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Dear fans, friends, & the just plain curious,
I hope you will enjoy, "where these songs went," as i played them one last time on this guitar that has become a dear friend of mine..
This guitar was responsible for how part of myself was born, nurtured and formed. From that stand point, it's really not anything epic. But the fact that, like a prospector's pick, it tapped a part of me that's "birthed" over 1000 songs is well, pretty unique.
Here's how the guitar & I met:
The legendary Mike Guthrie (Athens, Ga.'s only vintage instrument dealer) called me one day in the summer of 1991. "i know you're playing more acoustic these days," he said, so i think you should get down here and see what just came in."
As it turned out a Univ. of Ga. music school student had just come into the store and sold his Takimine acoustic guitar. "It's perfect for you," mike said. "It has a great pick-up, great tone...and it best of all? It looks good one you."
At a "slightly used instrument" price, i walked with it that day.
I had just started an off-shoot band called Vigilantes of Love. (Athens scene musicians were always playing in side projects in those days. VoL was myself, accordion player Mark Hall with an occasional guest appearance by harmonica player John Evans. It was initially & throughly an acoustic project, a detour away from my more electric/pop band "The Cone Ponies. I'd been writting at a rate of about 50-60 songs a year for the previous 4 years. (most of those early songs were written on an old 6-string National dreadnought. (It was then quickly adapted to a paisley Fender telecaster and played electric.)
The new Takimine was my first "serious" acoustic guitar. With the acquisition of the "Tak" my writing seemed to move into a different sort of world. The guitar was very playable. It enabled me to explore technique and alternate tunings. It allowed a world of ease when writing, rehearsing and playing "live." All of those variables combined with everything I was listening to in those early days. i relished the tone and immediacy of Dylan's early acoustic records; was enthralled by the warmth and technique of a player like Neil young on his epic album, "Harvest;" I was smitten by the simplicity and tender beauty of Tom Waits rendering "Time, Time, Time."
These "influences" combined with two other dynamics. The first was that of the energy of the early Athens Music scene (still fledging in 1990.)
VoL's club was not the "Fabulous 40 Watt" nor the "Uptown Lounge." Our watering hole was the small but vibrant "Downstairs Cafe," located on Clayton street. It was here that Mark & I previewed countless songs that would eventually surface on the albums "Jugular," "Driving The Nails," "Killing Floor." There were at least another 50 or songs we played. I was writing up till the time of a show frequently. No recordings exist of those works.
We were, quite often, selling out two shows a night on weekends....but then again, the cafe could only hold 40 folks at a time.
Still, for someone who never felt embraced by the hipper "powers that be" in the Athens scene, it was affirming enough.
And so: Nothing breeds success like success.
It is significant that this is where i first, marked out my ritual of "write it, play it "live" asap, record it...and take it on tour."
I've done that now for 50 plus albums over 22 years.
Armed with my sweat-drenched Takimine, and some "fake-swagger-as-a-coping-mechanism-for-my- shyness," it truly felt like new worlds were opening up to me both as a writer & as a performer. That guitar, it's feel, it's tone, and it's growing-song-by-song-relationship, enabled me to write about all that was sad & fractured in my world; and all that was possibly hallowed and beautiful. Maybe something buried within, needed a nomenclature to be brought to the light & rendered less destructive to me. The guitar was that tool for such an excavation.
When I tell people that the guitar was "something like a salvation" I am not joking.
Guitars are funny. Although they are "things," this guitar became a friend.
"She" was on almost every album. I could pull it out of the case & instinctively "know" that something GOOD was going to happen.
Whether that "Good" came in the form of a new song, some new little technical flourish or a gateway to a new set lyrics, it became (to me) a loyal & trusted friend. It "turned the inside out."
I now believe that's what a good instrument is for.
~ "HERE'S THE PART WHERE WE KISS GOOD~BYE" ~
Recently, the guitar (which as most of you know) had to be sold. It was sold to stare down impending financial crises. Such crises have been a constant issue for me for near a decade now.
Maybe that's just the life of a troubadour. Was i pushed or did i jump?
I suspect i was "chosen" by the vocation as much as i think i did the choosing."
All I have to "offer" are the songs. And I have amazing, incredible fans.
They still listen to songs & music as if it matters.
On those 2 strengths, I have attempted to run something of a "cottage industry" outside the supposedly "real" industry.
And while I have had great "ink" spilled on my work for many years, it's never made for anything like financial stability.
I dunno. Maybe, I don't have the "killer" instinct and maybe that's what it takes to "make it" in the music world.
I've also heard about getting such things as getting a "big break."
There's only so much of "reality," if any one can control.
It was always about the love of the song and it's recording. And never about the "game" of "making it" in the music biz.
Or at least I got over the "biz" part of it early on. It seemed to be peopled by a lot of "soul-less" shakers & movers & poseurs. I/we distanced ourselves from that as far as possible early on...right into oblivion.
I love what I've done and i still love what I do.
But, it has been extremely hard and often bitter.
I find myself after 50 plus albums over 22 years, struggling (like many, many people in these changing times) to pay bills.
This is NOT whining, I assure you. Just an observation.
Still, such a sad "outcome" stares me (as it does many folks) in the face daily.
I suppose it's my deepest "spiritual struggle."
How to make sense of it all?
To tell the truth?
I've probably given up trying.
Details: I recorded, over the course of the last 3 days I had the guitar, 5 old "Vol standards."
"Judas Skin," "America, America," "Andersonville," "parting-shot" & "Run Through my veins," seemed likely choices. Those tunes were written on the Takimine, as well.
(Sure, there could have been another dozen or so, but i only had a few days to record, over-dub other parts, mix & upload the songs before heading out on tour.)
The arrangements are all new, each with a new intro. (you may not recognize the songs initially.) They have been embellished (when appropriate) with strings, mellotrons, cellos & orchestral harps. These sounds are some of my new loves.
I have always tried to let songs breathe and grow as they will.
As I said: I hope you will enjoy, "where these songs went," as i played them on this guitar one last time.
I am glad the guitar will have a new home.
you were so very, very good to me.
Thank you for so many years loving service.
Long may you run.
And so the end of the matter?
The songs keep coming, and fans (like "you") keep buying albums online & at shows...and so I can't complain.
Life may still seems sad and fractured, but it is nuanced with glimpses of hallowed-ness, beautiful beyond description.
*As a side note:
when listening, please add a bit of low end &/or shave some of the "treble" response on your playback systems as you see fit.
I found the new compressor i was using to be slightly "toppy."
released March 27, 2013
Bill Mallonee: Takimine acoustic guitar, vocals, harmonica;
cello, orchestral strings & harp arrangements
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
America, America. words/music: bill mallonee
my dad sure believed in you
he said "a man's gotta do what he's gotta do"
got his degree at your diploma barn
he was the first kid off the farm
gonna change the world with chemistry
but i know he'll do
what you ask him to
buy a new house with a tailored front yard
run up all the credit cards
there's more where that came from it's a cinch
i knew by the age of six
i'd never make a scientist
when i saw the price you paid in their trenches
they cut the moorings of your sacred ship
pushed her out and they let her drift
then the wind changed unannounced
brought a new friend home to watch tv
to help you deal with the anxiety
she measured out her love in ounces
yeah i've seen you do
what she asked you to
i remember standing 'round
the vacant corner of some playground
hoping we would get you back
dying to make contact
now i struggle to pretend
and fill the gaping holes in
and remember all you did
looking back to take inventory
put the best construction on the story
i'm now writing for my kids
'cause i know you'd do
what they ask you to
God shed your grace in his
lonely heart this evening
and if he falls asleep
gather him and hold him tight
and help me with this grieving
'cause i know he'd do
what you ask him to
i salute you
Track Name: JUDAS SKIN
Words/Music: Bill Mallonee
what is it you need to hear?
it's on your lips and in your ears
if too much static or unclear
still still He holds you dearly
hound of heaven on your trail
keen sense of direction and smell
knows your need before you do
and when you bleed He does too
on my own again
on my slow dark train
how is it i am found
in my judas skin spinning down
what is it you need to know
you don't already understand
when You offer me a drink
i just keep You at arms length
what is it that i fear
why is it i don't trust
hiding out becomes career
what am i covering up
what is it you need to find
love Your Spirit working overtime
when i come out of my spin
and i see You're still my friend
Track Name: ANDERSONVILLE
ANDERSONVILLE words/music: bill mallonee
pray for me my darling
that peace might come to pass
the devil finally laid to rest
the carnage done at last
we may have left at seventeen
before boys are men
but the ladies they will all turn out
when we come home again
we were locked in hell in andersonville
in shebangs hot and stinking
the stream we use as our latrine
gives water for our drinking
and a hundred of us daily die
to fill those fresh-dug graves
ah but the ladies they will all turn out
when we come home again
rumors spawn and rumors die
on the rocks of the georgia sun
and hope is just a luxury
you learn not to count on
oh hannah may you never see
the sights that i have seen
nor the ladies who will all turn out
if we come home again
so i watch the strong and fearless
reduced and disgraced
each day the heart of twisted man
stares me in the face
so i pray for death to take me
just like it did my friends
the ladies they will all turn out
when the coffins are brought in
at night i say my prayers
and then i hold you to my breast
and i'm reading through the testament
you gave me for last Christmas
i swear i heard the children laugh
or was it angels on the plains
or the ladies had they all turned out
'cause we came home again
Track Name: RUN THROUGH MY VEINS
Run Through My Veins words/music: Bill Mallonee
Put down for a little while
yeah this time i'm really in
you're on no first name basis
with the stranger in your skin
betrayal she's a girl
yeah i slept with once or twice
treason her next of kin
she was more than nice
and all your best intentions sleep under
a sky with no stars
and you run through my veins to my heart
and you run through my veins
when i'm sure of nothing
and certain of everything else
the longer that we do this
we feel less and less ourselves
hey why is it when you climb up here
you can't find a place to hide
hey why is it when you climb up here
it feels like suicide
put down for a little while
time to bandage up these wounds
time to find some spare parts
time to ration fuel
plant your victory garden
place a flower there for me
come into your kingdom Lord
said the thief from the tree
Track Name: PARTING SHOT
Words/Music: Bill Mallonee
words of wisdom quotable quotes
reader's digest sayings for those losing hope
why do i feel so mocked by the hands of the clock
well anchor me down to the solid rock
i want to leave you with something but i almost forgot
was it a closing statement or a parting shot
well you lie on the flowers here in the wind
i've twisted it all with original sin
there's a knowledge i traded a long time ago
well i bartered it off for these rags i call clothes
i learned how to fake it and remake it on cue
but i swear i never stopped needing you
there's a question forming out here in the dark
in the heavy air all around my heart
now laden with consequence chain link fence
and shot through with all manner of lies
i've been trapped in and caught
and the world like a tempest in your ears doth roar
and the flesh wants to dress up and play your whore
and the devil wants to cast all manner of doubt
on the real lover with the key dying to let you out
from the bars that you fashioned with your stolen clout
well i may be confused but i'll play my hunch
did it feel like a kiss or a counter-punch
evening is closing and the kid drones on and on and on
well get out your car keys i hope this is his last song
wait it's bigger than life it is gracious and grand
something a child readily understands
hey you know i sure could use a new suit of clothes
see i'm gone all threadbare and my shoes are worn
now the flowers are growing right out of these bones
and i hear the trumpet sounding like Louis Armstrong
when the great divorce happens hide me in your song
though i don't deserve it and i don't belong
i want to leave you with something will you take it to heart
are you a closing statement or a parting shot
Did You Know?
Bill says of this song, which was originally called "Parting Shots," that he uses a "Richard Thompson tuning." The first two lines originally went like this: "words of wisdom quotable quotes, pithy little sayings for those losing hope." In explaining the lyrics, Bill says: "I guess I always thought of a 'closing statement' as being heroic, courageous and eternal... and a 'parting shot' as being something small, petty, cold and ultimately ineffective."