twang twang boom boom

Twang Twang Boom Boom was the first CD that Jason Moran and I made.  It was funded by a friend in Pennsylvania and recorded with Scott Felton at Amusement Room Studios when it was located in Minneapolis (he has since moved to LA – what a rockstar).  I really love the immediacy of these recordings.  As I recall Jason Moran had just returned from England and we went through the songs somewhere on the campus of Concordia… or maybe he was just about to go to England?  Anyways, we ran through things once, drove over to the studio and recorded guitars and drums one night, went back for vocals, and finally for mixing.  It’s a 3 night recording.  I love Jason’s work on this and I think it really defined who the honest folk is – feisty jesus loving liberals with a touch of the romantic and young idealism. 

This album includes my wife’s least favorite song of mine, a song penned in northern ghana, the ode to my previous band, boy.girl, and a song that was cut after the first 50 pressings (we folkies deal with those kind of big numbers).  I put it back for the web. 


1137 Selby


What’s Been Ailing You?

starving soul


dying to be




the air is full of restlessness
the people here are full
oh God could you come here and be with us

I need a light to see my way
I need a hope eternal
oh god could you come back today

the sky has been dry for nine months coming
still we dance for the rain to the drone of the drumming
all this kicking up of dust sends a signal to the wind
a cue to the clouds that it€™s time to begin

the voice of the people is a stranger to my ear
it€™s silent as if covered by a blanket of fear
caught up in the gears of a system that has failed
in a storm of injustice compassion hits like hail

all you beggars like prophets proclaim
the need for redemption in this burning age
with the money at the top and a blind eye looking down
it€™s no wonder that my soul is as parched as the ground


1127 Selby

My neighbors come and go
I€™ve seen 50 some people move in and out next door
I€™ve seen the house surrounded by police
I€™ve had the ambulance wake me from my sleep
and the only two who stay the same
are the grandpa and his wife walking slowly on her cane

And does anybody care about the old man
shoveling his sidewalk in the middle of the night
Half the world is sleeping the other half is dreaming
Will anyone wake up when he dies

The grandson move with his mother
they live on the streets, spend cold nights in a shelter
He used to ring the bell to see if we were home
he€™d say come out and play or can I please use your phone
and in my head I thought the kid was such a brat
But on nights like this I wonder where he€™s at

And does anybody care about the little boy
Sleeping on the sidewalk in the middle of the night

The able bodied men stay far away
they don€™t want nothing to do with their broken families
why bother workin€™ when there€™s this many bills
it€™s hopeless to try and it€™s hopelessness that kills
and it seems their last chance is gone
if this is what they think, then where have we gone wrong

And does anybody care about the young men
taking to the sidewalks in the middle of the night


put it all together, a real team effort
when the light was burning with desire
penniless and passionate out to save the world
then the focus fell and so did the girl
and I should€™ve seen it coming, I should€™ve read the signs
but I was too bull headed to listen to your needs
I treated you possessively but I could not read your mind
white flags all in flames no thoughts of surrender, you€™re free

and girl took the harmonies,
girl it took guts
to stand up for yourself and make that choice
so goodbye to possibility
good riddance and good luck
girl found her future, I lost my voice

take this down for memory, quote it in your sleep
rest on it when your body is beat
it may of no consequence, serve only to offend
but I€™ve thought it for so long it must be said
I know you never needed me not as much as I wish
I made myself believe we would be forever
now it€™s hitting home and I€™m really starting to miss
sitting in the living room, on that couch, singing together

all the tears and sorrys all the trying to be tough
the nights when I was tender, the mornings I was rough
nothing stands to reason in two years give and taking
that pain and joy and beauty is greater life in the making


what€™s been ailing you?

I can see it in the way you pour your morning coffee
I can see it when you€™re lifting the cup
Your eyes are tired and restless, they flirt around the room
could you tell me what is up, what€™s been ailing you

you€™re shifting through the night all the while you try to sleep
and the morning comes as a grave disaster
you wake up to the children, begging for food
this house has lost it€™s laughter, what€™s been ailing you

tomorrow is the enemy the next day will be the same
you can hold it off but not for long
it draws you like a joker, and greets you at high noon
you€™re shot down to the ground, now what€™s been ailing you

if I could wrestle you away from your troubles,
I€™d bind them up and throw them to the sea.
You feel the world has fallen and you€™re left there in the rubble
but holding you down, has never been that easy
no, it€™s never been that easy

hope has lost its meaning, like people lose their worth
when the yell of freedom, ceases to ring
I can see you in the distance, your troubles glaring through
but I am here and I am listening, to whats been ailing you,
yes I am here and I am listening, to whats been ailing you


starving soul

the thoughts of the peasants
collide with the elite
that don€™t think twice
about the food the do no eat
it€™s a backwards pattern
that money seems to follow
lies are cheap and go down easy
and the cost of truth is hard to swallow

open your eyes a little wider
and you might see
faces behind the numbers
veins course when hearts are beating
these lives are not expendable
nothing comes for free
for every soul you let go hungry
your starving every soul they fee

underneath a pile of garbage
a grain of truth strains to grow
like an innocent electric chair
like a defused bomb ready to blow
and blame is leveled simply
once laid down not erased
nothing tangible is here to stay
something greater is taking place

you said my father€™s job
was being done by someone new
that in the new infrastructure
there was not room for two
you said he was redundant
and you canned him on the spot
well that redundant man is the only father that I got
for every soul you let go hungry
you€™re starving every soul they feed



if you go to Appalachia tell me will you feel the same
will you find new meaning when you reach the mountains
when you come back here will you remember my name

if you go to the northern border, tell me will you feel the same
in a land where the summer sun sails for hours,
will you favor me enough to return one day

and should you leave me for another will the tears be of joy or of pain
once we walk away from each other
will the ways of our hearts ever be the same

and should you go outside this country tell me will you feel the same
will the air of a foreign land clear your memory
is there enough to remember in these songs that I sing

and should you stay by me forever, tell me will you feel the same
could you learn to love me despite my failings
could you take me just the way I am

and if you go to Appalachia tell me will you feel the same
and if you stay by me forever, tell me will you feel the same


dying to be

I€™m torn I am busted
I€™m broken gutted and rusted
lying hungry with high hopes of being fed
I€™m avoided I€™m ignored
naked, ashamed and deformed

I am the forgotten son
I come to you like a beggar
and I am dying to be your savior

justice is on a leash
peace is in the distance out of reach
but we avert our eyes from those things we could save
you won€™t look me in the eye
you say maybe later but that€™s a lie
your white washed heart smell more like a grave

I€™m tired I am weak
impoverished spit on and meek
but I can€™t make you feel the feelings that you reject
knocked down to my knees
last chance to pray for peace
last chance to lay my life down for a friend



there€™s a flicker in my heart and a cry on my lips
a bug in my eye and a pain in my wrist
from saying all these things that must be said
how many ways could I twist them about
could I utter up a whisper could I scream with a shout
just got to say these words that must be said

stick me six feet down by a pretty stone
cut the best pine and build me a nice home
hold on to the truth and toss a handful of dirt
like a frightened child clings for dear life to mama€™s skirt

there€™s hope in my chest and fear on my sleeve
they contradict each other when my best senses leave
we all have these struggles so let them all out
the more I understand the more room there is to doubt
when evil takes the lead and the saints get knocked down
we€™ve all got these struggles, so let them all out

because I€™m no prophet no saint no holier than thou
no better for the curses that I€™m dancing on now
but I will hold to the truth till my dying day
so forget about me and remember the words I say

there€™s pain in my heart, I blame it all on you
it pulls me back under when I want to push through
I wish I knew, what to€¦






July 2024
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