Chain and Shadow

June 24, 2009 9:20 PM

This song is a direct result of a Flickr comment. I took a photograph, titled Chain and Shadow, and posted it to Flickr in March. A contact there, who knows my music, commented: "chain & shadow" is sweet. get out your strumstick and write a song.... And I thought, yeah, he's right, there's a song there for sure. I wrote one, and recorded it yesterday. I also discovered that "chain and shadow" (or some close variant) is a popular photographic theme indeed at Flickr. Hope y'all enjoy the tune. And/or the photograph(s).

Chain and Shadow

i heard a chain
i saw a shadow
i felt a bone cold wind
slice across the meadow
i looked above
i saw the moon
it was being blown away
grain by grain
just like a sand dune

...chain, chain and shadow...

beneath my feet
the vines uncurled
i saw the sky peel back
from the curve of the world
my blood was frozen
the moon was gone
it was the darkest hour
and no sign of the dawn

...chain, chain and shadow...

well the sun did rise again
ah but something's changed
this little corner of the universe
has been rearranged
but if you listen closely
from across the meadow
you can still hear that chain
and see that shadow

...chain, chain and shadow...

copyright P & C Samm Bennett / Directional Music - All Rights Reserved

posted by flapjax at midnite (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Loved it immediately.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:24 PM on June 24, 2009

you're in japan?

i lived in tokyo for 15 years til last summer
posted by ichthuz at 7:50 AM on June 25, 2009

but if you listen closely
But I am, I am!

I'm proud to call you my spouse, flapjax ;)
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:54 PM on June 25, 2009

Thanks, y'all. Foci, honey, love you too. And yup, ichthuz, I live in Tokyo. Going on 14 years now. You should've come to some meetups!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:55 PM on June 25, 2009

You're ROCKIN' that strum stick and your vocals and lyrics are sweet as always.

You should include a "strum stick" tag for folks who aren't familiar with your music yet. That thang is pretty awesome.
posted by snsranch at 5:31 PM on June 26, 2009

Tag added, sns, and thanks!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:33 PM on June 26, 2009

Your vocal is, as ever, superb (you bastard!). I thought though that you maybe got a bit locked into a kind of drone, and perhaps the track could modulate a bit more than it does? Maybe if you dropped down a tone or two for the hook it would hit home more. I minor quibble and intended as constructive.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:23 PM on June 29, 2009

Thanks for your comment, Major.

I thought though that you maybe got a bit locked into a kind of drone...

But I like being locked up! Tie me to the bed and drone me, baby!

Seriously, though, yours is a critique I've heard before. And I can certainly understand that people often expect a lot more harmonic variation in their pop songs, more than they get from mine. Thing is, though, my model (so to speak) is not pop songs per se. I see most of my song work as having much more of a connection to pre-war blues, modal mountain music (Kentucky, Tennessee - the Appalachian region), relatively obscure American folk styles like Mississippi fife and drum, and primitive Americana DIYers like Eddie "One String" Jones and others. Archaic American music that more often than not doesn't feature the kind of harmonic shifts and *hooks* that are a defining feature of popular song from Tin Pan Alley to the Beatles and beyond. I'm the Alabama grandson of Roscoe Holcomb and Vera Ward Hall, Skip James and Almeda Riddle.

Additionally, my music has a strong connection (aesthetically) to certain non-American folk musics that do not feature harmonic 'development' or chord changes at all. African music, in its many forms, has been an enormous influence on me. Much of my very favorite music (from Africa, Asia, Indonesia, etc.) has little to no harmonic movement of the kind normally associated with western music, but rather stays 'in one place', so to speak. The interest for me, in much of that kind of music, is in the sonic texture, the sound personality of the piece, and of course the rhythmic feel and interaction of melodic and rhythmic elements. I've been listening steadily, in fact, to music like that for the past 30-plus years, so harmonic motion as found in most Western music is not something I necessarily need or listen out for at all.

So that's pretty much where I'm coming from. I know most people don't really share my frame of reference in this regard, and I don't expect that my songs will ever find a wide audience, especially. I'm aware that they don't deliver some of the goods that many listeners expect. But I hope they can be appreciated on their own terms, and I think they will perhaps be better understood and appreciated when one approaches them with some of the folk artists and international folk styles I've mentioned above as their primary frame of reference, as opposed to, say, Burt Bacharach or Cole Porter or Paul McCartney.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:36 PM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

OK, this may sound a little weird, but I almost immediately heard this as the theme song to a TV series called Chain and Shadow. It's about a white moonshiner (James Chain) and his escaped slave partner/friend who is simply known as Shadow. The series revolves around their escapades dodging bumbling tax collectors, foiling evil slave catchers, and seducing innocent farmer's daughters. Starring maybe Ian McShane or William Sanderson as James Chain and Mos Def as Shadow.

So, it's an evocative song, I'm saying. Thanks.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:15 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

flapjax, that's almost exactly what I was asking for in a previous post of your. Gracias, and it's favorited for posterity.
posted by snsranch at 12:57 PM on June 30, 2009

I continue to be blown away. This is totally consummate artistry.
posted by eritain at 9:31 PM on August 19, 2009

Thank you so much, eritrain, I'm most gratified.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:15 AM on August 21, 2009

Just posted a live version of this to YouTube, hot off the presses, from a gig just last night here in Tokyo.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:23 AM on November 2, 2009

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