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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1.
Foothills 04:49
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.
2.
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.
3.
Ohio 04:31
“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.
4.
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.
5.
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.
6.
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.
7.
True North 03:47
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.
8.
Dark Burns 04:17
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
9.
Magdalene 03:55
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.
10.
Murmurations 02:40
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.

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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Simon Balto Indianapolis, Indiana

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

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