the Solitary Songs

by Miriam Jones

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about

The Solitary Songs is a project I started in March of this year, the intention being to write a new song every month, record it simply at home, and put if up for free download for that month. I wanted the focus to be on writing material that I felt was geared more toward solo performance than what I've done in the past, at least as far as 'interest' is concerned. Whether the songs would handle a band in the end was beside the point; I felt I needed to work on attending more to detail particularly where my guitar playing was concerned, and just push my creative processes further than I'd been used to pushing. I'm guessing that I may, in a few months time, collect together the resulting songs, re-record them with more love and finesse, and release them as an album; for now, I'm concentrating on the songwriting and simple arrangements. I hope very much that you enjoy what gets drawn out - it will be a surprise to me as much to you.
Thanks for your interest, time and investment.
Yours in the creative process,
Miriam

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released April 1, 2009

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Miriam Jones Oxford

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“... it’s a very good record” - Independent On Sunday

“Transfixed by her style .... emotive performances that combine darkness and soul but warmth and accessibility too”
– Maverick
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Track Name: Come Clean (April)
It came out furiously “why won’t you just let me be?”
“Can’t I just do what I do-you know I don’t even think that I asked you”

And I watched your face fall - the color rising
You fell behind while I rushed to right me
I break my heart when I break your life-line
By disregarding you on the side-lines

But can I come clean with you? I want to come clean…will you let me come clean with you

Things that I wouldn’t see you bring before me daily
The light I throw in the dark, and then the dark in my own pretty heart

I watch my height fall, but something true there
Cause I don’t feel small now that I’m down here
I stare across to the eyes before me
Right on the level and love implores me

Go on and come clean
I want for you to come clean
So go, go on and come clean

We sit in silence and I’m ashamed now
along a church bench we are the same now
I say I’m sorry I didn’t mean to, will you forgive me? you know I need you
To be myself to be someone else too, to wallow with me in knowing Grace who
Walks beside us in all our weakness, in all our anger, in all our speeches
Of what we know, and what we deserve and all the reasons we think we shouldn’t

Have to come clean
We don’t wanna come clean
We know we need to come clean
Track Name: Full-Affected (May)
Oh my lover makes me sigh when he kisses me so warm so sly
Like a full red winter-wine - radiating slowly slowing time
Oh my lover makes me high, words that go straight to my heart, my mind
Like April rain in mid-July - you leave your shoes and fling yourself outside, no care for keeping dry
Oh there is not a question that I’m fully affected by this love
Oh his heart is my direction and I’m fully detected by this love
Oh my lover makes me try but not the way the world takes all the time
The way the colors and the lines of some great summit call you up the climb and you feel satisfied
Oh there is not a question that I’m fully affected by this love
Oh his heart is my direction and I’m fully detected by this love
Oh there is not a question that I’m fully affected by this love
Oh and here is great affection, that I should be perfected by this love
And this ‘all-we-are in somebody else’s is arms’ - forgetting yourself then finding you are naked, but you’re not alone
Oh my lover makes me cry, he don’t always do or say what’s right
And I am my lover’s wife, I’ll stand in his darkness and his light the way he stands in mine
Track Name: Rhythm Out (June)
Flying and Solitary Song 3 - Rhythm Out

Well, I’m somewhere just north and a whole lot of up from Hudson Bay, in seat 17G on Thomas Cook airlines. Jez and I land in Vancouver in 4 hours, should all go according to plan and let me tell you, I hope it does.

It’s been a whirlwind of a month, and while I’m not one to boast of busyness, as the past 21 months have seen their fair share of cultural acclimatizing for me, and not a whole lot moving in the music department, I’m happy that May has been so full. For some reason or another a few of the gigs I’d been trying to get all came through at once, along with several more that came to me - many of you will know this having been so great at coming out to some of them.
At any rate, between all that and prepping for this trip back to Canada, writing and getting the June Solitary Song has been a challenge, but I did accomplish it.

Fairly straight forward guitar part this time, no picking, but I did use the capo on the second fret leaving the high E string out to ring open most of the time, which funnily enough seems to make quite a profound effect for something so simple - no de-tuning or anything.

They say London is a city of single people. Seems true enough, although there are plenty of other big cities out there in at least similar boats I suspect. On the whole, I’m guessing this is what people are choosing, but there are many that wouldn’t choose it that are stuck with it nonetheless, for reasons often quite illusive. Some of us expect a lot out of life, others not much, but generally I think we all have expectations of some sort about what life will/might/should hold, and a lot of them seem almost as obvious as breathing. What we do if we don’t get them but still find ourselves breathing is a mystery to me. “Rhythm Out” is a song about the pain of this kind of bewilderment.

I’m in British Columbia until June 27th, and then I fly to Austria with Jez for an arts conference at Schloss Mittersill, and we get back to Oxford on July 4th. I’m working on the Solitary Song for July, and although the mp3 will be late in arriving (scandalous) I think I might do a video with my laptop, which I can do from anywhere, and share that with you all on the 1st. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this one.

Miriam
Track Name: Helicopter (August)
LYRICS
The afternoon comes sliding sweet, beneath the kitchen window in the heat. In my glass the ice retreats; from the sky the rising rumblin’ of a helicopter freezes me. And just on the other side of here, frantic you are fumbling round in fear, sweat obscures your eyes like tears, edging round the fields to find a way to disappear. And I hear the helicopter drowning your life out with every beat of its terrible wings and I feel the helicopter drowning my heart oh with everything that its being there means. I lace my hair behind my ear; you claw the branches and the air. I spare my heart for you out there because I know we’re both relying on somebody else’s care. And I hear the helicopter drowning your life out with every beat of its terrible wings and I feel the helicopter drowning my heart oh with everything that its being there means and I don’t even know your name, and I won’t pretend that we are just the same. But if I came upon your hiding place I wouldn’t give you away. And I hear the helicopter drowning your life out with every beat of its terrible wings and I feel the helicopter drowning my heart oh with everything that its being there means yes I hear the helicopter hounding you just to get out, get away, you’ve built your life on that refrain oh and I feel the helicopter sounding your heart what a thundering thing in such a fragile machine.

NOTES
I've been tweaking this song for a couple of months now. It was meant for July, but as you know - or maybe you didn't - my awayness in June to Canada for 4 weeks and then Austria for another week, combined with the struggle this particular song has given me in terms of getting it feeling right meant that I couldn't have it ready in time. It takes quite a different angle content-wise than usual - it's a song about a guy who was apparently around in Marston being chased by police, and who had disappeared into our neighboring fields hoping to hide there. I had run into a policeman that morning in the park and he had just returned to his car after an unsuccessful foot-pursuit. He said, 'ah we'll get him; they're sending a helicopter.' Sure enough, around lunch time when Jez and I were sitting outside having our nibbles, the foretold helicopter showed up, and I just got to thinking about the fact that we were sitting there so at ease, sunning ourselves, and not a mile away some poor soul was running essentially for his 'life', and just the discontinuity of that. I felt a lot of sorrow about it for several days and knew I wanted to write about it, but I was waiting for how to come at it. After I began it, there were a lot of rewrites before I was able to get in touch with everything I was feeling and express it in a way that had integrity, capturing both the drama and the earthiness of the whole thing.
Track Name: Ashes or Gold (September)
LYRICS

when the promised fire falls
on our heads and on everything we know
it shall be made plain, the worth of it all
burned to ashes or refined to gold

when my life is repossessed
and the truth, shines her light into the hold
all I have done, cursed and blessed
will burn to ashes or be refined to gold

if I don’t love you life is worthless and nothing will remain of it
when my time is over what will I show for it, I will not escape from this

I know well the force of myself
but the selfish will be turned out in the cold
yes all I have been for anyone else
will burn to ashes or be refined to gold

you may have, or have nothing at all
but in the end all the homeless will come home
and where your heart is, what you've loved above all
will burn to ashes or be refined to gold

on that day sudden and great
this whole world, worn and tired, torn and old
will be set alight, a new kingdom made
on top of the ashes from the finest gold

NOTES

It’s been a busy couple of months, and I was a little concerned my creative juices might leave me high and dry as a result - it’s sometimes difficult to make emotional space in the midst of a ‘gigging season’(there’s a reason why bands usually tour for a chunk, then write and record fo another), and I seem to be in one that I didn’t predict - great, but I’m a little dizzy from focusing on so many different modes.
I sat down and wrote at various points in August, and came up with some things but nothing that really stayed with me. I didn’t begin this song until a couple of days before Jez and I headed to Greenbelt for the long weekend that just went by, and as often happens to me, it kicked off while I was walking. I’ve learned over the past however many years of growing myself as a writer that walking alone and in wild or at least green spaces is essential for me in hearing ideas, so when I’m coming up against a deadline, not only do I have to make time for sitting down with my guitar and hammering out musical lines, but more importantly I need to go on walking adventures. Maybe it’s the rhythm of the physical movement, or perhaps it’s the room above my head that let’s things out - I reckon it’s probably both.
I don’t think there’s too much else to say about this song, really - it’s not so cryptic as Helicopter - I guess I would just say that there is both so much dross in this world, and so much beauty (something we all know), but it’s the beautiful that is helping to build the new heavens and the new earth (so some of us believe). Although my capacity to behave badly toward others is monumental, and my stewardship of what is given me imperfect, I long for my life to be defined by the lovely, by sacrifice.
Track Name: Don't Throw Your Words Away (October)
LYRICS

Lord knows that words don’t always earn their keep
And lovers pride themselves that they don’t need to speak
They’re so good at reading, one look is all they need
And I love all the faces that you make at me
The ones you pull on purpose and the ones you lose to honesty
I’ll take a lifetime to study you my sweet
Nothing says I love you quite like someone saying I love you

So don’t throw your words away
I’ll hang on everything you want to say
Whisper your sweet, sweet nothings they mean everything, everything
Don’t throw your words away
I know you love me but it’s not the same
Though it might be easy to say, say it anyway - don’t throw your words away

Life rolls down a tight rope of delight and dues
The mouth can say all kinds of things the hand won’t prove
You mean the world Love, but I don’t have time for you
But often these hypocrisies aren’t understood
A few more zealous lovers in this world would do some good
Oh if you feel it, go on and let it loose
I know this love is clouded, but not any more for being shouted

NOTES:

This song was a gift on a sunny, autumn day of loveliness in an obliging field a few days ago. I was thinking of how beautiful the sea had looked in Dartmouth the weekend before and then boom, I'm writing about how great it is to have someone babbling their love to you.
There's a schmultzy and recently famous country song written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, covered by Alison Krauss, Ronan Keating and others, called 'When You Say Nothing at All (You say it best)', and as I got into writing "Don't Throw Your Words Away" the thought occurred to me that it was rather like the opposite of that. I'm rather a talkative thing when I'm in small company, and my husband is undeniably verbal as well, so there's not a whole lot of holding back in our house, and I love that.
The tuning is a little crazy and probably won't be much fun on the live front (at least I now have a tuning pedal), but it's pretty cool and has been fun fiddling about with: E B C#G#B E
So that's that. It still feels almost a little too fresh as a song to just spill out to you like this, so suddenly - I think as I play it a bit more it will adjust slightly here and there for the better, but there's time for that so that's alright. And anyways, I'm not afraid of you - I feel pretty safe to not have it completely all together, which is nice.
Track Name: Bones (January)
She said you know, my heart left long ago
10 years you held my bones
stepped off my throne, on my knees I watched her go
when she stayed away I rose

she drifts by like a misplaced satellite
taking pictures of the world locked in her mind

but I was out of your mind

I stood alone in the rooms we never made a home
I just stood there and I froze
All that I own bears the life that you’ve disowned,
and my clothes hang on my bones

And I cried for the surreptitious dynamite
that sent you hurtling through the weightless outer-life

where I was out of your mind