Blood Brothers (2018)

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“Home is not a place but a power,” somebody says, and here in these songs is the roving longing that makes a prayer of what is seen, no matter—desert or hill or river: I wasn’t born here but I’ve been here for a while.  Jeffrey gives us the ample and aching heart, the long hunger that is life as it shimmers past, the elusive want, the face remembered.  The hands.  Pretty hands.  The blown river.  “Stay together/learn the flowers/go light” one poet writes—go light and, by god, hang on.  I see paintings.  Millet, maybe—a woman in a tavern and light is time and time is the light passing.  Plain people.  Humble. It is summer and the window is open.  You are 22.  You will marry.  No: whatever can have been is gone from you; it belongs to the life unlived.  Big open sky and a creaking fence.  The chance encounter that goes electric.  “I’m in crush with you,” my kid used to say—and I guess I would say they are crushing, these songs.  They get to me.  A warble in the heart.  They feel like my favorite turn in the road, the long run of dirt when the mountains go blue and the jackrabbit beats you running.  The late open mic of the soul.  If you go, you go.  You go like hell.  Albuquerque.  Eldridge.  I am right there and anywhere at all.  Jeffrey makes it all blood country."

- Noy Holland (From the liner notes to BLOOD BROTHERS)

    

BLOOD BROTHERS, the much-anticipated follow-up to Jeffrey Foucault’s critically acclaimed 2015 album Salt As Wolves (“Immaculately tailored… Close to perfection” - New York Times; “Pure Songwriter, simple and powerful” - Morning Edition, NPR) is a collection of reveries, interlacing memory with the present tense to examine the indelible connections of love across time and distance. The poet Wallace Stevens wrote that technique is the proof of seriousness, and from the first suspended chord of 'Dishes' - a waltzing hymn to the quotidian details of life, which are life itself ('Do the dishes / With the windows open') - Foucault deftly cuts the template for the album as a whole, showing a mastery of technique as he unwinds a deeply patient collection of songs at the borderlands of memory and desire.

A departure from the austere electricity of his last outing, BLOOD BROTHERS sets blues aside to pull together strands of country, R&B, gospel, rock’n’roll, and folk in a series of delicate small-canvas portraits. There’s a touch more light coming through the window, a certain gentleness in play, with layers of backing vocals sung by women - including Foucault's wife Kris Delmhorst, as well as the various partners of the band - adding hue and shade.

'War on the Radio’ - a jangling rocker built on a Stars’n’Bars-style fiddle line carried by pedal steel and electric guitars - uses bright major chording reminiscent of Foucault’s 2006 album GHOST REPEATER, as it remarks the complicity at the heart of modern American living (‘Just lie back and close your eyes / Listen to the war on the radio’). The hushed intensity of ‘Blown’ - a duet with Grammy-nominated songwriter Tift Merritt - plumbs the nature of dislocation against lines of brooding steel and cello, while the title cut, written together with drummer Billy Conway (and embroidered here by the near-transparent lilt of Iowa’s Pieta Brown) details the sharp ache of lost love (‘How could I know that I would live through / My life haunted by your sad smile?’). Rounding out the A-side, ‘Little Warble’ memorializes the day a love affair ends, from the vantage of twenty years past, in a quiet elegy of surpassing beauty. The intimate acoustic guitar duet ‘Pretty Hands’ - which sees Foucault joined by the Milk Carton Kids’ Kenneth Pattengale on lead - closes the album with a lovely, spare poem of knowing and being known, a meditation on the nature of marriage.

Cut live to tape in three days at Pachyderm Studios in rural Minnesota, BLOOD BROTHERS reconvenes SALT AS WOLVES'S all-star ensemble: Foucault's longtime tour partner Billy Conway (Morphine) on drums, Bo Ramsey (Lucinda Williams) on electric guitars, and Jeremy Moses Curtis (Booker T) on bass, joined this time by pedal steel great Eric Heywood (Pretenders) to unite in the studio both iterations of the band with which Foucault has toured and recorded for over a decade. Charting a vision of American music without cheap imitation or self-conscious irony, the ensemble deploys an instinctive restraint and use of negative space, an economy of phrase and raw simplicity that complement perfectly Foucault’s elegant lines and weather-beaten drawl.

As noise and politics, fashion and illusion obtrude on all fronts, BLOOD BROTHERS is a deep breath and a step inward, with tenderness and human concern, paying constant attention to the places where the mundane and the holy merge like water. In language pared to element, backed by his world-class band, Foucault considers the nature of love and time in ten songs free of ornament, staking out and enlarging the ground he’s been working diligently all the new century: quietly building a deep, resonant catalogue of songs about about love, memory, God, desire, wilderness, and loss.


Tracks

1. Dishes
2. War on the Radio
3. Blown
4. Blood Brothers
5. Little Warble
6. Cheap Suit
7. Rio
8. I Know You
9. Dying just a Little
10. Pretty Hands


Dishes

Do the dishes
With the windows open
Soak the dirt
From under your nails
Pour a double
Put a record on the table
The light’s always perfect
Just before it fails

Bow your head down
When you break bread together
Close your eyes
Make a circle of hands
There is nothing
That cannot be taken from you
In this life we just hold on
To the love that we have

Swing the axe
In the hour before daylight
Note the sparks
That attend to the blade
A thing made free
Of itself leaps apart
And the heart divided
Would do just the same

Take the back roads
With nobody on them
Find a river
Make yourself clean
Go down to the water
If you would be delivered
Of sinner and sin
Seen and unseen

Step outside
Let the stars reel around you
Cup your hands
Around a bright flame
In that darkness
Let the heavens confound you
It’s all just a story
Even the sound of your name
 

War on the Radio

Just lie back and close your eyes
Listen to the war on the radio
Fire up the light
Of the world in your hands
Feel what it’s trying to tell you

There are so many things to buy
Desolation chief among them
There are so many ways to die
We’re dying slow

Have you walked in your dreams
Through the ruin and the raze
With the sky a dying crimson?
The copper of your blood
For the bead and the braze
In the golden age of television

Go ahead and take a look around
See the world before it’s gone
You know the sun is going down
On everything we’ve ever known

But don’t turn away
You can’t turn away

Did you drink from the well
Until you had your fill
Your reflection bright upon it?
When they stole everything
They couldn’t buy or kill
Did you slake your heart
With the profit?

I still believe in rock’n’roll
I don’t care what they try to sell you
There’s nothing bought and nothing sold
Where the soul of man never dies
 

Blown

If you go you go
You go like hell
Don’t look back
Never tell
Stranger is
As stranger does
I’m a stranger now

It rained all night
And the rivers are blown
Feel like forgetting
Whatever I’ve known
I wasn’t born here
But I’ve been here
For a while

You might leave
And never come back
Or never leave
And lose all that
Love cut with wonder
Cut with pain and love
 

Blood Brothers

If I saw you
Would you know my name?
If I saw you
Would you know my name?
I used to know you
I used to be your man

We were lovers
In the traveling time
Blood brothers
Back when you were mine
Do you remember? 
I was your valentine

You wanted what I couldn’t give you
You would have stayed
To hold on to what we had
How could I know
That I would live through
My life haunted by
Your sad smile?

Sometimes I hold you
In my dreams at night
I never told you
It never seemed right
I’ll meet you somewhere
On the other side
 

Little Warble

Driving down a county road
So in love with you
Landslide on the tape deck
A little warble coming through
1996 you were 22
And we were getting married
That’s the only thing I knew

We shoveled horse shit for an hour
To get you done by five
And then I took you out to supper
At that little country dive
Just outside of Eldridge
With all the old farmers
And their wives

We got into a fight
You were smoking cigarettes
I walked a hundred yards away
And I climbed up on a fence
You always asked me why I loved you
But no reason would suffice
All the words that I could give you
Could never meet your price

Now I’m doing dishes
With my little girl
Landslide comes on the radio
And maybe nothing in this world
Could make time arc back this way
And touch upon itself again
A little warble in my heart
For how I loved you then
 

Cheap Suit

There’s a man in a cheap suit
Holding a beer can
Standing on his back porch
Looking out past the highway

The sun is going down    
In a field of dry corn
And the slider keeps catching
And the screen is torn

His tie is loose
His socks are thin
He shakes the can once
And goes back in

He walks between his children
And the television glow
To the kitchen for another
To the living room alone

There’s a knock-off Gibson
Leaning in the corner
Where he left it the last time
He felt like this

He pushes on the tuners
With his eyes shut tight
Runs out a figure with his left hand
Until the chord sounds right

When he sings he looks so far away
Like there’s something
He almost remembers
And doesn’t know how to say

I see him from the doorway
I see that look in his eye
And I know I’m going to go there
Where my father’s dreams lie
 

Rio

Run the Rio
Up to Albuquerque
Baby by my side
Nothing can hurt me

Ribbon of gold
Cottonwoods turning
High desert cold
I’m still burning
Just to hold you near

White silver bracelets
Turquoise and clay
The light on your hands
At the end of the day

Santa Fe
Mission bells ringing
Piñon smoke
I hear my baby singing
She sings Albuquerque
 

I Know You

I know you
I know the things that you do
I’ve seen the way that you stare
And run your hands down your hair
I know you

I know the way that you are
I drove around in your car
I put my mouth on your scars
I know you

But I want to see you again
For the first time
I want to want nothing more
Than the touch of your skin

I want to see you again
For the first time
And I want to wake up tomorrow
And see you again

I know you
I know your family too
I know how crazy they are
I think you fell from a star
I know you

I know your hands in the dark
The slow beat of your heart
I know how you come apart
I know you 

I’ve loved you all of these years
I’ve told you some of my fears
I know the salt of your tears
I know you
 

Dying just a Little

Trying to stay alive
Trying to stay alive to it all
Dying just a little
Every time the leaves fall
The river freezes over
The warblers pass through
Dying just a little honey
Who takes care of you?

Trying to stay awake
Long enough to hear
Those late night songs
Dying just a little every time
You sing along
You hear all their confessions
You tell them what to do
Dying just a little honey
Who takes care of you?

Trying to stay a while
And just watch the deal go down
Dying just a little
Every time they try to kill
Your little town
Your babies move away
But they come back home to you
Dying just a little honey
Who takes care of you?

Trying to keep your heart open
Wide enough for everyone
Dying just a little every time
It comes undone
Or froze up like a mailbox
With the letters trapped inside
Kind-hearted woman
Just trying to stay alive
 

Pretty Hands

Oh pretty hands
Oh pretty hands
Dirty nails
Wedding band

Oh dark eyes
Oh dark eyes
You’re running late
No surprise

Your heart is like a city
I get lost there
From time to time

My heart
Is like a small town
Most of the best parts
Are hard to find

Oh pretty hands
Oh pretty hands
Dirty nails