Here is a rough mix of a new song that may or may not show up on THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE. The chord changes during the “hook” are pretty much identical to what happens in another song that also may or may not show up on the album. What it’s going to come down to is which song fits in better than the other. ‘Cause we can’t have both of them hanging around. Only one can survive.
There’s nothing unusual going on with this one. Just a pretty simple song with a pretty restrained vocal performance, driven by the lyrics more than anything. It’s got a certain lazy mid-tempo lilt to it that I like, though. And I like how the words work their way toward something that could pass for tenderness, only to double back for a supremely bitter final verse. It’s fun to sing something venomous while treating it as if it were something sweet.
I don’t think there’s a single rhyme in there, either. I need to get back into writing more lyrics that break away from any kind of rhyming scheme. Things get a lot more interesting when you don’t have that option to fall back on.
One thing that’s different here — the acoustic guitar was recorded with a Pearlman TM-250 microphone. I bought that beast in 2010 while working on MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART. I used it on my voice for four songs on that album, and then I didn’t use it at all for a long time.
It’s not that it isn’t a great microphone. I was just set in my ways, I guess. The TM-1 is probably going to be my go-to vocal microphone until i die, and the TM-LE has become something of a swiss army knife everywhere else. It never really occurred to me to try using this pretty-looking new microphone when I already felt I had all my bases covered with my other mics.
Some months back I fired up the neglected TM-250 just for fun. It had probably been almost two years since I even turned the power supply on. I tracked acoustic guitar and some hyper-compressed backup vocals for a song, and I was a little gobsmacked by how good it sounded. I’ve gone on to use this mic more over the last few months than I did in all of the the two years I owned it before then. Now it’s another tool to add to the belt. Figuratively speaking.
I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating — Dave Pearlman makes great microphones. The ones I have are a serious part of whatever production sound or sonic identity I’ve developed over the past few years. As I continue to get better at what I do the microphones almost seem to grow along with me. Even if I won the lottery tomorrow and could buy all the expensive vintage microphones I wanted, those Pearlman mics wouldn’t be going anywhere. I think they’re friends for life.
Another thing that’s different about this song is the acoustic guitar I used. Last summer I mentioned selling my 1983 Martin D-35. I liked that guitar, and I try to avoid selling equipment unless I know I’m never going to use it again, but money was tight at the time. I needed to buy supplies so I could get GIFT FOR A SPIDER packaged.
In a classic example of not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone, it didn’t hit me how much I would miss the guitar until it wasn’t around anymore. I always meant to replace it with something comparable, if not the exact same thing.
Earlier this year I did replace the D-35…with something completely different. There were a few guitars at Folkway that were near-identical to the one I sold. For some reason they just didn’t do it for me. They didn’t have the same something extra my D-35 had. Mark and Rich pointed out a new Martin 000-15 they were fond of, I gave it a try, and within a few minutes I realized I didn’t want to put it down. It was around half the price of the other guitars I tried, which was another nice surprise.
So I left with a guitar that was a very different creature from what I thought I was after.
When I got home, I found I didn’t like the sound of it anymore. It was way too bright for me. I think the culprit was a set of new strings added during the final setup. New guitar strings and I have never been friends. I had a hard time finding the motivation to play a guitar that didn’t really inspire me anymore. At the same time, I knew it was only going to open up if I broke it in. So I played it as often and as aggressively as I could.
I’m happy to say it didn’t take long before the excessive brightness went away and a much more pleasing voice developed in its place. It doesn’t sound like the same guitar anymore, and I haven’t had it for much more than half a year. It started out in standard tuning. Then i dropped it into a slight variation on dropped D, and it’s stayed there ever since.
The 000-15 is all-mahogany, like my 1945 00-17, but there’s a very different feeling to it. At first it seemed like an instrument made for finger-picking. It took a little time for enough richness to develop that strumming sounded just as good. But it got there.
I’m looking forward to hearing how the tone continues to mature over time. So far I’ve written about twenty finished songs on this guitar, along with a few dozen other things that range from fleshed-out sketches that just need lyrics to ideas that have yet to grow into proper songs.
This is one of those finished songs.
Someone else’s medicine
leaking out of the corners of my mouth.
The taste of almonds and burning bread.
No scent, but the vaguest of feelings
that all is not as it should be.
I’ll peel back my skull with the teeth you have given me
and find nobody home.
This is not my tale to tell.
It’s better left in the hands of another,
unafraid to desecrate all I hold dear
in an effort to wrestle
meaning from that which resists meaning anything.
Parse blood from the throat of a bloodless twist of fate
given something to read,
and so something to say.
I hope the voice is strong and clear
without tipping over,
without growing arrogant.
A voice that will sit with you in the dark
and cradle you gently
and rock you to sleep
with its effortless enunciation,
kissing the words I have placed on its gossamer lips
And I hope this ending leaves you feeling cheated,
with no one to curl up next to,
just you and your deepest disappointments
alone in the dark.