Slow Trauma: A Review

A wise and insightful review on the new album!
Fr. Joel Weir is an Americana songwriter.
He’s also a priest in the Orthodox Church…

Saved Together


I’ll start this review with a disclaimer. I’ve been a fan of Bill Mallonee since he and his band, Vigilantes of Love, stopped by the Christian college I attended, in a sleepy little Indiana town, back in 1994. Back then Bill sported long, sun-faded hair, John Lennon glasses and played a big yellow Les Paul. Musically, he introduced me, a kid heavy into both Seattle grunge and Christian alternative, to the world of “americana” or “alt-country” (whatever they were calling it then). Really, he was introducing me to Woody Guthrie, and inciting me to give a second listen to Dylan and Young. Why? Because the ragged honesty and even rebellion “against the system” I was finding in the flannel bands had their roots, really, with those first truth-tellers. The lore of Uncle Tupelo says that Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy were in punk bands before realizing the most punk rock…

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“The Poor Live In Two Places”/liner notes for the album “Hard~Scrabble Dreams”

“The Poor Live in Two Places.” by Bill Mallonee
These are liner notes for the download album, “Hard~Scrabble Dreams”

Dear Folks & Friends,
This album was inspired by 3 sources.

One was John Steinbeck’s eloquent, near eternal work, “The Grapes of Wrath.” The characters & spirit of the fictional Tom Joad still serves as a spark to the conscience and a beacon of justice to us. Hard Scrabble Dreams
“Money doesn’t talk…it swears,” the old saying goes.

Steinbeck’s character’s continue to live and move and “be” as a witnesses of what it’s like to be “grist for the mill,” casts off of the “America for some but not for all” mentality that was finding parley among corporate rich, and the new emerging rich in pre-war America, as well.
Steinbeck’s characters are the flotsam & jetsam of q new greed driving pre-war America. a greed that seems intent on getting as much as possible as fast as possible. (The new priests of such a philosophy live loud and large in our ow time.)

Part of the genius in Steinbek’s telling of the tale of the Joad’s migration to California from dust bowl Oklahoma, lies in his ability to poetically alternate between the macro-cosm of the greed of emerging agribusiness, and the microcosm; The micro-cosm is viscerally characterized by that havoc of soul that is caused Joads by the short-view/greed driven practices of banks, lending companies, entrepreneurs, & agri-busniess.)

The second inspiration for this album came in the form of a gift from Muriah, a photographic essay, called, “Bound For Glory” (America In Color 1938-1943); it is the story of the field photographers sent out by The Farm Security Administration (later the Office of War Information) into parts of the country devastated by the Great Depression. Their job was to record and capture on Kodachrome film lives of Americans on Eastman-Kodaks new film. Their images of “just plain Americans,” I believe, are some of the most heroic and inspiring you’ll ever see.
This book is their arresting testimonial.

The most enduring, and precious inspiration off the three was a gift as well:
It was a gift from the American people.
It came (and still comes) from the folks I’ve played for over these past 25 years. This land & it’s great people have always been the frame of reference of my work, from the day I first crawled into an rattle-trap van to do my first US tour in 1991.
They, and their stories and lives, have been inspiring me ever since.
I cant escape it, nor would I wish to…

As a rambling songwriter/troubadour, it has been my privilege to meet & converse with folks from all walks of life; to ‘get inside their skin,” hear their stories, their hopes & dreams, their disappointments and griefs. There is no class room or instructional video that could have provided me with such clarity.
It is always, always a humbling gift. You feel small and clean at the same time.

What do you do? What can one say, when they realize that their own story, pales in comparison with the crosses these “salt-of-the-earth” folks have born?

I’ve been made privy to their stories, their dreams, their struggles and their grief.
Being a songwriter who prefers house shows and other venues where it’s “up-close-&-personal,” all of these exchanges come “with the territory.”
My audience is often the poor in spirit, the disheartened and disenfranchised.
Sure, I played my shows.
I try and give 110%.
I always hope it’s enough.

But, I also “took notes.”

I learned much by observation & reflection. You learn about terms like “systemic evil,” and “good-old-boy” clubs.
I learned that the economic systems that glorify the independent, aggressive and savvy “virtues” of the American businessman often fail to mention that every successful empire builds it’s wealth and power and prestige on the backs of the poor, the meek, the less privileged.

And (just like all the books I loved as a youth testified to) something else surfaced almost daily: Among the poor, there was a faith, a heroism, a determined-ness and a day-to-day “true grit” that seemed like a grace from God present in their lives & sirits.
Rarely did they complain.
Rarely did they “give up.”
And always they seemed to love each other and find something good in everyone.
They were often saints or saints in the making…

And so here’s the kicker:
The “poor” live in two places: The first place isn’t hard to miss: In every ghetto, on every “poor side of town,” on every “wrong side of the track,” you’ll find them. The poor are all around us. Even Jesus said, “the poor you will always have with you…”

But the poor also live inside of us. We are them.
They are many things, but in the face of their joy & heroism, they are always a reminder that a man is not the measure of his possessions. They remind us that it is not by our own hands that we attain or succeed in this world (as much as we’d like to believe otherwise.)
Indeed, they remind us that our souls are not so full and that our spirits are not so at peace. Those things (our precious souls & our spirits) daily need nurture, a kind word, and grace. We must become adept at sorting out the fools gold from the real treasures.
We desperately need such grace…
Even if it’s the grace we must extend to ourselves.

The poor remind us that it is still a world of grave injustice and a world where there is so much yet to be done. So many wounds to bind up, so many broken thing to be set straight. Would that God would grant us all grace begin to hear their cries more clearly and respond with our hearts and hands.
Would to God that we could get about making a new and better world.

Often the “poor”are already “on the way.”
For them life is a crucible. One to negotiate with grace, sensitivity and realism.
Often, not a world they chose, but (for whatever reasons) one handed to them.

It is one in which they have frequently begun to manifest those curious attributes of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.” Everything that makes us truly human. Everything that brings forth (to quote President Lincoln) “the better angels of our natures.”

These are things they can’t teach or compel in schools.
Things learned in the hard scrabble of life.
Things regal,
things hallowed,
things eternal.

bill mallonee

tags: Americana, Indie-Rock, Singer-songwriter, Folk songs
Protest Songs, High & Lonesome, Babe., Faith & Justice Songs, Open Road, Faith Songs, Big Sky; Mercy,

“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…”
(“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.”
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.

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

MAYBE, I’D RISK IT ALL (Some Thoughts On Bob Dylan)

MAYBE, I’D RISK IT ALL (Some Thoughts On Bob Dylan)
by: bill mallonee

(This is a brief essay serving as liner notes on the release of a new album of mine called “New York State of Mind”)

I wrote these songs recently with the grandest city of them all in mind, and that of course is New York City. Songwriters are drawn to the places that inspire. Places that offer solace. Places that offer diversity, even incongruity. And sometimes, because cities can be so harsh, they serve to throw such things as love & beauty & acts of kindness you find there into sharper relief. I saw it on the road quite often.
And, as a songwriter, I can never think about the City of Cities without thinking of Bob Dylan.

There will never be another, you know?
Dylan. The most golden of our national treasures.
Not that he needs them or that they do any good, but I find myself praying for Dylan.
I’m not even sure why.

Words fail. They fall impotent to the dusty ground when trying to describe the impact of Dylan on modern music…
I feel that way about even attempting to name the impact on my own spirit as a songwriter.
We all walk in his shadow.
Greenwich Village 1961.
Here we are 55 years later.

Why has he been the guiding star for so many of us?
That ever “moving target?” That pop culture icon of immense proportions; that infuriating, seemingly feckless artist, who played for no crowd or trend, and never “adjusted” his art to please a critic nor ever kissed their feet?

There is quite likely, given the magnitude of his work and personality, no one who could ever answer that question exhaustively.

I can only answer for myself:
He made rock & roll smart. Intelligent. Lyrically transcendent.
It called to deeper truths.
He was the first to discern and then promulgate through rock & roll the basic truth of life: That behind all the world’s issues, even in it’s most obvious manifestations of power, war, greed and betrayals (and even deeper within our individual selves) that there is a void filled only by something larger, something spiritual and something lasting.

His “predecessors” look more like the Hebrew prophets he no doubt read from as a young man.

But, he was also crafty in his tact.
Flash your card, but never completely show it.
Tip your hat, but never shake hands.
He’s spent his whole life infuriating & confusing every group, or sect, or trend that wanted to “own” him.
I absolutely love that about Bob Dylan.

That and the fact that he rarely, if at all, ever spoke in code.
His art is filled with a sobriety and substance that is generous, direct, immediate.
He delivered the goods with dignity and a touch of humor.
Again, just like the Hebrew prophets.

The young man shows up in to New York town in Jan. of 1961. He visits Woody Guthrie, the greatest American troubadour of conscience who is dying of Huntington’s disease at Greystone State Park hospital.
Dylan meets Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, too. In February ’61 he blows into Greenwich Village. Sleeping here, sleeping there, bumming gigs and food, and hitting open mics. His sound and approach subtly began to change. He “finds his voice.”
And he senses his audience. Very important for any performer.

Gradually, he transforms himself into a different kind of “folkie.”
He soaks up every bookish thing he can read the back cover of, digests it, references it, internalizes it, integrates it and radiates it in this new music. Enter John Hammond & Columbia records. Enter manager-shark Albert Grossman.
The vineyard is fresh. The earth, the nation itself, is warm with possibilities.
The fruit just beginning to show. All is pregnant with expectancy.
The sun is just rising…It’s a new world.

And it’s learning how to listen for the first time.
…and Bob Dylan is there, poised and ready.

He “upped-the-ante” for rock & roll; set the cross-bar higher. I’m not sure it’s ever been touched since then, really. If Kerouac taught exploded words, feelings & images on the page, then Bob Dylan did the same over the air-waves of America.

Even then? There was no straight, consistent line to stardom, even less when it came to discerning his popularity. He played a few songs for the voter registrars, crooned a few more for the peace-freaks and then moved on; he got the hell out of Woodstock when the hippies showed up for the fest.

Dug on Jesus for a few records…and then distanced himself from what he perceived as a narrow, shallow, even apostate Church…
Retreating back into solitude & mystery.
Ever the prophet. Ever “cat & mouse.”

None of it. None of the getting from “A” to “B” and then moving through the paces of these 50 past years could have been easy.
His is a well that seemingly never runs dry…
There will never be another.

Maybe that’s why I pray for him…
That’s just a little bit of a window into this record.

No, I’ve never met him.
But, there’s hardly a time when i don’t pick up a guitar and think:
“This is what Bob gave us all the “right” to do and how to do it.”

There are those who have to play by the rules and those who make them. Bob Dylan made the rules…and makes them still.
The man is a remarkable human, Giant and Genius in a genre that boasts very few of those.

New York City.
It was Dylan’s “nursery;” His “proving ground.”
The City that more than any other embraced his genius and his art…and still does…

The art he made, the way he delivered it, the boundaries he broke to say what he wanted to say the way he wanted to say it…
Every singer-songwriter owes him their life in some way.

No. I’ve never met him and he’s likely never heard of me.
I’d like to speak with him, of course.
It’d would all be stumbling and stammering on my part.
And, sure, he’s heard it all before.
But, perhaps he’d be benevolent and surrender a minute of his time.

And what I’d want to say is this:
“Thank you. Thank you so very much for your songs; for your journey, for who you are.
It couldn’t have been easy, I’m sure…
But, it has all meant so very, very much to me…
And “Thank You” for giving me “permission” to do what I do.”

And maybe, if no one was within earshot, I’d risk it all.
I’d smile and say: “Hey, man, I pray for you.”
And maybe, he’d return the smile.

And I’d hope he’d understand…

bill mallonee
New York State of Mind/Feb. 2016

IN TEARS & IN TENDERNESS (Some thoughts on the verse, “Jesus wept.”)

In Tears & TendernessJesus Wept 2

by: bill mallonee

Ever since I was very young, maybe 5-6 years old, I have been obsessed with death. I sensed “it” early on. The notion of the cessation of Life and one’s personality was repulsive, cauterizing and harrowing. I don’t know how I “internalized” so much of it in my thoughts, impressions and nightmare-ish images, but I did.
Life was supposed to be Saturdays, no school…and freedom

Let’s face it: You get older, Health diminishes. Love seems to fail. Life sputters out, sometimes in horrific ways; It all adds to the helpless-ness and fear. Mortality, finitude, lack of permanence. Whatever one chooses to describe it with, one most days, it all seems bleak & relentless.
“Every thing dies, baby, that’s a fact…” ~ “Atlantic City”/Bruce Springsteen

I know the religious narratives, Biblical and otherwise. The stories we have, whether based in history or myth, are typically ones of beauty with beautiful endings.
Yes. They help one “stare it down.” For fleeting moments they bring some joy and assurance. But (on most days) my faith is weak if there at all. I still shudder at the prospect of death.
…but maybe a little less.
And here’s why…

“Jesus wept.” John 11: 35
It’s the shortest verse in the Bible.
I remember an Easter week story in the Bible. (I have Dr. Francis Schaeffer to thank for this insight.) The scene is the one where Jesus is brought word that his good friend Lazarus is very, very sick. Interestingly, even oddly, He waits a few days before heading out to visit Lazarus. He even informs his disciple/friends that Lazarus has died. But, he also tells them to have some faith. “Wait,” he basically says. “The ‘Last word’ on the subject hasn’t been spoken yet.”

Jesus arrives at the tomb. Lazarus has been dead for 4 days. He stares at the stone sealed over the entrance as was the practice in ancient times. He is oblivious to the murmurings and goading of his detractors who are also there. He is lost in memory, the loving memories of his friend.
Now, here’s the curious thing:
The Greek text says something that have been translated as “Jesus groaned in spirit,” that He was “troubled.”
But the explanation (exegesis) that I have heard says that He was angry.
It is a moment that draws one up short.
Groaning with anger.
Angry at death,
Angry at loss,
Angry at grief,
and all that it is robbed from his friend, from us.

Angry at all that is absurd.

To me, it was and still is, explosive.
Think about it: The Son of God. (Or whatever name you wish to ascribe to Him)…is angry.
Angry at death.
Angry at a universe that is brutish, cruel and without explanation

There is more to come here:
If all the claims about Him are true, what follows is the most pure, loving, & transparent gesture ever made by a human being on this earth.

The Bible says: “Jesus wept.”

The shortest verse.
And the one with loudest bombshell of Grace.

Got it? Has it registered?
The weeping Christ feels the same way about death…as you do.
No dressing it up.
No “dumbing it down.”
No minimizing the horror or futility of it.
This is something to weep bitter, angry tears over.
“Jesus wept.”
It is an overwhelming display of tenderness.

What does this mean?
What does it mean to have the Son of God weep at your graveside, at my graveside?

It, at the very least, means this:
You are not alone. You are not alone in your anger at death;
Not alone in your fear of death;
Not alone in your anger of all that goes lost, unfulfilled, unfinished when death shows up;
Not alone in your anger even at God for “allowing” such an atrocity/interruption/tragedy to happen.

“Maybe one day, baby, everything comes back…” ~ B. Springsteen

There is no glossing it over or prettifying this life.
Sermonize it, eulogize it, Oprah-ize it…
We all, one way or another, “leave the party” too soon.

Holy Week.
Is it symbolic for all of this journey we call Life?
If, so, here’s what you can bet on:
Take up your cross, so to speak. That cross of your human existence.
You can count on be your heart being broken…a million times.
You can count of your dreams being dashed;
You can count on your best intentions being ignored or, worse, misunderstood.
You can count on losing those who are nearest & dearest.
You can count on knowing loneliness on a first name basis.

But count on this as well:
You are not alone.
Something always seems to be “lurking” at the edges of our days, even the darkest of them.
A “last word,” perhaps?
I find this sort of “incongruity” a quiet witness to the truth of the faith.
The bad news comes first, before the “good news” makes sense.

The human-ness of Jesus.
So utterly perfect that He can grieve perfectly the loss of his dear friend, be angry about it…and still be Lord, God, Savior.
He doesn’t offer explanations as to why evil exists.
In tears and tenderness He just weeps at Lazarus’tomb.
And I suspect He weeps at every tomb.

So, how does this affect you and me in the here and now?
Easter is often offered to us in a sanitized, neutered version. Complete with bonnets, new dresses, colored eggs and bunnies. Nature rejoices. There’s a lot to be said and celebrated about the energy of God’s Love within the life force.
Still, I think, we are lulled into missing the point.

Easter, as the Bible tells it, is the grittiest of the Church’s remembrances.
The events of Holy Week are a crystallization & distillation of all that can “go wrong” in the world…and within our lives.

Holy Week’s pages are filled with accounts of friends who “pledge allegiance.”
Loud, self-inflated boasters who say they’ll follow a friend even unto death.
And then they don’t.
And when given their chance to be courageous arrives?
Their cowardice manifests itself from every word & deed…

Holy Week’s pages are peppered with feckless & conniving “climbers” who will sell a friend out just to save their own skin and possibly get ahead.

Easter’s sad pages are also filled with folks of good heart;
They haul bodies off of bloody instruments of torture and death. They try and bestow what little honor is left on a Body so disfigured by human hatred & violence that It’s hardly recognizable.

Good folks (or at least aspiring to be so) who heard the most astonishing words ever spoken to humankind.
Just like we do every Sunday morning.

In Scripture, Easter week is filled with “Good-Hearted,” “Nodding-In-Agreement,” “I’ll-never-sell-you-short, Jesus,” people who cut and run at the first sign of confrontation or challenge.

We do it all the time. It’s a big club.
We’ve made it an art form.
And so, one of Easter Week’s lessons is simply this:
Be not deceived.
You are not made of such stern stuff.

And because of that, Jesus wept, as well.

He has reason to weep.
He is weeping still.
Weeping at all of the vain glories we chase after.
Weeping at the 2 bit, cheap idols we “buy” and cling to.
Weeping at all the betrayals we’ll no doubt tally up as we live out our days.
Weeping anew at the war machines we create and surround with rhetoric like “patriotism,” “national interests,” and “Glory.”

All in the name of concepts that annihilate Life.

He’s weeping still at the harsh words, judgements and criticisms we thoughtless cut each other to pieces with, often in the name of His religion.
Weeping at the love & kindness & compassion we withhold from one another.

Jesus. Weeping. Endlessly weeping. Perpetually weeping

He weeps at every tomb, even now,
I suspect, in some way, He is weeping at our own tombs.
The ones we will one day enter.

The Lord of Life, The Son of God.
Closer than a Brother.
You, dear lost, lonely, sinful, scared traveler…are never alone.

Limitless in His mercy, grace and consolation.
Tears are one of those things, He has never run out of.

You will hear His voice, just as Lazarus did.
You’ll shake off the shroud of death, and perhaps, with stumbling steps, move into the light & towards that Voice.
New skin. Radiant as a new-born baby.
And, falling into His arms, you will recognize that voice of Tenderness & of Love Itself.

And you may find some of His blessed tears on your new suit of clothes, as well.

“On Getting Outta Dodge…and Arriving Someplace Else”

04DDABILL11_3(Bill Mallonee photo by: Chip Fox/Philadelphia Enquirer)

So, about 5 years ago, Muriah & I moved to the State of New Mexico. 

You grow your hair long. You buy a hat.
 You blend in…
Everyone’s got a story out here and time to tell it.
Best learn to listen…

It’s a State of extremes, really. Extreme beauty, what with the high desert Rockies and Sangre de Cristos range, and the low desert with it’s barren-ness and stark beauty. 
It’s beauty and cultural diversity have attracted artists from all over; There is a primitive-ness in everything from the art to the architecture that is enthralling, compelling and humbling. 
It all speaks of things unseen, substantial, immovable; Spirit emanating across ages and time. 

Folks who make the pilgrimage, leaving the security of their city/metro/suburb life, to these wilder territories may find their interior compass thrown out of whack…or they may find in such territories something of a long-lost friend. Again, the extreme responses. 
Nature is a beauty out here, overwhelming, immense. The play of light (long a favorite variable of visual artists) against the desert topography, is a constant menagerie of colors, tones and textures…

But, in the long run, the desert surrenders no explanation. Such a land owes you nothing. You either find your place in it’s hallowed-ness with a certain reverence; Or, failing such an epiphany, head back perhaps to the more familiar cadences of metro life.
 I suspect, whether you stay or leave, you will always be changed. Humble-hearted but with spirit enlarged.

Other extremes? Well, those are darker ones. The vestiges of poverty are evident everywhere. (When we first moved here, we found multi-million dollar homes being sold by Sothebys parked right next to hovels along the Canyon Road District in Santa Fe, one of the most noted art districts in the world…)

We’ve never seen so many roadside crosses. Brightly and lovingly decorated monuments to loved who died in automobile wrecks. I’m pretty sure NM leads the nation in alcohol related traffic fatalities.

It’s only been officially a State just over 100 years, but in many ways it’s a land that time and opportunity has continued to pass by. (Our current silly governor has recently extended ridiculous rights to mining companies, an ecologically destructive act and equally short-view solution to NM’s un-employment);

The long, & often sullied histories of multi-cultural forces fighting for dominance are evidenced everywhere, as well….and folk’s remember. Whether it’s Native Americans, old guard Spanish, Latino, courageous Mexican migrants seeking work or the hippie artist influx of the 70’s, there’s a certain “learning to live together and make the best of it” that we’ve found profoundly encouraging. Today, the “new agrarians,” the organic farmers and free-range ranchers are making their presence known.
 Slowly but surely. 

Life is risk. My favorite author, Frederick Buecher, likens it to “whistling in the dark.”
I get that…
Still, I’m lucky in many ways.
I get to pick up a guitar and see where the next set of chord progressions will lead.
I’ve always written songs as a way of making sense of the journey.
They were a way of “saving myself.”
So far, so good…

Resources? There are very few now. The resources of labels, managers and booking agents have long since vanished for me. 
But, after 60 plus albums, I’m still here.
(You learn that you never needed “their permission” to be who you are, anyway.)
God’s Mercy & Love is the only explanation I can muster to account for such a schooling, for such a ride.

I spent a few years deciding whether or not to leave the illusionary industry called “the record business.” We band (Vigilantes of Love) had some success, I suppose. It all feels like a freak-show in retrospect; an attempt to make “fools” happy. Most of the folks I met there were tin-eared, thinly-veiled capitalists who would have been more adept at selling used cars. 

This all took place shortly after said former band imploded amidst all the great ink spilled on us. Critics darlings. We made 15 albums over a decade and notched 180-200 shows a year during that same span. It’ll change you like nothing else I’ve ever encountered, for good and ill.
But our point of contact with “the biz?” It was all a ruse.
In the end, we were broke, shell-shocked, abandoned and disowned by so may entities it was funny anymore. An album called Audible Sigh attempted to romanticize the pain. It was followed by a trippy, jangle-y guitar album called “Summershine.” 

All for nothing. Nothing for all. 

You cherish the memories. You drink too much. You celebrate the heroism of your talented bandmate/friends )
…and then get out.

It was easy to walk away from the superstructure that was supposedly there to aid our stability.

Sometimes one really does have to “get the hell out of Dodge.”
So, i did…

But, them my departure became something of a quest.

A quest for a kinder, more truthful, authentic art; 

Less artifice, more truth-telling.
In the first 2 years, “post departure,” i wrote & released 130 original songs recorded on a 1 track DAT player. (It was the only recording device I had)

But, my “departure,” included another component: It was also a fleeing the artistic snobbery of hipster-ism. 
I am willing to admit that my perceptions here may be wrong. I can only say what it seemed like.

Sure, there are poseurs everywhere. (Every artist would admit they started that way, if they were candid.)
 But, the self-aggrandizing, dynamic of “scenes,” driven by their journalistic oracles with their navel-gazing mentalities often confuse artistic truth with “that next-big-thing,” or the weird, or the avant-garde.

Honestly: i want to be fair. I want to be humble.
So, in my case, allow me to at least say it “felt” like such self-appointed “inner-circles,” “gatekeepers” and “powers-that-be” were an obstacle that was insurmountable.
And, more importantly, they had little to do with true art.
Let’s forget all of that: Let’s just say i’m wary of the mob-mentalities.

So, where am i now?
Now, that I’m figuratively a million miles “outta Dodge?”
The high desert of northern New Mexico. Such a different world.
Sometimes you have to retreat, to fall back to find a truer self.
At least that’s been my journey, thus far…

The hair? Still long, but the beard is greying.
The hat? Good and broken in.

We’re poor & broke, most of the time. But, we’re happy.
Sure, we push back a lot of a lot anxiety, but who doesn’t?
I think we might well be in a new dark age.
But, we’re all in this one together.

Making the songs & the albums, the art continues to bring joy.
If the work isn’t it’s own reward then, I don’t know what is….
The necks & fretboards of both my 1969 Gibson J-50 and my Gibson 1947 ES-125 are wore done, the finish gone.
Like some old museum pieces or burial mound artifact, they call to me when I walk into the old casita that houses our small studio.
I raise the blinds, let the morning sunlight cascading off the Sangre de Cristo mountains fill the room…Inspiring. Coffee’s hot.
Here we go…

Just one more thing before I close out here:

It’s funny. There are so many voices that tell you how you could have/should have done it differently. 
But, I usually doubt such voices.

Given our all-too-human perspectives, how we were formed and nurtured, it seems unlikely (to me anyway) that different outcomes are possible;
Given the variables that are present within us and without, I’m not sure things aren’t “just the way they were gonna be.”

Like Ma Joad tells her daughter Rosa Sharon in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath:

”A million things could happen, but only one thing ever does…”

And so, to my mind anyway, all that might be left to do is to find something to rejoice over.
 Something to praise God for.
Go tell someone precious to you that you love them;

I also think that means wrestling with God (like Jacob) and being able to “take Him to task,” (like Job) for an explanation, an answer when all hell is breaking loose…

The songs? the music?
They continue to come forth.
Like some kind of dam breaking. 

They fill my heart…
No, it ain’t much of a future.
But, right now, it’s enough.
~ bill mallonee

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