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

“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

Christmas, What I Really Wanna Say Is…

Dear readers, fans, friends & the just plain curious: I’m pretty old-school as an artist. I’ve written, recorded and released over 65 albums in 25 years…I know, I know. It’s more like a neurosis than a profession. So be it. As a kid, I always loved it when favorite Where the Love Light Gleams Cover 2artists would “hold forth” a bit on the ideas, concepts and inspirations behind the album they’d made. And so, over the years, I’ve attempted to do just that with my own works. Some such “ramblings” are posted here, but most of them accompany my albums that are all at: Bill Mallonee Music

These liner notes are from the recently released Christmas-themed download record, “Where the Love Light Gleams.” The album, of 11 original songs, “wrestles” with the implications of the ” ancient truths” of this hallowed season…

What I Really Wanna Say Is…
by: bill mallonee

People ask me about Jesus sometimes: “How do you know? How do you know He’s real? How do you know He’s really there?”
Most of the answers we give people seem to border on something like an intellectual insult or some form of academic pontificating from some higher moral ground. I’ve learned to discount those responses, even when i find myself resorting to them…

“Well,” I say, “I think we all have a kind of faith. Child-like faith seems to be most commended in the Bible. For me, Faith tries to see & grasp the big picture; it doesn’t lose itself in hair-splitting theological details.  And, since we’re more than just intellect, I think it means leaning to that side of our spirits that recognize things like joy, even emptiness and such things like yearning within ourselves.”
“Sure, sure,” they say, “but how do you know?”
“Well, it’s something like a discovery. But, one that’s ongoing; One you could never fully exhaust. Something very much akin to meeting a new and interesting person. You learn to know someone by sharing what’s under your skin…and by listening in return.
You talk to Him.
Just like a Friend.
Ask Him to reveal His heart to you.
Ask Him the hard questions like: “Why is the world is such a broken place?”
Ask Him: “Why are we so broken within ourselves?”
And, why you’re at it, ask Him why everything & everyone hurts.
And then,as I said, you have to learn to listen.
But, it’s “listening” in a different way.
Me? I think this is how Jesus “shows up.”

Christmas. Most of mankind’s grandest 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 starving for love. Caste systems were inviolable and military might “made right.”
Into that world appears Christ. With a Sermon on some Mountain guaranteed to blow your mind.

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.

As a kid I knew at an early age all the joys and expectations of the Advent & Christmas narratives (whether they are history or memories nuanced with touches of zealous imagination); They somehow seeped into this small child’s imagination and have been inspiring him ever since.

Jesus. The Mystery we are compelled to love.
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 have all sympathy with those for feel they must “turn away” from such representations of Christ, the man of Peace.
Christ seems to “take us where we’re at.”

I’m convinced He’s more concerned about each of us ‘learning His heart.” And then trying to live it out, 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.

But, yes: You learn to listen in a different sort of way. For He will speak.
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 our own skin.

And then, by God’s Grace, we learn to love the spirits of our fellow travelers. Our brothers & sisters.
Even our enemies…
The world is starving for such manifestations of that Love.
That’s some of what these songs are about….
Merry, Holy, Happy Christmas…and Joy & courage on your journey,
bill mallonee
Advent/Christmas 2015
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Album notes:
I have this very old nondescript nylon string Spanish guitar. It figured deeply and beautifully in the writing of these songs. (I paid maybe $60 at a pawn shop in Athens, Ga years ago.) It has a neck on it like a baseball bat. Meaning it’s just so THICK and unwieldy to grasp that there are just some chords I can’t play on it.
You have to wrestle the hell out of it to make music on it.
Call it a friendly “skirmish.”
BUT, it is without a doubt, a oddly inspiring instrument. I have used it on numerous recordings. The guitar possesses a wonderful,” throaty” tone. Good guitars are mysterious and this one truly is.

Nope, not much on beauty, but it’s character” bids a closer look.
It’s natural ‘voice,” to my ears anyway, seems to have a sort of acoustic “wisdom” in it. Songwriters live for these sorts of “finds.”
It sounds “authentic,” worn and humble….
Like it came with the “stories” & songs waiting to be un-packed.

Where the Love Light Gleams was released December 18, 2015

Adam Klein/Speaking of songs, songwriting & his new album “Archer’s Arrow”

Adam-Klein bw 1

http://www.adam-klein.com

I’m sitting down with Athens, Ga. singer-songwriter Adam Klein to talk about his new album, Archer’s Arrow. It’s a fine album, a great ride. There is an unstudied quality about it, a loose-ness that is endearing.

Adam wears many hats being not only a touring troubadour, but also the founder of Cowboy Angel Music and co-founder and co-organizer of Athens Americana music festival.

Bill: Adam, by my count Archer’s Arrow is album #6 for yes? I think it’s your best yet, by the way. There’s a maturing in the writing and themes, and economy in the way your deliver the songs on this one. The more reflective songs on the album have a transparency and wistful-ness that are the starting places of a great song.
Of course there’s a danger is to become grandiose, but you don’t seen to fall prey to that.
As I said, there’s a confidence on Archer’s Arrow that surfaces with a new effortless-ness.

There’s a lot of “love & loss” kinda of songs, or songs that bespeak a certain confusion about “where do I stand with you?” Good wells to draw from.

Am I hearing this right? Do you find the songs here gleaned from the razor edges of your own experiences or are you a writer who is vicariously creating your characters? What attracts you to these themes?

Adam: I think you are right, and both producer Bronson Tew and Bruce Watson, owner of Dial Back Sound studio in Water Valley, MS, where some of the recording happened and where the record was mixed and mastered, commented on that. The lyrics are a bit more raw here, a bit darker than some of my other albums. There are relationship songs here, songs with big questions about myself and others. It’s a kind of writing I want to do, but not for every song or project. But I read an interview with Lucinda Williams in which she speaks about the importance of sharing yourself fully in your music- making yourself vulnerable, putting it all out there in its ragged glory, as Neil Young would say. A number of songs on my previous albums flirt with that type of vulnerability- they express something real about myself, share a heartfelt emotion of the present or past, a longing and nostalgia- but I don’t think my songs have generally shone a light into my innermost thoughts or feelings and shown a darkness. It’s in each of us, I’d imagine. The part(s) of ourselves with which we struggle, the aspects of our character of which we’re not proud, the ways we fall short, the questioning. I tend to be guarded when it comes to such things, but they seeped out in some of these songs. Songwriting is, to a certain degree, where I wrestle with and confront myself. And the next collection of songs I plan on recording go deeper in. Things are laid bare. But I think there are also moments of hope, warmth, and light on Archer’s Arrow as well as on the next album.

Milan Kundera writes that his characters are the unexplored possibilities of himself. I like that a lot, and think there’s an element of that in many of the songs I write. Not every word is true, not every “I” is me, but the songs are extensions of a feeling, a longing, a drive, aspects of my life. And because they are my writings and contain an initial, if not full, spark from my life, I’m satisfied that it’s authentic and real. So essentially, a song can be or stem from a pure expression but also explore a character and an “unlived” possibility of myself.

Bill: You’ve mapped out a quota of particular types of songs here, yes?
Adam: I think there’s a place for everything. So my records tend to have a number of meaningful, nostalgic type songs but will also have a couple fun numbers. My friend Paul Ford, who now plays with Jonathan Byrd as part of his crack band The Pickup Cowboys, just shared an idea with me recently and said he finds this in my albums. The notion of 30/30/30 (this is not a baseball metaphor)- that an album (or a live show) can have about a third of its songs be songs that make you think (story songs, topical songs, or those touching on a history), another third songs that make you feel, and another third songs that are just plain fun. I remember I wrote “Say You Don’t Love Me” while in Mali and thought the words were so early-Beatles-esque and just too sappy to actually record. But I came across the typed page with those lyrics years later and thought they fit the vibe and feel of what I anticipated the album being, so I brought it in and we turned it into a really catchy, cool tune. It’s not a serious song that says anything real about me. It’s not “true”, so to speak, but who cares? “Radar Man” is similar- weird lyric and a rocking tune that’s not born from “my voice”. But that one actually is particularly special because I adapted the lyrics from a poem my grandfather wrote while serving as a radar repair tech in Philippines in World War II. My family found the poem, and other writings, while cleaning up my grandparents’ place, and I turned it into a song and sang it for him at his 90th birthday party. Pretty cool. And I love the song, it’s just another neat rocker.

I’m sure I’ll do more story-songs a la “Naduah”, “Nomie Wise”, “Dead Cow Hill” (from 2008’s Western Tales & Trails), and “Of Pirates & Vagabonds” (from 2010’s Wounded Electric Youth), and I have a collection of songs now that’s building that touches upon West Virginia lore and Georgia history, actually. But my current writing zone is mainly focused on “facing myself” and trying to create songs that are very real, vulnerable, and possess personal truths. If the songs can translate, I think listeners may find a lot that they can connect with and perhaps be moved by.

As far as these themes of love and loss, well, I think it’s a rich well to go to, as you mention. When you break it down, it’s what we have and what we share. (Did you see the viral video recently of Bob Dylan speaking to the IBM Watson “machine”? The machine tells Dylan it listened to all his lyrics and its analysis is that Dylan’s major themes are that time passes and love fades. Dylan’s response? “Well that sounds about right.”) Again, I’d like to think my songs tend to come from feelings and experiences that must be lived to access. It’s good to write about who you are and what you know, what you’ve seen. Some of my songs take place in a different age or a place I’ve never been, but through my travels or reading I allow myself to try to access another time or land and explore that.

Bill: The album possesses a band dynamic that seems very attuned to your approach with writing and recording. You bring the songs fleshed out on acoustic, it sounds like and letting the band “have it’s say.” It’s good chemistry & playing by the core members with just the right embellishment to the songs. It all seems to take the songs on Archer’s Arrow to a good place and one that was arrived at very naturally. I like that. Was the projected outcome something you were conscious of or was it something more like an evolution…?

Adam: That was definitely the approach for this album. I like to bring in players whom I respect and want them to go at it, find their voice, and bring themselves into the songs. I’ll have various melodic ideas I’d like to have in there, and I may or may not know which instrument should carry the melody that’s in my head, but I don’t think I’m heavy-handed in the process.

But this album did have quite the evolution. It was initially recorded with a great group of guys outside Athens and after laying down the basic tracks (we played live- acoustic guitar, vocal, electric guitar, drums and bass) and getting a quick mix, I felt it needed some sonic attention and assistance. There was bleed between instruments, my vocals needed to be considered scratch vocals, the acoustic guitar sound was a problem. So I shelved it for a while until I could get Bronson Tew, my friend and producer/engineer, to come to Athens to work on the tracks. I redid acoustic guitar and vocals and he worked his engineering wizardy on the material- EQ, compression, phase relationship, and whatever else. He cleaned up the bleed and the electric, added some more electric guitar, and it began to be transformed into a really great sounding record. He took it back to Dial Back Sound and brought in some players to add to it. He built three of the songs out there (“Boybutante Dreams”, “Wild Goose Chase”, and “Heartbreak Airplane”). I’d played and sang these songs solo acoustic and he and some of the Jimbo Mathus guys in Water Valley added parts. Bronson played drums and demanded that the bass and drums be recorded together to capture a performance and “feel”, and keys were added, guitars, etc. That tells you how much trust I have in Bronson. As he says, “You set ‘em up, I’ll knock ‘em down”. He’s a great friend and unbelievable musician and engineer. So what we hear, ultimately, is a testament to his ear and work. He deserves to be acknowledged for his production- wouldn’t have been the same or as great a record without him. And I think he took a real liking and interest to this album in particular because the circumstances were so unique. He was bound by the initial live recording which had a real loose feeling, as you mentioned. Almost like the song could collapse at any time. And that’s because the guys were just hearing the song for the first few times and trying to work their way through. So Bronson had to work within the framework of the drums, bass, and guitar already laid down (except for the three tracks he built out in MS), and turn it into a quality sonic record. To me, and most everyone who’s commented, its sounds kick ass.

Bill: Tell me about how you assembled the group. There is an unstudied quality about the way these songs are delivered, a loose-ness that is endearing. Were these close friends who were familiar with your work?

Adam: The guys who played on it were the remnants of Athens pop-rock band Nutria. Now most of them play in The Eskimos and a few other projects. I liked the fact that they brought this really cool pop sensibility and that the songs would likely have a certain edge, a thickness to the electric guitar. And that rhythm section is so locked in- especially for songs they didn’t really know. It’s crazy. Jason Eshelman on drums is so steady and locked in, Andy Pope on bass was also totally spot on, and Dave Weiglein on electric guitar was just jamming and played such great parts and lines on songs “unheard”. I showed them a song, we played it two or three times, and then started recording. It was definitely unstudied and loose, and I’m really happy with the feel. But I wouldn’t say they were necessarily familiar with my work, and the style they brought was a real departure from previous recordings, so I’m grateful to them for being so locked in. I knew it had something to it even after taking away the mixes and hearing the sonic deficiencies. But they gave it a feel at its core that Bronson could later build upon and accentuate.

Bill: Athens, Ga. Great town. Simply a wonderful community with a vital music scene.
No “scene” can be separated from the individuals who are a part of it. It’s a very non-static thing, liquid, always changing, sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better. And no one scene is for everybody or every genre of music. Given your long-relationship with the town, and you approach to Americana music, has you experience of the scene there been a good one?

Adam: Well put. Yes, I still love Athens and its music scene, and I’d say it’s been a good experience playing there and being part of it. It’s my hometown. If you cull through my songs, including songs on Archer’s Arrow, you’ll hear clear references to Athens. “Heartbreak Airplane” name checks the Taco Stand and R.E.M.. Some of my nostalgic songs take place there and I’ll keep going back in my mind and my writings, I’m sure. Americana’s got a following in Athens. Bands like Drive-By Truckers, Packway Handle, Lera Lynn, and acts that Americana likes to claim like Hardy Morris or The Whigs or Futurebirds- they do well. When Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, or a Dawes come to town, there’s great energy and a packed house. And we’ve seen great, passionate turnouts to our local festival event, Athens Americana. No shortage of solid bands and activity there. You’ll note that short list is all acts with a following which appeal to a crossover of the young, collegiate crowd and an “older” audience. Many lesser known yet top notch Americana and folk singer/songwriters or acts, though, may have trouble making waves in Athens. I’m glad someone like Jonathan Byrd has built such a great following there. But many others who deserve to play for a large audience there don’t get the support they need to come to town. If Townes van Zandt had played Athens in his later years, I’d guess he would’ve had a small to medium-sized crowd. Greg Brown might not have a big crowd. Slaid Cleaves may not have the audience he deserves in Athens. So it’s clear that there are certain tastes that are more prominent in Athens- either the flavor-of-the-month indie “it” thing amongst the college and young adult crowd, or the longstanding Athens favorites like an Of Montreal and Drivin N’ Cryin’. And they all deserve it. Kevn Kinney? He’s one of my musical heroes. As an Athenian I’m really proud of our heritage of bands. But it’s a challenging place to make a living off song-based, nuanced, folk and americana music. I think it’s easier to see that with some distance.

But every scene, as you mention, is unique, shifts, and has certain sweet spots musically. Athens is full of great people, great musicians young, old, and in between, and it’s a special, supportive scene with a lot of camaraderie and accessibility. Music lives there. It’s a testing ground- a good and fulfilling scene for the casual music player and a number of tight, talented bands are constantly emerging from the hundreds messing around in town. Plus as far as lifestyle goes it’s really a great place to be based and tour from. I’m proud to have Athens players on most of my records and want to keep working with my friends there. I came of age watching some of these guys play. I’m living in Atlanta now, and I do miss the people and these unique aspects that make the Athens music and arts community so strong. It’s influenced me and is my musical home, so I consider it a positive experience to be part of the scene and make music there. I try to get back and be at least peripherally involved as much as I can. Now if only we could pack out Hendershot’s for a David Olney or Bill Mallonee we’d be a folk powerhouse in addition to a college rock mecca.

Bill: Adam, is there anything else about the new album you want to elaborate on, tell us about?

Adam: Bill, it’s a pleasure and an honor to chat music with you, and I appreciate you listening to the record and asking these thoughtful questions. I’ll be on the lookout for the next sets of albums you churn out. Will you print this if I say you’re an American treasure, a brilliant artist, and one of my favorite songwriters? (I guess I’ll find out..)

Bill: Thanks very much for doing this interview. I wish you all the best and much success on the new album, Adam. Well done!

Archers_Arrow_cover_FINAL copy 1

“We Are Nighttime Travelers” An Interview w/Singer-Songwriter Jason Slatton

WE ARE NIGHTTIME TRAVELERS_JASON SLATTONHe’s fronted Athens, Ga’s guitar-pop darlings, The Lures. He’s written songs (some covered by Bonnie Raitt) with deep South/tried and true artists like Randall Bramblett.
Now, he’s embarked on a solo career, with the release of “We Are Nighttime Travelers.” These days Slatton makes Birmingham, AL his home. Inspired and nurtured by his wife, daughter and a growing community of friends, Mr. Slatton has written, recorded and released one 2015’s stellar recordings. I’ve known Jason for many years. He is a humble, insightful conversationalist who is thoroughly in love with rock and roll. I was lucky enough to steal some time with this literate, articulate songwriter and talk about his new album.

First: Congratulations on the release of “We Are Nighttime Travelers.” It’s a beautiful and deeply rooted album. These songs strike me as snapshots where the characters in transition, often upheaval; trying to make sense of the moment or of the place where things have fallen for them. They typically seem a bit adrift. Agree? Disagree? Care to comment or elaborate?

I think that pretty much crystallizes the whole record. I gave three copies to three different listeners while we were just post-mixing and thinking about sequence, and one of those listeners came back with a very apt summation. They thought the line from “And She Goes On” about “dismantling and then beginning” was the best summation for all the different avenues the album goes down thematically, and I couldn’t agree more. Transition, flux, a kind of chaos, periods of calm laced with moments of overwhelming restlessness: that’s been my experience in both looking at the past year of my life (with the birth of my daughter) and, really, the past ten or so years when I haven’t been nearly as active in the music world as I once was. You know, the idea that all the things you used to be are completely gone—you’ve moved away (figuratively and literally) from everything you once knew. Well, what are you now? Now that all the things you used to have to define yourself are gone, what’s left? I’ve thought about that a lot since I moved from Athens, and sometimes still do. I was adrift for a while. To some degree, in keeping with the metaphor, I’ve found some anchors. Great ones, actually: my wife and my child. But I’m attracted to characters like that, whether in fiction or song, etc., because more than anything, I’ve been those characters.

So these kinds of voices and personas show up in the songs. Often, they’re not characters. They’re me. Even “Chet Baker,” which was very pointedly written to be both in first-person, and then in the last verse, third-person, is in places really just me (and probably, to some degree, Randall, since he co-wrote that one with me). Springsteen’s Tunnel Of Love album is a great example of this, too. There are many characters in the songs that make up that record, (and that record is all about the promise and responsibility of love and relationships), but there’s an air of unease—his eye is always on the door. It turns out that all those different personas on the album are just different versions of him.

2. Totally compelling. The stuff of a great song. Also, I love the way the catalyst to your character’s “enlightenment” is not fully disclosed. “Journalistic type” songwriters (I think anyway) often expect sheer fact of time, place and events to carry a song. They don’t lean enough on mystery. You’re the opposite. Your approach seems to be one of letting the more universalistic range of emotions, the ones we all share, to step upfront. I think it makes for a more powerful song. Is this something you’re aware of as you write or is it something that falls to you naturally?

I think I’m inherently drawn to writers that can move, at times, away from the specifics and more fully explore the more “universalistic” emotions. Every time. I think Springsteen, again, is really good at playing both sides of the field, but even his specific narratives access universal emotions and themes: loss, loss of self and individuality, healing, pain, redemption, transcendence, etc. Some of the songs on …Nighttime Travelers are markedly specific. “Bloom,” for example, is absolutely my experience (and my wife’s), and I even use some verbal idiosyncrasies that are only ours, but I hope that it also communicates some ideas that we all can understand and experience. “Chet Baker,” very much that idea. “Ghosts,” too. Not to embarrass you, but your song “Certain Slant Of Light” has always struck me that way. Likewise with “Fight Song.” Though I’ve never been a boxer, I connect with that person speaking in that song, line for line. I think I’m aware of it more so in the editing process than in the moment of creation. I’ll write pages and pages of lyrics that at times are me more “emptying the barrel” than anything else. When I’m sifting through those pages looking for ideas that interest me, I think I become more aware of what I’m doing and how I’m editing. I’m on a massive Neil Finn kick right now where I’m listening to all of his solo work, and his Crowded House-era writing. He’s a master of getting oddly specific and then letting those specifics reach higher into the “we can all relate” type of song. God, he’s so, so good. And, in a narrative sense, I like songs that are at times more obfuscated and less didactic. I’ve listened to entire Vic Chesnutt albums with little idea what he’s talking/writing about specifically, but…there’s something at work there, what he might call “the tingle of euphoria / of total animation and of wonder.” That’s where the real magic happens, I think. Circling back, I ultimately don’t care if “Bloom” is understood by everyone or not. It’s for me, my wife, and one day, my daughter. That being said, if someone feels a bit of recognition or familiarity with it, then…great.

3. The playing on the record is great, the parts and arrangements never “get in the way” of the narrative. Kudos to producer Jason Hamric for excellent work. Was it easy, challenging or both to bring the songs to a band arrangement that offered more embellishment?

I’ve had the good fortune to work with some amazing producers/engineers: Andy LeMaster, Andy Baker, David Barbe, John Keane, Micheal Rhodes, Dave Sinko, Glenn Cannon, Russ Hallauer, etc., but I can honestly say this was one of the easiest and productive experiences I’ve ever had in a studio. I have definitely been guilty of keeping too tight a grip on something I’ve written, and, alternately, I’ve also given up too easily when I might have been defending or selling an idea about a song, too. I think Jason and I somehow very quickly found the perfect balance—to the point where we initially were second-guessing ourselves: “Why is this so easy? Are we forgetting something?” Every song on the album was built from the ground up. Jason Hamric was amazing at taking what was essentially a demo (vox and guitar to a click track) and seeing only infinite possibility; we’d export the basic track to Les Nuby to add drums to (and, sometimes, bass) and once we got them back, we’d start building. He was instrumental (no pun intended) in both creating an enormous amount of trust, support and creativity all at once. A song like “And She Goes On” was, in my mind, going to ultimately sound like how it was written: hushed, fragile, meditative (i.e. it was written while my daughter was asleep roughly five feet away only days after we’d come home from the hospital). After sitting with it, Jason heard an entirely different direction, and pulled me along to his way of hearing it. I’m really glad he did—pretty much everyone who’s heard the album thus far has mentioned the song. That being said, he was also great at hearing an idea I had, and playing both cheerleader and editor at the same time—he’d let me indulge an idea, more often than not. There’s a terrific and powerful dynamic to recording live “off the floor,” and I’ve had a great time in the past doing that, but from the offset Jason and I both wanted to make a “headphone” record, which required more of a clinical approach to what was embellished and what wasn’t. There are a lot of little ambient details that are very much buried in the songs, things that definitely aren’t evident on the surface, but that are essential, I think. I know most people don’t listen that way these days, but for those who choose to, I think there’s a lot to hear, and, in a sense, “see.”

First, I can totally identify with the “letting go” aspect of walking into a studio and letting the songs be deconstructed or moved in another direction. On these last few “desert records,” I may walk in with a collection of ideas and hopes for each song, but almost always I’m surprised at “where they end up.”  I never really know how a record will turn out. They seem to take on a life of their own, which I’ve come to enjoy. 

I think the results on We Are The Night-Time Travelers are stupendous. Perfect ingredients: Great songs. Great band chemistry; Lots of variability, lots of emotional range.
Q: Do you see recording in that manner in the future? By that I mean: Could you see yourself walking into a room with say 10 half-finished ideas and seeing where a band of your choosing would take them?

Unequivocally: yes. That would be really interesting. I think the people who play on this record, who essentially comprise “the band” (Jason Hamric, Les Nuby, Janet Simpson-Templin) each brought very much their own “thing” to the recording(s), and what they brought in almost every single instance expanded and or completely altered my vision, and, going back to Hamric, he was terrific at knowing when to encourage that, and knowing when to step back a little. There’s a danger to recording elaborate demos and then thinking that you have to stay married to them. That happened quite a bit when I was actively writing/playing with Randall Bramblett. We’d work on demos, at times, almost with the same kind of focus that you might apply to a finished recording, i.e. one that you were aiming to release. It’s a little myopic, at least, I feel that way now. I know he does too, because when we write together these days, the results demo-wise are normally very spartan versions of the songs: chord changes, lyrics, melody, but with little more than an acoustic guitar to chart the song. On my own, I do that quite a bit now—meaning, if an idea arrives to me, I’ll very quickly record it with whatever’s available. Usually, this means my voice memo function on my phone—quite a far cry from the old days when I would actually fumble around with a Dictaphone, or if needed, I’d call my answering machine and sing into it. But, circling back to the answer/question: I think releasing yourself from your vision, particularly if you’re the “author,” is really, really smart. And it serves the song, ultimately, much more than it serves the ego. And that’s more important. I’d love to work with the same team again once I have enough songs to make up another record.

2. I can totally appreciate the notion of (to quote you) “ambient details” having an essential role in song craft. In my recordings, post-band, I realized that crafting a song was beginning to become more like a painting that didn’t give itself up on first viewing. There was no space or sonic “brush-stroke” that was un-important anymore. 

You mentioned Neil Finn, his solo and Crowded House work. as you said, he is amazing. 
I get the impression that, like him, you could lock yourself up in a studio once or twice a year, write and record a couple of records. An “emptying the barrel,” as you said above. 
Jason, you’ve cited the transition from solo/Athens music scene bandleader to married life with children in another town. In my experience, I think sometimes a “town-driven” scene floats on things unreal. It’s typically awaiting “the next big thing,” and often missing the tried and true, the growth an artist makes.
So, in what ways do you feel transition for yours has deepened and expanded your “vocabulary” musically & thematically as an artist, as a human? Songs like Octobering come to mind.

Obviously, for me, the scope of what I do has changed dramatically. I don’t have a bigger label anymore handling press, tour support, radio, etc. and, as you mentioned, my focus has changed—my career now is teaching literature (which I love), I have a family, a mortgage, responsibilities, etc. that I didn’t have before. That doesn’t mean that I’ve left behind the part of myself that loves creating things, like writing songs and recording them, and even at times performing them. I remember one of the very first songs I wrote completely by myself, with no input from anyone, and my only tools were a guitar, a notebook, and my imagination. Finishing that song, which was far from great, gave me such a sense of purpose, of identity, of self. It’s that old idea (and I think I got it from you, or at least read you articulating it in this way) about going up to your room as a kid with just some glitter, glue and construction paper, and seeing what you can make of it. The tools for writing/songwriting are so basic, and so simplistic…I love the idea that even though I’m not checking CMJ or Gavin anymore to see where my song is charting, or worrying over a tour, or playing some big room somewhere…I love that the thing that’s always made me happy (creating) is still there. That’s why it’s been so cool to see bands like Five-Eight, for example, still making great records and playing shows, even though the focus is no longer “making it.” Why not do it because…you’re driven to? Reward be damned? I set the goal for myself to try and make a solo record mainly because I just felt like it was time to stick my neck out and do it. Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to make more. To more directly answer your question, I think I’m not so worried about how a song might be perceived anymore, or how I’m going to move up another rung on the ladder. I couldn’t care less. If I’ve generated some lyrical ideas that are maybe about my daughter, or nothing more consequential than watching her as she sleeps, for example, I’ll follow that lead. Maybe more than ever, I’m making the art for me. I really did, at one point, think in part about the audience. I think that, at times, Athens could be given over to flash, and not so much substance. As such, I think I’m even more focused on making myself happy with the material. The stakes are high on a personal level, but…I’m not in a scene anymore that’s given over to worrying about things like that. It’s very freeing. I might not have been able to write a song like “Octobering” back then, or “Ghosts,” because they’re quieter, and require a little more from the listener. Honestly, I’ve always had this line from Jawbreaker/Jets To Brazil frontman/songwriter Blake Schwartzenbach in my head, particularly in the past few years: “It’s not what you sell, it’s what you make.” With regard to any creativity, I don’t think an artist needs to know anything else.”

You can order hardcopy CDs at: http://www.jasonslatton.com/
or download a copy of the album at: Jason Slatton/We Are Nighttime Travelers

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