Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.



slash and burn


You oldsters will remember this old Cat Stevens song. Mr. Matthews does it proud. May have to add this song to my set list.

the guitar

Come sit by the fire. I have a story to tell.

Ok, so it’s Verlon Thompson’s story. And Guy Clark’s.

there will be bad times, brother

shutterstock_224292622 for web

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom,
neither shall fruit be in the vines;
the labor of the olive shall fail,
and the fields shall yield no meat;
the flock shall be cut off from the fold,
and there shall be no herd in the stalls.”

Do you hear me? Do you understand? There will be bad times, brother.
In my eighty-one years, you better believe I’ve had them.
Three years ago I lost Nita.
We’re supposed to get wiser as we get older, and I guess I have.
Even so, loss is hard and lonely.

Here’s what I know.
Listen, now.

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet,
and he will make me walk upon mine high places.”

I didn’t always know that.
When you’re young, you think the fig will always bloom.
You think there will always be fruit on the tree and cattle in the stalls.
Now don’t be thick-headed. You know what I mean. Even if you’re young, you know what I’m saying.

But this isn’t my story. It’s Trevor’s.
Trevor for sure didn’t know.
To this day, I don’t know if he’s taken hold of the truth.
It’s not profitable for a man to express his faith in these days, and when you’re young like Trevor, you’re not inclined to go against everything the world says is right.
One has to be tried, tested, and hardened by fire.

That boy.
He’s a remarkable boy.

— Maxfield Martin

copyright 2016, joseph e bird, from the novel A Prayer for Rain

This is how you write.

Joe Higginbotham was a great writer.  In 2010 he wrote a piece about his father, who had just passed away.  In doing so, he not only managed to tell us what was special about Emery Higginbotham, but he also took us inside the world of professional music and back in time to the British Invasion of the 1960s.  It’s timely, inasmuch as we are currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

If you want to know what good writing looks like, click the link below.

Emery Higginbotham

The New Mastersounds

jazz fusion from the UK, The New Mastersounds


I haven’t dropped any music lately, so let me tell you about two of my recent discoveries.

First is the Mahogany Sessions, stripped down acoustic music by various artists, mostly in a moody or melancholy style. It’s good for late-night listening or when you’re in one of those moods. This evening might be right.

There’s an interesting story about how I found out about Josh Garrels, but I’m not going to tell you right now. Here’s one of his songs from the Mahogany Sessions. Just put in your earbuds and groove to the vibe.

Twenty two minutes.

guitar 2-6-16 for web

AT FIFTEEN MINUTES PAST TEN the next morning, the news site flashed a red banner across the top of the screen announcing a plane crash in Texas. He clicked the link and saw that it was a commuter flight from Houston to Dallas. He would not have been shocked if it had been their flight. That’s how life worked, it seemed.

Witnesses reported a giant fireball. He looked at his disfigured left hand and touched the side of his face and felt the scars.  He knew the agony they would have to endure if there were survivors, but that was unlikely.

If you want to know a man, know his pain.

It was one of dozens of quotes he had heard in his freshman literature class at the University of Tennessee, but the only one that stuck with him. For obvious reasons.

At the time, the physical pain he had endured was still fresh and still issuing reminders that his body had been greatly traumatized. During the months of recovery he had put on the brave face and carried a resolute disposition. And then the real pain began. The isolation. The guilt that never quite seemed to leave him.

If you want to know a man, know his pain.

He closed the internet browser.

He was supposed to be compiling demographic data to be used in establishing the housing ratios for the Renaissance project, but his thoughts were elsewhere. Loss. Grief. Dani. His own desolation.

He opened a new document and closed his eyes as he let his emotions speak to him.

He felt the rhythm first. A slow, three-four time. His body swayed slightly, his eyes still closed. Then music. The chords. On the down beat.

He opened his eyes, his fingers on the computer keyboard.

At first, random words: Pain. Loneliness. Her smile. Her eyes.

Then they began to find order.

Bring me back
from the dark of night,

Let me feel
love in your light.

He wished he had his guitar. He wrote a chord progression, not sure if it was really what he wanted. A melody started to form in his head and he wrote to it.

More random thoughts filled the page. He wrote quickly, trying to capture the mood without losing the music. A chorus. More words altered the mood and he heard the change in the tune that would comprise the bridge. There were typos all over the page but he didn’t dare interrupt the flow. More words. The last verse. And the chorus again.

He read from beginning to end. He closed his eyes and let it sink in.

Then again from the beginning, this time singing softly.

Then he scrolled back to the top of the page and wrote: Bring Me Back, by Trevor Larson.

It had taken him twenty-two minutes.

You Gotta Move, he sang.

This is the way it was meant to be played.

Parker Millsap.

He’s coming to play at the levee in Charleston on June 20th.

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