She Works Hard for Our Money (a demo)

This is what I refer to as a ditty. A cute little song thrown off for a laugh. A novelty type song.

It must be fairly simple to do because now there is a Ditty app that turns your text into a ditty.

This song came out of my joking with friends that yes, I am retired, while my wife works, and works hard. Melissa has had two different jobs here on the island, and at both of them she’s worked the equivalent of two jobs. So, as I began contrasting our daily schedules, it just naturally turned into a comedy routine.

The first time I played this out, our neighbors David and Judy were in the audience. They are very aware of the differences in our schedules, and when I sang the opening lines, they started laughing so hard I wasn’t sure I could continue without breaking up myself.

Anyway. Lest someone suggest that all my songs are serious, here’s one that is definitely not.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

She Works Hard for Our Money

 

when i get up in the morning
it’s almost time for lunch
my wife doesn’t fix it for me
cause she’s already gone on to work

me, i plan a busy day
singing and playing guitar
it may sound good but it doesn’t pay much
and without her job we’d starve
      

she’s working hard for our money
 she’s got a day job down at the mall
 she’s working hard for our money
 and me, i’m hardly working at all

 

when she comes home in the evening
you’d never know she’s worn out
she’s getting ready for late night shift
down at the waffle house

me, i plan a busy night
singing and playing guitar
it may sound good but it doesn’t pay much
and without her second job we’d starve

she’s working hard for our money
working two jobs is awfully hard
she’s working hard for our money
and me, i’m hardly working at all

she’s working hard for our money
hey who says you can’t have it all?

 

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Thicker than Water

Thicker Than Water: Thomas Oliver and Craig Tanner

When: Thursday, January 28, 7 p.m.

Where: The Wormhole

Cost: $5 (includesWhen You Kissed MeCD)

Craig Tanner and Thomas Oliver at the Wormhole

For Savannah musicians Craig Tanner and Thomas Oliver, their upcoming duo gig is a family affair.

Though it’s a relatively recent development, a musical collaboration between the first cousins has been a long time coming.

“I’m a little bit older, so we didn’t really grow up together,” Oliver explains. “Our families lived in Atlanta, but we never played music before he got to Savannah.”

Though Oliver had a closer connection with Tanner’s older brothers, his work as an author and journalist was quite influential on Tanner.

“I’m kind of a political junkie, and I love to read, so I had more of a connection to him from a distance, because I followed what he did at the paper,” says Tanner.

music1-1-93c7e8e0e913a89a.jpg

Thomas Oliver and Craig Tanner

Tanner is a nonstop feature in the Lowcountry’s music scene, performing by himself, alongside Adam Nye in their duo Harbor Pilots, and in American Hologram.

Oliver often performs near his home on Tybee Island and in Savannah. From toe-tapping, catchy country tunes to haunting, wistful story-songs, the prolific writer is refreshingly versatile in both style and narrative.

While both Tanner and Oliver are known around town for their guitar and vocal skills, they also both act as quiet forces behind the scenes, nurturing up-and-coming and established performers in the area. Tanner hosts popular open mic nights at Abe’s on Lincoln and Molly MacPherson’s Scottish Pub; Oliver books the Savannah Songwriters Series, providing an all-ages, listening room environment to hear songwriters in the round. He also acts as host for the monthly event, introducing the players and singing a few tunes of his own.

On top of his own shows, open mic hosting, photography gigs, and being a new dad, Tanner has become a sought-after producer; he’s currently working on releases for songwriters like Phillip Wise and Britt Scott, Savannah band My Maiden Name, and several more local acts.

When Tanner moved to Savannah around four or five years ago, Oliver was running an open mic night on Tybee Island. Tanner, a budding musician, and his eventual Abe’s open mic co-host Mr. Williams, trekked over the bridge to give it a go.

After reconnecting, the cousins and multidisciplinary artists began collaborating in a variety of ways: Tanner shot photos for Oliver’s album Edge of America, and soon, the two began jamming.

Oliver invited Tanner to play the Savannah Songwriters Series.

“It sort of freaked him out, but it sparked his interest in getting serious about songwriting,” remembers Oliver.

“That was a big deal for me at the time,” Tanner affirms. “I wrote [American Hologram song] ‘Same Blue Sky’ in a rush to have one last song to play my four songs for the Savannah Songwriters Series. That got me really going on the songwriting thing, so I have Thomas to thank for pushing me.”

On Thursday, the cousins team up to present Oliver’s newest EP, When You Kissed Me, produced by Tanner.

Last year, Oliver got the idea for a “song blog,” wherein the dedicated writer would post a demo of new song, along with lyrics and context for the listener, as frequently as possible. At the time, Tanner was first trying his hand at recording and production, laying down tracks for American Hologram’s Same Blue Sky.

“I’m a major introvert, and from my photography days, I kind of realized that I love the timed process as much as I love shooting,” says Tanner. “It’s a long time tinkering by yourself. I had ProTools and an interface, and I said, ‘Instead of spending $5,000, give me a chance to buy some plugins and take our time and learn as we go.’”

He fell in love with the process.

“Besides writing, recording is my favorite thing connected to music,” he shares.

After Same Blue Sky was complete, Tanner was hungry to keep learning and recording and began recording Oliver’s song blog tracks as simple, straightforward live demos.

“He’s a prolific writer,” Tanner praises of his cousin. “He writes all the time.”

Fascinated by the project, Tanner saw an opportunity for Oliver to grow.

“I said, ‘I’d love to produce an EP for you and take four of these songs, go ahead and flesh out arrangements and record them.’”

Oliver agreed, suggesting that he surrendered creative control and let Tanner pick the tracks.

“He came back with the four he picked, which was really interesting to me—it’s not the four I would pick!” says Oliver.

“It was just intuition,” Tanner says. “It was sort of like how I run my life: there were just songs that jumped out at me. They’re fairly different songs, they really run the gamut. ‘When You Kissed Me’ is very dark—it was recorded that way. I imagine someone sitting drunk at a piano…and it’s almost silly, it was just that those four songs really, from the first time I heard them, struck a chord.”

“The grouping he did made it more interesting; he was clearly bringing his own artistic vision to the project,” says Oliver. “That made it very different from most EPs and CDs where you take your music to the studio. It was quite different from anything I’ve ever been involved in, and made it more interesting for the both of us.”

“We laid down rhythm guitar, and he never really heard anything else until I had recorded everything!” Tanner says.

Oliver’s past work has a distinct roots country feel to it, laced with pedal steel and standard country arrangements. With Tanner at the helm, his songs take on a new kind of atmospheric country sound.

Tanner opens Thursday night’s show with an original set and will join Oliver on guitar for a few songs, including cuts from When You Kissed Me. For music lovers throughout Savannah, this is a family reunion worth crashing.

Walk Around Blind (a demo)

It’s been said that everything is memory. Without memories, there is no real life.

But sometimes our memories, even the most important, are partly truth and partly fiction. Retelling them doesn’t necessarily clarify the thin line between reality and fantasy, rather it often blurs it. So that after years of repeating them, they are what they are, historical facts!

I’ll admit this song is somewhat strange. It is based on real experiences from my early years. I have pieced together parts that are true, as I recall, and parts that I have made up and/or concluded probably happened. 

And then there is the notion that some memories are purposefully distorted to hide the truth.

We are all blind to some truths from our past.

 

One of the things I have consciously been trying to craft into all my songs are what could be described as little nuggets in each verse, surprises maybe. Something that makes you think the song was written, not just thrown together. 

Lines like: “There was a yellow dog some said part wolf.”

And the next line: “Scared me to Jesus every time it barked.”

Later: “Others say the things they always say

like they know the outcome come Judgment day.”

The coda might not survive a professional production. If nothing else, it lengthens an already long song. It is unrelated to the story in a strict sense, but it does recapitulate the theme of what is and isn’t the truth in our memories.

The above is just me and my guitar.

Walk Around Blind

(chorus):
I can’t tell you the truth
Not sure I know it if I ran into it
I taught myself how to walk around blind
I wouldn’t know the truth now to save my life.

There was a yellow dog some said part wolf
Scared me to Jesus every time it barked
Lived with a woman down the street
She said things look a little better when she’d had a little to drink

(chorus)

Behind her house was a fishing pond
Some say the men went there to be alone
Others say the things they always say
like they know the outcome come Judgment day

(chorus)

Her child died from drinking gasoline
From a gas can used by a friend in need
And what he needed was beer and cigarettes
And what she got was a fate worse than death

(chorus)
(instrumental bridge)
(coda):

I once dated a homecoming queen
Her daddy pointed a shotgun at me
he said son you don’t have a prayer
he was right last time I checked

(chorus)

 

 

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Heaven Began to Fall (a demo)

The rain in Atlanta started the day we moved to Tybee. And it didn’t stop until a 500-year flood had inundated the metro area. The yard at the house Melissa left behind became a lake. Luckily the water didn’t make it inside the house, but the basement flooded and the neighborhood was a mess. And while that added to the woes of trying to sell her house in a market still mired in the Great Recession, others weren’t so fortunate.

I never will forget the pictures of the flooded I-75 as it crossed the Chattahoochee River, which had risen beyond historic proportions. Whole subdivisions in Cobb and north Fulton were in ruins.

I wrote this song not long afterward.

What with recent flooding in South Carolina (a 1,000-year flood!), it seemed appropriate to record a demo of “Heaven Began to Fall.”

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

   Heaven Began to Fall

                                  (The Atlanta Flood of 2009)

it was a do-nothing summer
sliding into fall
we were waiting for something
just didn’t know what for.
we didn’t have much
but we thought we’d seen it all.
then the sky opened up
and heaven began to fall
(chorus):
it rains on the just and the rest of us
just like the big book says.
the water don’t care who you are
and where you lay your head.
a rich man’s treasures can’t shelter him
from a raging deluge
and whatever a poor man has
he’s bound to lose.

it poured out of the creeks,
the Peachtree and the Nancy,
it flooded the Suwanee
Yellow River and Big Creek.
then the Chattahoochee rose up
and overflowed the interstate.
And what came out of the sky
looked like the last days.
(chorus)

(bridge):

the rain came
and it poured
like we’d never seen
and it washed away
so many dreams

(chorus)

 

 

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No Flood This Time (a demo)

I have written only a few of what I call apocalyptic songs. This is one of them.

(After writing another one, I suggested to a friend who writes little else that we do a series of gigs billed as “Apocaloopsa!”)

“No Flood This Time” came out of the same mystical river I mentioned in the song blog about “The Bullet.” I had changed up guitars from acoustic to electric to try and stir the creative juices and out popped three songs. (Melissa ascribed the results to having also watched the first True Detective series. Not sure the second series will produce anything except bad reviews.)

This song went through some iterations and re-writes. I remember a gig I was playing solo and a friend showed up for moral support. His presence made him the only one in attendance, when, to be more honest than pitiful, I’m reminded it was raining hard and I was playing under a portico.

It was actually the perfect opportunity to try out a new song. I played this in its original version. I could tell it needed work because of his reaction. You really can’t hide the response to a song. So don’t try and fool me with niceties. (Same thing happened when I played an early version for my son, an accomplished songwriter.)

So, I did what any self-respecting writer does: I re-wrote it.

Later I played it at another gig where this friend was, and his response was more than encouraging. Not long after that, I actually had a request for “No Flood…” at a gig, and I had probably played it out only two times, max.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

 

No Flood This Time

You got nowhere to run
You got no place to hide
You got no one to tell
Where you’re going tonight

So you better watch your step
Cause it’s dark out there
there’s no moon in the sky
and the stars have all disappeared

(chorus):

This is the end after all
No time to be baptized
You better run don’t you walk
Cause that’s a fire in the sky

They say don’t believe what you hear
don’t trust what you see
it’s not as bad as it appears
it’s just making believe

no, it’s time to say goodbye
with a word to the wise
be careful of the rewards
they’re offering for the best disguise

(2nd chorus):

This is the end after all
No place to be baptized
Noah ain’t building an ark
Cause there won’t be a flood this time

(repeat 1st half of v 1)
(3rd chorus):

this ain’t no winner take all
there ain’t no judges to bribe
it doesn’t matter who you call
cause your money ain’t worth a dime

(repeat 2nd chorus)
(tag: no flood this time x3)

 

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