Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When Animals Talk...

Everybody loves a talking animal, right? Ha ha. One of the songs on the new record, "Fallen Tree Song," is basically a conversation between a man and a little bird. The man has become trapped under a fallen tree deep in the wintertime woods, and he enlists the help of a bird flying by. I'm really excited about sharing this song once it's finished. The arrangement is shaping up great, into a kind of train-beat folk-romp hootenanny party-vibe of a song...lots of instruments just loosely playing along as the story progresses. Last Friday, my friend, the ever-talented troubadour Greg Klyma, laid down some mandolin on the tune. This coming Friday, Abbie Barrett will lend her vocal talents to the song. I'm excited about that last fact, because she has a voice so smooth and warm, it could bring peace to the Middle East. :-)

But: talking animals. They're everywhere. From that YouTube dog that says "I Love You" to the most recent Disney seems like they are an enduring part of our culture. Folk music has its share, of course (the traditional song "Henry Lee" comes to mind with it's taunting bird). I don't know where the idea for my song came from, exactly, but I can say that talking animals have played an important role in shaping my worldview. A talking seal, to be exact.

When I was a wee lad of 2 or 3, my mother took me to the New England Aquarium one fine day. We were greeted outside by the seals in the seal tank, one of whom jumped up to actually greet us with a big "Hi, how are you!" I kid you not. A talking seal. That childhood memory followed me around for a long time, and when I'd mention it to friends, I was often met with disbelief and/or mockery. (Go figure.) In particular, I remember an entire college party screeching to a halt, as one friend loudly confronted me about it. Ah, fond memories! But I decided that I knew what I'd seen, and I made a fundamental decision: it was better to live in a world where a talking seal was possible, versus a world where it was not. And the disbelievers could go suck it. I could make room for that kind of "magic," if that's what others wanted to call it. And how glorious a day it was when the Boston Globe ran a story a few years ago on talking seals at the Aquarium! Apparently, Hoover, the seal I'd known, had had a grandson who could also mimic speech to some extent. Wow was I elated to read this! The seal had actually existed, and I had solid proof! And you can bet I made sure all of my friends saw that story... May Hoover rest in peace.

So, anyway, back to the song. It's nearing completion and I'm thrilled about it! Here are the lyrics, in case you'd like to check out the story yourself:

dear little bird on high
please bend to hear my cry
this old oak tree
has fallen on me
go tell the world what you see
go tell the world what you see

my wings are good and strong
and i will sing the song
from every height
from noon to night
i'll tell the world of thee
i'll tell the world of thee

pray, fly, as storm clouds come
i hear the thunder drum
and cannot last
while held down fast
beneath this heavy tree
beneath this heavy tree

with a heavy heart i fly
through stormy bands of sky
i'll fain to speak
though i grow weak
to tell the world of thee
to tell the world of thee

now tell what word you've brought
dear bird, is rescue sought?
in this cold and chill
my heart grows still
pray, have you news for me?
pray, have you news for me?

I flew both far and wide
and from every perch I cried
but there was not a one
who said he’d come
to end your misery
to end your misery

oh woe is lonesome me
to face death’s honesty
and alone with you
I wish I knew
a song to make me free
a song to make me free

come join your voice with mine
and sing with a heart sublime
a verse that spins
through stormy winds
in love with eternity
in love with eternity

in moonlit shadows soft
a song was borne aloft
and through heavy snow
the winds did blow
a hopeful melody
a hopeful melody