Obviously Lefty Frizzell

I’ve always been obsessed, thematically, with silence, journeys, and the contexts in which real “life-changing” epiphanies occur. It seems to me that one of these places is on the road touring (and it seems to be backed up by what I’ve read of folks who spend a LOT of time on the road). You either figure yourself out, or lose yourself, somewhere out on the interstate.

The title is an acknowledgment of Kris Kristofferson as a motivating force for me as a songwriter. It’s a Dylan-like off-the-cuff expression, yet intended as an homage to a type of singer-songwriter that really no longer exists.

In the back of the bus
watching cigarette butts in the ashtray
as the lights from the middle
of nowhere recede in the night
There’s a song on radio, softly it’s playing,
while some local preacher continues his praying
but forgiveness comes slow
to those who believe they are right

In the back of his mind
thoughts collide with the words that he’s forming
as the melody reaches
a sleeping form in the next row
There’s a song on radio, maybe he wrote it,
Maybe the next time the gun won’t be loaded
but memory serves only those
who believe it is so

In the back of his head
his eyes turn to observe through the window
As the fly-over country he’s crossing
slips under the road
There’s a song on the radio, sales figures pending,
It’s all about paying for years of pretending
but time sure ain’t money,
you never get more than you owe

In the back of the guidebook
it mentions a beautiful cavern
As the ice ages ravaged,
it found itself left underground
There’s a song on the radio, selling its wonders,
And out in the night there’s a brief clap of thunder
But hearing a warning is not much
like heeding its sound

In the back of the bus
with the strings of his guitar still humming
As the slow dawn approaches
and opens a wearying eye
There’s a song on the radio, worn out and faded
From one more lost cowboy who thought that he made it
But thoughts are the last thing you need
when you’re trying to get by

Stage lights just prove
that you came from the shadows.
They’re never a permanent high.

1998

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