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Joseph E Bird

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songwriting

melancholy morning

it’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Songwriter Lesson:

take a look at the second line of that verse.
it’s too long. the rhythm is off. it’s grammatically incorrect.
and he has to drag it out to make it work.
so what.
he’s just telling the story. the way it is.

will the circle be unbroken

I just finished watching a 16-hour documentary, Ken Burns’ Country Music.

I didn’t want it to end.

My music of choice has been rock and roll. Rhythm and blues. Funk. Soul. Classical. Americana. Roots. Never country. Almost never.

There was my Dwight Yoakam period. Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music. He was so country and old-school, he was hip.

Not long after that, Johnny Cash teamed up with Rick Rubin and produced American Recordings. Cash was old, the production bare, stripped down to Cash’s raspy, but still strong voice singing Nine Inch Nails and gospel and old folk songs. One of my favorite albums of all time.

I knew a little about Hank Williams. Hear that lonesome whippoorwill, he sounds too blue to fly. Williams died in Oak Hill, West Virginia.

Kathy Mattea was born just a few miles from where I was.

And somehow I knew that the music I listen to now, The Avett Brothers, Tyler Childers, Parker Milsap, has its roots in country music.

And then there’s this whole songwriting thing I’ve been tinkering with.

So when I heard about the Ken Burns film, I knew I was going to watch it from beginning to end.

And here’s the thing. Yes, it’s about music. There are beautiful voices, virtuoso instrumental performances, showmanship and charisma. But also performers who wouldn’t make the first cut in today’s made-for-tv singing competitions. Modest talent. Three chords and the truth. The truth being what it’s really all about. Triumph and joy, but more often struggle and heartbreak. Stories set to music. No achy-breaky heart. More like Roseanne Cash singing I Still Miss Someone at her father’s memorial.

If you’re a writer, you’ll find inspiration in the film. If you’re a songwriter, you should be required to watch it. It features some of the best songwriters ever.

I’m so lonesome I could cry. – Hank Williams

I’d trade all my tomorrows, for one single yesterday. – Kris Kristoferson

I’m crazy for trying, crazy for crying,
and I’m crazy for loving you. – Willie Nelson

Go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done.
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son. – Vince Gill

I think I may be the only who saw it. Every time I try to start a conversation about it, seems like no one else has watched it.

Have you? If not, you can still watch the entire film online. Click the link below.

https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/country-music/

carnival dreams

you said you’d be pleased
to walk by my side
to breathe the night air
maybe go for a ride

so we walk down the shore
toward the music and light
with your hand in mine
feeling good, feeling right

then we stop for a drink
sipping cola on ice
and watch the wheel roll
and a toss of the dice

the carousel goes ’round
with the kids holding tight
never wanting to fall
but knowing they might.

*

and we’re walking the midway
the music is playing
and I’m wishing tomorrow
that you would be staying

my time here with you
is not what it seems
everything that I hope for
is a carnival dream

*

the smell of food fills the air
and it’s prodding my hunger
and your laugh fills my ear
makes me wish I was younger

i’d ask you to stay
to let go of tomorrow
let’s chart our own course
we’ll beg, steal, or borrow.

but our time is just this
cotton candy this eve
a quick kiss goodnight
and then you will leave

i’ll awake all alone
in the morning’s first light
and remember our time
in the carnival night

*

and we’re walking the midway
the music is playing
and I’m wishing tomorrow
that you would be staying

but my time here with you
is not what it seems
everything that I hope for
is a carnival dream


copyright 2018, joseph e bird
.

First Aid Kit

Here’s how these things work in the ultra-connected world of blogging.

A couple of weeks ago I posted an audio video of my cousin’s 1968 recording of his song Heather Girl. Across the pond, fellow runner and music lover Saoirse listened to Heather Girl and asked if I had ever heard First Aid Kit.  Good timing on her question. Yesterday they were on CBS This Morning.

Thanks, Saoirse.

tomorrow will come

sid-on-porch-for-web

tomorrow will come, and i’ll sing an old song
and think of the day, that the words came along
i didn’t know then, that song was my last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast

tomorrow will come, and i’ll look toward the sun
and remember the spring, when i went for a run
i didn’t know then, that it was my last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast.

so remember the day, of all that was good
when youth was forever, we’d play when we would
remember the day, of life with no fears
tomorrow is coming, and with it the tears

.

tomorrow will come, and i’ll think of my friend
and read all the words, that he took time to send
i didn’t know then, that they were his last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast

tomorrow will come, and i’ll hear her sweet voice
and laugh at her jokes, her spirit rejoice
i didn’t know then, that her smile was her last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast

so remember the day, of our one last good time
when I touched your face, and your hand held mine
remember the day, and when we would dance
for tomorrow is coming, leave nothing to chance


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

on the brink

talk that is shocking with mocking and hawking
they say what they will, and neither one’s balking
cross over this line, i ain’t gonna blink
so much to lose, with war on the brink

minds that know all and know all to be
tell us what’s best, ‘cause we just can not see
your way is right, and there’s no other way
my voice must be silenced, i can’t even pray

.

so sing me a song
of the girl with the smile
whose laugh will stay with me
and linger a while

sing me a song
of our walk on the shore
i’ll think of her touch
and worry no more

.

fear that is chilling with a spirit unwilling
to stand for what’s right, and stop all the killing
the innocent too, will fall to their fate
because even the good, they must desecrate

hate that is righteous and noble and pure
just ‘cause you say it, does not reassure
love is a concept you can’t comprehend
and meek is a virtue that you won’t condescend

.

so sing me a song
of the girl with the smile
whose laugh will stay with me
and linger a while

sing me a song
of our walk on the shore
i’ll think of her touch
and worry no more


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

when you’re here

when you’re here
the world becomes so quiet
and we just can’t deny it
we’re meant for evermore

your voice
sounds like an angel choir
and takes me so much higher
than i ever could before

since you
found me
on that day

,

your touch
sends my heart to racing
when we are embracing
my feelings i can’t hide

please smile
and i’ll know that together
no storm we can not weather
if you’ll be by my side

since you
found me
on that day
,

so stay
we’ll laugh beneath the moonlight
and dance until the daylight
falls gently on your smile

we’ll live
and think not of tomorrow
when parting brings our sorrow
let’s love a little while

,

since you
found me
on that day

your love
is with me
every day


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

the girl from the bakery

tripping down the sidewalk
in the lower part of town
going to the guitar store
my e-string’s come unwound

a tune is humming in my head
for words i’ve yet to write
and then i see you through the glass
all dressed in bakers white

ohhh mercy sakes alive
look what you’ve gone and done
my breathing don’t come easy
when i see you making buns

i slow my steps and strain to look
without giving it a thought
i see you, and you see me
i know that i’ve been caught

maybe i should walk on by
be a gentleman this day
the heck with that, i’ll take a chance
this boy, he came to play

ohhh mercy sakes alive
you be messing with my head
i don’t think i can stand it
when I see you knead the bread

your hair is pulled back in a net
there’s flour everywhere
you glance at me and roll the dough
i barely take in air

you got that look that speaks to me
and yeah, i speak to you
together we can bake all day
have our cake, and it eat, too

ohhh mercy sakes alive
when the rolls comes from the oven
my legs are weak, can’t wait to eat,
but it’s you, oh girl, i’m lovin’


copyright 2017, joseph e bird


Editor’s Note: In his Noble Prize acceptance speech, Bob Dylan said his work is meant to be sung, that it’s not complete as a simple rhyming poem.  Same here with my so-called songs. Of course I ain’t no Robert Zimmerman, but I am, in fact, fooling around with music for these little ditties. Someday I may present them as fully imagined. Probably not, but you never know.

almost heaven

tree for web

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.

Take Me Home, Country Roads, the signature hit of John Denver, was adopted by my home state, in part because of the first line of the song, Almost Heaven, West Virginia, but also because the spirit of the song is about coming home to the country roads we all love so much.  West Virginians are scattered all over the world, but the mountains seem to have an irresistible pull that tells us we should have been home yesterday.

But let’s talk about the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River.  In truth, both of those geographic features, even though they cross the border into West Virginia, are better known as Virginia landmarks. But let’s call it the songwriter’s artistic license.

It’s easy to understand how the Blue Ridge Mountains could inspire Denver and his co-songwriters.  It’s a relatively short drive from my home to the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most beautifully scenic highways in America.

Overlooks are everywhere.  It’s an incredible sight to see the mountains fade into the horizon miles and miles away.  Picturesque trees are works of art waiting to be painted. Rustic barns, quaint cottages, and chairs on the hillside make you want to slow down and take it all in.  And at the end of every day is the perfect sunset.

blueridge sunset

Here’s another truth.

Though the Blue Ridge Mountains are part of Virginia, there are places just as spectacular all over West Virginia.  So much so, that we tend to take them for granted. The sunset picture above could have been taken in my back yard. A mountain top view is minutes away.  Babbling brooks and rivers winding through the forest are within an easy bike ride.  It’s the stuff that inspires artists and poets.

Almost heaven, West Virginia.

 

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