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
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