Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Grandmother Tree

'The Grandmother Tree', from AppleBlossom, has a dreamy, child-like feel to it, of two innocent, pre-adolescent children who, attracted to each other but having not yet bitten Eden's apple, would rather go play in the meadow on a lazy summer day than make-out in the barn.

Adam fishin' on Presque Isle, Erie, PA
In some ways, it makes you wish that our horny hormones were never invented.  But then again, if that were the case, I suppose there wouldn't be any children around to go play in the meadow, would there.

Adam, I love your vocals, guitar work, and easy rhythm in this song.  And Sam, I love your understated drumming.  Beautiful work here.  It reminds me a lot of 'Magnolia Moon', from Seals and Crofts' Takin' It Easy album, always one of my favorite (though mostly unknown) songs.

If you want, I will marry you
Once we both turn eighteen.
But you just laugh and run off
to the Grandmother Tree
In your bare feet.

There you swing underneath her tree
I can see your hair blowing.
Stars and tears are the same for me tonight
Yeah, their coming out bright.

I strip down to my barefeet
and wrap my arms around yours.
If you want, I will marry you tonight
while things are alright.

I call out to the Nightingale
and lap up the evening stream.
Watch over her as she wears her veil
watch over us we sing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hold Here

'Hold Here', from Houses, speaks of the consolation and love that can be found with family (or at least a family where love has managed to survive the ravages of time).  However, to get the full impact of 'Hold Here', you need to have listened to the previous track 'Uphill and Downhill', which of course is not a song at all, but a recording of Adam's grandmother 'Noni' describing what it was like to experience her father's death when she was just a teenager.

This song reminds me of Cat Stevens' Wind, in its originality, sensitivity, and quiet spirituality.  (Trivia: did you know that Cat Stevens was also part Swedish?)

If you're part of a family (whether 'blood' or not) who can hold each other to sooth, console, and help heal the inevitable wounds of life, you are a very lucky person.

Hold here, close to me
How often do we get to meet?
Your brother and your sister know
When you come here
I wish you'd never go, away.

My hands hurt, my love is dead
You broke up with your last boyfriend.
You know how we both hurt so
Just hold here and
I swear it will go, away.

So come back, even if you're well
I'll hold you here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lipsynching Life

Friday night (or Saturday) is often movie night for us, so what better day to listen to 'Lip Synching' from the Croakies album.

This song seems to be about the price that has to be paid for a shot at stardom in our American celebrity culture.  For every star or starlet who 'makes' it, there are thousands who start climbing that celebrity ladder, only to fall off (or be kicked off) before they make it very far.

But beware!  The water in that ocean is full of sharks and other predators who are more than willing, indeed eager, to take a big bite out of the innocent young 'things' who flock to that place of dreams.

Fool me once, fool me a second time
"You should know us you should know our work"
But I'm a dunce, I've been missing lines
"Here's a word that we don't think should hurt"

You should leave, no you shouldn't stay
"Who'd be here to pump you up tonight?
You're living life you're an advertisement."
But you place the price out of sight!

I was believing you. All of you.

Where's my car? Where's my skinny jeans?
"Business has it's ups and downs you see?
You've got your looks, your pretty face"
Well ain't it enough to want them to want me.

You know I was lip synching life
Cause I was believing you
You know I was lip synching love
Cause I was believing you
You know I was lip synching it all
Cause I was believing you, all of you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

8th St. Mother's House

APL has a way of hitting you right in the gut (or 'solar plexus', as we used to say when I was young) when you least expect it...with his music, of course.  I'm talking now about '8th St. Mother's House' from the Houses album.

While it sounds like just a jaunty, playful little tune about nothing much at all, this is actually one of Adam's most profound compositions.  (I think I keep saying that about every song!)
Preacher for the Week at Topsail Beach, 1987

This song is about time, and memories, and life passing.  It feels like it's about me at age 60, looking back at all the life I've lived (and with much less in front of me than behind me).  When I'm standing at my computer, scanning boxes of our pictures from decades past, these lyrics are speaking directly to me: "Remember it well, remember it well.  But the older that you are, the more those memories carve your life away."

The word 'poignant' comes to mind.  This is definitely a poignant song, as in 'evoking a keen sense of emotion, especially sadness.'  But it's not just sadness, because with memories there is (or should be) gratitude and pleasure as well.  Hopefully, that's what memories do for us.  But I'll admit that it's a mixture for me these days.

Writing the other day on this blog about the Castle, built by Hedgie and Tom Dean and the scene of many of our best family memories, was a poignant moment for me, because it was sold some years ago and is no longer in the family.  It's just a memory now.
I remember the chain
That locked up the front door
And blocked the bay-front window.
I remember the feeling that
a memory is all I'd have.
Same thing with my family home in Pennsylvania where I was raised: sold (actually, under contract as I write), gone now, only a memory, along with most everything else from that time of my life, including most of the people. 

But that's our life as mortals, is it not.  Each moment we live in the present quickly becomes only a memory, like the grains of sand passing through the hour glass, going from the top to the bottom.  But unlike a physical hourglass, we can't turn our lives over and start it running again.

Perhaps here's the lesson I would take from '8th St. Mother's House':  Cherish the moments as you live them, and then cherish the memories you make of those moments.

And also take lots of pictures!!

I remember it well,
the cat on the front porch of your 8th st. mother's house.
You gave me the front door, a sip of you lemonade.
You said it was homemade. No, I saw the powder there.
But I didn't care.

All the old days, cause the current age to race away.

I remember it well:
The old grand piano, that played through the bay-front window.
The blue-satin pillow, that held your hair so well.
Your Grandmother Willow, that never would stand still.

All the old days, cause the current age to race away.

Remember it well, Remember it well
But the older that you are,
the more those memories carve your life away.

I remember the chain
That locked up the front door
And blocked the bay-front window.
I remember the feeling that
a memory is all I'd have.
As though I was peeling towards,
The core of life that's so sad
It's so sad.

That all the old days, cause the current age to race away.

All the old days, cause the current age
The older that you are,
the more those memories carve your life away.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


APL's first song on Ancient Tune, 'Unbound', has all the signature APL characteristics: an opening recording of natural outdoor sounds, a very catchy beat after the spoken/sung intro, complex lyrics, layered background vocals and some unusual instrumentation.  As to the latter, I particularly like the (what we used to call back in my day) 'Moog synthesizer' sound halfway through the song.  I first remember hearing something like that when the British group Emerson, Lake and Palmer came to Thiel College for a concert.  The endings of their hit songs ('Lucky Man' and 'From the Beginning') typically had that wild synthesizer sound.  I still have those two songs as mp3s on my computer.

Mary Beth, Sarahbeth, and Adam in the Kitchen
The only instrument that Adam normally doesn't himself play on these recordings is the drums, for which he relies upon his friend Sam Huff.  How in the world he puts down all of these layers of instrumentation and vocals, one after the other, is beyond me.  Indeed, it is a complicated craft all in itself, separate and apart from the playing of each instrument or singing each part, let alone the original composition of the song. 

Like the weaving of fine cloth, it is.  Or cooking a delicious meal, perhaps. And definitely worthy of admiration and aural delight.

A window is open wide
A Sunshine car tells me why he’s alive with his horn
He says he was born to wander dated streets
The same reason that created me
I guess we were bound to meet

I’m letting life take a page
I’ve learned that love is more than just building a cage for your hearts
But when you’re apart from that love you have
A set of shoulders and a sturdy back
Can’t keep you from feeling sad

I’ve strayed far away, so far away

And one day the sun won’t shine
He’ll say it’s cause he has not near enough time for himself
And when his wealth comes from that energy
He’s pumping out for you and me
He can well afford a day of sleep

I might be a man of dreams
I might search above all the practical things in life
Like a climber who’ll reach a peak
Knowing there’s nothing else to seek
I might come back down quite readily

I strayed far away, so far away

So I buried in them hills
A tin of gold with the requisite skills to life
And on a quiet night I burned the map
thinking there was no need for that
Cause my baby you know she’s got my back

Don’t walk away, I’ve got your back

I strayed far away, so far away
But I’ll come down unbound, unbound

I’m coming down, unbound

Monday, April 4, 2011

This Tin Roof

In a way that I don't really understand, a songwriter is often able to tell a complete story within the confines of a couple of verses, and then write music to go along with it, all of which evokes incredible feeling and pathos.  That's the case, I think, with 'This Tin Roof' from the Houses album.

Sarahbeth, Adam, and Nathan in the Rockies
This song is about a love that is lost, due to the inability of the loser to 'speak'  love.  It tells of a soul that is so isolated by thick layers of  self, that it remains impervious, withered, and  'dry' to love's moistening and enlivening 'rain', which it effectively keeps out.

'This Tin Roof' is a sad song, and ultimately a tragic one, because this soul, despite its knowledge of its self-imposed exile from the realm of love, is never able to make the decision to break down the barriers that keep love away.  And it therefore dies 'alone', a powerful form of hell on earth.

It has been said that the artist is a prophet to culture, bringing a message of truth and wisdom to its time, or at least shining a revealing light on culture's true condition, and I think that's true.  If that is the case with this song, I think the message for our time might be this: the true Love that our humanity needs requires an intention and willingness to move beyond the thick layers of protective selfhood that can develop in a person, into a shared, unselfish, and just plain risky, interpersonal mutuality of adoration, commitment, and communication. 

In our world of impersonal sexual encounters, mindless intoxication, and a pervasive and stubborn refusal to totally commit to the wellbeing and care of another person, this song is a reminder of both the tragic costs of such personal narcissism, as well as the ultimate benefits and blessings of true Love.

You wrote your letter the day you were married
and sent it to me
It said you were happy, happy there with him
But you would never forget me

The rain comes, the rain comes, the rain comes down outside

When love is shared I keep it unspoken
And I lose it
But it's easy for me in this fortress unbroken
I'm tired of it

The rain comes, the rain comes, the rain comes down outside

This roof keeps, this roof keeps, this roof keeps me dry inside

It's all, It's all I can do
I know, I know, I know
To keep the rain from soaking me through
I'm alone, alone, alone

I'll stay alone, alone, alone

The rain comes, the rain comes, the rain comes down outside

This roof keeps, this roof keeps, this roof keeps me dry inside

I'll write my letter, the day I am dying
but you'll never get it
And you stay there with him
Happy and breathing
And never regret it.
Ps. Click on the picture above, for an incredible closeup of a beautiful mountain landscape (and three beautiful people)!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Breathe in the Good Days

I have the perfect APL song for this Lord's Day: 'Breathe in the Good Days', on Ancient Tune.

There is a metaphysical/spiritual/religious--call it what you will--side of Adam that comes to expression occasionally in a song, and it perfectly captures, both in lyrics and music, a basic spiritual principle of life.  In the case of this song, I would say that the spiritual principle being expressed is 'faith'.

Adam and his loving big brother Nathan
"Everything is under control" is the basic refrain that is repeated several times in several different ways.  In other words, this reality we experience in life is not a chaotic void or merely a product of random chance, but rather it is, behind all the more superficial appearances and beyond all the real pain and tragedy, a 'uni'-verse that is harmonious and good and beautiful, because it is ultimately under the control of a 'good God'.

In this song, Adam begins with a gorgeous acapella vocal that sends my soul soaring.  It has a 'holy' quality to it, as if it were being sung in a beautifully resonant sanctuary.  It reminds me a little of the eucharistic responses that I used to sing behind the altar, during our services of Holy Communion in the churches I served in Highlands, Morganton, and Lexington.

Adam's music wouldn't normally be thought of as 'Christian' or 'Praise' music.  But this song is, in my opinion, a beautiful and faithful musical expression of the perennial religious vision of humanity.

Breathe in the good days, Breathe out the bad
Your problems will dissipate fast
I know you can make it
You won’t have to fake it
Everything is under control

If a good god has got us, you’ll see what I mean
When trusting is slippery but it’s free
I know you can handle it
but if you need to take a candle to it, you’ll see
Everything is under control

Let’s culminate and generate
Let’s fall in love and stimulate
I glimpsed the goodness in you
Let’s burn the light through the night
Kiss me ‘cause it’s only right
that I touch that beauty in you
You’ve got all you need

Pebbles are my body, water is your soul
We’ve made it, so rivers can flow
There’s no disaster that we won’t look at after
as a waterfall that was under control

Let’s culminate and generate
Let’s fall in love and stimulate
I glimpsed the goodness in you
Let’s burn the light through the night
Kiss me ‘cause it’s only right
that I touch that beauty
I hold that beauty
That I glimpse that beauty in you
You’ve got all you need
and all I need too.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Snorkling with Obama (A Dream)

Today is Saturday and that means fun!  So I wanted to post an APL song that is pure fun.  And that would be 'Snorkling with Obama (A Dream)', from The Croakies album.  (Get ready for some fun!)

Adam and Cousin Tim Doing Their Thing
 This song, especially at the end, has always reminded me a little of Barry Manilow, performing 'Copacobana' on stage, with his feathered boases just flying!  And the beginning takes me back to Highlands and The Best CD in the World, and the 'Potato Farmer Oratorio', which has always been one of my favorite songs for its wild zaniness. 

The question you have to ask is: did somebody slip something into Adam's drink before he wrote this song?  Or was he just spending too much time with his cousin Tim?

One more thing: if you don't happen to like Obama, don't worry about it, because this song has absolutely nothing to do with Obama, that I can tell!

Various dream dialogue

I have every word of it, I have every word written down
just in case you come to cop that dream from me


Oh, say where we going?
Take me the center of this dreamscape
Happy time's much more pleasant
in the present landscape
where the kangaroos, the cockatoos, Maya Angelou
all reading from the pages of the National Review.

Come again another night.

We got in the car and left the Italian Villa behind us, turned on the radio and there was some strange progressive folk on.
Coming up we saw the lights of the disco,
I said "Everybody, Let's Go Dancing!"

I have every word written down.

Wake up honey.
I'll come again another night.