Locust Avenue

by Nettles

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about

The majority of Locust Avenue was recorded during a four-day session in the summer of 2013 at Montana, a farmhouse in Waynesboro, VA graciously lent to us by Tommy and Kemp Hill for the price of a six-pack of Heineken. We recorded six people’s parts during this time, occasionally breaking for a swim in the river, to sleep for a couple hours, or to free a car hopelessly stuck in the mud. Additional recording sessions took place throughout 2014 in my home in Charlottesville, VA and Edd Kerr’s home in Durham, NC. The players were:

Guion Pratt - acoustic guitar, vocals
Christopher Campanelli - electric and acoustic guitar, vocals
Juliana Daugherty - Irish and concert flutes, vocals
Sam Bush - keys, vocals
Michael Coleman - percussion
Brett Jones - electric bass
Joseph Dickey - upright bass
Daniel Levi Goans - piano, shouting

Nettles has at various times also been fortunate to include the likes of Travis Smith, Dhara Goradia, Scott Ritchie, Sam Cushman and Chris Gelb, each of whom have left their mark on these recordings.

Locust Avenue was produced by Daniel Levi Goans, engineered and mixed by Edd Lee Kerr, and mastered by Jason Richmond, all of whom deserve a raise. Matt Kleberg and Elizabeth Stehl Kleberg used to come to our shows and then we’d go drink mirthful quantities of beer and talk about art. I’m pretty sure they introduced me to Cézanne’s skull studies which got “Pyramid” in motion. Matt and Liz collaborated on the collage image which serves as the album artwork. Matthew "Whale" Smith laid out the liner notes.

You don't really need to know this, but there are some nods throughout to Seamus Heaney, Jørgen Leth's "The Perfect Human," Maya Deren's "Meshes of the Afternoon," and less subtly, Paul Cézanne and the inimitable (trust me, I tried) Tennessee Williams. And probably some others. Lulu Miller made an excellent radio piece about locusts which inspired the title track. The Radiolab podcasts are responsible for many of the more science-related images.

We wanted this record to sound like the rooms we made it in. There are faint glimmers of the traditional Irish folk Juliana and I started playing together 6 years ago, but mostly we've worked on crafting arrangements that are impressionistic of what is happening in the lyrics at any given time, while doing our best to keep the tools minimal and consistent. So I guess what I mean is, even at our loudest, what we're trying to give you is the songs. I hope that comes across.

And you know, that you like it.

-Guion

credits

released 03 February 2015

All songs by Guion Pratt, all rights reserved.
© & ℗ 2014 Lapsang Records (ASCAP)

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Nettles Charlottesville, Virginia

Folk(ish) band(ish). 1/16 Ir(ish).

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Track Name: Annuals
I used to drive a lot.
Thought I had vision beyond.
I am older now.

I am older now,
and I watch my dreams turn
to fit in your house.

But I am distractible still—
(how to make you see reason?)
You gotta sow me each season.

Summer comes around and the town thins out.
Autumn comes around and the work dries up.
Winter comes and the apples fall.
Spring hardly comes at all.

You gotta sow me each season;
I will not come back on my own.

With patience,
you might see the pitch drop.*
Or with great focus,
dandelion through the blacktop.
Or you might leave my orbit
to visit any other moon.

Don't be gone too long; don’t come back too soon.
I gotta sow you each season.

Wooly bear on the porch in the morning,
leopard moth on the sill at night.
The Rappahannock is a river in Virginia
and the ocean is where rivers go to die.

You gotta sow me each season;
I will not come back on my own.
Track Name: Brando
She came without calling ahead.
I slept on the floor and the girls shared the bed.
(Fair play.)

You promised she'd only stay a few days,
Then it's back to her country house two states away.
But they sent me a letter
that said she's not welcome there anymore.

I've been checking on my sources,
And the general report is
She's fond of lighting torches
And blowin' 'em out.

All the gossip on the porches
And the talk in all the churches
Is white as a forest of birches—
drier than drought,
loud as a shout,
empty as doubt.

You sing when your spirits are sunk;
I like to sit in the dark and get drunk.
(Fair play.)

I came home late, wasn't looking to fight,
still I ran your poor sister out into the night.
But I was all thunder, no lightning.
(All bark and no bite.)

This city's got alleys, side streets, and dead ends,
but they hid all the highways to keep us all in,
stuck in the slums with your kin...

… who puts drapes on the lamps
and takes bath after bath
like the world is her raincloud,
her faucet and tap!
Her own private ocean,
and we're just swimming laps!

Well, the ocean will have what it craves;
I'll win your love or roll you in my waves.
And you say you don't mind when it rains?
I'll blot out your sunlight and swallow your planes!

I threw the radio
(my first mistake),
then my hands got to flailing,
caught you in their wake.
You cried and composed yourself,
counting to ten,
while I begged from the street
for you to let me back in!

Now I sit on the curbside and cuss—
I ain't the mountain I thought that I was.
(Fair play.)
Track Name: Body Inside Out
There is order in the world,
but we will never see it;
stories to a far field flung.
(And worrying about what the tongue takes,
as the deed waits to be daily done.)

I feel the burn
as it goes in
and push past bone
where the trouble begins.

I want to believe
it isn't my fault,
so I keep pushing
till I reach the vault

and on till the levee breaks
in a river of what's after,
as the body works to push itself out—

grows smaller, though greater.
First you, then me sometime later.
(But meanwhile, who's gonna do this for me
when you're gone?)

I want to pay for everything I've done.
Track Name: Paw
Out of the need to make a light
(a sentinel heat dispersing the night)—
we marveled proud at a burn so bright.
(The oil leaking disregarded.)

What didn't catch when the lantern flashed
wept for the half that had turned to ash
and the singed forest of your body wretched
for its wholeness, now departed.

***

One for the hike, two for the road
three little pumps make it overload.
Four for the tackle and five for the code.
(All the courage he could gather.)

One on the match, two on the lead,
(three whole weeks in a hospital bed!)
four: St. John’s wort, waking the dead,
and the skin going hard as leather.

Half out of you, half out of us
(half ever more cadaverous).
Some out of pig flesh, some out of dust
will put you back together.
Track Name: Locust Avenue
Spring came early to this town,
woke us from our hoary skins.
And crowded we, our breeding ground,
my friends.

Well, I have seen this start before
but always leave before it ends:
the neighborhood become a swarm,
a cloud devouring on the wind.

And no one taught me how to pray
for others’ pain to comprehend.
But I have loved you in my way,
my friends.

And all are feasting, all are feast
who feel the hunger setting in.
Come join the all-consuming beast.

I would be spared if born above.
But buried as I am beneath,
the self discards itself for love
and eats, my friends.

Love demands of me my form,
and in my place, love's form descends.
And we were lovers in this storm,
my friends.
Track Name: The Quarry
Down at the quarry, testing the depths with my friends. Diving off the banks. It took four or five false starts to get my body over and in, watching bundles of siltstone separate and rise, loosed from buried diggers like raindrops in reverse—raindrops raining up, from on low. My greatest intention was to stay gone as long as I could: an orbitless planet, passing only once by. I went back years later; thought it'd be easier second time. I ran to jump, but the quarry was dry: just dust blowing over the dozers left to rust in that pit. I turned to go home, and that was it. But then a thought brushed me... all these dozers the rust eats in this pit dried and dusty... is all buried thusly?
Track Name: The Knot
Need comes knocking at my front door,
seeking shelter and “nothing more.”
I start the kettle, and he settles in,
stretched on a cot of coarse sheepskin.

“Clothes and shelter, and bed for to sleep,
but supper would be too much for me.
For each hand that has offered to hold,
take what you need and repay tenfold.”

“Well, these potatoes come from my field.
It is no trouble; we reaped a fine yield!
How can you say that supper’s too much?
I never heard anyone talk such!”

“I'll help you harvest, and break with you for tea,
but supper would be too much for me!”
I pray that God will smile as gently,
though I have rejected his plenty.

***

Fortune fleeting, and love seldom fair!
I met a woman (does not matter where).
She sang to me softly the song of a friend
and gave me a rope with a knot tied in.

The tangle was heavy and frayed through and through.
I worked until blistered but could not undo.
(How she had managed so mangled a strand,
something I hope to soon understand.)

I drank deeply of her company,
but supper would be too much for me.
Woe to the wonder keeps filling my cup
So full of dreams, I’ll never wake up.
Track Name: Rogue Body
I am always seeing everything
for the first time.
Can’t remember anyone’s name.

I’m a rogue body—
nothing calls me home.
Forward forever,
never to return.

I get asked and asked
by each star that I pass,
if each star they can see
is a rogue one like me;
and if the blackness between
is a dark star, unseen.

Well, the time has not yet come
to talk about things
I think I know.

(But if something is true,
it is true in darkness, too.)

I’m a rogue body—
nothing calls me home.
My mother is chaos;
my dad’s a black hole.

And the highway is just
another kind of river.
Track Name: Pyramid of Skulls
To be useful again,
or to learn new tricks.
But when the new wine hits,
the old skin splits.
And as the good Lord wills,
the good thing spills.

I don’t have a solution—
when the shadows come, I write ‘em down.
Without cause or direction,
a couple of ??? become a collection.

I combed through what I had gathered
but not a song could I cull.
I went to bed with The Bathers,
I woke up with the Pyramid of Skulls.

In a hospital room
in the heat of July,
I watched my mother
watch her mother die.

We turned our heads
when they pulled out the hose
out through her mouth
from the back of her throat.

And all the air left inside her,
we heard it claw out her lungs.
We watched until it was over,
then we threw her on the Pyramid of Skulls.

For some time now,
I’ve been watching him paint the same skulls every day.
And I say, “Let’s move on, let’s talk about anything else!”
And I try and I try, but I just can’t look away.

I feel him over my shoulder,
ever pouring his dirges into my ear.
First I tried to outrun him,
then started humming along ‘cause it was all I could hear.

I watched myself dig in deeper,
far past the line I had drawn!
My fever broke in the morning;
I looked up, and the Pyramid was gone.