On Laurel Lake / (Winter 2012)

Greetings from my East Tennessee retreat!  Each week I'll upload a new song from my month of seclusion, maybe write a little bit about it and share the lyrics.  I'm gonna keep everything in order so be a dear and scroll down past "Week 1" for lyrics and musings over subsequent weeks.

Week 1 - Holiest Day

Oh no matter how I long to write raucously weird indie rock power ballads, this is what so often tumbles out in a tumult. 

I did a dangerous thing a couple days ago: I followed a lead on a hunt for good milk & eggs and ended up at the farm of an Old Order Mennonite family.  Why dangerous?  Because there's always a part of me that wants to don the bonnet and be gone.  Standing on the farm - such a vivid contrast to my life - chastened me.  Generations ago, we were one and the same and now we only share in name.  This life I've chosen felt suddenly precarious, muddled, and far too far from the source.  What do we really need?  Out here in the "real" world I ask for so much more than family, faith, food and shelter.  So much vapor.

(As is often the case in my songs, wait for it...)

And thanks for listening.  An example of song as prayer.

Holiest Day

i drove away, far from the lake
i found the farmer's daughter
we could have been sisters - if i were humble
clothes muddy, red-cheeked and reticent

i looked around and wished that i could stay
and cover my head
keep the fire going
tuck the kids into bed
i know all the hymns
i'd say my prayers and close my eyes
to wake at dawn and do it all over again

so half in jest, i asked if i could stay, help milk the cows
annie looked away and said just come back in an hour

asking for more
we ask
we ask for more
for more
we ask
we ask for more

i drove away, back to the lake
back to all my pretty, precious things - I put the milk away
i started to cry, put the music on to fill the quiet
oh cluttered life - we try, we try, we try

asking for more
we ask
we ask for more
always for more
we ask
we ask for more

holiest day break our nightmares into
holiest day shape our nightmares into three
holiest day take our nightmares before we wake

we ask
we ask

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Week 2 - Raining on the Farm / Victoria

This song started, oh, six years ago now?  I'd gone back to South Dakota for a visit and for nostalgia's sake I took up sleeping on the floor of the farmhouse where I used to live.  My uncle hadn't rented it out since I'd moved to the city and I couldn't help it - I just longed for the smells and memories of that sturdy old house where my grandparents, then my family, then I had lived. 

I sat in the empty house and the ghosts came tumbling back - one particularly well-loved gentleman but also the ghosts of all the bits & bobbets with which I'd surrounded myself:  the bone and antler collection, the pink wind-up clock Royce gave me, the typewriter always on the kitchen table.  And of course, the ghost-me that could have stayed on to be that wild farmwife.

So that's where this song started - on a rainy day, sitting on the floor, in an imaginary world that looked mostly like a memory.  And the song ended this week in Tennessee - head down, gritting my teeth, to finally be done with the unwieldy thing.

Raining on the Farm / Victoria

it's raining on the farm
so i've gone looking for your heart
'cause i remember

the antlers on the wall
remind me of your old car
and how we'd go driving, we'd go driving

but i needed something different then
than the madwoman on the farm
click-clacking at the kitchen table
trying to push too far
i still say you're the best
but i leave it here resting
on the mantle beneath
the antlers
and the clock

tick-tock my days
spilling out the mess i make
but i make no mind

see nothing's really changed
i still get broke down
but i don't call your name, i don't call your name

see you needed something different then
than the madman on the farm
click-clacking in the back yard
trying to push too far
i heard you say i'm the best
but let's leave it here resting
on the mantle
beneath the antlers
and the clock

say hello to victoria
in all her gray glory
that's your body on the waves
that's your life rising
o'er the bay of victoria
in all your gray glory
that's your body on the waves
that's your life rising

see we've needed something different now
than the mad life on the farm
i still click-clack at the kitchen table
and i push too far
when memory serves me best
i just leave it there to rest
on the mantle
beneath the antlers
and the clock

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Week 3 - You Can Go Now

I'm struggling with what to say about this one.  It's another song that started years ago but languished in a folder along with 1,300 other partially forgotten song snippets.  I spent the first week out here sorting through all of them (they added up to 2.5 days!) and when I came to this one I was hit with immediacy and a need to see it through.  So I guess I started to write it back then but was writing it for now.

Alas, another lost accordion part - something's amiss in the bellows and I'm bummed.  Imagine a good drone there at the end!

This song is for someone I love beyond word and measure.  

You Can Go Now

did they say where's your bible?
where's the body and the blood?
did you really think you could go out in the world
with no light from above?

did they say where's your mother?
what is she to you?
did you really think you could go out in the world
with no guidance from her?

i'm sorry
i'm sorry for you
i'm sorry it had to come to this so soon

where's your family?
the ones you're too scared to know
did you really think you could go out in the world
just pretending you're alone?

where's your spirit?
she must be screaming bloody murder
or did you really think you could go out in the world
without listening to her?

i'm sorry
i'm so sorry for you
i'm sorry it had to come to this so soon

you can go now
you can leave this all behind
you can go now
you can leave this all behind

who're you waiting for?
who're you waiting for?

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Week 4 - I've Forgiven Time

For this final week I offer up to you ample distortion and belted three part harmony.  Wild abandon!  Paired with a smattering of accordion and, of course, massive doses of sincerity - it is a Rachel Ries song, after all.  Oh my goodness and the drums on this one!  They're still just in my head but man are they great!

This is a funny one.  I'm not sure it'll make any sense to you, to anyone, but it's clear as morning to me.  The primary themes in my writing these days seem to be family and reckoning with the years I spent without music.  There's been so much emotional fallout from that decision - guilt and shame and fear and o my god I'm getting older and what have I got to show?  (Plenty, thank you very much!) This song is a counteraction to all of that as it all still drowns me some days.  

I fought the chorus for awhile but it stubbornly held on as, sensibly or not, some days my mom is all I want.  And as she gave me my janky old accordion years ago I had to finally give it a place of pitchy honor somewhere and what better place?

Enjoy!  And thank you so much for listening.  Seriously.
-rachel

i've forgiven time

time, i've been a gambler with time
there was salt in my hand
so i threw it over my left shoulder

it landed, it landed on good soil
a few plants they died
but the heartier ones they survived

time, i've forgiven you, time
no i won't speak ill
when you're dead in the ground and i'm alive

see i, what i've got to show
is a home and a husband
and a cat who we can't hold

still all i want is my mother
all i want is my mother

oh these holy waters
oh this hallow time
oh this fallen empire
is only in my mind

so i, i won't give you anymore time
coz the next the thing i know
i'll be dead to the fact that i'm alive

now you, you can look me in the eye
and you see that i've won
this time, this time, this time

now all i ask is for my mother
to know that she is good
you know i'd give it to her if i was able
but i inherited the same hollow

now all i want is my mother
to know that she is good
all i want is my mother