Trying to Stretch Myself

November 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have been writing lyrics for years, partly as a way to process and deal with my feelings and emotions, partly as a way to express my opinions, partly because I don’t have the discipline to try writing in longer forms.

As a would-be songwriter, I am always trying to stretch myself and write in various genres. Two of the genres I have always most wanted to write in are folk and blues. Lately, I have been trying to do just that.

Most of my previous bluesy efforts have revolved around lost lovers and the like. This effort takes a different direction. The lyrics, I think, reflect a more folk-like tradition, marginally in the spirit of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, but the tune, at least as I hear it in my head, is more in line perhaps with Delta Blues. I’m not sure about the title, though, so alternate title suggestions are welcome.

Wearing A Disguise

There’s a cold wind a-blowing; can’t you feel the chill?
Things I thought we’d left behind are with us still
I see the fear, the anger, too
So many walking ’round not sure what to do

A man once said, “Walk softly and carry a big stick”
But I don’t know if that’s gonna do the trick
Some say they’re only words, but words can cut so deep
Follow you in the light of day and haunt you in your sleep

I wish that I could tell you where the answer lies
I know the truth is out there somewhere –
But it’s wearing a disguise

(slide or resonator guitar solo)

A man once told us about the power of fear
I wonder what he’s say if he was still living here
Some say that love will win and that we’ll be alright
That doesn’t chase the demons away when I go to sleep at night

I can’t explain the hate or excuse the alibis
I know the truth is out there somewhere –
But it’s wearing a disguise

There’s a cold wind a-blowing; a chill is in the air
Could it be the changing season or the breezes of despair
So many voices, hard to know what’s true
Will you see through its disguise
When truth rains down on you?

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

An Uncertain Future?

November 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

I admit I am apprehensive about what the next four years hold. I did not vote for the man about to take possession of the White House. I personally feel that those who voted for Donald Trump for President in order to shake things up in Washington, D.C. may have ended up throwing out the baby with the bath water.

While I admit I don’t know what being President entails, I suspect it involves calm, rational thinking and, above all, patience before reacting. Based on his comments and actions over the last few years, these are qualities I do not believe Donald Trump possesses.

This conclusion on my part, along with the fear and concern that conclusion engenders in me, led to these lyrics that express my worry. Note that there is some profanity in what follows. I also apologize in advance to Bob Dylan for copying one of his song titles.

A Simple Twist Of Fate

Madman’s finger on the trigger
Have we lost our fucking minds?
Everybody’s so divided
Just a sign of the times

It feels as if we’re going under
Nothing keeping us afloat
Inmates are running the asylum
They simply stand around and gloat

What the hell happened?
Where’d we lose our way?
Someone found the loophole
Tapped our inner hate
Undone by a simple twist of fate

Not sure who’s running this circus
Don’t know who controls this ride
On the outside, I’m maintaining calm
But I’m damn sure shaking deep inside

This ain’t the country I remember
The one pledged to equality
We’ve thrown out everything we stand for
Someone tell Lady Liberty

What the hell happened?
Where’d we lose our way?
Someone found the loophole
Tapped our inner hate
Undone by a simple twist of fate

Black and white, wrong and right
Overturned without a fight
Make your choice, ignore the voice
That tries to lead you to the light

What the hell happened?
Where’d we lose our way?
Someone found the loophole
Tapped our inner hate
Undone by a simple twist of fate

Someone found the loophole
Tapped our inner hate
Undone by a simple twist of fate

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

One Week Later

November 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

In perusing the many social media posts some of my friends have posted in the wake of last Tuesday’s election, I have observed a few things – fear and anger. The fear comes mostly from one side of the equation; the anger from both sides.

My liberal friends are angry that a man who pledged to eliminate women’s reproductive rights, roll back gay marriage, and basically pledged to get rid of access to health care for millions of people who never had it before could be elected. (I know, he promised to replace it with something better, but details are still a bit sketchy as to what “better” looks like.)

My conservative friends see the protests that have come out of last week’s election as simple whining, thuggery, sheer lawlessness, and disrespect of our institutions, including the electoral process and the flag. From where I sit, they are missing the point.

If you or your parents or your grandparents had spent years trying to gain something the rest of us take for granted, how would you react to the possibility it might be taken away? Would you “unite” behind the person you see as the main threat? Would you simply get over it? If so, I’ll be the first to admit you are a better person than I.

Because of what I see as a divide, or perhaps it is better thought of as a fracturing, since it falls along any number of lines, I wrote “Across The Divide” immediately after the election (shared in an earlier post). That song could also be read as a lament to the end of a relationship.

I decided to write something stronger, knowing I risk losing some of my friends. However, it is what I sense going on as well as what some are afraid will happen.

Tear It Down

Coat hangers in back alleys, ropes dangling from oak trees
What’s happening to us; won’t somebody answer me?
Thought we were created equal; guess that wasn’t really true
Why should we look down on someone else ’cause they don’t look the way we do?

I think it’s time we tear it down and start all over again
Give the least of us a greater voice; that’s something I can defend
I look around and I see the fear there in my brother’s eyes
They worry that this talk of strength and values is only hatred in disguise

Jim Crow is on the comeback trail; Phyllis is laughing from her grave
150 years later, some still think the only good black is a slave
Guess equality is just for some, thought that it was meant for all
The rich get richer and the rest of us fight; surely, we’re headed for a fall

So many fought and died defending this land
Some died for what they could only dream of, some for what they held in their hand
I’ve got to think some of them are looking down
In shock ’cause they can’t understand

I think it’s time we tear it down and start all over again
Give the least of us a greater voice; that’s something I can defend
I look around and I see the fear there in my sister’s eyes
They worry that this talk of strength and values is only hatred in disguise

I think it’s time we tear it down all the way to the ground

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

A Legend Lost

November 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

Last night, I was bobbing and weaving my way through the pro and anti-Trump posts on Facebook when I cam across the news that Leonard Cohen had died at the age of 82. While there may be those who disagree, for me, Cohen was perhaps the greatest modern lyrical poet outside of Bob Dylan, and I’m not sure he wasn’t even greater than Dylan.

From his earliest classics, like “Suzanne” and “Bird on the Wire” to his oft-covered ode to sex and faith, “Hallelujah,” and his less than optimistic view of the world, “Everybody Knows,” Cohen had a way with words that few, if any, could even hope to emulate.

His voice, which became even deeper and more gravelly as he got older, was perhaps never a singer’s voice, much like Dylan’s. Yet while Dylan’s greatest songs were great in spite of his voice, Cohen’s voice for me only added to the magic of his songs. I can’t describe or explain it, but the was a quality to Cohen’s voice that somehow added to the melancholy or sadness in many of his songs and counter-balanced the occasional hopeful or positive lyric.

While I had been familiar with the name of Leonard Cohen for years and had some vague idea of who he was, I only began to listen to his music in the last six months or so. I was immediately drawn to his lyrics, especially his classic “Hallelujah” and “Everybody Knows.”

Like perhaps many other songwriters, I wished I could write something in Leonard Cohen fashion, but I knew better than to try for there was and is only one Leonard Cohen. That didn’t stop me from trying – once.

Today’s offering was an attempt to write something in a Leonard Cohen style. I don’t think I succeeded, but it was inspired by his music and will serve as my inadequate tribute to the man, the poet, the singer, the genius who was Leonard Cohen.

The Running Man

I watch the people walk by in their haste
Where are they going with no time to waste?
Almost running, as if being chased
In fear that they might be replaced

The running man, he leaves no shadow
No stone is left to be unturned
Moving so fast that he makes the same mistakes
No time to wait for lessons learned

No time to stop; no time to wait
He who is lost is he who’ll hesitate
And so we move as if we’re running late
Are we the prize or simply the bait

The running man, he leaves no shadow
No stone is left to be unturned
Moving so fast that he makes the same mistakes
No time to wait for lessons learned

The hands of time spin out of control
Circling and winding tighter around your soul
Minutes like seconds, all running down
Until the clock stops without a sound

The world around me is picking up speed
Everyone hurrying to fill a desparate need
Afraid of missing out if they aren’t in the lead
Is it desire or simply greed

The running man, he leaves no shadow
No stone is left to be unturned
Moving so fast that he makes the same mistakes
No time to wait for lessons learned

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

A House Divided

November 10, 2016 § 1 Comment

This is a blog to showcase my writing and to share the thoughts and inspirations that led to those efforts. It is not a blog to discuss my views or my beliefs. Occasionally, however, the areas overlap and intersect. Such is the case here.

Unless you are dead, in a coma, or on a remote island with no access to internet or newspapers, you know that the Trump era has begun and that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. Much can and has already been said about the hopes and fears for a Trump presidency, and I won’t address any of them here.

It is, however, clear to see from the just concluded campaign that there is a serious divide in this nation. After seeing a quote from author Toni Morrison – “ This is precisely the time when artists go to work—not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job!” – I decided to try to channel what I was feeling and thinking into the written word but in a way that could transcend the mere political. Here is the result.

Across The Divide

There’s a distance grown between us
When it started, I don’t know
Somewhere along the way, we grew apart
Now I stand here at the crossroads
I’m not sure which way to go
Only know I must protect my heart

Now, I find myself on the other side
Wondering, can I reach across the divide

I guess I never really knew you
Or who you were inside
From where I stand, that cuts the other way
We took it all for granted
Assumed each felt the same
Now it seems we’ve nothing left to say

Caught in the light of day, there’s nowhere to hide
Wondering, can I reach across the divide

It’s clear that we don’t think or feel the same
No longer sure of common ground
Ready and willing to assign the blame
What we once shared – tossed aside without a sound

The future is uncertain
The past, not what it seemed
I’m left to wonder what was ever real
Somewhere along the way
We started chasing different dreams
Now we’re hurt and wondering how to heal

Feels like I’m trying to swim against the tide
Wondering, can I reach across the divide

Feels like I’m trying to swim against the tide
Wondering, can I reach across the divide

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

With Apologies to Mr. Young

November 7, 2016 § 2 Comments

Despite a relative lack of news coverage (at least compared to any number of other topics, including the Hillary Clinton “Servergate” email affair), most people have, I hope, at least a passing awareness of the situation revolving around Standing Rock Reservation and the proposed pipeline that opponents say threatens water supplies to the reservation, not to mention the rights and sovereignty of the reservation itself.

A number of musicians are among those speaking out against the proposed pipeline and standing in solidarity with the Sioux people, including Jackson Browne and Neil Young. Young himself is about to release a new album, written and recorded in the four months since the release of his last effort, a live album released in July.

One of the songs, “Indian Givers,” was written in response to the situation at Standing Rock. While I am a fan of many of Neil Young’s songs, this particular song indeed sounds as if it were written and recorded in a very short time, with no editing done and no attempt at rewriting. To my ear, it simply wasn’t very good. You can read about the song and hear it here then make up your own mind.

The song did get me to thinking, though, which was likely its primary purpose. What I came up with does not speak specifically to the situation at Standing Rock but is a bit more historical in its message, although Standing Rock does certainly factor into that history. It needs a bit of tweaking, but here is the first draft. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Trail Of Broken Promises

There are some who want to take that which is not theirs
Others who cry out to have someone hear their cares
A clash of ideas, cultures collide
Which side will you come down on, or will you simply hide?

Silence is no option, merely implied consent
Will we forge a new path or go where those before us went
Following a trail of broken promises
Built on words we never meant

Those in power want more from those outside looking in
They follow their own bible where greed is not a sin
A history of taking from those in their way
While we watch in silence with nothing to say

So many hearts lie broken by those who’d circumvent
Rules and offers made by those of seeming good intent
Buried ‘neath a trail of broken promises
Built on words we never meant

They say there are two sides to every story
Why is it one side stays unheard
Perhaps the truth lies in the middle
But it’s been silenced without a word

Some have risked it all to save less than their share
Others sit in silence, too afraid to dare
Afraid to risk, afraid to fall
Too attached to what they have to risk losing it all

Listen to the echoes of a distant, sad lament
Sung by those whose misfortune our silence helped cement
Part of a trail of broken promises
Built on words we never meant

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Where Am I?

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