LANDS & PEOPLES (In Cd, Vinyl & download formats)

by Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers

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Craigory Bacon
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Craigory Bacon Musically and thematically, Lands & Peoples continues in the same direction as Dolorosa and Winnowing before it. Here, mid-tempo, shuffling confessions and introspections weave between folkier tales of the ghosts of America(s), past and present. The High Desert reprises her starring role as the whispering, mysterious spirit who just might reveal a longed-for America of the future, as well. Lands & Peoples longs for better things, even if they all turn to dust in the end. Favorite track: SANGRE DE CRISTOS.
Warren Postma
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Warren Postma What a great album. I am gonna put this one in my car and listen the hell out of it. Favorite track: STEERING WHEEL IS A PRAYER WHEEL.
Kent
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Kent The whole thing is just brilliant, Bill is a sojourner physically and lyrically. From the southeast to the dessert you couldn't pick a better bag of songs to put on a mix and travel Favorite track: LANDS & PEOPLES.
Bruce Miller
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Bruce Miller Continued genius lyricist Favorite track: IT ALL TURNS TO DUST.
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about

Lands & Peoples
The Task Is Ever Endless... 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.” Light the prayer candles...
In every dark age there have always been a few dreamers.
Why, the task is ever endless. ~ Bill Mallonee

credits

released May 1, 2015

All songs by Bill Mallonee (Admin BMI 2015)

Bill Mallonee: vocals, acoustic, electric, resonator, high-string, & Spanish guitars, basses, drums, keyboards, harmonicas, dulcimers, accordion, harmony vocals, string arrangements.

Muriah Rose: acoustic piano, electric piano, organ, harmony vocals.

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about

Bill Mallonee

Bill Mallonee is an Americana artist w/ 75 plus albums over a 25 year career. Voted by Paste Music Magazine #65 in their "Top 100 Living Songwriters" poll. He was the
founding member of Vigilantes of Love. He has worked with Mark Heard, Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris, & Peter Buck from REM.
His most recent work, "The Rags of Absence" released in Jan. 2017.
... more

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Track Name: AT LEAST FOR A LITTLE WHILE
AT LEAST FOR A LITTLE WHILE
words & music: bill mallonee
(admin BMI 2015)

Somewhere between a border town & outside Santa Fe
Where the moonlight casts her heavy sigh & sent me on my way
You learn to trust the compass stars woven in her hair
And you learn to read the poetry hanging in the thin air

Should you become a drifter, the Good Earth is your friend
And your learn to read her language till the bitter end
There was a Rosary on the rearview; this time it went unsaid
But, if Love gets the last word; Maybe, i'll be "ok."

Chorus:
No more dark clouds. Oh, baby that's not your style
No more dark clouds,at least for a little while
At least for a little while

So, if you're walking wounded; bedeviled and all
honey, if you're walking wounded; Darling, I won't let you fall

One more thing about that drifting: Every place becomes your home
And yes, you may be lonely...but you never are alone
Track Name: HIDE ME IN THE DARKNESS
HIDE ME IN THE DARKNESS words/music: bill mallonee
(admin. BMI 2015)

look at all of the diamonds...all of the rust
look at all of the boom...all of the bust
all of the vistas...of golden eternities...
it's just pullin' on boots...and rollin' up your sleeves

chorus:
hide me in the darkness.....of all that's lost & found
hide me in the darkness....there's sure plenty to go around
all of the hopeless cases...traced from here back to the start
Love's got a million faces....but only one heart

there's a few plaintive voices...'cross the pages of time
all the powers that be...hardly pay 'em any mind
all this searching the heavens...for an answer inside
all the words of the Lord...in an audible sigh

just look on the bright side...just tend to your homestead
just look on the dark side...plow's broke & the horses are dead
Track Name: FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS
FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS
words/music: bill mallonee (admin BMI 2015)

I heard it in the gilded voices of the past
a record spinning 'round on a phonograph
From a basement full of dust to the treading of the path
Fallin' through the cracks

Take another swallow; take another breath
one life poured out in a million little deaths
You can saturate magnetic tape & bleed through the playback
Fallin' through the cracks

Ya' oughta gather up that soul of yours or whatever is left
numbness holds a clarity all unto itself
Somewhere 'tween the top shelf & that monkey on your back
Fallin' through the cracks

Well, the image starts to break-up but it first came as a gift
The chemicals? They wash out what'er they come in contact with
I heard a record spinning 'round on a phonograph
Fallin' through the cracks
Track Name: STEERING WHEEL IS A PRAYER WHEEL
STEERING WHEEL IS A PRAYER WHEEL
words/music: bill mallonee (admin. BMI 2015)

There ain't nothing like the past to remind you of who you are
There ain't nothing like the present to tell you who you aren't
String band song coming in strong on the AM radio
And the steering wheel is a prayer wheel on the open road

So, I gathered up my winnings & I girded up my loins
Sold my soul in Reno; I bought it back this morn
There's only so much you can freight on your heart's shaky scaffold
And the steering wheel is a prayer wheel on the open road

Now, there's many a man whose crossed himself & then crossed his finger tips
Cast his soul out on the table like it was his last poker chip
Up ahead there is a bridge & it won't bear the load
And the steering wheel is a prayer wheel on the open road

There is only inventory left to take & some history to invent
For a nation forged with guns & lies, flags & rhetoric
There ain't nothing like the past to remind you of who you are
There ain't nothing like the present to tell you who you aren't
After everyone's been bought & everyone's been sold
The steering wheel is a prayer wheel on the open road
Track Name: STRING OF DAYS
STRING OF DAYS
words/music: bill mallonee (admin BMI 2015)

I was hoping to turn in one good day
'cause you know it's been a while.
Losing streaks take no pity on the meek
and they've got a way of going on for miles

And ghosts of the past? Well, they got nothing on
all these devils of the here & now
And if God has a ledger sheet that He keeps
well, what's the use anyhow?

chorus:
Things get hard & things get rough
No one here's made of such stern stuff
Stumblin' through the haze
Right on through the string of days

No anodyne; just anesthesia that's all
from hearing your own footsteps down an empty hall
Distillations never filled any wounds
but, you never asked it to conjure what they couldn't do
Pacing incessant or on your knees;
No cessation of hostilities
Your seat is empty at the watering hole
And everyone's asking: "Do you think he'll show?"

I was hoping to turn in one good day
'Cause you know it's been a while.
There's a pulse beneath the things unseen
Hard as stone...and fragile...as butterfly wings
Track Name: SANGRE DE CRISTOS
THE SANGRE DE CHRISTOS words/music by Bill Mallonee
(admin. BMI 2014)

these sun~drenched towns shine like Deigo's Roses
the ones God's Mother asked him to hold
mothers are always giving roses to their children
under the blue skies of the Sangre de Christos

blood...is ink where i come from
rising up from sweat drenched earth
ringing like the lonely bell of a church tower
under the blue skies of the Sangre de Christos

The sunlight never fails to win the heart's allegiance
& a good woman is better than fine gold
her kisses sweeter than agua fiera covering you
under the blue skies of the Sangre de Christos

This guitar was stumblin' drunk & full of stories
orphan children waiting in the cold
they poured out just like Deigo's Roses
under the blue skies of the Sangre De Christos
Track Name: NORTHERN LIGHTS & SOUTHERN CROSS
NORTHERN LIGHTS & SOUTHERN CROSS
words/music: bill mallonee (admin BMI 2015)

This town has a way of choosing it's words
with a sonorous tone in it's voice
This town has a way of taking you down
making it look like your own choice

So, I hitched a few rides from Georgia out west
spent a week in New Orleans
Sometimes distractions are what serve you best
when you're coming a part at the seams

Chorus:
Where the veil gets thin is where the veil gets real
So touching the heavens is no big deal
A glance at the stars is all it'll cost
Northern Lights & Southern Cross
Northern Lights & Southern Cross

Now, there are ghosts from the past making the rounds
There are ghosts at the table of the here and now
And these walls have ears when ya' walk in the room
So, it's good to know to who did what to whom

Now you can dig in the desert; you can dig in the sea
You can dig on the mountains on high
I know this much: It's where no shovel can touch
that's where the real gold lies

This town has a way of changing it's skin
This town is a killer but no blame is ever pinned
Time hides herself at the scene of the crime
The rain washes away...every chalk line
Track Name: LANDS & PEOPLES
LANDS & PEOPLES
words/music: bill mallonee (admin. BMI 2015)

All the lands & peoples stretching far & wide
Plantin' dreams in the soil before the Great Divide
It certainly helps to have friend travelin' by your side
All the lands & peoples stretching far & wide

The sweat with every step to build a life that's true
Tethered to some prayers and maybe a hymn or two
Some things you count as treasure and some you just let lie
All the lands & peoples stretching far & wide

Some of them strode proudly & some they barely crawled
Some managed to to stay just outside the long arm of the law
On those who were here first? We worked violence & they died
All the lands & peoples stretching far & wide

Now kingdoms they will rise & kingdoms they will crash
History writes her deeds with ink made of blood & ash
It's running through our veins & it rarely does subside
All the lands & peoples stretching far & wide

Bridge:
We make promises with fingers crossed; deals brokered with a wink
Every bet is firmly hedged with flags & rhetoric
And it goes like this...

Now, closing songs from sad bandstands can bring you some relief
'Cross a parking lot that's littered with our grandeur & our griefs
Tonight moonlight plays her hand beneath a field of pure star-shine
All the lands & peoples stretching far & wide
All the lands & peoples stretching far & wide
All the lands & peoples stretching far & wide
Track Name: I'LL SWING WITH EVERYTHING THAT I'VE GOT
I'LL SWING WITH EVERYTHING THAT I'VE GOT
words & music: bill mallonee (admin BMI 2014)

With a suitcase full of blues
and a notebook full of secrets
most of 'em I'd say are pretty dark
And that plot of dusty earth?
that one over-grown with weeds?
Well, that dirt lot is a lonely heart

chorus
When it comes to fates & furies?
It's hard to get on base
when yer playing every game in their park
Ah, but ever since my eyes beheld
your beauty & your grace
I'll swing with everything that' I've got

There was a hall I'd frequent
on New York Friday nights
to buy a beer & dance away the blues
To laugh out loud with friends
and wink at all the ladies
and maybe even steal a kiss or two

Now, they say life's a game
and most are bound to lose
because the deck has been stacked from the start
But lately, i've been wondering
if life is what you give away
and what could more precious than your heart?

There's a story that I'm writing
Would you help me hold the pen?
On every page you will shine just like a star
And if that deck is stacked?
We'll just laugh & leave the table
And leave the dealer all alone there in the dark
Track Name: SWING IT, JOE
SWING IT, JOE
music/words: bill mallonee

Drove the last few miles in the dark
Hit the foothills & then we slowed
You said: "Everything has changed;
Now you know."

The first thing that caught my eye:
Vacant hills & black-coal sky
Where once forest & the stars
were my home
When the temples of your youth
Their last stones are shaken loose
Ya' learn beauty has no useful-ness
for some

chorus:
Swing it, Joe; Yeah, swing it, Joe
When we go down? No one'll know
Breath a sigh & then ya' go
Swing it, Joe. Yeah, swing it, Joe

It's a *hardpan world from a hardpan start
You try to make some sense of it with a hardpan heart
But, you were like a hero walking straight outta the past
Just like Jesus...built to last.

chorus:
Swing it, Joe; Swing it, Joe
When we go down; No one'll know
Take a bow & then ya' blow
Swing it, Joe. Yeah, swing it, Joe

Kingdoms rise & kingdoms fall
'tween happy hour & last call
On this slow, sad crawl
to God only knows
Hit the foothills then we slowed
It's all bathed in halogen glow
You said: "Everything has changed."
"now you know..."

chorus:
Swing it, Joe; Swing it, Joe
When we go down; No one'll know
Take a bow & then ya' blow
Swing it, Joe. Yeah, swing it, Joe...

*hard·pan (noun)
1. A layer of hard subsoil or clay. Also called caliche.
It is impervious to water
2. Hard, unbroken ground.
3. A foundation; bedrock.
Track Name: HOPE THE KIDS MAKE IT OUT
I HOPE THE KIDS MAKE IT OUT words/music: bill mallonee
(admin. BMI 2015)

It all dried up here years ago
they moved it all over-seas; let us go
no back up plan and baby, it's all gone south
i just hope the kids make it out

had some small town dreams with some small town hopes
always starting over again at the end of the same rope
sweating bullets in your sleep till you bolt upright with a shout
i just hope the kids make it out

Now, all the gold in the world won't buy off your regrets
and all the whiskey at the bar? well, there's n'er enough to make you forget
You'll cast your pearls before swine, brother there's no doubt
i just hope the kids make it out
i just hope the kids make it out
Track Name: IT ALL TURNS TO DUST
IT ALL TURNS TO DUST words & music: bill mallonee
(admin BMI 2015)

Well, the banker man he stood up and adjusted his fine coat
and he showed me where to sign on that promissory note
everything that we had, well, it all went on the line
plant the seed an roll the dice just this one last time

well, you know how this one goes...a tale of woe & loss
should have seen it coming from a thousand miles off
I was pleading with the banker man; "just give me one more month..."
wife and kids were starving...beneath a Kansas sun
he just smiled and looked away; our eyes they never ever locked
reached inside his vest pocket and opened his gold watch

Well, there's not much you can count on
but here's one thing you can trust
everything & everyone
it all turns to dust...

she left me in September....to the East she headed back
she told me not to write her...i've tried to make good on that