NEW YORK STATE OF MIND (7 studio songs from the City)

by Bill Mallonee

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MAYBE, I’D RISK IT ALL (Some Thoughts On Bob Dylan)
Posted on February 3, 2016

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. Songwriter’s 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 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 every individual) that there is a void filled only by something larger, something spiritual.

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 everything bookish thing he can read the back cover of, digests it, references it, internalizes it, integrates it and radiates it in this new music. Rnter John Hammond and 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, Bob Dylan did the some 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 registrators, 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 one of us singer-songwriters owe 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 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 then 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

credits

released February 3, 2016

Bill Mallonee: acoustic & electric guitars, voice, harmonica, drums, bass, lap steel, resonator guitar, organ.
Muriah Rose: acoustic & electric piano, organ, voice

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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 Athens, Ga. 90's radio rockers, Vigilantes of Love. He has worked with great artists such as Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris, & Peter Buck from REM.
His most recent work,
"The Rags of Absence" released in Jan. 2017.
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Track Name: GREENWICH/CIRCA
Greenwich (Circa) words/music: bill mallonee

Well, the streets were freezing over when i blew into the Village
2 feet of snow and i was soaked to the bone
no place to crash, and a little short on the cash
I hit 3 open mics, and waltzed with all the dough

Had a voice like an ancient text
guitar slung round my neck
Marine band harmonica
...always in tow
you summon up the past
to speak about the present
songs are just telling 'em
what they already know

chorus:
take the world a part and then
but, be gentle my friend
and try and put it
back together again

now most of the truth
are the things they never tell you
they keep it all disguised
under a wallet of fear
and what passes for riches
among the bought and sold
you learn to tell the fool's gold
from the things that you'll hold dear

chorus:
take the world a part and then
but, be gentle my friend
and try and put it
back together again...
Track Name: NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND words/music:bill mallonee

Rolling on the Thruway, past the farm where history was made
Dylan's country face and Music from Big Pink
Autumn in the Catskills always makes you think

There's no greater peace you'll find
Than a New York State of mind

You can take it to the City, you can put it on mean streets
or you could move it to the farmland; feel the earth beneath your feet
You could roll your dice in Nashville; where they auto-tune your grief

There's no greater peace you're like to find
Than a New York State of mind

You can swing down to Georgia where the peaches all taste sweet
You can it train o'er to Memphis, the city of the King
Tom Joad it to California, where the stars walk the streets

There's no greater peace you're like to find
Than a New York State of mind, etc.
Track Name: LANDS & PEOPLES
LANDS & PEOPLES
words/music: bill mallonee

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: FOREVER FOR YOU
FOREVER FOR YOU words/music: bill mallonee
stumblin' in out of the rain...stealing all of your kisses
city blocks bathing in neon...thunder off in the distance

storm's hanging on hey, there's a bar on the corner i know
Clydesdale endlessly circle in a globe full of swirling snow
shakin' off the drops of the night in a tucked vinyl booth
a little gin please with a splash of vermouth

Chorus:
i came here for the skyline
and maybe a song or two
i maybe have come here for the skyline
but i'll stay forever for you

i was wondering...well just how brave was i?
talking a game...and shivering on the inside
taking off bandages....of recovery
holding you close...like a discovery

Chorus:
i came here for the skyline
when, now that's only partially true
i came here for the skyline
but i'll stay forever for you
Track Name: WHEN THE WALLS CAME DOWN
WHEN THE WALLS CAME DOWN words/music: bill mallonee

when the walls came down
i saw my life...flash before my eyes
it wasn't as frightening...as i thought it would be
5 & 6 came together
number 7 was on the way...we would call her Teresa
after the saint

chorus:
when the walls came down
everything became as water
when the walls came down
falling bricks & mortar
it's raining, it's raining on me

tried to tell the foreman
you don't push your materials past whatever
weight they were ever meant to bear
But, with a shrug of the shoulders,
his eyes cast down & a shaking of head
100 souls...vanish in thin air

Writing the chapters
Building the cities up for nickels and for dimes
building America....one brick at a time
you come here with some dreams
ya' leave here berated, numb & null
...expendable
Track Name: THE GOLDEN GATHERING IN
THE GATHERING IN words & music: bill mallonee

Well, the faint amber glow from the old campfires
they are flickering out...they are flicking out
And the last few embers vanish
in the darkness' mouth...in darkness' mouth

chorus:
Hail to the saints
and all of us beginners
the lost sheep and the sinners
all those "where-the-hell you been?" best friends
the shaken & confused
all those winners at "born-to-lose"
at the golden gathering in

and those old cowboy songs?
well they rarely got it wrong
but the world is always losing
everything it wins
she'll be comin' 'round the mountain
shimmering like a fountain
and on her lips?
the sweetest of hymns

chorus

there's a blue moon in the desert
and "all shall be most well..."
said blessed Julian
to her sisters at the well
the discarded & ignored
the busted & the bored
the fallen & untamed
the one without a name

last chorus
Hail to the saints
and all us beginners
the lost sheep and the sinners
at the golden gatherin' in....
Track Name: 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