Strange Light
2008

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I wrote the songs on Strange Light while living in an old brick house in Atlanta, but I recorded the entire record in Chicago. Unlike my previous projects, I wanted to go somewhere for an extended time where I could just focus on recording. I found this industrial studio in Bucktown called Engine Studios. The lead producer was a man named Brian Deck. He had just finished Josh Ritter’s Animal Years. But he was most known for his work with Iron and Wine.

This was the first record where I brought in a guy who wasn’t already a friend or previously familiar with my work. At first that was a struggle for me. I was paying a lot for the studio, and I worried about what this A-list producer thought of my singing and writing. But as the work continued, we hit an incredible stride. Brian brought non-singer-songwriter sensibilities to the work, which helped this record expand beyond my previous albums. We used a few musicians from Chicago (Jason Toth on drums and Jim Becker on guitars and banjo), and I brought in some of my old gang, including Tyler Gibbons on electric bass and background vocals. I also brought in my then new friend Todd Sickafoose to play upright and piano and organ. He gave greatly to this record and would become an ongoing collaborator. Sara Watkins agreed to sing background vocals on a few tricks, which was a real honor. I had opened a month of shows for Nickel Creek, so she and I were friends. (I would bring Sara back on Cardboard Boat to sing extensively.)

This was the first record Lex Price contributed to. He is a phenomenal multi-instrumentalist and producer. He played mandolin and mandocello and guitars on the project. This is also the first album to feature horns by Jordan Katz. He of course, would soon become my main collaborator and touring partner.

Strange Light begins with my biggest number, “Hurricane,” and it ends with one of my quieter, sweeter songs, “Angelina.” In between, many of the songs deal with growing up and getting older. Sarah was pregnant with Jackson while we were recording Strange Light, so change was on my mind. “Willis Avenue Bridge” is about a woman thinking back on her childhood, realizing she’s no longer a girl. “High Heels and All” is about preserving the spirit of young love in a more mature relationship. Then again, there are some topical and political songs on the album. “Milwaukee Road” is a train song about a now-defunct rail line. “Halloween Parade” deals with southern racism. “Measure of a Man” is about hypocrisy in American politics, specifically in the Bush administration.

For those of you who come to my shows, you might also be interested to know that those Italian shoes I wear at almost every show were bought in a boutique in Chicago around the corner from Engine Studios. That means that I bought the shoes I still wear while recording Strange Light (almost 10 years ago). If anything speaks more to the quality of Italian shoes, let’s hear it.

Lyrics

Hurricane
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

I will stay right with you now. Let the rain come pouring down. Let the rain pour through your walls. I don’t care let it fall, let it fall.

No, I won’t go down that way. Get out of town they say, they always say. Let’s disregard the way they ring those bells, and disregard the television, too. And here is what we’ll do:
We’ll stay in bed, the water pouring down your lips and legs.
Oh the pouring rain.
It’s a hurricane. The rain has got your name, it’s got your name.

Glasses tremble, glasses shake. They fall right from your face. They fall like flames.
Blame it on the strange light in the air. Or blame it on the wind caught in your hair.

Oh, it’s a hurricane. The rain has got your name. It’s got your name.
Oh, it’s a twisted game. The wind has caught your name. It’s a hurricane.

Where’s the wisdom in the wind? And what would blow us down?
Somehow I know. Go ahead and blow our bodies round. Go ahead and try to sink this town.
Go ahead and blow.
It’s a hurricane. The rain has got your name. It’s a hurricane.

Open season for the soul, but we don’t lose our hold on each other.
Takes more than some rain to pass over. Not even a hurricane could unfold
me and you.

I will stay right with you now. Let the rain come pouring down. Let the rain pour through your walls. I don’t care let it fall let it fall.

Willis Avenue Bridge
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

She’s driving home Sunday morning, with the heat turned up the windows rolled down to the edge. And yesterday snowed for the first time. Now no one’s on the Willis Avenue Bridge.
Used to be a hard merge. Used to be a hard merge.

She’s thinking back on New York City, the first boy she kissed, the first boy that she crossed.
Now everbody’s in their 20s. Look who got married, look who’s lost.
Used to be a heart break, used to be a heartbreak.

And the fall of 100 things: the hint of an opening

Days like this, it’s hard to pull over. Hard to hold all of the memories in your mind.
She tries to readjust the rearview, so no one has to ever fall far behind.
Used to be much harder, she used to be much harder.

And the fall of 100 things: the hint of an opening.
And the fall of 100 things: the hint of an opening.

With all the glass in New York City, it should be harder to hide, not so hard to find your way back home. They can take back all their pity, it’s not a one-way ride nowhere to hold on, no going home, no way to slow down…

Yesterday, snowed for the first time. Now no one’s on the Willis Avenue Bridge.

Sweet Auburn
Words and music by David Berkeley and Tyler Gibbons
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008 Poorly Bird Music ASCAP 2008

Sweet Auburn, straighten a crooked man.
Slow down a traveler. Sweet as tea she pours
Sweet Auburn, I haven’t a chance I’m sure.
Curves like a river bank, makes a church man stray.

Oh sweet Auburn, what to say?
Won’t you look my way? Won’t you turn? Won’t you turn? Oh Sweet Auburn.

This is hard to say, with all of these butterflies,
with all of these strangers, these coffee cups to clear.
Try this on for size, we could just disappear.
We could just settle down some place they talk slow.

Oh sweet auburn, I’ve been low. Won’t you let me know? Won’t you turn? Oh sweet auburn.

Put your hand in mine, I’d pawn off my past for you.
I’d trade all these memories, just to watch you age.

Oh sweet auburn, why won’t you talk to me? Have you even noticed me?
I’m pleading, break me.

My sloe-eyed girl, carried me over board. Carry me further now tell me where to turn.
Oh sweet auburn.

Halloween Parade
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

Tired shoes for tired souls,
leather’s cracked, bones are old.
Pass the wine around the porch.
Pass the tombs, pass the torch.
It’s the Halloween Parade,
theres a grin, there’s a grave.
There’s a boy who won’t behave.
It’s the Halloween parade

A hypocrite is on the loose.
Raise the flag, tie the noose.
There’s a case you will not crack
It’s a character attack
It’s the Halloween Parade.
There’s a grin, there’s a grave.
Halloween Parade. Halloween Parade. Halloween Parade.
There’s some things I can’t explain, it’s my brain it’s the rain.

There’s an old man in the road,
leaves the girl, takes the gold.
Now the story’s growing old,
King is killed, we unfold. King is killed we unfold. King is killed we unfold.
Halloween Parade. Halloween Parade. Halloween Parade.
Behind the grin there is a grave, it’s the Halloween parade.

Oh Lord Come Down
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

Walking along a broken road, which side I’m on, it’s hard to know.
Sometimes the wishes that we hold don’t hardly make a sound.

Lord, please come down, oh lord please come down.

What I’d give to wake up slow, nothing to do, no place to go, you in my arms, the light still low
whispering, we’re found.

Lord please come down. Oh lord please come down.

Lord, someone’s crying, someone’s cold, someone’s still walking down some road.
Lord, he’s trying hard to learn what to build and what to burn, when all he wants is to return to some familiar ground.

And singing, Lord please come down. Oh lord please come down…

Scraps of You
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

It’s not time to take your picture off the wall, it’s only Thursday.
And the way it’s going, it’s not getting in my way.
Maybe it was sadness, not sunlight in your eyes.
Why? And what’d we do?

You know that the obvious is ours. It’s dangerous for a thinking man.
You know how the argument goes down: The stranger in us comes back around.
You’re harder, but you’re fine.

But it’s not time to take the guitar from the case, it’s only Friday.
And maybe all this music wouldn’t make it through your walls.
All I have to rattle has been rattled long before.
Ship the oars and swim to shore it’s true.

You know that the obvious is ours. It’s dangerous for a drinking man.
You know how the sickness goes around: The stranger in us’ll drag you down.
Sounds the same a while. Sounds won’t change a while.

I’d burn the pile of scraps of you. I’m hoping for something to push me out of view.
I’m hoping for something to hold me back from you. It’s true. It’s you, and it’s unkind.

You know that the obvious is ours. It’s dangerous for a broken man.
You know all a lifetime’s ups and downs: The stranger in us comes back around.
You’re better off when you’re lost not found. You’re better off when your falling down.
You’re better off not to make a sound.
 

Milwaukee Road
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

Lay with me again beside the old Milwaukee road.
We would watch the world go past until our feet got cold
Well that was years before, and she ain’t here no more.

Train would roll right by her place; it cut the night in half.
Train would blow her clothes clear off the line stretched out in back.
Oh my my, that dress she wore, so soft, so blue.
Thousand miles and 2 straight lines between this town and you
Old Milwaukee Road, bring my baby home.

Seems the switchman had it all wrong. Left her off where she don’t belong.
Please, I got nothing that rhymes, just busted jeans and time, and the old Milwaukee line.

So, uncork the bottle, fill the flask, don’t be holding back. Fifteen years, I worked this line, my arms, my face gone black.
I tried, I tried to leave this place, I guess it’s like they say: some go up and some go down and some just stay this way.
Old Milwaukee Road, bring my baby home.
Seems the switchman had it all wrong. Left her off where she don’t belong.
Please, there’s nothing here that rhymes,, just busted dreams and time, and the old Milwaukee line.

Now there’s grass grown on the track, no way the cars can roll. What I’d do just one more time, to hear that whistle blow.
Old Milwaukee Road, bring my baby home.

Glory
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

When the rains fall, man they fall hard. Seems they might wash us away

In Georgia, the Earth feels so thin. It feels like the trees may fall down.

But I hold on to you. I hold you

Glory, make your own bed, and let me lie down on my own.
Fire, burn down my back, and take my possessions, too.

Cause I hold on to you. I hold you

Sorry, I’m not all those things, but I’m doing the best I can.

So, Don’t let go of me. Don’t let go of me.

Measure of a Man
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

How to measure a man when the cards are in his hand?
And what to draw, what to hold, when to fight and when to fold?
It’s harder to fold, when it seems like all we’re told to believe is nothing more than they would conceive. It’s nothing more for now.
How to measure a man, who thinks God is in his hand?
Day of the Dead will dawn.
How to weather a storm and not collapse and not get torn?
It seems we’re born on the road, drag the taillights drag the load.
The heaviest load, we shoulder when we’ve closed all the doors.
Realize we lost so much more. Realize the war.
Before you make up your mind, see who’s left behind.
Day of the Dead will dawn.
How to measure a man, who holds us in his hand?
And here’s a troubling trade: The pious all get paid.
They’re handsomely paid. It’s how the deals are made to go down.
Dangerous to hold your ground. Dangerous to stay awake.
Day of the dead has dawned.
How to measure a man, when he’s in the devil’s hand?

High Heels and All
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

A couple on a bridge, a stone bridge in some European town.
And after all the years, in corduroy, in silence, in between the water and the moon.

I see we all fall down.
A knock at the front door, a crack in the wall, the stain on the floor boards: it’s nothing at all.
It’s nothing at all

After all the years, after all the yearning, and the years, what is left to say? What is left to say?
Isn’t it a hard life?
Turn your cheek toward me a minute more.
Lay your hand inside mine a minute more.
Suddenly you say, oh baby

Don’t let go, though these are the hard times, though this is the fight.
Nobody’s wrong if nobody’s right.

And after all the years, just looking at your shadow holding mine. It’s holding onto mine, still holding onto mine.
Isn’t that a holy sign? Like maybe we’re fine. Isn’t that a free ride out of here?
I think that that’s a sign. Yeah, I think that’s a sign

That though we all fall down, the knock at the front door, the crack in the wall, the stain on the floorboards: It’s nothing at all. It’s nothing.
Oh my my. Let’s mop up the floorboards. Let’s repaint the walls, and put on your new dress, high heels and all.

Only Broken Man
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

Oh father, stumbling to the matt just like a falling acrobat, oh father.

And oh momma, I tried to be so brave. Ain’t it a shame how little’s changed? Ain’t it a hard one.

Oh my god. Here’s my heart. When it’s over, understand: You’re not the only broken man.

I have been praying, not sure quite to whom, sometimes just to an empty room. I have been praying.

She’s been crying, suddenly like clouds covering all our heads somehow. She has been crying.

Oh my god. Here’s my heart. When it’s over, understand: You’re not the only broken man.

Build me a sailboat, something made of wood, Watch it float further than it should. Build me a sailboat

Or find a dreamer, someone who has wings. Help me float over everything. Find me a dreamer.

Oh my god. Here’s my heart. When it’s over, understand: You’re not the only broken man. And faith I’m an orphan, hold my hand. And strength be a soldier, help me stand.

Angelina
Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2008

Angelina with those eyes, those bangs, those blues, please don’t change the way you see, just because they disagree.
Angeline, please don’t change your mind now.

Somehow the wise men got delayed. Some things were lost along the way.
What is left to say? It’s been a good day.

Angelina so surprised to find me there—back in Harvard Square, right where we met.
All those cigarettes between…Angeline, I hope you don’t regret me.

After the leaves are swept away, some things were lost some went astray.
What else would you say? It’s been a good day.

Angelina take a drive with me, we’ll see America unfold in gold, in green.
All the empty roads between, Angeline, seems they’ve been laid down for us.

What of the rust along the way? After it all, I wish you’d stayed.
What is left to say? It’s been a good day. What is left to say? It’s been a good day…