No Worries Now...
by Joel Mabus
[back to the No Worries Now album
[notes from tray card]
1. Am I Right (3:37)
2. Come Along Again (3:09)
3. Two Cents Plain (3:25)
4. Alligator Ate Her Poodle (2:39)
5. Little Mister Diddy (2:59)
6. You Voted Red (2:00)
7. Poison In The Glass (4:58)
8. Halfway Home (4:12)
9. Charlie Birger (8:09)
10. The Lost Shall Be Redeemed (2:52)
11. Give It Up (3:44)
12. Shine (4:05)
13. How Can I Keep From Singing
[the old hymn re-imagined] (3:06)
14. Extra Poison
[bonus track] (4:13)
Joel Mabus: vocals, acoustic guitar & mandolin
Frank Youngman: acoustic bass
All lyrics & music written by Joel Mabus
except the melodies for #4 & #13 which are from the public domain,
adapted and arranged by Joel Mabus.
Recorded, mixed & mastered by John Stites at Arcadia Recording
Produced by Joel Mabus for Fossil Records
All songs published by Fingerboard Music, BMI
(p) © 2009 Joel Mabus, Fossil Records # 2009
PO Box 306
Portage, MI 49081
Relax, you’ve got no worries now…
global market crashes, stunning bankruptcies, ecological disasters, bitterly
contested elections and ruthless piracies (both on the high seas and in the
boardroom) were the backdrop as I wrote and recorded these songs over the past
year and a half.
So what else is new?
Once again the world has proved itself to be a fickle and dangerous place. A
handful of songs, however sanguine, aren’t going to undo the troubles. But
songs are all I have to offer. My
best hope is that you might find some refuge here from the storm – maybe a few
smiles and nods too. Should you
choose to delve, the notes inside this booklet provide some details about these
songs and how they got that way.
Thanks are in order. My
gratitude to Frank Youngman for applying his upright bass skills and overall
fine musicianship to this project. It
was great to have my old friend on the job again – Frank played bass on my
very first album back in 1977. And I
can’t thank John Stites enough for his diligence and attention to detail in
the recording of this disc. For all of John’s cool studio equipment, it’s
his ears and what’s between them that makes the difference.
But for patience and
support, my wife Jan gets the prize. How many times has she suffered the hundred
minuscule variations on one budding tune as I tinker on my guitar, or put up
with the countless hours squirreled away in my man-cave as I type, hum, strum,
and type some more? Must be love.
In this age of
shuffle-play and random access, the record album – a parcel of songs all lined
up in a particular order – has been deemed hopelessly old-fashioned. Today
music is temporal and disposable – mere files to be copied and cached in any
number of possible pods and musets. This
brave new world is all rip & burn, load & delete.
Me? I’m more of a “vessel
of sacred fire” kind of guy. So
thanks to you for taking a chance on this album, my twentieth.
Let me know if you like it.
Where to? what next?
Well, I surely don’t know, but as long as my breath holds out I will
1 Am I Right
(3:37) is a jump tune that asks the old wise-guy question, “Am I right or am I
right?” That choice of no choice
has always struck me as another of those Zen “one hand clapping” riddles. Or
I could be wrong.
2 Come Along Again
(3:09) began as a ditty made up while driving the length of
in mid-March. It wasn’t yet
spring, but you could see it from there. What
intrigued me was not so much the turning of the seasons, but the hopeful
anticipation of the next season’s turn. It’s
the thing around the corner that keeps us going, I think.
3 Two Cents Plain
(3:25) is a term from the last Great Depression.
In a soda shop or tavern, the cheapest drink you could buy was unflavored
soda water. It went for two cents,
and the name for the beverage became “a two cents plain.”
I stumbled upon this factoid while writing a little ragtime guitar piece,
and I thought it would make a dandy title. Well,
the title led to lyrics, and the instrumental became a song.
4 Alligator Ate Her Poodle
(2:39) started out as just a silly sentence jotted on a page. Eventually
it blossomed into light verse about the beautiful State of
– or rather her invaders. Light
verse is terribly out of fashion / It’s all so horribly Ogden Nashion
5 Little Mister Diddy
(2:59) could be dedicated to any number of fishy politicians.
I have one particular glad-hander in mind, but the choices are endless.
6 You Voted Red
(2:00) was written during the fatiguing 2008 political campaigns.
Applying the current gang colors of our 2-party system, mine is a
typically blue home in a generally red town. But
my county leans blue in the red region of a frequently blue state. Color
us mauve. The mismatch of this song
is not my relationship, if you must know. I
invent most of my characters, especially the ones named “I.”
7 Poison In The Glass
(4:58) began as just that image. Pregnant
with possibility, it led me first to consider Socrates – and then other
high-and-mighties who are remembered as much for their fates as their feats. For
more, see the bonus track.
8 Halfway Home
(4:12) is a remembrance of things past. The
hometown of my childhood isn’t there anymore. Oh,
it’s still on the map. The
still churns nearby, the summers are still hot and muggy, and
is still called
. But it’s no longer the place I
know so well. That place is
indelible – the smallest whiff from a skillet can conjure my mother’s
kitchen like Brigadoon.
9 Charlie Birger
(8:09) was a colorful small-town
crime boss – a back-water Al Capone cum Robin Hood.
In the 1920’s Birger headed a gang of machine-gun toting bootleggers in
, a.k.a. “Little Egypt.” After
80 years it is hard to tease out fact from legend in a bigger-than-life
character like Charlie Birger, but I’ve tried. On
trial for murder, Charlie cracked, “I’ve killed some men, but never a good
one.” He did, in fact, oust the
KKK from his home turf in what amounted to gang warfare. Birger
held court at his notorious speakeasy & barbeque joint – The Shady Rest
– out on Route 13, but kept his own home clean of vice. Charlie
raised two little daughters behind white picket fences in the town of
, where he was regarded as a friend to the poor. Still
it was said that Birger had cold eyes, and if insulted would sooner kill a man
than punch him in the nose. As
flamboyant as he was enigmatic, Charlie fancied a resemblance to cowboy idol Tom
Mix, and often dressed the part. To
this day it is unclear whether a young Birger really charged up
San Juan Hill
with Teddy Roosevelt, as he boasted, or was just a common horse-soldier out
West. Most people didn’t know he
was born in
?) or that he was Jewish – until he summoned a rabbi to pray with him on the
gallows. Charlie’s American dream
was bigger than most, and I think his story deserves to be remembered.
10 The Lost Shall Be Redeemed
(2:52) is a solo guitar piece I wrote for this spot on the album.
Among my first influences were the old American hymns we sang in church
when I was a child, so you might hear echoes of the bygone hymnal here.
I actually wrote some verses to better shape the melody, but left them
unsung. I wanted this to be an instrumental, and it remains just that.
11 Give It Up
(3:44) started as an instrumental,
too. The tune suggested the refrain,
the refrain delivered the idea, and the idea found the rest of the words –
including “goodbye” in nine languages. Ralph
Waldo Emerson sticks his head in the door on the last verse. The
refrain also provides the title for this album, if you haven’t noticed.
(4:05) is another song of advice. The
old gospel parable I learned as a child bade me not to hide my candle under a
bushel. Shade-tree mechanics taught
me that everything starts with a spark.
13 How Can I Keep From Singing
(3:06) is indeed the old hymn re-imagined. By
most accounts, the original words & music were written in 1860 by Robert
Wadsworth Lowry. Literature
professor, Baptist minister and renowned hymnist, Lowry wrote three very
devotional stanzas that have been amended and largely humanized over the years. Thanks
to Pete Seeger, that great Johnny Appleseed of folk music, the version most
performed today is the one he taught the world some 50 years ago. Pete
had learned the song from his friend Doris Plenn who got it from her
grandmother. All mentions of Christ
were gone from the hymn by the time Seeger recorded it, and Lowry’s halcyon
closing verse was replaced with a defiant one written by Plenn herself in the
1950’s (“When tyrants tremble
sick with fear and hear their death knells ringing…”). In
early 2003, on the eve of
’s headlong invasion of
, I was asked to compose a verse for peace to temporarily replace the “tyrants
tremble” stanza – for fear of seeming to sing blessing over the coming war.
The occasion was the first annual Midwinter Singing Festival in
. (What I wrote back then is the third verse you have here now; it has been sung
every year since to open that festival.) In
2008, I decided to go for a complete re-write – keeping the song’s one-line
refrain, but replacing all the rest. Why?
I love the song, but Lowry’s
lyrics seem fusty to the modern ear – archaic rhymes such as liveth &
giveth stumble off the tongue. Plus,
the old hymn’s cardinal points don’t quite jibe with my compass.
Ultimately, I needed a fresh look at the twin metaphors of song &
singing, if only to clarify my own views of Spiritus
Mundi. So, risking the charge of
hubris, I grasped the nettle and hove to. While
I was at it, I changed the time signature and reharmonized the melody.
So like grandpa’s old ax after three new handles and two new blades, it
is the old hymn yet, and yet not.
14 Extra Poison
(4:13) is your bonus track, dear listener. In
writing “Poison In The Glass” (track 7) I exhumed several historical
characters who had met dastardly ends. After
editing, the song emerged something like a play, with prologue, epilogue &
Greek chorus bracketing three acts of impending demise – three seemed the
right number. But what to do with
all my leftover sketches, fully formed verses in my songwriter’s trunk?
I decided to install them in this annex – a little guest house of a
song. If you are bit iffy on your
history, I suggest you start your search engines for the lives and deaths of
Jesse James, Napoleon Bonaparte and Jean-Paul Marat. You’ve
probably already heard about that business with Judas Iscariot – it’s been
in all the papers.
There you have them: my
fancies and my good-nights most recently contrived for my own amusement and
hopefully yours, too. To read the
lyrics, visit my website – JOELMABUS.COM – or if you wish, send me a self
addressed stamped envelope for a paper & ink version.
©2009 Joel Mabus -- all rights reserved