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isingleton Just a great moody piece, especially this track. Favorite track: I Am Not Living My Calling.
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1.
Have you ever been to the dark side of your soul? Have you ever been to the dark side of your soul? Have you ever hated somebody's guts so much You wanna take their head off, bathe in their blood? Have you ever been to the dark side of your soul? Have you ever been to the place where the devil dwells? Have you ever been to the place where the devil dwells? It's a place that you oughta know so well As we're livin' in the sin at the gates of hell. Have you ever been to the place where the devil dwells? There's bloodshed, violence Sewn into the fabric of our lives Can't you hear your old man's advice? Can't you hear your old man? There's bloodshed, violence Sewn into the fabric of our lives Can't you hear your old man's advice? Can't you see your old man's demise? Have you ever just wanted to make it all go away? Have you ever just wanted to make it all go away? Have you ever just wanted to meet your end And turn out your light by your hand? Have you ever just wanted to make it all go away? There's bloodshed, violence Sewn into the fabric of our lives Can't you hear your old man's advice? Can't you hear your old man? There's bloodshed, violence Sewn into the fabric of our lives Can't you hear your old man's advice? Can't you see your old man's demise?
2.
I once spoke a heavenly language I once held the flame on my tongue But I drank from the wine of such lofty design And that quickly the language was gone I once played along with the angels I played in the band of the Lord But I guess that I fell when I sang for myself Because suddenly I was alone To the hills, to the hills I am going Nothing to do but wander away Because nothing at all can compare to the call That I lost when I gave it away Jesus Christ, have mercy For I am not living my calling Mother Mary, pray for me For I am not living my calling I am not living my calling, I am not living
3.
On my royal black cutter, I have taken command Pointed port to the edge and I've struck up the band Playing "Nearer My God" for the men who believe The refrain will continue o'er the edge of the sea And when I finally land in that sinking abyss And I've seen my men's faces in every port that there is No, the ocean won't move me, it's so blue and so plain How it sucks up the sunset, spits it right out again Sometimes I feel like I've read every word Like there's no new idea, no new song to be heard On that great day of judgment when our heads will all roll A king can't but notice: I've seen one, I've seen all There's no warmth in the sunlight, there's no peak in the sex There's no heart in the darkness, there's no joy in the jest There's no light in the fire, there's no rush in the wind There's no touch to the feeling, there's no point in the end There's no point in the end...
4.
If I tell you stories, stories half remembered Would you stay the night awake with me Lest these olden echoes and the old piano Stamp me down in torment through the morning Hear them sing the gospel on the old piano Tuneful apparitions in the pastures Where they dove in the canal to retrieve the God-sent sow And the family ate for many days And the sun rises in the clearing Shines so golden through my door But these rays can only chase the shadows For so long, then day is gone Hear the children singing on the ukulele And the smiling eyes that light the room I can't fix these broken strings or unpack these songs I sing But somehow they play to their design Hear the deathly rattle at the kitchen table All these threads are tangled up in time So I guess I'll never know on this side of life below Just how long this story's gonna run And the sun rises in the clearing Shines so golden through my door But these rays can only chase the shadows For so long, then day is gone
5.
Blessed is the soul who with humility goes To the holy of holies to say I lay my defenses at the feet of the Lord My desires, my comfort are slain Blessed is the soul who with no weapon to hold Where the militarized deal out the fear Who broken but standing takes no violent commanding But calls out for combatants to hear I wanna go down Feel the depth of the sound That is the heart of the Lord I wanna go down Blessed is the land, all the blood-battered sand On the fields where we fight and we die And the blessed are the beasts, the creation that feasts And returns us to dust by and by Blessed and broke, all enchanted in smoke Are the choked who all barely can breathe In the shadow of towers, in the grip of their power Call aloud to the Lord for relief I wanna go down Feel the depth of the sound That is the heart of the Lord I wanna go down Blessed are the women of whom sin is forgiven And blessed are the men who're made well And blessed are the wretched, the wrecked and rejected Who've been told that they're destined for hell Who say: damn your damnation and your predestination All your holy condescending ideas Because God is still calling even though I am falling And by his grace one day I will hear I wanna go down Feel the depth of the sound That is the heart of the Lord I wanna go down Descend to ending: submission Not to power of man: chakra explosion I wanna go down I wanna go down Feel the depth of the sound That is the heart of the Lord I wanna go down
6.
Launch yourself into green grass Where your shadow stretches long Where the reeds creak and crackle Singing their sorry song Maybe here I'll lie down heavy Maybe here I'll lie down long Where the real is so desperate That I dare not sing along You with your concertina Playing songs I'll never learn There's a buzzard on the steeple Just a-waiting for his turn And it's a turn in the story That I wasn't counting on But that damned old nasty buzzard Saw it coming all along He pictures himself swooping And snatching up the dog To add to his collection That he carefully catalogs But his mounting acquisitions They drive him up the wall 'Cause when death comes for the buzzard He's gonna lose it all I let the moment hit me Let it smack me in the teeth I made a cross with the roots of the tree That we buried you beneath So here you lie down heavy Here you lie down long I heard a song so lonely That I had to sing along
7.
Every night I stare into the darkness I search the sky looking for a sign Some undeniable inspiration from Jesus But each night I retire Blind, unknowing and tired Of the silence I endure each day from God Unready, unright Am I really unsound In sackcloth and ashes Prostrate on the ground I just want some answers I just want to know what I'm bound to A band of angels falls into formation Their holy breath behind their virgin horns But as they play my ears can hear no music So sad that I could cry With every assurance denied I can't understand this silence unbroken from God

about

As a solo artist or bandleader, Joshua Barton hasn't shied from preoccupations with mortality, meaning making, and spiritual fulfillment. But on "Witness," the Lansing singer/songwriter's latest release with band Seerstones, there's notably less whimsy and more weight.

Part of that has to do with a fullness of sound unheard on previous recordings, thanks to the stringband assembled to fill out Barton's acoustic arrangements. On this recording, Seerstones includes multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Peter Hochstedler, who also engineered the mostly live recording sessions, as well as Gordon Kwiatkowski, Thom McAlvey, John Voss, and Sam Copperman. Previous projects have leaned more ethereal at times, where Witness sounds intentionally world weary and mired in the physicality of thick harmonium drones, wide double-bass runs, and rich multi-part vocal harmonies.

But it's not only the instrumentation making for the change in tone. Barton has always been gifted at repurposing despair as a secret vehicle of hope, but he's never been more unflinching or willing to lock eyes with the void as he is on the first three tracks here. From the opening "Dark Side of Your Soul" through "Sardonia at Sea," Barton front loads the record with a raw-nerve, ego trip of violent fantasies, disillusioned liturgy, and self-damning proclamations, underscored by the ad infinitum final refrain of the dirge-like "I Am Not Living My Calling."

After confronting these phantoms, he turns his attention outward to accepting what is ("The Old Piano"), mourning what's been lost ("The Dog and the Buzzard"), and longing for lost ideals ("I Wanna Go Down") in the record's gentler second movement. Nothing's going to be alright, and that's going to have to be fine.

Which brings us to the closing "The Silence I Endure Each Day from God." A heartbreaking country ballad that opens with Barton's lone voice and strumming, the song first gives the impression we're actually listening to a restless crooner's midnight plea to an unfaithful deity before the barroom accompaniment kicks in, as if to say, "Grab a partner and dance. It's a lonely life, filled with our own demons, and if we've got a prayer against them, it's the same as it ever was: 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.'"

--Eric Gallippo

credits

released October 20, 2016

JOSHUA BARTON: songs, vocals, acoustic guitar and bass
PETER HOCHSTEDLER: vocals, electric guitar and suitcase
GORDON KWIATKOWSKI: vocals, harmonica, ukulele
THOM MCALVEY: vocals, banjo, harmonium
JOHN VOSS: electric guitar
SAM COPPERMAN: bass
COREY KELLICUT: lap steel guitar

Produced & mixed by Peter Hochstedler
Mastered by LANDR
Photography by Tobias Walbridge
Art direction by Graham Mason

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Joshua Barton Lansing, Michigan

Michigan-based singer/songwriter self-releasing the sad and the sacred, with abiding, conflicting enthusiasm for lamentation, Southern gospel, American primitive guitar and the drones of shoegaze.

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