The Sound Field | This Moment of the Storm

 
This Moment of the Storm
Lyrics

While writing the liner notes for The Sound Field's first CD, The Bucket List, I had a glorious light bulb moment: internet bandwidth is limitless.

That particular cartoon moment resulted in as complete a compilation of information as I could have hoped for in my maddest moments. I literally got down, got dirty, got naked and rolled around in the language and the story behind each song - not just how and why and when they were written and who they were written about, but the way each song had come together in the studio, with a list of fabulous guest players.

I'm about to do it again, with This Moment Of The Storm. And I'm going so deep on this second one, the first set will look like book jacket blurbs. The liner notes are about the stories, that we, as musicians and singers and writers, are in service to. As a storyteller, as the author of ten of the twelve songs, this is what I owe these songs, these stories, these moments of the storm in which we've been locked since the theft of the vote in 2016, and since the first reports of COVID-19 made their way into global awareness.

Settle in. Grab a beverage. This gets wordy because it has to.

 

 

 

THE TITLE

"This Moment Of The Storm" is a wonderful short story by one of scifi/fantasy's greatest writers, and one of the nicest. Roger Zelazny is best known for his novels, but for me, his genius was in his short stories. This one was a series of frozen snapshots, kindness and courage and terror, in the moment of an apocalyptic storm on a distant world. Since the hijacking of America in 2016, I've seen everything in that context: how do we take care of ourselves, take care of each other, in this nightmare moment? Who are we, and what are we becoming?

All things considered, I'm glad I resisted Nic's urging. He wanted me to call this Shelter In Place, from a line in "You Better Duck" from our first CD:

"Life left a message, left it taped to the wall, it said

"Shelter in place, 'cause I'm coming to call."

Prescience? Irony? Who knows? You can't make this stuff up, sometimes.

I began as a writer. I wrote my first two novels at 15, back to back (no, you can't read them.) They were really, really awful, and both very short, under 200 pages each. But they had characters, and a setting, and a story. The setting and the story make up the road the characters travel, and that road became the journey. Half a century later, that's still my definition of storytelling. I actually started playing guitar before I started writing, but I had no language to say what I wanted to with music. Fifty years later, I'm still struggling to let the music carry my stories. It gets harder as I get older.

The CD, The Bucket List, was called that for a reason. Just making a CD with ten original songs was accomplishing one of the top items on my lifelong bucket list. It ticked other boxes on that list, as well: I got to work with some amazing players, a couple of whom are back for the sequel.

I've dealt with the silencing of women's voices all my life. I've dealt with it as a writer, and as a storyteller. I've dealt with it as a mentor, to women deep in Taliban-controlled provinces of Afghanistan, where being caught with a laptop meant a flogging at least. Often, it meant death.

It's insidious and lethal, that silencing. Girls are stifled from birth in nearly every society on earth. We are told to smile, don't argue with men, let them win every competition. Don't raise your voice - you don't want to be considered "shrill". Even if you're more intelligent than he is, never let on - you'll bruise his ego. Your body isn't yours - it belongs to the guy who has been bred, consciously or not, to believe that he has a right to you, and that what you want is irrelevant. The message is clear: He matters. You don't.

For the first time since they started keeping those records, men outnumber women on planet earth. That's how common femicide has become: if she doesn't please you, just kill her. There are too many places where, to quote the late great Texas journalist Molly Ivins, the only criteria for judgment is 'did the late lamented bitch deserve to die?'

It's been going on for thousands of years. I've been aware of it since the day at age 13 when I got the crap beat out of me by a cop. Over half a century later, it's as bad as ever, and getting worse. And I'm really fucking sick of it.

So sing out, my sisters. Make the patriarchy listen. Make noise. Make it loud and uncompromising or soft and uncompromising, but make it. Make them hear you, however you can. Leave it ringing in their ears like a clarion call: we have been silent and unheard too long.

With This Moment Of The Storm, that message is The Sound Field's.

It's for myself and for my gender (CIS, trans and anyone who identifies as a woman; you are all women and all my sisters, and the TERFS out there can go to hell and rot there). It's for where we are, who we are, our voices, our story, our songs. I have an angel choir (thanks to the late, deeply loved Kathi Kamen Goldmark for that concept), lifting me, carrying me, getting mean drunk with me. From Lauren Murphy's salty smoke on a song she and I co-wrote, to Kathleen Salvia's rich beautiful movement at all ends of the scale, to Shelley Hunt's broken Texas choirgirl calling out like a child lost in the dark, to Holly Anton's songbird in the tree outside your window, women's voices define this project. They will stay with you, the way they stay with me. They sing harmonies with me, and when I play back this music, I sing harmonies to their harmonies. Full circle.



THE BAND

The Sound Field. We are a core of three: myself on guitar and vocals, Nic Grabien on bass, Larry Luthi on drums.

THE PLAYERS

These are the men who made this possible, who made it happen. I love the hombres, here, and that begins with our engineer.

Vadim Canby

Vadim, who also engineered TBL, has got the maddest engineering skills I have ever come across, and I worked for Dolby on two continents, in the late 1970s. There is no one out there I trust to make me sound good except Vadim. It's him, full stop.

For one thing, he is unbelievably patient. This is a quality in which I'm almost completely lacking, so it awes me in any case, but for an engineer, just think about that. However many takes are needed, however long, it's cool. Then there's his Pro Tools chops. There is a level of Superman in what he does with Pro Tools and his ears that kryptonite can't even scratch.

Mark Karan

I met Mark in 2006, at a New Riders of the Purple Sage show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. He was sitting in. We were standing side by side just off stage.

Me: whole lotta Fender guitars up there.

Mark: Yep.

Me: regular old twangfest.

Mark: Yep.

Me: Single coil Hell.

Mark: Yep. If I'd thought about it, I'd have brought my Les Paul instead.

Mark's battle with stage 4B throat cancer is a story unto itself, but he tells it himself, so I won't. What matters is that he survived it. Since then, we've been friends, songwriting partners (his upcoming CD, Welcome To Your Life, includes four songs we cowrote), and, I think, a mutual admiration society. We've been furious with each other, screamed at each other, hurt each other's feelings, called each other on our bullshit, misinterpreted each other, forgiven each other, provided a shoulder and comfort when either of us was hurting, and started the whole circle all over again.

Mark produced this album. It was a group effort, he and the band and Vadim Canby engineering, but of every suggestion Mark made about where TMOTS should go, I think three didn't get used, and at least one of those was because we ran out of time to have my Angel Choir in the same place at the same time. He plays guitar, too many different axes to list and in too many places to list, all over this thing. He is a consummate musician, a wonderful songwriting partner, and a beloved friend.

Henry Salvia

I'm really, really picky about piano players: the movement, the heart at the high end, the fearlessness behind the crash of the low end, the patience of staying in the middle of that keyboard. I've been hearing piano that way since the summer of 1969, when I heard Nicky Hopkins with the Jefferson Airplane. Nothing and no one has sounded like that since.

But you know what, there's Henry.

Don't get me wrong, there are and have been some breathtaking, scary great players out there. I'm good friends with several of them. I don't need to run down a list. You all have lists of your own.

In my reality, Nicky has the biggest shoes to fill, ever. And it's not even that Henry fills them. It's that he has equally big shoes, and no one else really does, no matter how brilliant.

That should explain why Henry was the only keyboard I wanted on TMOTS. Luckily, he likes my stuff. Whenever Sound Field plays live, Mark Karan and Henry Salvia are the first calls I make. I usually get one or both.

Vadim refers to the magic that Henry brings to any song as "just get him in here, sit him down at the keyboard, and let him do his Henry thing." Perfectly phrased, Vadim. It's Henry Salvia's Magic Keyboard Thing. And I'm incredibly grateful he's up for sharing it with us.

David Lindley

Yes indeed, I said David Lindley. Neener.

Seriously, if I have to tell you who David Lindley is, condolences on having missed a noticeable percentage of the best music of the last half century. Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Warren Zevon, Blind Boys of Alabama, Kaleidoscope: you heard them, you've heard David Lindley.

David is the best. There is no one better. Hell, there's no one even near. For me, he's the greatest stringed instrument player on earth. He picks up a stringed instrument and you can practically see the cosmic spark jumping from his hands to the wood to the strings and then, suddenly, it's OH HOLY SHIT I LOVE THAT SOUND WHAT JUST HAPPENED. What he does with an oud is, I suspect, the music between star clusters, music of the spheres, holding the universe together. What he does on a baglama saz is unearthly. What he does with an electric lap steel is the stuff legends are made of. And then there are those Hawaiian guitars, those Weissenborns, those custom John McGraths.

Listening to David make music is the nearest to bliss I ever really get. Working with him, first on TBL and again on TMOTS, provided me with two days out there with the dark matter and the star clusters, with the music of the spheres.

David has been my oud teacher and my saz teacher (and the reason I play saz on "Copperhead Road", along with David on Irish bouzouki, on TMOTS). He's been my sensei and my icon and my source and my lodestone for anything that's deeper, richer, fuller, about music.



THE SONGS

Okay. The songs are the stories. Let's talk about the stories.

For The Bucket List, I did the liner notes in groupings. Five of the ten original songs were about one man, Nicky Hopkins, spanning forty years over writing the first to the last. The other five were about specific people or specific scenarios. There was one cover, Keith Christmas' song "The Fable Of The Wings", added a week before David Lindley drove up from Southern California in a huge rainstorm to record with us. "Fable" was his suggestion.

TMOTS is different. It begins with piss and vinegar female rage, and ends with an apocalypse and a quiet question in the echoing darkness. The songs are a kind of progression. They're politics, terror, revelation, self-loathing and abasement. At the end, they're movement and acknowledgement.



IT'S ABOUT TIME

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Back in spring 2015, I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of a woman who, in every possible way, seems be my twin: Lauren Murphy.

We'd never met before. When we finally did, at a Mark Karan show at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley, you could hear us click across the street in the parking lot, and beyond. Two days after that show, Lauren and her daughter Lyba (her dad was Lauren's late husband, Judge Murphy) drove down from their home in El Dorado, in the Gold Country. I made us lunch, they fell in love with out cats and vice versa, and we spent all day, in my office/music room, talking, bouncing ideas and memories off each other, reflecting, just being there. Lauren said later that she could have sat there for the rest of her natural life. I felt the same. I felt that way when she invited me up to Murphy Mountain for a weekend of talking, camaraderie and songwriting. It was the dry season. There had been no rain on the apple trees on Murphy Mountain for a couple of months. Remember that - it's relevant.

Lauren's story is in the liner notes for the song I wrote for her after that weekend, "This House". It's the second track on The Bucket List. But that Sunday night, after Lyba had gone to bed, I broke out my Martin and she broke out her Taylor. We started writing a song.

I'd had a line in my head for about a week: "Some say Time is a river. I say Time is a thief." Lauren said "OOOH! River! Can't you just see Time as one of those wheel-turning thieving cads on a riverboat casino?" Oh hell yes. I said "You know what? He's one of those abusive boyfriends. He hits you and you walk out and he acts sweet and sorry and then BAM, he does it again and he doesn't even bother kissing you first before he screws you."

After about an hour, Lyba yelled at us (we were keeping her awake), so we grabbed our guitars and our laptops and our glasses of prosecco and moved downstairs to the guest room. We sat on the bed, and two floors up Lyba finally fell asleep, without us keeping her awake with our laughing and singing the song that was building into "It's About Time." Lauren would write a half verse, I'd finish it up with the second half, she'd come up with a line of music, I'd say oooh, what if we do that double-time in the bridge, and at the end, as Lauren likes to say, there it is. "It's About Time".

We took a grainy selfie together, at two AM that Monday morning, sitting on the bed. We recorded the first version on her phone. We had our song.

One more thing happened, in that night of a dry season.

We'd headed off to bed, me in the guest suite, Lauren all the way upstairs (This House had three floors). And suddenly I heard her footsteps, running down the stairs. She was calling me: "Deb! DEB! WE DID IT!"

She danced in and opened the door that led outside. I jumped out of bed and went outside with her.

For the next little while, we stood out there together. I don't remember if there was an overhang - I think the big porch protected us. The sound of it on the dry trees, on the acreage, felt like a gift from the sky. I remember laughing together, in that rarefied state that is joy of sisterhood. I know my face was wet, but whether it was rain or tears, I couldn't tell you.

We wrote a song. We wrote it so good, we brought rain.

When it came time to record TMOTS, I knew this was the opener. As a statement, a metaphor, it's perfect: Two women wrote it together in the dry darkness of a mountain night. Two women mixing their voices, not as a blend but as a weave, letting the smooth-talking abusive riverboat con artist know that we see him, we know who he is. We know he can't lose because he holds all the damned cards. We're not fools - we know Time, the house, always wins in the end. No one here gets out alive. But that is not going to keep either of us, both us, from giving him the finger.

From day one, I've played the song crunchy. In the studio, we'd tracked it, just the core band, me on guitar and vocals, Nic on bass, Larry on drums. And it wasn't working. That does happen. We were near the end of a long day and I was exhausted. In the studio, you reach a point of diminishing returns. We had all agreed to try again in the morning when something stirred, a memory: we'd actually rehearsed the song more slowly a few times. Maybe take the speed down, and give it one more shot?

BOOM. Slower and raunchier and just what the doctor ordered. There it is.

Not long after, I had all four members of the choir in the studio for one amazing day. Holly Anton was flying in from back east and she was jet-lagged and exhausted. Shelley Hunt was exhausted as well, grieving the death of her husband. Kathleen Salvia, a woman I adore, was literally a calm warm wind, keeping everything steady. She never puts a note wrong. And Lauren breezed in, lightning in a bottle, ready to rock, ready to roll.

I had a wishlist of six songs on which I wanted all of them (we ended up with five). But "It's About Time" was always just going to be me and Lauren. I'd recorded my vocal track, and Lauren settled in, headphones on.

And she killed it. Together, we nailed it. Mine is the "fuck a bunch of this" lead vocal. Lauren's vocal, slipping in and out, echoing phrases, jabbing and backstepping like a pro boxer, runs from "just got out of bed and who's still there is none of your damned business" to deep NOLA drawl that takes sexy to a new level to "hey, me too, fuck a bunch of this, that's right".

The finishing touch comes from Mark, playing some of the most vicious, raunchy lines imaginable. He takes my chunky rhythm guitar, Nic's sliding bass and Larry's deep drum hits and ties them together, in one glorious middle finger of his own, right up in Time's face.

Maybe next time, that mean mofo gambler will remember his manners and kiss us first. You never know. Anything's possible.



ACROSS MY KITCHEN DOOR

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This song - the first of four on TMOTS about Nicky Hopkins - came out of a dream that left a picture in my head.

Remembering dreams in the morning is tricky; the deeper into dream you go, the fewer the symbols of the physical world are present to remember. A chair, birdsong, the smell of fresh bread baking - if you're dreaming about these things, but they take a different form or shape in sleep than in the waking world, how can you remember that object, that singing, that scent? And does that make your memory of the dream invalid?

I woke up one morning, some years ago, with a sense of something having happened during the night. There were tantalising flashes of memory, but nothing concrete enough to touch, to define. I had a sense of loss, of something that had somehow passed me by, something I'd missed.

Later that morning, making my first cup of coffee, feeding the cats, moving around my kitchen, something came back: a fleeting memory of myself, not in my kitchen of today, but in a hybrid of now and a kitchen that was my home then. The dream handed me another glimpsed image: opening the top of the Dutch doors in the old kitchen, and realising that there were no shadows anywhere. Nothing in the dream kitchen cast a shadow. Nothing in that kitchen had substance, or solid form.

When I headed for my morning shower - a lot of my best stuff gets written in what Larry Luthi, our drummer, refers to as our Magic Shower - a connection clicked in my head. What is with me everywhere, all the time, heavy as a stone but incorporeal enough to never leave a shadow?

Memory. I'd been dreaming about memory.

With that, the dream came roaring back. I had dreamed of the man, insubstantial as a ghost, but then again, so had I been in that sunny kitchen with the Dutch doors. I'd cast no shadow either. Line by line, standing under hot running water, the song came together in my head: we're trapped inside a looking glass, bloodless ghosts not made to last, your memory leaves no shadow cast across my kitchen door.

There's a grandeur to Kitchen Door, a kind of weightiness, as if Ineeded the story to be solid enough to cast the shadow that my poor bloodless human ghosts could not. It's one of those songs with the capacity to take my legs out from under me. And in its progression from "It's About Time", the lyric offer this take: If Time's a river, then Love's a creek, give me a voice so I may speak, drown out the lost years calling. Time drowns us in the end, but love carries us along, sometimes with joy where they meet, sometimes not. The river meets the sea at last, as calm as time, as smooth as glass, they carry dreams and lives long past, I let the water hide me.

Done as a three-piece, the song is majestic but stark, even when I use my Rickenbacker 12-string. When Henry Salvia adds his exquisite piano to it, though, something happens - the song becomes terrifying in a wonderful way, somehow both remote and much closer at the same time. And when Mark laid down the contrasting guitar voice, the effect is what a hydrofoil does for a Hovercraft: lifting it, letting it glide freely. Just to make assurance doubly sure, Vadim had me double my own guitar part.

This is the first song with my full Angel Choir. The single harmony, voice on voice, is me singing a higher harmony with my own lead vocal. I do that on several songs. But the soaring heartbreaking swell of all five of us singing together - I don't have words for it. Too visceral to describe.

And no one knows but me and you: the storm is all inside me.



COPPERHEAD ROAD

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This is the first of two covers on TMOTS, and also the first appearance of David Lindley. No coincidence, there. My desire to cover it was entirely because he did it first.

A couple of years ago, I came across a youtube video of David at a festival somewhere, playing a baglama saz. He was covering Steve Earle's brilliant song, "Copperhead Road." That juxtaposition of musical realities, a Middle Eastern instrument playing a song about a third generation Southern moonshiner, makes perfect sense to me, and always has. I emailed David ("speak to me of that saz you're playing..."). He did.

The result was the purchase of my first saz, and the first thing I did when it arrived was tune it to G and figure out how to play "Copperhead" on it. I made a video and waffled; I finally sent it to David about three weeks later ("warts and all! MANY warts!"). His response was "This is good. You have instincts. Keep going."

I'm not sure when I knew I wanted to record this on TMOTS, using the saz as the lead instrument; the first track for the song I did, I used my PRS electric, a guitar set up to play slide exclusively. That was cool, but when the saz arrived, it became a complete no-brainer: saz, all the way. It was my first saz, $169, with a very low output pickup in it, and compression pegs that were almost impossible to use. I played it as lead instrument anyway.

I girled my version up. Her name's John Lee, but my narrator is female, and so are her memories. It adds a scary edge to "wake up screaming like I'm back over there"; women served in Viet Nam as well as men. Her reasons for waking up screaming would be different from his, and possibly darker.

David was supposed to be on five songs on TMOTS, but COVID-19 arrived before the second recording session did. We're lucky to have him on three. He asked me ahead of the first session which instruments I heard, the tone, the voice. This one, I had the answer straight out of the gate: counterpointing my saz, I wanted what Nic calls David's sazouki. In reality, it's an Irish bouzouki on which extra frets have been added, effectively giving David a saz with fixed metal frets, extra notes and tones, but with the bouzouki's voice. I could hear the talkback to the saz, and to Nic's incredible thundering bass line, in my head. No question, the Irish bouzouki.

David's three songs were all recorded at Davy Vain's excellent recording studio, the Groove Room, in San Rafael, Marin County. We did "Copperhead Road" first. What we ended up with was Appalachia by way of Istanbul. It was exactly what I wanted, and of course, with Mister Dave playing, what you heard in your head and heart is what you get, and a whole lot better and more interesting.

Mark added some really interesting tremolo guitar to this, and I'm pretty sure I hear some nifty percussion from Vadim. The dirty spooky moaning on the tailout is me. I had the feeling that would work. It did.

Steve Earle hasn't heard our version yet. That should be interesting.



TRICK OF THE LIGHT

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This is yet another song that took shape over a few weeks, mostly under hot running water. Yep, the Magic Shower strikes again.

The initial hook came from one of those moments on the internet. I was exhausted, and the multiple sclerosis was playing hell with me. Looking in the mirror, I saw a tired sagging face from which all the courage and energy had drained. I said something to that effect on my Facebook page, and thirty people immediately did the instinctive thing and reassured me: don't be silly, you looked fantastic, age is just a number, look how much you accomplish every day, we wish we had half your energy, et cetera ad nauseum.

I'm a big fan of going with instinct, generally. In this instance, it was absolutely the wrong road. I said so, logged off the internet for a few hours, and wrestled with why everyone saw me the way they wanted to see me, instead of seeing me as I am. It's an old question: what the hell, am I a tabula rasa? A blank slate people can project onto? Sitting in the house by myself, talking to myself out loud (I do that a lot; that way, I know someone's listening), I heard myself say "So you all think I'm doing all right? Hate to burst your bubble, kids. That's not me, it's just a trick of the light."

Of such moments are stories born. The song contains some of my favourite images - occasional moans, occasional screams, the dumpster out back is full of hopes and dreams. But that chorus, Starlight, don't you shine so bright, I prefer the shadows and the dark of the night, anyone who thinks I'm doing all right, I hate to burst your bubble - it's just a trick of the light, came out of a tired depressed conversation with myself, in an empty house.

I recorded the lead vocal at Mark's house in Fairfax, CA. We did a few things up there that day - I seem to remember that the vocal for "If We Get Lucky" was recorded then, and I know we recorded the saz, mic'ing the hell out of it because the pickup is not what you'd call robust. I've since had a custom saz built for me, known as the Impaler because of his long scary neck. His electronics are designed to devour the band if cranked. But I didn't have the Impaler at the time.

Anyway. Vadim was at the helm of Mark's Pro Tools rig, and I had the single best vocal mic in the history of recording to use: a vintage Neumann U67. As good as the $9K modern reissue is, the originals are legendary, and they earn it. (All the mic geeks reading this just made noise.) The instruments were tracked at Groove Room. The blend between my rhythm guitar track and what Henry does on the piano is glorious - it just melds.

Out in the alley I go down on my ass, love and expectations and broken glass...

And oh, yes, the Angel Choir. All four of them. This song came out of my frustration at being essentially told, however lovingly, that how I see myself matters less than how other people see me. I vehemently disagree.



ZOO IN HEAVEN

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This is the second song on TMOTS that exists because things went wrong with Nicky Hopkins, back in 1976. And the story behind it is a corker.

In 1980, I was living in London. One afternoon, I sat down with my crappy little cassette recorder and my guitar. My infant daughter was asleep in her cot, my then-husband was elsewhere. I had just written a song, lyrics and music, in under an hour. With the tape rolling, I explained the song, which I had called "Zoo In Heaven", to my bass player back in San Francisco.

I'd had a dream the night before. I'd gone with my friend Dee to a kind of "battle of the bands" thing in a school gymnasium. The backstage was actually on the gym's floor, right in front of the stage. And there was some kind of force field around that area, something that rendered all of us invisible to these people. My explanation was one of the first times I'd mentioned Nicky's name willingly in a few years. I said, and I quote:

"Nicky was there. With Dolly. (My note: Dolly was his first wife, not to be confused with his wonderful second wife and widow, Moira. I adore Moira.) They were surrounded by all these sycophants, sipping pina coladas and making cool cool rock and roll chat. They couldn't see us or hear us. They were like exotic animals in some kind of zoo. So we said, fuck it, and we went outside and called a cab and we left."

Maybe I was dreaming of a youth I'd misplaced, remembered not regretted, it never came true, maybe I was dreaming of my own place in the future, maybe I was simply dreaming about you...

I still have the original recording I did, complete with that explanation. The song has evolved into a chunky, not quite funk monster with a nasty intro and a level of "zero fucks to give for this bullshit" to it. It comes complete with fangs for ripping throats and molars for bloodsoaked angry grinding.

You were all posing like elephants for peanuts, strange exotic animals unconscious of our gaze...

The song acknowledges my own part in what happened. But I never cared about the whole backstage rockstar mystique. Dolly, the wife he wouldn't leave, cared about little else. The hangers-on, the fawning wannabes, all of them hoping that having that glitter rub off on them would grant them - credibility, maybe? Fifteen minutes of something? I never have known.

The backstage was gilded like the gates of Heaven, the dream voice was hushed as in a holy place, You sat at a table, and your wings dragged in the ashes, I watched you through distance, I watched you through space...

The instrumental intro was written a couple of years later. It was entirely separate from "Zoo", something Nic and I came up with while just jamming one day, but I recognised it as the perfect intro. In the studio, that run-up to the main event is really about Mark and Henry. When the song kicks into the body of it, the lyric takes over. I was 26 years old when I wrote it. I haven't changed a word since.



IF WE GET LUCKY

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This is, hands down, the dirtiest song I've ever written. I've got one called "Liplock", written for my rock and roll mystery series JP Kinkaid Chronicles, that comes close. But for my money, this one wins the top spot.

Seems to me that it's been too long a time since I left my imprint in the dust on the side of your truck...

"Lucky" is an older woman with an active libido, fixing the man in her life with a long steely stare and saying come on, let's go! Popular mythology postulates men as the oversexed gender. I call bullshit. Men are obsessed with trappings, but when you're limited to an orgasm, or maybe two, at a time, you simply can't claim to be the gender with sex on its mind. Women, now, we're a whole different story; multiple orgasms, open all night.

I've got this itch, why don't you reach on down and scratch...

You'd think men would love that, but weirdly enough, no. While most men say they love women to come on to them, the reality is that many men are terrified of strong women, especially in a sexual situation. I think the real issue here is that men know women don't actually need them for all those lovely orgasms. We can close our eyes, smile, think for a minute, and literally, wham bam. Our body is our playhouse. A lot of men, whether they understand it or not, really find that scary. I can see why.

I wanna make steam, get sticky with sweat, a couple of hours that we'll never forget, just you and me, gettin' dirty and getting loud...

I had the riff for this one in my head as the lyrics were evolving. It's insanely crunchy, meant to evoke the slam and push of hips and groins. Mark, who gives great guitar raunch, took a dirty riff and made it even dirtier. Nic plays the bass like a low orgasmic moan, and Larry's drums and cymbal hits on this one remind me of held breaths. Just what the raunch doctor ordered.

I'm keepin' supper warm between my thighs, if we get lucky maybe the creek won't rise.



CRY FOR MEMORY

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This is the third of the songs triggered by Nicky. It's also the first song I wrote after a long hiatus from music, during which I wrote books instead.

Flashback to 2005. I had just written the first Kinkaid Chronicle, Rock & Roll Never Forgets. The book, narrated by a fictionalised version of my first great love (with a different instrument and a different autoimmune disease), was written in 29 days. When St. Martin's Press bought it, they didn't want one change. It had obviously been sitting there, coalescing just under the skin, waiting for me to be ready to tell the damned story.

The first Kinkaid was about owning your own history, something I'd been unwilling to do out loud for thirty years. And as the book unfolded, a song took shape alongside it.

Cleaning out my closet, cleaning out my heart, I'd clean out my memory, but I don't know where to start...

The music came the day after the lyrics, in the usual spot: the morning shower. Washing my hair, I was humming. The humming became a nice little swing, country by way of LA back when Jackson Browne was just getting started. Music from the canyons, pedal steel, slide guitar.

Once I thought I knew you, once I saved your ass, well I fed your cats and I loved you, love, I believed that we would last.

I hadn't picked up a guitar in a few years. I'd written books instead, several of them, even before that need, to look at the long dead memories, picked up the creative whip and spurred me to write the Kinkaids. Songwriting had stopped being a habit and become one of those regretted memories.

If I had a single wish, just for old times sake, I think I'd take just one more day, a whole clean heart to break...

I was secretive to the point of neurotic about playing this in front of anyone at first. But you reach a point in midlife - in 2005, I was just turning 51 - when the need becomes the biggest thing, then the only thing. Nic picked up his bass and played along with me on it. And there it was.

Maybe someday I can say 'I got it back, and it's okay, you never loved me anyway', one lie for both our sake...

Recording this, both Mark and Vadim felt strongly that, as written, it was too close to a later song on the same theme, "Little Umbrellas". We caved to their desire to "de-Umbrellafy" it for TMOTS; the recorded version is much more pop, more thumpa-thumpa, than the way I initially wrote it and the way the song evolved. The truth is, though, I honestly don't think it's much like "Little Umbrellas", which was written five or so years later. They're similar, but even a tiny change turns them into radically different things. We've let it drift back to a lot closer to its original tap root when we play it live or in band practice. It just feels a truer to how I felt when I wrote it than the version on TMOTS does.

But that thumpa thing makes it feel even more like an alt-country tune, which is one reason I wanted David Lindley playing electric lap steel on this one. I got him, too. He's playing my crappy little $69 Rogue and he makes it sound like the instrument he played for "Running On Empty". Is anyone really surprised? More on the full story about that Rogue when we get to the eleventh song. And the interplay between Henry's matchless piano and what David is doing gives the recorded version a life of its own. Add the full Angel Choir, shades of Nicollette Larsen and Rosie Butler, and the result is vintage Laurel Canyon heartfelt.

...cry for memory.



EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU

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This one's a love song to my bass player.

I don't write many happy songs (does anyone?) This one qualifies, though. Oddly enough, it was written after one of those ridiculous small but lingering marital spats that every couple - yes, every couple - has at some point but usually won't admit to.

Somehow, somewhere, I must have said something you didn't want to hear...

Nic and I have been together a very long time. We have the same birthday: a pair of prickly stubborn Cancerians. We have long memories. If we're not careful, those memories become grudges. There is nothing casual about those grudges, at least not for me. The sting remains forever.

Love can fracture like a young bird's wing, we try so hard not to wreck anything...

Yes, I said a happy song. The lyric is me speaking directly, admitting that, yes, things get said, things get misunderstood, barbs are planted, some of them are still there under the emotional skin. We both have strong language skills, we can both get loud, and we can both get silent. There are moments where the barb plants so deep, it likely won't ever come completely out.

And yet, forty four years after our first meeting (as I write this), here we still are.

The simplest thing can be the hardest one to do, I want to make everything about me work for you.

I don't remember where these lyrics first showed up - in the shower, or at the computer, or simply playing with a mood, a feeling, under my breath. I do remember that I knew what the feel of this was immediately: up-tempo, exuberant, with touches of shadow in the sun, because love should have substance, and substance casts shadows. I think the music holds that quite nicely. It reminds me, just slightly, of the Dead's "Sugar Magnolia".

Breathe out, breathe in. Maybe it's time we did some listening. And every chance we ever took gave us both a shot at a second look.

The first time we played it live was at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley, with Austin DeLone on keys. Next time out, it was Henry, and it kicked the jams straight out. So I knew what I wanted when we tracked it: Henry on keys, and possibly Mister Dave on steel.

But Mark suggested Henry play Wurlitzer, and something odd happened. Except for the beginning of the song, my guitar part - I wrote the damned song, remember - became extraneous. Henry took that Wurli and that song became the Wurli's. The rhythm guitar vanished, unregretted, into the void where lost guitar parts go. The problem was, it still needed a guitar part, just not the one I'd been playing. And since I'd written the entire song, that guitar part was the only thing my fingers wanted to play.

Is there enough water in the seven seas, talk to me babe, you need to tell me, please...

Mark, Guitar Hero, stepped in. I remember sitting in the control room with Mark, Nic, and Vadim at the controls. Mark said, I have an idea. Let me run a riff against the Wurli track. The result was what I'd expect to hear if Richard Thompson was plugged in and playing through a stack of vintage Hiwatt amps: Fairport Convention meets The Who. I damned near fell out of my chair. We all did.

The simplest truth can be the hardest one to see, and the truth is, everything about you works for me.



CRAZY GIRL'S SONG

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These days when I look in the mirror I don't understand what I see. Then I realise there are two pairs of eyes, and both of them staring at me...

I don't know how to talk about this song analytically. I'm not sure I can. I'll do my best. But it comes from a place so deep, so broken, so angry and so terrified that the brain doesn't even come into it. This is me, the young me staring out at the old me. This is age and death and the sound of silent laughter because that part of me doesn't dare cry.

This song is the third one that exists at least partly because the younger me, the crazy girl staring out at me, has never completely relinquished her hold on anything. She is still there, alive in me somewhere, wanting to cry at the unfairness of how things went down. She can't let go of that short spasm of dream time she had, when she loved Nicky Hopkins and he never loved her in return. She never knew why, and she never will. But she can't let go.

One pair belongs to the old woman, with illness and age carved so deep, the other belongs to a girl I once knew, but she only survives in my sleep.

The song is a waltz. Originally, it was one I wanted David on, but it became apparent that the song was developing a life of its own - more craziness, more duality. I'm playing my Rickenbacker 360 12-string, and Henry's piano as is perfect as piano gets. But the vocals here are the real power, the real thrust. The swelling soaring power of the Angel Choir, me singing alone with myself in the verses, the call and cry response in the bridge - it's the voices. This song has the capacity to bury me.

I know I've been luckier than I deserve, as frail and as tired as I seem, the old woman would not trade the ending she got, but the young girl's still caught in the dream.

I recut the vocals on this, not all of it, but parts of it. It's not perfect, because it can't be. The old woman is telling the story, but that terrified broken teenager is not reachable. She is lost, down the rabbit hole, but she never lands. She just keeps falling. So where my voice is shaky, I left it that way. Where I needed to be stronger, I recut to push.

And she wants to go home, will you let her go home, and she needs to go home, will you let her go home, and she begs to go home, will you let her go home? The poor crazy girl's going nowhere.

This is one of the deepest pieces of storytelling I do. She is always there in the mirror, that crazy brokenhearted child, always somewhere in the depths where I can't save her, free her, bring her out into the light. She doesn't want to come out. She's complete within herself and that means that, so long as I can't reach her, I'll never be complete.

The crazy girl sits in the window and sighs, and the memories reflect like the moon in her eyes, she's hoping for answers, she'd settle for lies, too long with her own inner violence, the crazy girl listens to silence.

I don't know how I wrote this song. I don't know how I get through it every time we play it. And I think that's all I can say about it, really.



YOU AND I WILL MEET AGAIN

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This is one of my favourite Tom Petty songs, and as a metaphor for the horror story that is COVID-19, I can think of nothing more perfect or more appropriate. The fact that we laid down the tracks for this in December 2018, over a year before the virus changed everything, occasionally leaves me cold inside. But we did.

You and I will meet again when we're least expecting it, one day in some far-off place, I will recognize your face, I won't say goodbye my friend, for you and I will meet again...

I first heard this as a live cover, done by good friend and fabulous musician Danny Click. His version is very faithful to Petty's original (Into The Great Wide Open, 1991). It hooked me immediately. But from the first time we covered it in practice, I felt it pulling me into a kind of flight. Petty's version of his own song has breaths, both vocal and instrumental, in places where my fingers didn't want to have them. Vocally, this is a very tricky song. It becomes all too easy to find yourself fighting what you're singing, fighting the story the song is telling.

I heard you singing to no one, saw you dancing all alone...

There's an almost spectral quality to Petty's guitar work. Mine wants to fly, spread huge wings; no matter what, it kept coming out with a push and an immediacy to it that isn't part of the original. There was no deliberate moment of "oh, hey, I know, let's try and make this triumphant instead of regretful". It happened organically. Personally, I find moments like that produce the truest end result. It didn't hurt that Nic and Larry both lit up, and found parts with that same sense of uplift, with no hesitation beyond the inevitable fine tuning. Our cover has more air under it, somehow, more light breaking through the clouds. It's not wistful, although the vocal, as befits the story, has moments of deep regret. But even there, the regret feels like a mistake that can and will be remedied.

A red-wing hawk is circling, the blacktop stretches out for days, how could I get so close to you, and still feel so far away?

What makes our version different, I think, is that it's less a statement of hope and reassurance than it is a statement of fact. In our cover, there is no faint doubt anywhere. It's a given. We will meet again.

Mark and Henry, as they are so often on TMOTS, are my heroes. The lead guitarist and piano player for the full lifespan of The Heartbreakers are two of rock's all time greats, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. Mark and Henry manage to bring their own shimmering joyful exuberance to our version, while still evoking and staying true to what The Heartbreakers did on Petty's original. The vocal harmonies on this are entirely me, singing a high part with myself. And boy, do I ever owe Vadim's technical chops on this vocal. He made it happen. He made it work.

I hear a voice come on the wind, saying 'you and I will meet again'...

As we wait for vaccines, for herd immunity, for sweet clear air to breathe and the ability to touch each other again, this song is at once a statement of hope and a statement of fact. I hope we did your amazing song justice, Tom. Nearly thirty years ago, you wrote the perfect anthem for this pandemic.

Someday, all the rules will bend, and you and I will meet again. I don't know how, I don't know when, but you and I will meet again.



WALK

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Warning: This is not a happy or hopeful song.

About the opening couplet, and the theme that runs through the song, weaving 2019 with 1919: That year, William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called "The Second Coming", about the rise of fascism in post-WW1 Europe. The poem also connects back to the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. Yeats saw this coming. We're dealing with replays of both nightmares a century later. I find his prescience terrifying.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer

I've been fiercely political for over fifty years. As a woman in a society run, and ruined, by a largely white patriarchy, I never had the privilege of not being political. It was either know what they were likely to do to me, or go under. I opted for knowledge. It's hard work at times, but if my other option is being crushed and discarded, I'll work as hard as I need to.

I open the song with the opening couplet from Yeats' apocalyptic poem. A gyre is a vortex. The faster it spins from the base, the wider it gets at the top. The noise generated by the gyration is so loud that anything trapped inside is unable to hear anything outside. The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

For me, this was the perfect metaphor for what happened to America in 2016. Both extremes, left and right, made so much noise that that noise was all they could hear. Nothing from outside could penetrate. The polarising effect of all that deafening political rhetoric ripped the country in half. Had the aforementioned white patriarchy and their followers not considered "compromise" a dirty word, the past four years (I write this in December 2020) would have looked very different. It takes the most dedicated idiocy imaginable to push the false equivalence narrative that proclaims otherwise.

Okay. To the song itself.

The rusted screen door hanging loose in the breeze will give no protection at all against the coming freeze/ Summer has died, the autumn moves in, we brace for a war against winter we can never win

"Walk" is a waltz, given an eerie beauty by the full Angel Choir whenever turning and turning in the widening gyre is repeated. Everything else in the song, I wrote. I didn't so much craft this lyric as throw my head back and howl. The visual was there, in my head: the flapping screen door, not even able to keep the flies out, much less the jackals or the jackboots. I don't remember how quickly or slowly this lyric happened. But it happened.

Please don't suggest that we meet on the ledge, for my feet are already too close to the edge and the roadway is crumbling into the abyss, I don't understand how it came down to this

It's hard to parse my own contempt for the laziness that votes for bumper-stickers and catchy slogans. My rage at the cluelessness of enabling a fascist presidency and then lecturing me to resist, as if those lecturing are blameless, is something the lyric makes clear.

All the hashtags and slogans are written in chalk, they wash away in the first rain - and I walk.

This is a 21st century song about fascism, about unleashing darkness and malevolence through obstinacy and a tried and true recipe of the populism that worked so well a century ago. We do have a few demons in our mix today that Yeats didn't have - climate change, for instance:

The temperatures rise as the sea levels lift, and everything we ever wanted has been set adrift.

A lot of the anger in this song is born of exhaustion. I'm 66 years old, in what a legendary writer friend, himself over 80, refers to as "the small end of our lives". I've been fighting these battles since my teenaged years.

Please don't suggest that we meet at the bend, for the road that we travelled is reaching its end, I am tired of listening to myself cry, 'you have stolen my world, you have taken my sky'.

I wanted David Lindley on this, even if he played on nothing else. I'd been hearing the deep, archaic voice of the oud, giving it a middle eastern undertone - the poem itself evokes that. But during the session, he held up my $69 Rogue lap steel and said "The oud? Because I think THIS THIS THIS". It had never even occurred to me. Of course he was right.

We got him set up. He ran his hands over the strings and everyone in the studio basically fell over sideways in disbelief. In David's hands, that cheap plank of wood with its replaced pickup sounded exactly like David's legendary tone for Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty". If I ever needed proof that it's the player, not the instrument, I got it. And what David plays has to be heard to be understood. A verbal description won't do it. The only word that works is "unearthly".

Two other elements take this song to another level. One of them is Henry's piano part, a mixture of quiet burbling stream and biblical-level flood. The other is the Angel Choir. Passion and power and sweetness and something to clench the base of your spine - I love these voices, these women, so much.

The foundation's rotten, there's blood in the caulk

I cling to this life like a bug on a stalk

All the hashtags and slogans are written in chalk

They wash away in the first rain - and I walk.

David said to me, that day in the studio, "You wrote a great song." I'll take that. I'll take that any day of the week.



ROOF FALLING IN

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After the howling maelstrom of "Walk", TMOTS ends with a miraculous piano and a series of soft plaintive questions.

Does it come across backwards? Have I been here before?Have I misplaced the three small stars that I kept for the luck of your kingdom?

"Roof Falling In" was written in the early 1980s. I was, at that point in time, acknowledging that I had fallen in love with my bass player. The song is me wondering aloud if it was real, if there was any hope or air or space or room for where we seemed to be heading. I was also acknowledging to myself my own belief that my first great love had cared so little, he'd likely forgotten I existed the minute the door closed behind me. To say my confidence had been destroyed is like saying Antarctica is cold. There was some serious heartbreak behind those doubts. The scars were earned.

Have I scratched my name on your memory's door? Is the roof falling in?

I had almost forgotten this song's existence. Looking at the lyric a few years ago, after not thinking about it for over thirty years, I was floored at how clearly the lyrics reflected the doubts:

Are you saint? Am I sinner? Am I too sick to think? Have we fallen so low, there's nowhere to sink? Is the roof falling in?

I wish I remembered anything at all about writing this one. I remember us playing it, I remember a few different versions of it back in the day, but that's all, really. So the bridge startles me, in just how much I was not ducking away from why I needed to know if where we were going was going to be real or not.

The plaster's peeling, I'm shiny with scars, I'm weaving through piles of wires and legs, tripping over guitars...

In the studio, we actually recorded a full band version of this, which will likely be a bonus track on whatever we do for a third release (and there will be one). But Vadim wanted to hear what the song would sound like with just the piano and my vocal. The result was the perfect way to follow the thunder and scream of "Walk": quiet in the dark, calm at the end of this moment of the storm.

There is light at the end of this tunnel. And we will all of us meet again.