You’re in New Orleans (a demo)

    Where do songs come from?
The ideas and particularly the lines that jump out and grab at the listener often baffle the writer as to their origins. I’ve written before about “catching” songs as they float by.  This is a metaphor used by many songwriters.

    I find the mysterious part of creativity as fascinating as I do terrifying: What if I can’t do it again? This is why I like looking back at the birth of my songs. It helps me remember how to get ready to catch the next one.   

“You’re in New Orleans” was such a gift during unsettling times.

Here’s a list of things that probably played some part in this song’s birth.
In no particular order in the fall of 2016:
— Hurricane Matthew:
— Reading Moby Dick on my iPhone as I waited patiently in line at the makeshift post office.
— U. S. Highway 80 ends on Tybee. The other end is in San Diego. > Studying a map of U.S. Highway 80 fantasizing a road trip. >
    Noticing where New Orleans is in relationship to 80. >Wondering if I was ever going to go to New Orleans again. (I went for a brief stay when I was probably 25.)
    Plus, let’s face it, you can’t live through a hurricane and not think of New Orleans.
— Thanksgiving week we entertained out-of-town guests in a cottage not our own as we waited for Everything to get Fixed.
        For some reason, the phrase “when I go to Alabama I think about Mississippi cause you’re in New Orleans” popped into my mind.  I wrote that down.

    I ran that phrase by someone who sort of got it but didn’t see any potential.
    However, Melissa immediately recognized it as the beginning of a story.
    So then, it was  just a matter of finding ways to sneak off and compose.
    I wrote this song on my iPhone during that Thanksgiving week, six weeks after Matthew, while entertaining out-of-town-guests. Proving if you are prepared to catch it, a song will find you any where.

For example: Where does this come from?
                 and still stop in Slidell
                 and see your uncle Ahab
                 and get you some Spodiodi wine.

     By looking up the distance from Birmingham to New Orleans, I  got the line: “If I leave Birmingham sometime  in the a.m., I could be there by suppertime…” and still have time for what?
     Map shows Slidell on the way. Great name. Have to use it if for no other reasons than Lucinda Williams uses it a lot.…the whale hunter in Moby Dick is named Ahab. And what would “Uncle” Ahab have you might want, that rhymes with “supper time?” Wine. What kind of wine would Uncle Ahab from Slidell have?  

    My first thought was: muscadine wine.  But that was too “soft.”  I needed some cajun juice: Spodiodi wine.
    Spodiodi: I have never had any that I remember. That qualifier is probably said a lot about the port wine and bourbon drink. But I do remember the old ditty: “drinking wine spodiodi, drinking wine.”

If you didn’t follow all that, don’t worry.  It’s not easy trying to explain the inexplicable.

  

The above is my and my guitar

You’re in New Orleans

 
When I go to Alabama
Think about Mississippi
Cause you’re in New Orleans
Maybe I ought to come and see you
cause it don’t look like
you’re ever gonna come see me

You had to go to Louisiana
Cause you said your momma said
she was feeling poorly
But after two long years
it sure seems like to me
your mamma ought to be feeling better

If I leave Birmingham
sometime in the “a m”
I could make it there by supper time
and still stop in Slidell
and see your uncle Ahab
and get you some Spodiodi wine

The cresent city that was built
below sea level
is stronger than a hurricane.
but every one that blows up,
up from the south
they say it’s gonna be the last.

If I could just get myself
down to where you live
I sure wouldn’t worry about that.
Cause my biggest worry,
is that you’ll be in no hurry
To get back to where we was at.

When I go to Alabama
think about Mississippi
Cause you’re in New Orleans
and it really ain’t that far,
if you are driving in your car
and don’t have to take the train.

But given I’m in Carolina
and haven’t lost my mind yet
I think maybe it is too far
But next time in Atlanta
I’ll head to Alabama
cause Louisiana’s right around the corner.

 


Why Do The Dead Keep Dying

It is rare that a person reaches my age and hasn’t experienced grief at some level and probably more than once. I have experienced it, and as writer I have observed it.

That has to be the genesis for “Why Do The Dead Keeping Dying,”  in wondering myself where this song came from.

That and the obsessive fascination we have for zombies. Half the TV shows are about zombies – or at least it seems that way — though I have never been a fan of any.

This is not a zombie song, but it could be, I guess.

Part of grief is realizing what a pull the dead have on us. Some more than others.

The afterlife is a great mystery. What form do we assume? What is heaven? Do we get to observe life as it continues on earth? (That to me would be a form of hell.) 

To discount the afterlife is to live cynically. You know: this is all an accident and when you die, your dead.

But then, why do the dead keep dying?

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

 

Why Do the Dead Keep Dying

Why Do the Dead Keep Dying
Why can’t they just stay gone
Why would you want to crawl back
Into this world a woe

Why Do the Dead Keep Dying
Why do they need to know
Who still grieves for them
And just won’t let go

Why Do the Dead Keep Dying
How could they be so blind
As to think the resurrected
Get a free pass this time

Why Do the Dead Keep Dying
What is it that has been lost
Is it so very precious
As was the blood it costs.

Why Do the Dead Keep Dying
What is it they don’t know
That wasn’t explained last time
they knocked on heaven’s door.

Why Do the Dead Keep Dying
Oh, they’ll never say why
It is as they enjoy the pain
That comes from playing with fire.

Why Do the Dead Keep Dying
Why can’t they leave us alone
Don’t they know we’re all destined
to walk the same lonely road

(bridge):
I went to ask my mother
She just smiled and said
It ain’t some great mystery
Why no one wants to stay in hell.

Why Do the Dead Keep Dying
Why can’t they leave me alone
I want to sleep with an angle
Don’t want to sleep with no ghost(s),
(repeat)

 

 

 

 

 

It Ain’t Right (to be so wrong)
(a demo)

Last year seemed to accelerate the rise of stupidity across the land. And you know what they say: You can’t fix stupid.

But you can write a song about it.

(You should know, I don’t like or write or perform partisan songs. Besides, stupidity isn’t limited to politics, it just seems that way.)

This is my first “anthem” song, and it was written to be sung publicly with audience participation.

The first time I played it out at Smith’s Olde Bar, with several of y’all in attendance, the response was fantastic; just what I had hoped for.

If you want to sing along, the instructions are as follows:

When I sing “It ain’t right,” you echo it with a shout back: “it ain’t right.”

That simple.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

       It Ain’t Right (to be so wrong)
(chorus):
It ain’t right, to be so wrong (x3)
it ain’t right.

He told her he’d love her til the end of time
But their time ended with the wink of an eye
Now he’s rolling around with her best friend
That’s way beyond any forgive and forget,

(chorus)

Pops bought a gun cause he’d had enough
Then some punk ass called his bluff
Now that’s child’s deader than hell
And that old man’s heading straight to jail

(chorus)

Too many shots with too many strangers
Too many nights and with too many sailors
she still thinks if she smiles real pretty
the right man’s gonna come take her out of this misery

(chorus)

you work real hard every chance you get
but you ain’t got shit to show for it
you’re part of the American plan
there always a job in Afghanistan

(chorus)

(bonus verse):

In Colorado you can buy it in a store
And there the farmers are in on the score
But in the South preachers rail against grass
And if you smoke it in Georgia, they gonna nail your ass.

The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly
(a demo)

    I have co-written my second song.

    After being unsuccessful at producing lyrics to fit a melody I had, I stumbled upon a solution. I had been reading this extraordinary early American poet, and was quite taken by one poem in particular. I happened to try playing my melody with this poem, and whala: a co-write!

    Vachel Lindsay was a turn of the century American performance poet: His poems were meant to be performed and several were put to music. He was very popular and several books have been written about him. Apparently, his performances were a “curious blend of athletic exuberance, [patriotism] and evangelism.”

    Some music historians have even designated his “General William Booth Enters into Heaven” as the first rap song.

    One of his more popular poems – “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” — was not only put to music but also inspired a sculptured statue.*

 

Here’s my adapted take on his poem “The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly.”

 

The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly

(words by Vachel Lindsay; music by Thomas Oliver)

 
Once I love a spider
When I was born a fly
A velvet-footed spider
With a gown of rainbow-dye

She ate my wings and gloated
She bound me with a hair
She drove me to her parlor
Above her winding stair

To educate young spiders
She took me all apart
My ghost came back to haunt her
I watched her eat my heart.

 

*

The statue of Abraham Lincoln was designed by Fred Torrey of Fairmont, West Virginia, in the late 1930’s. His sculpture is based on Vachel Lindsay’s poem “Lincoln Walks at Midnight, and depicts Lincoln pacing at night in a robe, under the strain of a nation torn apart by war. It sits in front of the state capitol in Charleston.

 

That Siren Whine

I originally wrote this song after the Blood Moon (spring) tides of the fall of 2015. You might have seen pictures of the causeway underwater. Nothing like a causeway being flooded to underscore the fact that you live on an island. A friend from Hilton Head suggested I write about being stuck on a island.

“That Siren Whine” was the result.

So, it seemed almost prophetic a year later, when we were visited by Hurricane Matthew, which was as unpleasant as it was unwelcomed.

A little tweaking, a little re-writing and “That Siren Whine” was updated to reflect that storm.

(On a personal note, we are back in our house and out of our last box. In another month of so, we’ll attack the yard – clean up and plantings.)

The above is just me and my guitar

       That Siren Whine

High winds, high tide
everybody’s looking for higher ground
running around like they’ve lost their minds
and all you hear above the roar is that siren whine

the causeway’s flooded, streets are closed
everybody’s looking for the friend with a boat
cuz the water’s gonna cover up this town
and all its dirty little secrets are gonna drown

(1st chorus):

when they say leave they mean they’re gone
so if you stay behind you are on your own
but don’t go crying and pleading to God
when that hurricane comes knocking at your door

(repeat 1)

when it’s over and everyone returns
they’ll be greeted by the birds
flying in circles, closing in
nothing like a flock of buzzards to rub it in

clearing skies, a rack line
picking at everything’s been left behind
you can’t tell the scavengers from friends
nothing like a catastrophe to bring out the best in men

(2nd chorus):

It ain’t pretty and sure ain’t nice
when Mother Nature tears up paradise
so be careful where you bury you treasure
because you really can’t trust the weather

(repeat v1)

Through a Glass Darkly (a demo)

      In this song, I’ve taken three real, though disparate situations and weaved them together to underscore the often inexplicable, serendipitous nature of life. Some see a hidden hand in some such occurrences, using such plain words as fate.

     The phrase, “through a glass darkly,” comes from the Apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth, in which he says that while some things are inexplicable, they will become clear; apparently when we die or enter into some supernatural state.

     (Though real, these experiences didn’t happen to me; I was merely an interested observer.)

     “Through a glass darkly” is part of chapter 13 in the first book of Corinthians that has become one of the most often used Scriptures for weddings. It ends thusly:

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” 

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

 

       Through a Glass Darkly

They say you are married
and expecting a child
I know if we’d stayed together
that baby would have been mine

(chorus):
So how do we know which way the wind blows
or where it really comes from
We see the leaves move and the trees bend
but we only feel the breeze now and then

 

They say he drank more than he should
hell they can say that about almost anyone
if it ain’t the booze, it’s the crack or meth
there’s always something about an early death.

(chorus)

She lived a good life
she was a mother and a wife
yet that chariot is taking her home
her grandchildren she’ll never see grown

(chorus 2):
So how do we know which way the wind blows
or where it really comes from
we see through a glass darkly
but things will be made plain
when we live a world without pain.

 

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