Down the Road & Far Away
'Down The Road And Far Away' is an exquisite album, overflowing with the yin and yang and salt and pepper of a musical and literate personality whose creative juices are flowing. The over-riding mood is one of gleaming optimism, belying the witty fatalism of many of the lyrics. The performances are built around Lyle's astounding vocal sound. His timbre is golden, but his inflections and phrasing are blue. Most of the melodies are beautiful, and when they are not, it's because the songs don't want them to be. Instrumentally, this is an acoustic guitar album, despite the presence of two tracks using keyboards. I would suspect these recordings 'Centres' and 'the Camel's Back' are from an earlier era, but the liner notes are uninformative. There is an edge to the vocal attack on these two songs that sounds and feels much younger than the other world-weary and lower-pitched vocalizations. 'Down The Road And Far Away' is book-ended by two extraordinary tracks. The opening song is 'Just My Kind Of Girl,' a joyful, if opaque come-on, stuffed with ironic asides and two gorgeously panned acoustics, one finger-style and the other flat-picked. It sounds as though Lyle played them both on the same guitar. The other-worldly chorus is eminently singable, if you can stifle your laughter- 'There ain't no doubt about it She's just my kind of girl Too bad she lives so far away She's half asleep and far too deep Into this crazy world There ain't no doubt about it She's just my kind of girl' The closing track is 'Way Past Now.' I cried when I first heard it, and it has been a very long time since I've wept upon hearing a song. That is in itself a sad admission for me. Perhaps it's my Catholic upbringing, but I could not help but interpret this composition as a direct attack on a 'religious' hierarchy so corrupt it would turn a blind eye to rampant abuse of it's most vulnerable parishioners. This is the third verse- 'Way past now past the trampled vows And the pleasure that is cruel Some old man with an empty hand Speaks the language of a fool' The sound of the guitars on this track creates a sonic image of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza mounting the first of many hills at sundown. I hear spurs jangle, and leather creak while morons speak. And best of all, there is the chorus, addressed to the patron saint of virgins Agnes- 'I'm feeling helpless, Agnes And a little reckless too Take me down your garden path And I will go with you' And I went with John Lyle on his musical adventure and found a new companion for the recordings I treasure. 'Down The Road And Far Away' is an album of substance and joy and despair and outrageous laughter. It is laid back in it's rhythms and tempos, and, with repeated listenings, I found that, time and again, it had laid me out with killer lines that hit unknown targets within. As with the best of folk blues, I can feel the heart of one musician and poet beating his own time. Heartily recommended! -Keithly O'Conner Bio- Headed for a career as an English professor in the mid 1960's, John Lyle was 'broadsided' by Bob Dylan and The Beatles. His degree went out the window, and so did he, playing in a series of bands and then performing on Canadian network television and radio as a solo act. He was also signed to two record labels during this era, but realized that because of his highly sensitive nature he was not cut out for the performing life. John returned to his home in the Vancouver area, and devoted himself to his family, supporting them with a career that may have been more dangerous than the perfomance stage. He became a postman. John Lyle's wonderful body of work is evidence of a life lived on the streets and in the home, filled with all the love and loss and joy and despair that are part and parcel of being alive. The songs are vital, not written to imitate a commercial trend or to fulfil a contract, but to reflect the intensity of experience and to remain sane. Feedback - 'John's songs are amazing!' Frazee Ford (The Be Good Tanyas), 'We love John Lyle. We listen to him all the time.' The Sumner Brothers, 'There's lots of nice stuff on there!' Paul Rodgers (Bad Company; Free; Queen), 'Magnificent!' The late Robert Altman's word for John Lyle's music, 'John Lyle will take you gently to your safe place, and then sneak up on you with a song as uncompromisingly ferocious as a grizzly in a maternity ward.' Dennis Albo, in his reality novel 'One Bullet Left,' 'Wonderful, odd genius...I hate to think what they'd find if they opened up his head'-American comedian Heywood Banks, 'Super, passionate stuff!' Mark Smith DOWN THE ROAD AND FAR AWAY - lyrics: JUST MY KIND OF GIRL I asked her what she did for fun She said she didn't know She did the days seemed shorter now Love had lost it's glow She said all her bags were packed And waiting on the bed And if I thought I had a chance I'd better shake my head She said complete removal Was quite beyond the pale She had to stick around a while Until she saved the whales She had to stick around until She made me see the light All my ideals are only Clouding up my sight Chorus- Ain't no doubt about it She's just my kind of girl Too bad she lives so far away She's half asleep and far too deep Into this crazy world Ain't no doubt about it She's just my kind of girl She said she'd given up on hope And all that it implied She looked at me and said I see Sadness in your eyes She said when you stop arguing With what has to be You'll learn the only lesson You'll ever learn from me I got a funny feeling We met somewhere before Maybe in a focus group The year before the war You had a red bandanna Wrapped around your pretty neck I would have loved you way back then But someone stacked the deck OLD JOE CALLS FROM THE HILL Old Joe calls from the hill To the boy standing alone Old man drunk by the still Don't know nothing he's done Momma in the kitchen Cuts you with her tongue Old Joe calls from the hill To the boy standing alone Hair yellow as straw Eyes blue as the grass Heart lone as the pine But it don't know what to ask Somewhere from the hill Old Joe's plaintive moan Drifts upon the wind To the boy standing alone MY LOVE IS EVERYTHING Clean and pure as a mountain stream Dignified as a college dean Alive as life has ever been My love is everything to me Chorus- My love is everything she can be My love is everything to me My love is everything Dancing in the heart and mind Of everybody she can find Reaching to the heavens Probing inner space My live is touch and sight and sound And always in good taste Yet one thing can defeat her And bring her to her knees And force her from my memory Like the moon removes the sea But what care I for Father Time He too is growing old And at least for now, I am warm While he is always cold CENTERS I'll bet nothing can get so small It can't be cut in two And I'll bet nothing can be bigger Than what's inside of you I'll bet it all goes on forever Not just outwardly, but in I'll bet we're each of us a center And that's what we've always been So if you're feeling out of things Lonely tired and blue Remember you're a center And there's centers all 'round you LITTLE KNIVES I'm tired unto death from all these little knives It's not the big one that gets you It's when they come in fives I don't know what I want but I know I want it now The snow lies heavy on the powerline tonight I don't know where I find the strength to hold you tight Maybe it's the same place I finally come to see All the contradictions holding me down Ain't nothing but the chatter from a brain-dead clown Ain't nothing but the chains I'm dragging to my grave Don't the rain sound lovely hiding in the air I tried to cross my heart and say it wasn't there Help me tie my shoe and point me to the stair I need to be deliberate in everything I do I'm being left behind by everyone but you I want to go so slow I get behind my mind If I could see through this illusion I wouldn't say a word I wouldn't try to argue what we both know is absurd I wouldn't lift a finger in anger or in trust THE CAMEL'S BACK If you're disappointed, the old man said to me It's 'cause you expected what was not to be That's when I shot him and as he went to hell I said remember you're my major disappointment number twelve Chorus- Disappointment number twelve didn't break the camel's back I'd guacamole fro a camel If a camel had the knack, I'd climb upon it's back I'd ride into the desert 'til the desert starts to crack Righteous anger burns the sea, flood the land and calls to me Kill the moon and blind the sun until the revolution's done I was feelin' like a mountain climber lost inside the Alps When she came between twin heartbeats and said she needed help That's when I unloaded, and as she met her fate I said, remember you're my major disappointment number eight I was telling these stories to another friend of mine When he came up with this classic line Don't that gavel get heavy? I said let me be the judge of that And you're the worst disappointment I ever had JUST MISSED MEETING (by Garry Macpherson) In the museum of your life I was a dinosaur's lost tail A relic of an ice age once delivered in your mail In the springtime of a morning when the sun was on your mind And the postman's parting message was, the wind of birth is blind There's no undoing All the windings in the coil around the core of all you've been While you wandered through the attics and the mazes of your dream Time and the valley of the city when the mail train left the track I found you sleeping in the ocean with my name burned on your back There's no returning All the letters that I sent you that you piled beneath your bed To remind you of the childhood you'[d kept hidden in your head Drowned in dissolution when the ebb tide cleared the shore And washed away the blood stains I'd painted around your door It left no meaning To the words of misconception of the metaphors you bore And though you often heard them screaming You could never guess what for You'd ignored their unasked questions of the gaps between our thoughts And our search to find the answers And insert them in the slots between our lifetimes There's no beginning HIGUEY HAIRCUT Higuey haircut's mighty fine Takes a bite out of my mind, my mind Barber, help me travel light When I take my homeward flight, tonight Broken pavement tricks my feet Sunshine burns the hanging meat, the meat Sugar coffee don't do squat Por favor, another shot, make it hot Tim can rollers on her head Clank upon her marble bed, he bed Power and water come and go But nothing stops the passing show, the show Hot merengue fills my ear Time to have an otra beer An otra beer, over here Ay carumba, she can't do the rhumba She might have a bug Chills and fever, will they ever leave her She might have to take a drug WAY PAST NOW Way past now, past the burning cow Where the salesmen never stop Where the road rolls deep And keening sheep sacrifice their crop Noble steeds have lost their feed While Agnes chews her mop Way past now, space and time have wowed But no one calls the cops Chorus' I'm felling helpless, Agnes And a little reckless too Take me down your garden path And I will go with you Way past now past the trampled vows And the pleasure that is cruel Some old man with an empty hand Speaks the language of a fool I just listen to my teardrops glisten As they slide into the sand I'm too tired to fall asleep But I'll do what I can.