A Short Word/Advent 2017

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s really what this album is about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up to a point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgive me…

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

It was all so very “there.”

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

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

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

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

You really are chasing the Spirit.

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

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

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

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




ON OCCASION by: bill mallonee

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Year In Review

MY YEAR IN REVIEW by bill mallonee

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

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

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

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

They’ll wait their turn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Big Club” (art, deprivation, depression & extra innings)

Bill Mallonee @ Studio El Corazon, New Mexico Fall 2016

Bill Mallonee @ Studio El Corazon, New Mexico Fall 2016

People ask me a lot:
“What’s it been like, being a songwriter, chasing songs and the “inner-self” and all. How do you get by?”

Here’s an answer I just sent a friend.
Make of it what you will. Absolutely discard if necessary.

“Yes, it is hard. Getting by? They call it scrapping.
But, it’s deeply rewarding as well. The trick, I believe, is to try and weave it all back into your heart, your art, your faith (everyone has some) and perspective…
But seriously?
Don’t expect any of the “rewards” to be the nomenclature of currency or filthy lucre.
No. It’s far better & deeper &n more lasting than that.

Me? I picked up a guitar at age 31 (30 years ago) and it wasn’t for any reason other than to try and say something real to myself.
I have never written a song (and I’ve probably written at least 1500) with any type of audience in mind.
That is the truth.

I keep the “motivations” the same now as they were then.
These days, as far as the “biz” goes?
There are no templates or secret formulas anymore…
Even the industry “shakers and movers” are mostly “tin-eared’ well-intentioned know nothings grasping at the “next big thing-flav-o-the-month.”

But, then there’s always the REAL art.
Writing good songs always has a market, I believe…
But, i’m less and less sure you can “market” such an art to a demographic.
Why, you ask?
Because we’re all in that “demographic.”
Because, if one scratch’s below the skin of one’s own life & spirit, they’ll find (I believe) that we’re all made of similar stuff. Same hurts. Same hopes. Same despairs. Same dark-side & betrayals. Angels & devils, side by side.
Neighbors in the same duplex.
And so the song that resonates honestly with one soul, potentially could resonate with millions…

I’ve banked on that for 75 albums. Never had the super structure to elevate it above whatever “flotsam & jetsam” is on the current hipster charts.
That’s probably the grace of God.

How to carry on?
Sure, it does take a certain “faith.” Or just reckless stupidity. Hard to discern ‘teen them sometimes, to be honest.
You need some faith in the notion that as a songwriter, “you’re on to something.”
And by that I mean, you just trust your gut, continue to “find your voice” and a way of saying it that others maybe aren’t doing.

In the end?
Well, you go broke, sell gear, feel sorry for yourself a minute, curse…
And then, for Christ’s sake, you get over your “self.”

And then get up the next day and write a new album…
You become a mystic and an excavator; You Learn new ways to unpack and nurture your own spirit and translate it into the nomenclature of a song…

S’all I know…What does any of that mean?
Poverty? Deprivation for an artist?
It’s a big club.
“You are not alone.”
Not now. Not through-out history…
Enjoy the ride.

Use poverty as a catalyst & conduit into a greater dependence on God for the real needs. And funnel it into beginning to create a volume of work. Make a world and world-view with your art that makes everyone a recipient of Grace, Mercy and requires compassion from yourself; Yes, even compassion extended to yourself.

Muriah & I have been out here in the deserts of Northern New Mexico for 6 years now and i think i’ve made something like 20-plus albums.
It’s “poverty with a view,” they say.
On most days? It’s a gift…one I’ll gladly take…
~ Bill Mallonee

Advent & Christmas Reflections/Homilies by bill mallonee


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
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.”
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;
“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


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.

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.


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!”

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)