What A Difference An Arrangement Makes! Lonesome Traveler Two Ways

Songs are strange animals. Little chameleons. Remarkable how differently they behave in different outfits. It’s pretty rare to find a song that, no matter how you arrange it, it always sounds fundamentally the same. Blowin’ in the Wind maybe? Pretty much every version of that still sounds like Blowin’ in the Wind. But All Along The Watchtower, Dylan vs. Hendrix? Totally different songs …

Which brings me to a song called Lonesome Traveler that I recently rediscovered. I was reminded of the lyric by a good friend (the brilliant poet Robert Lavett Smith), who started quoting it to me during soundcheck at a recent show; he started in, and I found myself saying the words right along with him, even though I hadn’t sung it in probably a decade:

Someone left their teeth at The Tip Top,
and the lights in Vesuvio are dim.

Patrick is still looking for hemlock,
but nobody’s looking for him.

The next day, I pulled out my National (in standard tuning), and put down a lil’ demo of a new arrangement that came to me as I was falling asleep. Funky-ish, lots of 7 chords in the verses, and straight 4/4 time throughout. By comparison, the first proper recording of the tune had been during the sessions for The Devil’s Buttermilk. We did it in 6/8 time, with lots of piano and strings and such, and it has kind of a waltzy, boozy, dreamy and melancholy-dirty kind of vibe (gratitude and praise to Steve Pigott, who played keys and arranged the strings; crazy player, been w/ everyone from Joe Cocker to Debbie Harry to Uriah Heep to Rod Stewart!).

Anyhow, very different from the new incarnation, which is sort of funky and stark and blues-thumped.

You can compare the two versions here, if you’d like:

Lonesome Traveler (from The Devil’s Buttermilk)

Lonesome Traveler (new solo acoustic/national arrangement)

If you feel so inclined, let me know what ya think, and if ya have a preference!

Here’s the lyric, by the way; the title was inspired by a Jack Kerouac collection of short stories, and the references are to real things seen and experienced whilst walking about in San Francisco:

 

Lonesome Traveler

On the street, the dawn is descending,
Over mascara, grease-paint, and dirt.
The six o’ clock shakes are just ending,
And the bartender has stains on her skirt.

The daisy days have made way for silver,
And the leaves are entombed in brass,
And there’s a junkiedom backpacking Hitler
Writing his name in red lipstick on the grass.

The moon has a saddle full of splinters,
And the rain reminds you of home.
Gamblers sleep in the park in the winter,
And count chain links on the side of the road.

The last living heir of a princess
Keeps her rubies in an old pair of nylons.
“The bounties of Heaven are endless!”
Shouts Little Christ through his big orange pylon.

Someone left their teeth at The Tip Top,
And the lights in Vesuvio are dim.
Patrick is still looking for hemlock,
But nobody’s is looking for him.

The moon has a saddle full of splinters,
And the rain reminds you of home.
Gamblers sleep in the park in the winter,
And count chain links on the side of the road.

There’s a silver keychain dagger,
And Arthur has nicotine nails.
On a saxophone crutch he staggers,
As roof tar pelts down like hail.

The lonesome travelers crash down,
And 3rd street is surrounded by rust.
Bums sleep on pillows of hash browns,
And leave angel silhouettes in the dust.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: