Three Pawn Shops released 2022

PERFORMERS
Eric Dahl – Lead Vocal and Acoustic Guitar
Terry Martin – Featured Vocalist (Blackbird)
Ernie Durawa – Drums & All Percussion
John Hawk – Lead Guitar (Blackbird)
Mark Maxwell – Lead Guitar (Three Pawn Shops)
Monte Mann – All other Lead Guitar
Scott Walls – Pedal Steel (Jimmy Day and Queso)
Howard Kalish – Fiddle (Jimmy Day and Queso)
Floyd Domino – Piano (Chandelier Light)
Mark Maxwell – Organ and Bass (Three Pawn Shops) and Bass (Diamonds)
Larry Eisenberg – All other Bass Guitar
Hugh Chandler – Classical Guitar (Diamonds on the Texas Dew)
Lamonica Lewis & Sondra Johnson – Backup Vocals (Break
Through and Shine, and Diamonds on the Texas Dew)
Janis Maxwell – Vocal Choruses (Three Pawn Shops)

PRODUCTION
Produced by Eric Dahl
Recorded by George Coyne at Parrot Tracks (Austin)
and Jeff Peters at Sonora Recorders (Los Angeles)
Mixed by John Keane at John Keane Studios (Athens)
and by Mark Maxwell at Maxwell Sound (Athens)
Mastered by Mark Maxwell

Album Backstory

After producing three critically acclaimed song collections about his experiences and characters he encountered in Seattle and Texas, Eric’s next album, Three Pawn Shops, reached the earlier standard of quality. He has a poet’s originality with the imagery in his stories, and an observant psychological sense in exploring these characters. The musicians who came together to create these 10 original tracks and the technical studio work done in both Austin and Athens are all first rate.

Several songs honor people Dahl has known, such as legendary pedal steel player Jimmy Day, Austin music union leader Ginger Schults, digital education innovator Dewey Winburn, and a quietly controversial biblical scholar, Walter Fiscus. Musically, the songs blend rock, folk, and country in a style variously labelled folk rock, alternative country, Americana and other names. It is a style that allows cross-genre exploration. For example, the first track (“Jimmy Day”) is really a folk song, but it has pedal steel throughout, because that’s the instrument Jimmy Day played, brilliantly. Sometimes Texas hits you hard with the real story. It tells you to listen to the night sky and try to let the story tell itself.

This is a collection of songs about telling it right. In “Blackbird” a woman speaks the truth to her estranged lover and then her mother. “Queso” is about an embarrassing screwup at a honkytonk that goes right. “Texas Nightingale” is a song about undressing, taking off all the armor of the day to find poetry, not eternity, but a moment in the mind, the sound of a nightingale.


Song Intro

Lyrics

Jimmy Day – He helped invent the pedal steel guitar and was one of its greatest players. His own pedal steel named “Blue Darlin” was known across Texas. When he was diagnosed with cancer, a raucous auction was held in his honor at Poodie’s in Spicewood. Poodie ran the auction and Willie Nelson’s tooled leather golf bag sold for a grand. Poodie suggested checking the pouches for stash. That leather golf bag was afterwards donated again and again to noble causes. It may still be circulating today in Central Texas charity auctions. Meanwhile, Poodie auctioned Jalapeno loaves for up to forty bucks, guaranteeing they were flown in that morning from New Mexico. The sheriff showed up with a stack of bills and dealt them like cards into the big glass tip jar, explaining that everyone at the jail was a Jimmy Day fan. Many of the legendary hill country musicians were there honoring one of their finest. Outside in the evening starlight, Ernie Durawa cell-phoned Jimmy at his hospital room in Houston. When he told him about the musicians and fans at the auction, Jimmy said, “At least I didn’t piss off everybody.”

Jimmy Day

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

I first heard that sound on a small-town sidewalk
Where a jukebox poured music out the door of a café.
Hank Williams and Elvis, Patsy Cline and Willie
All wound some gold on the steel of Jimmy Day.

There’s a woman crying for her hard scrabble cowboy,
A spice wind from the desert in the steel ringing true.
One murmur sweet goddess would do.
One murmur Blue Darlin from Jimmy Day and you.

I met him in a bar off a hill country highway,
People laughing and dancing, it was Ernie Durawa’s birthday.
Texas seems more real with a shot of pedal steel.
We were all thinking Jimmy would play and play.
Watched him on the stage as a woman leaned against me,
Moving her hips to the touch of his sweet hands.
His hair pushed back, he was smiling at us dancing.
Some things a player’s heart understands.

There’s a woman crying for her hard scrabble cowboy . . . .

If you drive out of these hills toward San Antonio,
There’s a honky tonk ruin boarded up and windblown.
Ghosts go there some nights under the shattered neon lights
For the music in the dust, for the words in broken stone.
It’s like a holy well in the dry grass and the cactus
Where the ache in your heart rings deeper and more pure.
You remember that sound from a small town jukebox,
And you know for a fact there is no cure.

Just a woman crying for her hard scrabble cowboy . . . .


Blackbird – When Terry Martin joined our Seattle band and started flying from LA for shows, we would rehearse over the telephone. She could mesmerize an audience. I wrote Blackbird to showcase her voice and emotional presence. This recording, with its live venue background noise, was rescued by Mark Maxwell from a random DAT recorded live somewhere in LA.

Blackbird

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

I

Blackbird cackling in the courtyard,
Wisteria growing all twisted against the wall,
My true companions for the past two weeks –
Memories, that’s all.
You want me to take you back
Like a shark attack,
No baby, I don’t need another chance
To suffer and rise again.
I don’t intend to take any advice
That sets me up for sacrifice,
Somebody else can save your world.
Went walking in hell by the fiery sea,
Met some people a lot like me,
They’re still there with people like you.
Can’t think of anything I’d rather do
Than forget everything you put me through.

II

Mamma would you send me
Some of that Baton Rouge coffee.
No one out here ever makes it that strong.
I want to wake up and face the day clearly,
Been half asleep for way to long.
He wants me to take him back
Like a shark attack,
Oh no Mamma, I don’t need another chance
To suffer and rise again.
I don’t intend to take any advice
That sets me up for sacrifice.
Somebody else can save the world.
I went walking in hell by the fiery sea,
Met some people looked a lot like me,
That ever happen to you?
There must be something you’d rather do
Than talk about the things
I’ve just been through.
Blackbird singing in the courtyard.
Wisteria — blooming — against the wall.
Blackbird singing in the courtyard.
Wisteria blooming against the wall — Blackbird.


He Won’t Change – Our Texas bandmates explained: “You write the songs and sing them. You draw a crowd. Lauri gets bookings and deals with the club managers. We always get paid. So don’t worry about the music. That’s our job. There won’t be any train wrecks.” At the start of our show, the band would vamp, playing riffs on top of one unchanging chord until I came on stage. That intro eventually evolved into this song. It starts on one chord and stays there – he won’t change.

He Won't Change

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

Same wind blowing stronger,
Weather vane spins tight,
Something breaks but it won’t break off,
Slaps on the roof all night.
Her old man told him,
White and black,
“Change direction, she’s not for you,
You’re on the wrong track.”

He won’t change, he won’t change,
No way, that boy, no way, he won’t change.

Old man told her, “I don’t like him seeing you,
I know his family, it goes way back,
This is nothing new.

He won’t change, the boy won’t change,
That boy, no way, no way, he won’t change."

She said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.
The past is over, it’s all in your head.
You can write us off or help us climb out,
Cause that boy loves me and like you said:

He won’t change, the boy won’t change,
That boy, no way, no way, he won’t change."

Pulled off the Menchaca Highway,
Drove up Townsley Hill,
Headlights flashed on the tree trunks,
The night seemed to have its own will.
Under the starlight
They talked about her dad:
“I know your old man hates me,
Thinks I’m nothing, nothing but bad.
I don’t know why his generation
Has to mess with our conversation,
I can’t change their point of view,
But what’s the difference –
I’m in love with you.

I won’t change, I won’t change,
No way, this boy, no way, I won’t change,
I won’t change.”


Kingdom Come – When I was 12, an unusual theologian stayed at our home while speaking to local church groups. Walter Fiscus was a Bible Belt preacher who did not believe in hell. It was an era of fire and brimstone preaching, so his gentle message was radical. He said, “What kind of almighty God creates humanity and decides that he has done such a bad job of it, he must burn his creations for eternity?”

Kingdom Come

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

The town he was from
Is a place called Kingdom Come
With a sandy riverbank
And a funny name—
It’s the one place on this earth
He still drove from Fort Worth,
Cause Kingdom Come is so far away
It stays the same.

I’m going back to Kingdom Come,
Back to the place I’m from.
Look across the water, walk on the air,
Finding things I lost somewhere,
I’m going back to Kingdom Come.

With a Bible in his hand,
He knew his Lord and took a stand,
Found some others in the Bible Belt who agree.
He said, “Could God mess up so bad
On the best idea he had?
No, you’re not going to burn in eternity.”

I’m going back to Kingdom Come . . . .

He was 90 years old.
We were talking about the faith I withhold,
And how religion
Can seem like pure fraud.
I said, “Do you still teach those classes?”
He said, “Everything passes.
Lately I’ve been walking on the riverbank
Talking with God.”

I’m going back to Kingdom Come . . . .


Chandelier Light – The Millett Opera House in Austin was built in 1878. There is a legend that a lady in lace leapt to her death from the theatre’s balcony. She is still sometimes seen in the shadows or heard causing the floorboards to creak on the staircase. The chandelier lights shine deeply into the mirrors and seem to light pathways back in time to the mysteries and tragedies of a different century.

Chandelier Light

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

She lives up on the third floor,
Comes down after hours,
And though she speaks to no one,
You sense her charm and powers.
She smiles across the flickering light,
Sorrow in her face,
No one knows the lady in lace.

Chandelier light goes back forever
In the mirror down the hall,
Sometimes she waltzes with her lover,
Though no one’s there at all.

You hear the floorboards creaking
Up and down the stair,
A doorknob turns, the lights go dim,
You look and no one’s there.
She might be in the balcony,
Leaning toward the stage,
As the curtains open on another age.

Chandelier light . . .

Tell me the truth my friend,
Did someone break your heart?
Tell me where the ghost tales end
And where the true ones start.
The past is filled with such fine things
It makes this life seem thin,
But that mirror cannot let us in.

Chandelier light . . .


Diamonds on the Texas Dew – I knew Dewey Winburne well but had no idea that his network of close friends and allies reached into so many different Austin communities. Over a thousand people came to his funeral, and it took two buildings linked by video to hold them. In the Austin world of high tech opportunity, Dewey always was the guardian angel for empathy, collaboration, generosity, and compassion.

Diamonds on the Texas Dew

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

Middle of the night you forget about the sun,
But it’s still gonna rise.
See – there it is,
Fractured in these eyes.
Stays cold all evening,
The field at dawn is covered in dew –
A glint of light diamond bright
For each of you.

You know, he believed
Being linked together makes us sane,
And he was the kind
Who loved to build that chain.
He always had some shining idea breaking through,
Gentle and real as diamonds on the Texas dew.

He told me, “Don’t you give up yet, got this idea,
A few more tricks to play.
Let me think about it –
There’s gotta be some way.
Hey, I know a guy who knows a woman
Who will know what to do
And someone else
Who needs a hand from you.”

You know, he believed
Being linked together makes us sane,
And he was the kind
Who loved to build that chain.
He always had some shining idea breaking through,
Gentle and real as diamonds on the Texas dew.

He believed
Being linked together makes us sane,
And we’re the ones
That have to fix that chain,
Cause this is where the shining ideas come through,
Gentle and real as a glint off the Texas Dew,
Gentle and real as diamonds on the Texas Dew,
Gentle and real as diamonds on the Texas Dew.


Queso – Two guys go into a honky tonk, one to win over a beautiful woman. He is nervous while talking to her and manages to spill a bowl of queso across her dress. When he leaves to find a bar towel, his friend talks with her. This song is what he said.

Queso

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

He must be nervous, my name isn’t Jack,
And I really don’t come from El Paso,
But I’m glad to meet you, he’ll be right back
With a bar towel to wipe up this queso.

Cowboy cool, honky tonk fool,
As a friend there’s no one more true,
And I don’t think he’s crazy cause there’s nothing crazy
About a man going crazy for you.

I’d ask you to dance but you’re covered with cheese,
Guess we could pour on some hot sauce,
And waltz in the mystery of Broken Spoke history,
He’s taking his time, well that’s his loss.

Cowboy cool, honky tonk fool,
As a friend there’s no one more true,
And I don’t think he’s crazy cause there’s nothing crazy
About a man going crazy for you.

Love is a dancer, love is the answer,
Love is what drowns us in queso.
Just hold me tighter, please call me Jack,
As we waltz all the way to El Paso.

Cowboy cool, honky tonk fool,
As a friend there’s no one more true,
And I don’t think he’s crazy cause there’s nothing crazy
About a man going crazy for you.


Three Pawn Shops – Ginger Schults worked at the Austin Federation of Musicians to negotiate payments to Texas songwriters for their performances in movies. I flew to her funeral in Arkansas, and when I got there, was asked to sing at her service. So, I bought a guitar in a local pawnshop, sang at the funeral home, and later wrote this song.

Three Pawn Shops

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

There are three pawn shops in Harrison, Arkansas,
Where I found this guitar.
Felt like singing a phrase or two,
Never thought I’d get this far.
They played Johnny Cash on cassette
At the funeral home,
Someone called out, “Amen.”
This is the way we lay our people down,
Until they rise again.

Darlin come home to this Arkansas mountain.
We’ll take you up the gravel road –
To your father and brother
Buried on that mountain top,
Long black car with its precious load,
Long black car with its precious load.

There’s a green shingle house
quarter mile from the graveyard,
Corrugated roof and an endless Ozark view.
If anyone was getting out of this valley,
Ginger, it was you.
Tell us how you lived all the way down in Texas,
Getting songwriters paid for their work on the screen.
Pastor read a letter from the Austin Music Union,
There’s a bouquet on the alter from Robert Earl Keen.

Darlin come home to this Arkansas mountain.
We’ll take you up the gravel road –
With your Aztec prince from San Antonio,
Long black car with its precious load,
Long black car with its precious load.

As we passed slowly
On the Boone County highway,
A farmer stops his tractor
In respect for the dead,
Looks down a plow row
As the cars come by from Harrison,
Slides a seed cap from his head.
I have no claim but my memory
Of running with you in these hills.
I said, “Ginger, magic girl,
Will you ever come back?”
You said, “If and when god wills.”

Darlin come home to this Arkansas mountain.
We’ll take you up the gravel road –
To your father and your brother
Buried on the mountain top,
Long black car with its precious load,
Long black car with its precious load.

There are three pawn shops in Harrison, Arkansas,
Where I found this guitar.


Break Through and Shine – Because of fires in Mexico, there was a blanket of smoke across the sky in south and central Texas. It lasted for weeks and had a psychological impact. It felt like an overhanging depression or despondency that would not go away. After a long drive south into the gloom, this song began to take shape about someone moving toward oblivion, someone who is challenged and redirected by a friend. Virginia Scott was a journalist and Red Cross volunteer. Her commitment to helping the down and out in Seattle affected many people.

Break Through and Shine

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

There’s a lotta nowhere out there.
She had compassion for the worst and the least,
In a town without a doctor,
Without a future, without a priest.
Words she said came alive in my head
Like holy wine,

“You’re gonna break through, break through,
Break through and shine.”

She gave me shelter
And I never had to explain
How a stray bolt of lightning
Left me face down in the rain.
Words she said came alive in my head
Like fortified wine.

“You’re gonna break through, break through,
Break through and shine.”

When I go back in time
To say the things I meant to say,
She tells me, “Get on your way.”
And if you don’t know where you’re headed,
Maybe you should try a prayer
To whatever’s out there in that unknown land
Where miracles appear.
I saw her carrying a round loaf
Of bread in a biblical episode.
Her shoes were anointed with oil,
Black like the unpaved road.
She said, “You look good tonight,
But you still shake and burn.
Why can’t you just get it right
and start taking your turn.”

Pressure shifting, something’s gonna change,
Warm wind lifting clouds off the open range,
Shaft of rays cuts through haze where emotions combine.

You’re gonna break through, break through,
Break through and shine.

There’s a lotta nowhere out here.


Texas Nightingale – I have spent quality time with poets from earlier centuries, and sometimes their ideas or images cross into what I write. John Keats spoke to me through two of his poems that affect this song—Ode on a Grecian Urn and Ode to a Nightingale. The person in Texas who understood this angle of my writing was John Conquest. He was English and literary but also a Texas music critic and the editor of Third Coast Music. He once reviewed one of my very unknown CDs on the same front page with Lyle Lovett and Ray Wylie Hubbard – a subtle but real honor. I never met John, but he wrote two of the most perceptive reviews of my songs. When he was taken from this mortal coil in 2017, it was a profound loss for songwriting and songwriters.

Texas Nightingale

© 2021 by Eric Dahl

The day is gone like it’s supposed to be.
Darling what’s wrong? You can talk to me.
I can say the things that soothe you,
I can sing a lullaby,
If you tell me why you’re tied in knots
Or if at least you try.

Did you hear that? It’s a Texas Nightingale
And live oaks whisperin adieu.
No one’s written anything
That comes even close to you.
Take off your braided Texas belt.
Turn off the twisted Texas news.
Take off your skintight Texas anger
And your lacy Texas blues.

The night comes on with all its poetry,
On and on – just keep talking to me.
This is not about eternity.
It’s a moment in your mind
When the Grecian Urn is broken,
And the lovers touch like the blind leading the blind.

Did you hear that? It’s a Texas nightingale . . . .

This is not about eternity,
It’s a moment in your mind
When the Grecian Urn is broken
And the lovers touch like the blind leading the blind.

Did you hear that? It’s a Texas nightingale
And live oaks whisperin adieu.
No one’s written anything
That comes even close to you.
No one’s written anything
That comes even close to you.

Contact Eric Dahl for interviews.