authorities & Jerusalem blue-bloods of His day could handle.
But that’s another story…
 
His message, in fact His whole Person, was an upheaval to the individual heart and the whole social order of the day;
Straight-forward, diamond hard, without compromise.
His message and His very life was a “first shall be last and last shall be first” politic-of-the-heart.
He preached the intimate Love & Tenderness of the Father towards the repentant sinner.
He scandalized the His followers to address God as Abba.
“Papa.” “Daddy,” is the rendering.
He claimed equality with the Lord who made Heaven & Earth, and insisted that one’s response to Him was also the same response to His Father.
He preached a Kingdom that was only beginning to stir among men & women; and He proclaimed that it’s membership encompassed anyone & everyone who sensed and felt his/her unworthiness.
 
Me? I knew at an early age all the joys and expectations of Advent & Christmas narratives (whether they are history or memories nuanced with touches of zealous imagination.)
They seeped into this small child’s imagination and have been inspiring him ever since.
Later, as an adult and as a songwriter, I was fortunate to attend a small house-church fellowship for many years in Athens, Ga.
The solid, informed Biblical teaching began to orient me towards God’s way of “seeing things;”
Including how He sees me.
 
The New Testament writers?
They were a varied lot. Different backgrounds, writing to different audiences.
But all of them were united in gathering the facts concerning Jesus and His work, reporting His words and deeds…and then wrestling with the implications of this One Life, the very Light of the World.
The very Light that came that first Christmas and continues to come into our broken, weary, sin-sick hearts and world.
This is important to keep in mind:
One can feel the apostles wrestling for a new nomenclature to describe what had just happened and what they had just experienced by knowing Jesus.
 
Jesus. Emmanuel. “God With Us.”
So deep & wide & broad in His Love and Concern for each of us that one could never sound the depths of it.
Jesus. The Mystery we are called to love in return, no matter how stumbling (or doubting) our steps.
 
It often happens that the people who are supposed to “represent” Him here do the worst and bloodiest damage throughout mankind’s dismal history;

I must confess: I have sympathy with those for feel they must “turn away” from such representations of Christ, the man of Peace.
So, I’ll say this at the risk of incurring the wrath of some segments of the institutional church: The face of the current Church, given it’s tendency towards complacency, or it’s accommodation of the worst sins of the age (greed, ignorance, racism, selfishness, & justification of violence to name a few), may not be the best place to look for Jesus.
 
But, God, especially at Advent & Christmas, reveals the real dynamic of our quest:
It is Jesus who first seeks us.
Dear skeptic, doubter, rebel: It has always been a source of comfort know that He is always seeking us first;
He 
“takes us where we’re at.”
 
And where He takes is into a new world.
The world of the “new creature.”
A creature reborn.

It is the world of baby steps;
It is a world of distrusting your own “righteous-ness;”
It is a world of learning humility.
 
I’m convinced He’s more concerned about each of us “learning His heart.”
It’s all right there in the New Testament.
Immerse yourselves in it.
Pray over it’s texts, it’s words, it’s demands, it’s implications.
 
Sure, it’s a “risk.”
You’ll go against the cultural norms from the git-go.

But, give it a swing, rededicate your life, repent…whatever…
Just talk to Him.
Because He’s been known to answer.

Ask Him to help you apply it to your own heart and situations.
He will not fail to teach you;
he will not fail to lavish His Mercy upon you, nor fail to lead you into His Truth.
“Your Redeemer lives.”
He is near…
As the Christmas Gospel proclaims Our Emmanuel, “God with us.”
Experience His Spirit, quietly and steadfastly at work within you.
You will find such a balm is healing for the soul.
 
And then the learning to walk.
Do any of us ever really get past this?
I remember memorizing Psalm 51, one of the Bible’s penitential psalms, just to have it ready-reference as I walked or jogged;
It was a way of prompting contrition and reminding myself of the Lord’s loving-kindness.
 
Yes. That trying our best to live out that Kingdom life; that all-too-frequent picking ourselves from our failures, dusting ourselves off and beginning again.
However stumbling we may be in our “first steps.”
We begin, by accepting our acceptance.
We begin by recognizing our deep need and broken-ness. An empty cup He seems to be all-too-ready to fill.
 
Then the simple exchanges of just talking to Him daily & listening become a way of transformation from within and into the world in which we live.
We get use to living in our own skin.
 
And one thing more:
And we learn to love the spirits of our fellow travellers.
Our brothers & sisters.
And maybe, by God’s Grace, even our enemies.
The world is starving for such manifestations of that Love.
 
Joy & courage on your journey,
bill mallonee
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2nd Sunday in Advent

1. Luke 3: 1-6
“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Luke begins his version of the story of Jesus by anchoring it in history; by grounding it in the stuff of flesh & blood. Not fiction, not fancy.
Real history. It is Christianity most “outlandish” claim. Christianity is not mere “spirituality,” although it is that, as well.
But the claim that God entered human history in the Person & work of Christ?
THAT is the claim that believers are asked to test, to trust in and participate in.
God makes Himself vulnerable and personal to each of us. It is quite a claim and yet it is the bedrock of our faith and our hope.
The near-ness of God.
Earthy. Immediate. And he anchors it story by story, parable by parable, miracle by miracle in the lives of folks like you & I.
The Gospel of Luke. It’s the Gospel of “John & Jane Doe.”

People ask me about Jesus sometimes. I’m known, fairly far & wide in some circles, as a singer-songwriter who writes about “faith issues.”

People ask me: “How do you know Jesus is there? How do you know He’s real? How do you know that all the gospel writer’s claim about Him…is true?”
And for years, most of the answers I’d give people seem to border on something like an intellectual insult to them or they took some form of academic pontificating from some higher moral ground.
Sure, there’s a place for true scholarship and that branch of theology known as “apologetics.” (Unfortunately named “label,” if ever there was one!)
But, these days I trend to downplay the “canned” responses, even when feel tempted to resort to them…

Perhaps our faith is already storm-battered, threadbare.
How to respond?
“Well,” I say, “you can talk to Him. Just like a Friend. Ask Him to “show” Himself to you.
And “Yes,” I say, it might be a little scary.”
Ask Him hard things like: “Why is the world is such a broken place?”
And, if you get the courage, ask Him: “Why am I so broken within myself?”
And, why you’re at it, ask Him why everything & everyone hurts.
And ask Him why there seems to be no end to the atrocities man inflicts on his supposedly fellowman.
If He’s real, then assume He’s a ‘big” God. And assume that He isn’t at all offended by your questions, if they originate from an honest heart.
He’ll answer, I believe.

But then, of course, you have to learn to listen.
But, it’s “listening” in a different way; Much like trying to tune in an old AM station.
With Jesus, you have to be open to picking up His frequencies in a different manner.
Via the texts (Holy Scriptures) we have handed down to us through the centuries, though the promptings or “nudges” of His Spirit, or through the mouths of his stumbling saints, He speaks. To you. To me.

Listening in such a way is not necessarily modern man’s strong card these days.
In a day and age of disposable info delivered through the barrage social media, it’s no wonder we feel over-whelmed.
Strangely, for all of our “full-course dinner” of information, we also seem to be life-threateningly “under-nourished.”
Let us try, asking His help & His Grace to approach these texts in a different way, with the ears of our spirits more opne. Not only on the Sundays of Advent, but perhaps, as time affords, in private moments throughout the Advent & Christmas Season.

Because, His Coming, His compassionate sharing in our own flesh & blood (in every way like unto our own except for sin) is the “Reason for the Season.”
He still has much to say; To you, and to me.
Dial in that station.
Reach out to Him, through prayer, asking for light (even with the hard questions!); I believe you will find that even as you reach out to Him, that He in His Bethlehem-Love, has already reached out to you.
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3rd Sunday in Advent ~ Luke 4: 14-32  (The Message Bible)
“Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside. He taught in their meeting places to everyone’s acclaim and pleasure. He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”
All who were there, watching and listening, were surprised at how well he spoke. But they also said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son, the one we’ve known since he was a youngster?”He answered, “I suppose you’re going to quote the proverb, ‘Doctor, go heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.’ Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. Isn’t it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon? And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian.” That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, but he gave them the slip and was on his way.
He went down to Capernaum, a village in Galilee. He was teaching the people on the Sabbath. They were surprised and impressed—his teaching was so forthright, so confident, so authoritative, not the quibbling and quoting they were used to.” ~ Luke 4: 14-32

People tend to forget just how “disowned” He was. Right off the top.
We forget that He was disowned by the authorities both political & religious.
God “scandalizes” us by deciding to “appear” among the meek, the lowly, the poor, the marginalized.
He “scandalizes” our sensibilities still to this day.
We’re scandalized by Him to this very minute;
Scandalized and “offended as a nation, and mostly likely as individuals, as well.
There are “hard” truths to reckon with.
At least I find them hard.

It helps to remind ourselves that often human history is one set by “trajectories;” That a move in one direction can have a domino-effect for good or evil.
I remind myself that push backs against the world’s darkness & despair start with little acts, that are very important because they can reset the trajectories of our lives personally, as a nation and as the people of God. “Little acts” like loving your spouse, your children, doing your job with integrity and goodwill.

Still, (sadly) we live in a world of “static;” One that screams other values that compete for our heart’s affections.

A world that makes idols out of Mammon, Power & Distraction will likely always be scandalized by His words, His message, His Love.
It’s hard to reconcile His Kingdom values with what we tend to call “the real world.”
(In fact, much of His message, and the theology of the apostolic letters, is God’s way of trying awaken us to what real life is vs. the world illusion and it’s counterfeits.)

We tend to try and steer a “middle course.”
We wear our symbols of the faith, be they visible or “invisible.”
We champion our faith…but then hedge our bets by building and employing massive war machines (in the name of the Prince of Peace);
We hide behind the walls of our gated communities.
We call into service rhetoric that diminishes our responsibility towards the poor, the lowly and the marginalized of society;
The very people He seems to have taken such and interest in.
We fail to address systemic evil and fail to ask our leaders to do the same.

Let us ask the Lord for Grace on these matters.
And Courage, as well.
Because it will take Courage to ask of ourselves, our leaders (both religious and political) the clarification, the discernment and the action that are demanded as we wrestle with the implications of Jesus’ Kingdom message.

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4th Sunday in Advent/Luke 2: 8-20 (The Message Bible)
“There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
“Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him!”
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!”

Expectation
The core of the Holy Season is built upon it.
There was waiting through the millennia. There were rumors abounding. Legends, myths; Mankind was sent “good dreams,” said C S. Lewis. All visited upon mankind to rouse his sense of expectation…and hope.
Scripture paints a picture of curious detectives combing through texts and clues, spirit promptings and circumstances; sifting through the work of God in Israel’s history, trying to discern the where, the when, the intentions of God, “things the angels longed to look into,” says St. Paul.

In Jesus’ time, there was a renewed expectancy for God to “make good on His Promise;” to send Israel a warrior, a liberator, One who would free them from Roman domination and restore them as a “player” among the nations.

And it happened. Yes, The Promise appeared.
The culmination of all that the ages of tired, weary, sin-sick humanity had hoped for & strained to see, appeared.
All that the Good & Gracious Lord longed to show us and do for us appeared. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
A living, breathing, walking, speaking Promise.
It was all too much for most…
So much that even the Gospel writers themselves strain for an adequate nomenclature to describe the experience. (St. John utilization of “the Logos,” “The Word” comes to mind.)

And of course, no one was ready.

No one except those with eyes and hearts to see.
They numbered the poor in spirit, the lowly, the humble, the meek, the lost, forgotten, the disenfranchised, the marginalized.
No marching band kick-off ritual. No main street, ticker tape parade.

There were some shepherds doing the night watch. What they were on the verge of seeing, experiencing and believing is nothing short of the Glory of God.
it took then “off-guard.” I think true Grace, once comprehended, always makes us catch our breath.
It’s those “lump-in-the-throat” moments that empower us, humble us. It’s an awakening to the beauty and tenderness of the universe. A son or daughter graduates; a friend stares down cancer; a loved one comes home from rehab; a soldier comes home from war…

They are each and all a testimony that the Kingdom is “breaking in” to our lives and our world.

The “intrusion” of God into the simple goings & comings of simple men & women is one of Luke’s most endearing literary trademarks; And one of the Church’s favorite stories. The shepherd’s sense of astonishment and chil-like wonder makes all of us yearn for God’s revelation o have a similar impact on our own lives..

There was also a band of angels made the gig. (Personally” I like to think they were swinging some New Orleans style Dixieland jazz);
They probably expected a much larger crowd.
After all. This is Christ the King, the Lord of Glory, Lord of Heaven and Earth who is coming into the wold.
But, the concert goers were small in number.
No suit & tie crowd, either. No “Will-Call” attendees. No balcony, reserved seating.
Shepherds, in all their brutish, blue-collar rough-ness, were the favored ones that evening.
Perhaps no one, ever since, has ever loved a “show” more than the shepherds who witnessed & heard the angel choir that Bethlehem evening.

So much so they became His first earthly heralds:
“As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over.
Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”
They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.
Seeing was believing.
They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child.
All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.
The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen.
It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!” Luke 2: 15-20
Let us ask God to create in us a sense of Holy expectation as we journey through this Advent in preparation for His Christmas coming;
Let us ask him for the eyes & heart of the meek & lowly, too both see and embrace, just as they did, Jesus, Emmanuel, “God with us.”
***************************************************************

(copyright Bill Mallonee Musings and Songs For the Journey & Beyond c. 2016)

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

“Oh, Death!”/Liner notes for the album, “Slow Trauma”

Slow TraumaSlowTrauma Cover

In the “old days,” they were called liner notes;
You know: Those written extrapolations an artist would offer about his or her new album.

As a kid, drums were my first instrument. They were learned in a dusty basement with a stack of old LPs, my first real school-room;
And liner notes? (the ones complete with the who played what?)
I thought they were the coolest thing on earth.
I still do.

Many of you know, I like writing about what’s “behind the work;”
A peering through the cracked window into the collection of songs;
You know, the inspiration, the etcetera, etcetera…

I suppose in a day and age, where fewer and fewer people read, it’s all just a vain exercise now. Selfish perhaps.
For me? Maybe, it’s just my little way of scrawling out: “Kilroy was here.”
(A fascinating historical sidebar: Kilroy was presumably an American soldier in WWII, who inscribed his presence here and there across Europe on things like Church steeples or walls, as the Allies liberated Nazi held territories. Get this: No one knows where it originated or who he (or she) was.

C’est la Vie & so be it…

“Slow Trauma” is the name of the new one. It drops/releases on 3.15.16.
It’s getting close to something like album #80 for me…
Kilroy has been here a few times

Sure, it’s an Americana record. And an “honest-to-God” Rock & Roll record, too.
That’s what I do.
That’s the “genre” where I feel most comfortable in my “musical skin.”

It’s also, very much a record about Death.
Let me explain…

I always felt the world was “off axis.” Not “the thing it should be.”
I knew early on “I” was part of the problem, as well.
And of course, good people, friends, loved ones “leave the party too soon…”
Mortality.
(“How’s that again?”)

For me anyway, doctrines like “The Fall of Man” mattered a lot. I gravitated there in an effort to make sense of it all…
In a very existential way they mattered.
It matters not whether such concepts be rooted in ancient history or deeply accurate mythology; Such doctrines are our attempt to explain how “modern man” has gotten “from A to B;” You know: How we arrived (in our oh-so-enlightened modernity) at this point on the timeline.

Arrived. Arrived here. Arrived in the “now.”
Arrived confused, beleaguered & deviled;
Our spirits permeated with a kind of numbness, wrapped in a kind of spiritual lethargy, stunted; Arrived cold & weary.
Arrived as a race of people given to fear, greed, cruelty. Garnished with a lust for violence and domination.
Its been going on forever…For. Ever.
No, we’re not so very modern after all, really.

Death. Cessation.
A component of my interior world.
I feel like I’ve been staring it down in one form or another all of my life.
I’ve been “institutional material” once or twice.
It has certainly shaped my melancholy temperament and driven my art in noticeable ways.

I know some movements across the spectrum of human history have glorified it, romanticized it, even reveled in it…
Death. What’s to revel in?
Me? I don’t see it that way. At all.
I think it’s more like an aberration.
A blasphemy.
God, damn it. (That’s a prayer. Not an expletive.)

The idea of the cessation of life has haunted me ever since I was oh, 7 or 8 years old.
Too young to feel or sense guilt about anything, as far as I remember.
Later on, I did heavy-duty “homework” on the Christian Faith.
And yes. I converted. It was a few moments, days of indescribable joy & confidence…
And then it all vanished in the shame of failures. Maybe it was my complete unfamiliarity and naivete of what the spiritual life was all about.
One’s prayers feel like they hit the ceiling and fall to the floor.
Guilt makes one alone and silent.
A babe lost in the woods…

I studied the Life of Jesus, the Lord, the Savior; I still do.
Learned about the Church’s history, it’s beauty, it’s heinous failures, it’s claims, and promises.

For me, the question was: How does one reconcile that tension/fear of death with it’s visceral dynamic with the hope of Christ’s Resurrection and it’s promise of our own?
I don’t know.

But, this is all too esoteric, isn’t it…?
I’ll play my hand.
I was always “weighed & found wanting.”
The unequivocal mood of my interior life? Feelings of damnation.
Like some dark beast crouching in the corner of my consciousness, it was almost always “there.” Watching, waiting, unrelenting.
I spent years struggling with the deeper aspects of Mercy & Forgiveness, mostly because, from day one, I felt so unworthy of any of it…and because my own “holiness” has always been crap anyway. I struggle to “see myself” as even remotely redeemable.
No “gussying-up” any of this.
(Recently, I’m wondering if it’s the “raw data” of good songs…
Well, at least the kind of songs I like write.)

The state of my soul has always been one of disarray and doubt;
Grievous sin and inconsistency.
And, I mention this, because the state of one’s soul has always been irrevocably linked to death and the hereafter.
The solution, in Christianity, has always been the Cross of Christ and the defeat of Death itself in his Resurrection.
That’s the Creed’s declaration.
My ability to grasp these beautiful truths by faith, to see oneself as a forgiven child of God, has always felt elusive.
Perhaps, i was/am still trying to “earn it.”

Still, the visible Church (it seems to me) often spends much of her time putting boundaries on just how far and to whom the Cross of Christ reaches; boundaries on just how far His Mercy reaches and how efficacious His Grace is.
No wonder eyes roll and hearts despair.

I must tell the whole truth, however:
On my “better days,” I have no doubts.
Well, fewer.
Love Wins,
Grace Triumphs
And that we’re all made Whole.
And I do mean “ALL.”
Everyone.
Every. One.
“He Is Risen,” goes the Easter liturgy.
And you & I, the stumbling, wayward congregation of the spiritually poor, blind, sin-sick and lame respond:
“He Is Risen, Indeed!”
I’m there.

So: All of this interior turmoil & wrangling?
What of it?
It’s the stuff of songs, I think.
It’s been just under the skin, or right out in the open of almost every song I’ve ever written; some 1500 in all, I think…
Cheap therapy, I say…

Slow Trauma. No, not all gloom & darkness…
I promise.
Sonically, I went for a ragged elegance; layered guitars, lyrical vulnerability…and rock & roll;
And yes, I think it has a few transcendent moments.
At some point (in the face of the all the “absurdity” that manifest in this thing we call Life) I think one just has to say with Julian of Norwich, that great mystic who was so not a part of her century: “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be most well.”

Slow Trauma
Hope & Joy do come up in the “plus column.”
But, that’s AFTER the wrestling & wrangling.
Wrestling and wrangling. Through the feelings of hopelessness & damnation.
“That’s what faith is all about, Charlie Brown.” ~ St. Linus

There is so very much I have to rejoice in; so much to be thankful for.
The gift of writing songs, playing instruments is, making records is perhaps, my favorite.
And yes, I see it coming very much “from the hands of the Lord.”
He know before my birth even, that i would need this gift to survive and make some sense of the fallen skin i live in in an all-too-fallen world.
He knew and provided and that is Jesus’ Mercy, as well.

You make certain peace with the fact of your own mortality; and your own sad, stumbling, “lacking-in-courage-humanity” at some point.
Why was I the last to know about my own “Judas skin” that I’m so comfortably living in?
At some point, you’re not surprised at yourself anymore.

But, really now?
An album that explores some of that?
I dunno how you ‘sell” that, but that’s what it is.
Then again, I hardly sell any records anymore anyway.

Jesus,
I can bring You nothing. Never have, mostly likely never will.
But, sometimes, sometimes I have these “better angels of our nature” days…
I’m Yours, Lord, if You’ll have me.

Slow Trauma.
Life beckons. You only get the day, one day at a time…
And the world? It is starving and hurting.
Best get about doing one’s part to lessen the grief.
Do your part, in your corner and among your friends, to kick at the darkness and at death itself.

That’s some of what this album is about…
“Kilroy was here.”

bill mallonee
Lent 2016

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

Image
(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

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“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