Murmurations

by Simon Balto

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Nick Green
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Nick Green I had my top ten nailed for 2016 and then along came Nick cave,Conor oberst( shortly) and now this stunner- Shane Leonard on production duties and most instruments Favorite track: Disappearing Acts.
jon & liam
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jon & liam "Balto still sees enough beauty in the everyday, in the changing of the seasons and the faces of loved ones, to deal with these struggles with stoicism and hope. The thoughts and ruminations here are rooted in the personal, in all the wishes and fears that make us uniquely human" - www.wakethedeaf.co.uk/2016/09/27/simon-balto-murmurations/ Favorite track: Foothills.
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about

"Murmurations" was recorded in Eau Claire, WI in 2015 and 2016. At its core are songs about living, struggle, love, and loss in the Midwestern United States.

credits

released August 5, 2016

Simon Balto - vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, dobro
Steven Hobert - piano, accordion, clarinet
Margaret Leonard - hand claps
Shane Leonard - drums, percussion, piano, synthesizer, acoustic and electric guitars,
mandolin, banjo, vocals, harmonica
Ben Lester - pedal steel
Amanda Rigell - vocals
Kevin Rowe - upright and electric bass

All words by Simon Balto (BMI).
All arrangements by Simon Balto (BMI) and Shane Leonard (ASCAP).
Produced by Shane Leonard and Simon Balto.
Engineered and mixed by Shane Leonard at The Bungaleau, Eau Claire, WI.
Mastered by Anna Frick at Airshow Mastering, Boulder, CO.
Album art by Joel Starkey, Minneapolis, MN.

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about

Simon Balto Indianapolis, Indiana

Alt-folk. Midwest. Big voice, full heart, can't lose.

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Track Name: Foothills
I'm headed out to the foothills,
I won't be back after the fall.
I'm going out where no one knows me,
And the liquor keeps me leaning on the wall.

I'll dig a hole out in the garden,
And bury fifteen guns and thirty years of dreams.
And plant a headstone on the earth there,
In the shadow of the mountain and the tall, tall trees.

I've never been a faithful man
I've always been too proud to pray
But won't you come out to the foothills
And hold me together for one more day.

I'll leave a trail of cigarettes out on Highway 14
To the burned-out barn where we fucked years ago
Out in back you'll find my battered, busted trailer
It don't look like much, but it'll keep us from the cold.

And I've never been a faithful man
I've always been too proud to pray
So won't you come out to the foothills
And hold me together one more day

I dream I tell you I feel washed up like the tidewaves
I dream you say "no, you're just a little off your rail."
I dream you breathe for me on the days that I quit breathing
I dream you'd be my bones on the nights that my bones fail

And I've never been a faithful man
I've always been too proud to pray
So won't you come out to the foothills
And hold me together one more day
Hold me together one more day
Hold me together one more day
Hold me by the edges for one more day.
Track Name: Disappearing Acts
Autumn evenings in Winona used to bring me to my knees,
With Waylon's "Good Hearted Woman" on the radio, and the north wind in the trees.
As your hands they mapped my chest, your hair splashed on the bed,
The fading sunlight angling through the window, turning us a dusty red

You've been coming back in focus lately, resurrecting bones from graveyard ash,
And though no one's promised nothing, maybe this time no disappearing acts

Twenty-three years on the road in America, it'll drive a man insane.
I slept in churches and basements and brothels, but every bed it felt the same.
I sought out liquor stores with early morning hours and the cheapest roadside bars,
And tried not to think of autumns in Winona -- the Midwest canopy of stars.

You've been coming back in focus lately, resurrecting bones from graveyard ash.
And though no one's promised nothing, maybe this time no disappearing acts.

Most of the dark that was in me now has gone away, my darling can't you see;
Most of the dark that was in me now is locked away, Magdalene.

And there's crow's feet in your eyes now, when I catch you in the mirror,
But a new lilt inside your voice suggests it might be OK if I stay here.
These autumn evenings in Winona, they might be the death of me'
But they too might be light -- we'll just have to wait and see.

And you've been coming back in focus lately, resurrecting bones from graveyard ash.
And though no one's promised nothing, maybe this time no disappearing acts.
Track Name: Ohio
“Take my kingdom in your hands,” young Henry Lee sang,
“And hold it deep in your heart while I’m away.
I’ll be back by April, in May if I am late.
Before the spring rains dry up into bright summer days.

I’m heading down South now, to the Alleghenies
To find some work before the winter, when the red oak sheds its leaves
I’ll shoulder your memory everywhere I go
And tell all the men I meet about my little boy back home.

And lift me up, Ohio, with the strength inside your hands,
When my bridled legs get heavy, and I’m tethered where I stand
I’ll breathe inside your fingers, and burrow deep into your chest,
So lift me up, please, Ohio, I’ve got good in me yet.

Now the mornings ain’t been easy since they shut the steel mill down.
Drove half the men at the corner bar straight out of this town
But me, I won’t be gone for long, so don’t grow too much while I’m gone;
And think about me in the morning, and when your mother lays you down.

And when the politicians talk about men like me and rising tides and lifting ships
Know that they hammered holes in our little boats, which is why they float like shit
I’ve been bailing water since around the age of seventeen,
And had to learn to love the flood, for the way it keeps me clean.

And lift me up, Ohio, with the strength inside your hands,
When my bridled legs get heavy, and I’m tethered where I stand
I’ll breathe inside your fingers, and burrow deep into your chest,
So lift me up, please, Ohio, I’ve got good in me yet.

And now the line where you end and my world begins
Has been blurried up by kindness now and blurried by my sins
But there’s honor still inside me, I know it doesn’t always show
Please tell your friends about me, and trace my name into the snow.

And lift me up, Ohio, with the strength inside your hands,
When my bridled legs get heavy, and I’m tethered where I stand
I’ll breathe inside your fingers, and burrow deep into your chest,
So lift me up, please, Ohio, I’ve got good in me yet.
Track Name: Revelation Road
The thunderclouds are rolling through the heavens over Revelation Road
They pirhouette the leaves from off the branches, cascading rust and gold
Laura says, “I love the rhythms of the autumn, the closing of a year,
The whisper of a promise and a lifting – a burden gone from here.”

And she’s building up the frame of a summer song, of the place inside our bones
The red dirt and the sparrows and the murmurs, the marrow and the home
She caresses all of the words like some forgotten hymn, or a sacred gospel tune
And offers them to me and I feel better about the leaving coming soon.

And the snow is driving sideways on the cornfields lining Revelation Road
Cradling the moon inside a halo, and trees with heavy loads
Laura says, “I love the quiet of winter, the silence in the hills.
The way it casts the world deep into slumber, its hammered rhythms stilled.”

And she’s building up the frame of a summer song, of the place inside our bones
The red dirt and the sparrows and the murmurs, the marrow and the home
She caresses all of the words like some forgotten hymn, or a sacred gospel tune
And offers them to me and I feel better about the leaving coming soon.

And now the constellated stars they shine like headlights over Revelation Road
Mimicking the fireflies in the shadows – brilliant, fleeting gold
Laura says, “I love the smells of springtime, when they linger in the air
Like augurations of a coming child, or feathered newborn hair.”

And she’s building up the frame of a summer song, of the place inside our bones
The red dirt and the sparrows and the murmurs, the marrow and the home
She caresses all of the words like some forgotten hymn, or a sacred gospel tune
And offers them to me and I feel better about the leaving coming soon.
Track Name: Midwest Elegy
I remember my grandfather’s hands
Crisscross-mapped carved deep like the rivers and lands
Calloused and tore up, from forty-eight years at the plow.

His forehead worry lines they rhythmed with the seasons
‘Til capital markets gave him a reason
When the factory farms plowed him under four decades ago.

Boardroom men called him a small cost of progress,
And said the same of his neighbors and their prospects
And at his request in a back field, ‘neath an oak tree his memory lays.
But only the fortunate ones will survive the Midwest’s dying days.

I remember my father’s strong arms
Roped rock from his twenty-five years building cars
At the Janesville GM plant where he worked on the engine block line

He always took a square jaw-lined pride in his labors
And bitched about folks getting government favors
‘Til the Reagan recession threw his ass on the dole for a time.

Things bounced back before they got worse
The industry racked by a blue-collar curse
And now there’s more places to drink than there are ways a man can get paid
But only the soberest men will survive the Midwest’s dying days.

And now I’ve been twenty-two years in these bars with some ghosts of unfortunate men.
We grew up together and talked about getting out, but still ended up here in the end
And the sun still comes up on this place I grew up, but it don’t look the same to me now
It’s colder and dimmer and its shine it don’t glimmer the same ways it used to somehow.

And I’ve grown to hate the palms of my hands
Too soft with no sense of hard labor or land
And I worry sometimes what my granddad – what he’d think of me now.

But like him, I do the best that I can
With limited options and circumscribed plans
I push paper for paychecks at the last living business in town.

And I hope for m son something better
But so far he’s lived my life down to the letter.
Come on, kid, this life – it’ll dig you a grave in so many ways
And only the sturdiest ones will survive the Midwest’s dying days.
Yeah only the fortunate ones will survive the Midwest’s dying days.
Track Name: Birmingham Springs
On a southbound Greyhound out of Tennessee
With a half-packed duffle bag upon the seat
Through Huntsville County in a dark so deep it’s hard to see
On a southbound Greyhound out of Tennessee

Well, the highway’s always brought us better days
Hurdling above the reddened clay
Freedom now has come to cost the same price as the rain
So let it roll, let it roll on down again.

And meet me down in Birmingham Springs
Where the creek singers they gather up to sing
Bring a hammer and a freedom bell and listen closely when it rings
When it echoes out through Birmingham Springs.

Well, the currents now they calm a traveling man
And bring him to his knees from where he stands
They murmur like the Lord’s Prayer, lean in closely if you can
The currents now they calm a traveling man

And we’ll throw our burdens down now where we lay
When the apparitions ‘round us loudly say
“Come on friends, your faith it costs the same price as the rain,
So let it roll, let it roll on down again.”

And meet me down in Birmingham Springs
Where the creek singers they gather up to sing
Bring a hammer and a freedom bell and listen closely when it rings
When it echoes out through Birmingham Springs.

And meet me down in Birmingham Springs
Where the creek singers they gather up to sing
Bring a hammer and a freedom bell and listen closely when it rings
When it echoes out through Birmingham Springs.
Track Name: True North
Do you remember the night you took me on down
To the creek bed on the far side of town
And you lifted your shirt, laid me down in the dirt
And showed me the world through your eyes
Yeah, you showed me the world through your eyes

Among cicadas and the whispering pines
You tangled your bony fingers up in mine
We got leaves in our hair and our breath in the air
And I heaved 'til my lungs they did burn
Yeah, I heaved 'til my lungs they did burn

And you said "I dreamed of you for all of my days
Yeah, I pictured you in so many ways
Something like this has lingered in my mind
You're the true north and I found you, good night."

And the next night you first showed me the stars
Sprawled out on the hood of my car
We talked through avendroth light, to the gloam, and the night
'Til the first one of them it did shine
'Til the first one of them it did shine

And I think of those nights every time
Your eyes cross the table they meet mine
And when you braid up your hair, I still see the leaves there
And I'll spin you 'til the record runs out
Yeah, I'll spin you 'til this record it runs out.

And now I dream of you all of my days
Yeah, I picture you in so many ways
Your face now it still lingers in my mind
You're the true north, and I found you, good night.
You're the true north, and I found you, good night.
You're the true north, and I found you, good night.
You're the true north, and I found you, good night.
Track Name: Dark Burns
A razor day in eastern Minnesota
You pull a washed-out ball of paper from your coat
Page and page and page of scattered poems
A scripted life it seems that someone else wrote

The veins within your arms are like a roadmap
A cartography of places you've not seen
You'd give your kingdom for a vessel on the high seas
With no more faces, songs, or fever-cancer dreams

If the dark burns like cigarettes on the body
Goddamn, I'm sorry for the things I couldn't do
With every heathen's breath buried here in my chest
I will pray my best for you to get good again

And the sound within your ears is just an echo
A syncopated pulsing of your blood
The sound before your face is a man breaking
Prismed sunshine on an overwhelming flood

Like a quiet that stealths and latches on so tightly
Or a dark bird dancing while follow and sway
If it's true there's fifty ways to leave a lover
How come there ain't but one to drive this thing again

If the dark burns like cigarettes on the body
Goddamn, I'm sorry for the things I couldn't do
With every heathen's breath buried here in my chest
I will pray my best for you to get good again

If the dark burns like cigarettes on the body
Goddamn, I'm sorry for the things I couldn't do
With every heathen's breath buried here in my chest
I will pray my best for you to get good again
Track Name: Magdalene
From this window I can see a river rising, a little boat capsizing, another man down.
And Magdalene, we all sometimes needs an anchor, a sturdy-elbowed savior, a firmer ground.

Well Magdalene, there was a meanness all about me, it bridled me with evil before we met.
I’d never seen nothing decent in this world, always slept with my fists curled, and my jaw set.

And though an awful darkness hung above the mattress where we laid, when I slept inside your crooked arms, I never dreamed afraid.
And there’s a hooded figure walking up my road, whistling a song,
So won’t you stay with me ‘til morning, I am leaving at the dawn.
Magdalene, won’t you see me on home.

In this room there’s a single bulb that flashes, my fire turning into ashes, and bottles on the floor
And Magdalene, this Holy Bible daddy gave me, ain’t done much to save me, just shut another door.

Magdalene, I wish for you I had been better, that I’d written one more letter, not stayed away so long
Now these failing legs, a heart no longer set on beating, lungs that don’t care much for breathing, and a spine less strong...

And though an awful darkness hung above the mattress where we laid, when I slept inside your crooked arms, I never dreamed afraid
And there’s a hooded figure walking up my road, whistling a song,
So won’t you stay with me ‘til morning, I am leaving at the dawn.
Magdalene, won’t you see me on home.

From this mirror I see another river rising, another boat capsizing, another man down
And Magdalene, we all sometimes need an anchor, a sturdy-elbowed savior, and firmer ground.
Track Name: Murmurations
The crescent moon is smiling on the flock of fledgling birds
Nestled deep within a chorus built of long-forgotten words
The fear is leaving now, it’s only grace that here remains
To pave the pathways of the valleys with a mother’s healing rains.

And on the bright day when it comes your time to go
I hope your heart breaks into starlings that’ll carry you home
And murmur you on out to where the north wind softly blows
I hope your heart breaks into starlings when it’s time for you to go.

Don’t worry, I will plant the flowers though they may not grow the same,
Dig my hands deep in the black dirt where your shadow still remains
The seeds within the ground will hold the half-life of your hand
The howling north wind still will kiss a cross upon the weathered stand

And on the bright day when it comes your time to go
I hope your heart breaks into starlings that’ll carry you home
And murmur you on out to where the north wind softly blows
I hope your heart breaks into starlings when it’s time for you to go.

And on the bright day when it comes your time to go
I hope your heart breaks into starlings that’ll carry you home
And murmur you on out to where the north wind softly blows
I hope your heart breaks into starlings when it’s time for you to go.