The Worry & The Joy: How a sleepless night became a song

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I am an early riser. Usually awake, eyes closed, before the sun comes up. I’ll stay in bed and listen for the first bird to sing. It’s my favorite thing. I’ll picture a bird standing in a tree, chest out, singing, beaming, and I’ll send it a high five (a high wing?). The first bird to sing in the morning is the bravest bird, I think.

There was a string of days last summer when I wasn’t sleeping at all. Nothing worked. I’d just lay in bed, saying rosaries, listing all the things I was grateful for in alphabetical order. One night I just got up, opened a notebook and started writing things down.

A few days later I was talking about it with musician and songwriter Dave Willis, wondering if there was a song in there.

Days later he texted a phone recording he’d made. I could barely hear the thing, so I pressed the phone hard against to my ear to make it out. As I listened, I smiled. That was it. It was a song, but we’d need to hurry it up to get it on the the record we were making for our band, Wurlitzer Prize.

On a hot July day, on the last day of recording, I was driving I-40 from Greensboro to Winston, singing, working out the harmony and writing the second verse. I walked into the studio and Willis, Jared Church and Brent Buckner and I literally put the song together as engineer Doug Williams at Electromagnetic Radiation Recorders wrangled the board.

When I hear that recording now, I can hear my own hesitation, second-guessing the melody, the lyrics I’d written on the car ride over. And that’s what I love about it. You can hear the worry and the joy.

I hope you can hear it, too.

Come celebrate with us “The Worry & The Joy” CD release
Friday April 28 at Doodad Farm in Greensboro, NC
Mama Molasses opens
with special guests from The Piedmont Land Conservancy

APRIL SHOWS

Thursday, April 13
Trunky (Transgender Junky), author reading with Sam Peterson
Music with Sam Frazier
LGBTQ Center of Durham, Durham, NC
6:30 to 7:30 pm
Information

Friday, April 21
Wurlitzer Prize
Brews & Bubbles event supports the conservation efforts at the Greensboro Science Center
Greensboro Science Center, Greensboro, NC
7 to 9 pm
Tickets 

Tuesday, April 25
Wurlitzer Prize on Bull City Cosmic Hoedown
WXDU Durham 88.7
7 to 8 pm
Listen in

Friday, April 28
Wurlitzer Prize CD release
Doodad Farm, Greensboro
6:30 to 10 pm
Information

New tune: Slatey Day

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Over the last few months, several friends have lost loved ones. Myself included. Heart break inspired this song. At the time, I was struggling to breathe when I wrote it. Posting the lyrics here, hoping you, too, can float for a moment if grief is rocking your boat. Thanks to On Pop of the World Studios and Sam Frazier for helping me put the song out there.

Slatey Day

“How’d you get so high?”
I asked the sky,
“So high and blue.

“Even when the day
goes slatey gray
you’re still blue as the jay.

“And do the clouds
get you down when they start
rumbling around,

“and the storms try
to push you away.

“What makes you stay
so high and blue
on a slatey day?”

[chorus]

And she said, “I’ll tell you

I’ve got a job to do.
When the storms get rough
I’ve got to hold the stars up.

“But I can only be
as strong as what’s holding me.
So if strong’s what you need
go ask the sea.”

So I asked the sea
if it could be
strong enough to hold me.

She said, “I bet you’d float
so give it a go.
Just hold on to me.

“Cause if I hold the sky
and if you’re holding me
that makes you strong as the sea.

“I’ll hold on to you
all you have to do
is hold on to me.

[chorus]

“Because I’ll tell you
I’ve got a job to do
when the storms get rough
I’ve got to hold the sky up.

“But I can only be
as strong as what’s holding me
So I guess that means
You’re strong as the sea.”

[Instrumental]

Because I’ll tell you
I’ve got a job to do.
When the storms get rough
I’ve got to hold the sea up.

But I can only be
as strong as what’s holding me
So I’ll hold on to the sky
the stars, and the sea.

Postcards from the Swamp: A portable chair. Do you have one?

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Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 8.12.20 PMI just got this one. Ideal for rocking lake-side. But you’ll also need some cigars and seltzer to rock it out swamp-side this October. Next month, I’m reprising the six song series Postcards from the Swamp at Doodad Farm. The band will feature Ben Singer and the fine fellows from Wurlitzer Prize. The evening also features special guests The Mighty Gospel Inspirations, all the way from Durham, NC.

If you’re not the outdoor type, I’ve got some indoor things happening, too. Hope to see you there.

9.10—bring a chair and take a stand
Laurelyn Dossett hosts an evening of songs focused on issues of social justice for this s Songs of Hope & Justice: A Fabric of Freedom Concert.  I’m joining up with some of North Carolina’s preeminent singer/songwriters: Bhi Bhiman, Laurelyn Dossett, Alice Gerrard, Rhiannon Giddens, Django Haskins & emcee Preston Lane. Presented by 17 Days.

Plan to bring: A lawn chair
7 pm, Thursday, September 10
The Railyard in Greensboro, NC
Free

9.16—stay standing
I am stoked to announce a new collaboration with songwriter and DJ Anna Luisa Daigneault, aka Quilla. We’ll debut a few new tunes at the DiMuziou Bros. show at the Blind Tiger.

Plan to bring: Your groove
9 pm, Wednesday, September 16
The Blind Tiger in Greensboro, NC
$5

9.22—a seat in the kitchen
Back with the Wurlitzer Prize trio in the best-tasting musical venue in Greensboro: Lucky 32.

Plan to bring: Your appetite
6 to 9 pm, Tuesday, September 22
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro, NC
Free

9.26—you’ll need more than a camping chair
The ramble continues. Possum Jenkins debuted the festival last year in the GPS-navigator-challenged mountains outside Boone, NC. This year, the festival deck is certainly stacked to be better than the first Ramble.

Plan to bring: Camping and cold weather gear
All day, Saturday, September 26
Family and fool-friendly