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A Crooked Line (2001)

by Darryl Purpose

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1.
He was a Union general, president til 1881 He was married to Lucy Webb, who had a heart as golden as the  Sunlight on the curtain lace, revolution rings still in the steel Reconstruction comes, the war is done, the wounds begin to heal CHORUS:Rutherford Hayes in the morningIs sailing into San Francisco It's the first time a president has ever come to California Come to California They called him the dark horse president, While Lucy was the belle of Washington Her children rolling easter eggs, her lemonade as golden as the  Sunset on the White House lawn, Sword and musket starts to rust Once the reconstruction's done, The Civil War will settle with the dust CHORUS:Rutherford Hayes in the morningIs sailing into San Francisco It's the first time a president has ever come to California Come to California A president on a pilgrimage, with Chester Arthur and the holy ghost To sail through the new canal, disembark on the California  Coast into ma brave new century, Our history is told by word of mouth He holds the first telephone, the Civil War still echoes in the south. CHORUS:Rutherford Hayes in the morningIs sailing into San Francisco It's the first time a president has ever come to California Come to California
2.
A shadow in an overcoat crosses the intersection Of 9th and Pico with a loaded gun I turn and I start moving in the opposite direction First I walk, then I start to run They say the shortest path between two points must be a straight one But nothing’s straight inside this heart of mine When obstacles get in my way and I need to evade them The shortest path is still a crooked line Ragged old bedraggled men like destitute coyotes Take Alvarado to MacArthur Park With Russian circus refugees from strip-mall karaoke’s They lie down in the prehistoric dark And the sons of the federales have been smoking crack since morning While Temple Street pachucos, just drink wine And shoot their guns at heaven and start singing a capella While I go walking down this crooked line CHORUS: A Crooked line, A Crooked line And the shortest path between two points Is still a crooked line Now I walk these streets with mi amigos encorvados Streets I’ve been on since I was thirteen Dreaming of the day when I’m no longer be haunted By all the ghosts of Chavez Ravine The ghosts of my grandparents, mi abuela y abuelo Who lost their homes in 1949 To clear the way for Dodger stadium to be constructed They all got driven down that crooked line CHORUS: A Crooked line, A Crooked line And the shortest path between two points Is still a crooked line But once there was a barreo where bougainvillea blossomed A little paradise where horses ran Nestled in the canyon like a poor man’s El Dorado As perfect as the day that the world began Now I wonder if this vast expanse of laundromats and taco stands Was part of God’s original design Or maybe just a huge mistake that He allowed mankind to make When we went walking down that crooked line CHORUS: A Crooked line, A Crooked line And the shortest path between two points Is still a crooked line
3.
Sheppard served in pharaoh's army, 1968 Came home with his body parts in tact Spent a year inside his room smoking cigarettes Never talked about it after that Shep and I got married on the day Nixon resigned Honeymooned down Mexicali way Sometimes when he held me tight he looked like he was blind Or staring at a graveyard far away CHORUS: And if he blew in through that doorway today Like some long forgotten echo of winter I don't know if I'd shoot him in the face Or tell him that he's Late For Dinner For thirteen years my love grew for this solitary man Who reacted strong when anyone would cross me With hard looks, fisticuffs, if it came to that He did the little things that said he loved me And in the morning he would cook for me and drop me off to work Kiss me on the cheek to start my day There was no warning the last time he would not come no more There was no time to memorize his face CHORUS: And if he blew in through that doorway today Like some long forgotten echo of winter I don't know if I'd shoot him in the face Or tell him that he's Late For Dinner Now I almost went to look for him but couldn't find the nerve Something there did not sit right with me I realized this battle's not what I deserved Chasing Isrealites through parted seas CHORUS: And if he blew in through that doorway today Like some long forgotten echo of winterI don't know if I'd shoot him in the face Or tell him that he's Late For Dinner 
4.
Bryant St 04:25
A paper-thin time machine An old polaroid A black and white faded scene A girl with a toy You kept your smile on while someone took pictures Were you holding the family up I'm driving down Bryant St Come to chase down your ghost You and I will never meet But today I'll come close Stopped at a neighbor's door told him my story He said he knows who you were They say that god works in patterns But hey, what does it matter When faith and hope can be shattered so easily A plastic lined swimming pool A hot summers day A wandering little girl Discovered too late Mother had gone to work, papa was inside When you took that walk 'round the block They say that god works in patterns But hey, what does it matter When faith and hope can be shattered so easily INSTRUMENTAL VERSE Caretaker says you'll be found Third row, seventh place Forty years since they laid you down Now we've come face to face Flowers and a photo for you little sister I've come here to tell you my name They say that god works in patterns But hey, what does it matter When faith and hope can be shattered so easily so easy, so easy
5.
I'm riding 'cross this wastelandSix days west of a town called Cheyenne Got a map and a compas, a horse and a gun Gonna find me some gold in the California sun Now this old horse she's made good timeBut now we got these mountains to climbI got everything I own in these saddlebags But they're weighing her down, she's starting to drag There oughtta be a highway  Through these hillsSome prairie schooners with eighteen wheelsAnd a million horsepower for to carry your loadYes there oughtta be a highway, there oughtta be a road Now I'm hungry and tired, thirsty as wellNeeding a warm bath, feeling like hellAnd I ain't seen a woman since I don't know whenI been talking to myself like a crazy man There oughtta be a highway I hope they build one soonAnd every few miles a big saloonAnd a hot meal and a woman for to hold your handYes there oughtta be a highway, running through this land INSTRUMENTAL VERSE There oughtta be a highway, six lanes wideWith some green and white road signs along the sideTo measure the miles, for to be your guideYes there oughtta be a highway the whole country wide Now I''m thinking back to when I hit Saint LouI'd come a long ways and I thought I was throughBut those friendly people they welcomed me inAnd they said don't stop now, go west young man And there oughtta be a highway over this landWith a way to get on and get off againAnd welcoming arches, fossil fuel on demandThere oughtta be a highway There oughtta be a highwayThere oughtta be a highway over this land
6.
7.
Koreatown 03:02
It's way too hot today, for a human being There's nothing worth hearing here, and nothing worth seeing The city is dead. streets are in a coma He'd like to steal a car. and drive it to Sonoma And she is in a cafe drinking coffee with a clown While he goes swimming with the sharks In Koreatown It's way too hot today to hear yourself thinking They're building a subway here, and the city is sinking Cultures clash, Radios are blaring Old cars crash, But we are beyond caring And she is on the freeway as the world comes crashing down And he's sinking like a stone In Koreatown INSTRUMENTAL VERSE It's way too hot today to get arrested His hands are both handcuffed now and the freeway's congested On the way downtown everything gets quiet He's been upside-down ever since the riots And she's in Tijuana weaving feathers in a crown And he is just a shadow now In Koreatown Landlords search for a new exemption Their shelter offers no redemption She heads south on a shooting spree He goes down with a guilty plea And she comes when he's dreaming, in a scarlett wedding gown While he's sleeping in his cell In Koreatown Koreatown Koreatown It's way too hot today...
8.
She's a walkin' talkin' breathin' New Age wonder, old time heathens
Don't know what to make of Mary Jane
'Cause she ain't tryin to be no swami, she ain't mad at dad and mommy
She don't curse the storm clouds when it rains
When the sun refuse to shine she don't mind, she make everything look fine
She got moon in her eyes, crescent windows on the skies
And the rain comes down in sheets on the people in the streets
And it carries all the secrets that they keep to the river where she sleeps She comes to me when I'm dejected, leaves her soul out unprotected
Tells me that the truth can make me free
And she don't need what she ain't got, she reads me books by Alan Watts
Speakin' words o' wisdom: let it be
When the sun refuse to shine she don't mind, she take thunder for a sign
She got stars in her head, supernovas in her bed
And it rains most every day, but I like it fine that way
'Cause the waters run so marvelous and deep in the river where she sleeps Now Mary ain't inclined to drinkin', still she stumbles without thinkin'
Anywhere she gets the urge to stray
And everybody knows about her, they don't want to change or doubt her
They just grin when she comes out to play
When the sun refuse to shine she don't mind, she be movin' down the line
She got bells on her toes, generations in her clothes
And she sings without a sound as the evenin' rolls around
And she dances as the twilight shadows creep down the river where she sleeps Professor come to burst my bubble, says that girl is bound for trouble
Serves me solace in a paper cup
But it looks a bit like agent orange and when he leaves he slams the door and
Just about that time she phones me up
When the sun refuse to shine she don't mind, she just ain't the worryin' kind
She got dogs, she got cats, she keeps rabbits in her hats
And the people that she sees, they're all Buddha's or police
And the banks rise high and perilous and steep by the river where she sleeps Now one dismayed December dawn I wake to find my Mary's gone
And no one knows when she'll come back again
And all the silent temple bells from Styx to Glenn to Hazel Dell
Are mournin' all the nights that might have been
When the sun refuse to shine she don't mind, she just leave this world behind
She got wheels in her smile, she can coast along for miles
Me I'm walkin' all alone, feelin' soulful to the bone
Till I stop and I hang my head and weep by the river where she sleeps
9.
Noah got his instructions though the holyland mail He picked up that hammer started pounding those nails My roof is leaking I'm lining up pails I lost a day to the rain I lost a day to the rain again Retraced my steps over where i'd been Searched high and low but to no end I lost a day to the rain Ben Franklin air lifted up a big old kite With a small gold key on a stormy night I'll strike up a candle when I need a light I lost a day to the rain I lost a day to the rain again Retraced my steps over where i'd been Searched high and low but to no end I lost a day to the rain Gene Kelly turned on his heel so gracefully Wet and wild drove the ladies all crazy I got two left feet and I'm a little bit lazy I lost a day to the rain I lost a day to the rain again Retraced my steps over where i'd been Searched high and low but to no end I lost a day to the rain I lost a day to the rain again Retraced my steps over where i'd been Searched high and low but to no end I lost a day to the rain
10.
From where I sit destinations abound places that dreams are made of but inside of my head, I keep losing ground with all of the ways that I avoid love But I can get there from here I can get there from here If I can get to the front door I can get there from here... Kicking myself for the time I waste cursing these rocks in my way But with tolerant hope and a gamblers good grace they become stepping stones leading my way: I can get there from here I can get there from here If I can get to the front door I can get there from here... (BRIDGE) I've got a worn-out soul and good shoe leather time will take it's toll but the road gets better Everyday people all over the earth Cover impossible miles And in their footsteps I see my own worth With a will and a dream to survive and I can get there from here I can get there from here If I can get to the next town I can get there from here... we can get there from here we can get there from here Though the borders be closed down We'll turn the whole world upside down Cause if we get to the next town ...we can get there from here

about

Crooked Liner Notes

Darryl Purpose has never taken the high road, and we're all the better for it. As a teenager, he carved out a distinguished and somewhat shadowed career as a professional blackjack player. In the mid-1980s, he joined a linear band of on-foot protesters called The Great Peace March, traversing the nation's service roads in a mad effort to stop nuclear madness. But it's in the past five years, as a full-time itinerant songster, that Purpose is fully realizing his calling. Like a long musical line before him and to follow, Purpose is a dramatist for the dispossessed, a chronicler of those Americans who, by choice or by chance, live on the heart's back streets, rising through the crooked lines like leaves of grass.

Purpose calls himself a "singer-songwriter." That's a fairly new term that brings to mind luminaries (and obvious influences) such as Harry Chapin and Steve Goodman. Like these artists, Purpose tells stories to tell truths. But the school of singing-songwriting is really lodged in the roots of American folksong, in immigrant ballads sung in diverse languages by women and men in the kitchen and out behind the house. In such songs, historical memory carries through generations, with mood and feeling preserved along with names of anti-heroes like Blackjack Davey. These stories provided the seedbed for the modern singer-songwriter, and songs like "A Crooked Line," "Bryant Street" "Oughtta Be a Highway" and "California (Rutherford Hayes in the Morning)" spring fresh from this seedbed.

For writing workshops be damned, storytelling seems to mainly be something that involves a "knack." Purpose is one of the best, and he found his knack out of necessity, he says. "It emerged when I was doing a lot of live shows. I discovered that I could tell a gambling story, or a story about the Peace March, and people would react. Then, with a nudge from Robert Morgan Fisher, the stories started seeping into the songs."

"I realized I'm not going to have mosh pits," Purpose adds. "I'm not going to have people dancing wildly. So I can connect with people through the stories."

This album's opener, co-written by Paul Zollo, offers a prime example of Purpose's craft. In a masterpiece of minimalist historic fiction, Purpose sets out against a melancholy guitar backdrop just a few sparse details about President Rutherford B. Hayes: his inaugural voyage to California, his receiving of Alexander Graham Bell's new invention, his troubled position on the dawning of concurrent American frontiers. "I'm not sure it's a song about Rutherford Hayes," Purpose says. "It's about history and how history is not what happens, but what's remembered."

Perhaps. After all, how else could Purpose make us care so much about a president who was not too well liked even during his reign? (One wonders if Purpose might next take on the legacy of Millard Fillmore.) But the song also resonates because it evokes the sadness that occasions the birth of any new epoch. It speaks to the 21st century by reawakening the 19th.

The cast of largely nameless wanderers and fate-tempters introduced in Purpose's previous albums now expands in A Crooked Line. Added to "Mr. Schwinn" and the sojourner of "You Must Go Home for Christmas" (from Same River Twice) are the narrators of "Late For Dinner" and "Crooked Line," people captured by Purpose as they are still en route to making their peace.

Other times, Purpose sheds the journeyman's cloak altogether and offers what amounts to hobo's lullabies, songs about the sheer joy of making music and rhymes. The playful "I Lost a Day to the Rain," is one of these. In it, Purpose recounts the only three characters of Western civilization who can be immediately associated with rainfall: Noah, Ben Franklin and Gene Kelly. There's not a fourth. At least, Purpose reports, no audience member on a long string of concerts has been able to come up with one.

One more song bears mention here. "Bryant Street" is among the bravest and most starkly autobiographical of Purpose's songs. It tells of the result of another wandering, this one a modern trip through genealogical tables and Internet search engines. At the end of the voyage was the discovery of a half-sister Purpose never met. I won't say more here; this story is best heard just as Purpose sings it.

In a recent profile in Dirty Linen magazine, Purpose explains his compositional talents: "I write a great half a song." Here, his partnerships with Fisher, Zollo, and Ellis Paul result in another collection of tunes that will stick around for a long while. Musical compatriots include long-time accompanist Daryl S, and the esteemed Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, stylers of "postmodern mythic American music" whose own musical paths have often intersected with Purpose's.

And so a crooked line is blazed. The sources of this album's title are many: it's a physical description of the border between California and Nevada (and the rest of the country). It's the path of constant touring upon which Purpose the musician has staked his claim. And it's the sideways directions that songs like "California (Rutherford Hayes in the Morning)" find their way to their target, by appearing as one form and then revealing ten more. You have to be careful who you meet on the low roads: there's magic out there.

- Michael Tisserand

Michael Tisserand is the editor of Gambit Weekly in New Orleans. His book The Kingdom of Zydeco received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music writing in 1999.

credits

released January 1, 2001

PRESS QUOTES:

High class storytelling from unsung hero of US counter culture. Not for long. Purpose is one the key new chroniclers of modern America
~Rob Beatie, Q Magazine

A Crooked Line reveals Darryl Purpose as one of the truly under-recognized singer songwriters on the contemporary scene.
~Rich Warren, Sing Out!

Darryl Purpose once made his living as a professional Blackjack gambler, and like all gamblers, he knows how to tell a good tale. That, plus his sharp eye for detail, his instinctive feel for hard-living, unsentimentalizes characters, and his battle-hardened, but ultimately optimistic view of the world makes "A Crooked Line" one of the best recent collections of contemporary story songs.
~Dirty Linen

The ten songs flow into each other like a colorful short-story cycle. Pupose's vocals, intimate and honey-smooth - are self assured. And his songwriting continues to mature. Echoes of one of his chief influences, Paul Simon, reverberate from track to track.
~The Journal News

A splendid sampler of his diverse, engaging song craft.
Drew Wheeler, CDNOW

Darryl Purpose picks up where he left off with the album "Travelers Code" with impassioned story-telling that only one that actually lived the story could tell.
MuzikMan, Music Dish

Much has been written about Purpose's transition from notorious blackjack player to itinerant folk singer. But what's more important about Purpose's art is his rare dedication to story-telling in song. His new CD, "A Crooked Line", is his most narrative yet, and with Ellis Paul, Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer among the guests, it might be his most attractive.
Daniel Gewertz, Boston Herald

The devil is in the details and Purpose has 'em in spades.
Blythe Christopher, High Bias

Purpose displays a knack for subtle twists that add depth to ordinary imagery. The heart-wrenching "Bryant St", (written with Ellis Paul, featuring the Turtle Island String Quartet) is alone worth the price of admission here.Purpose is a savvy story-teller who never slips too far toward the sentimental or the cynical.
David Todoran, Whatzup

Purpose's music and style of songwriting, taking in country, blues and folk - hints of Slaid Cleaves ("Late For Dinner"), Buddy Mondlock ("Bryant St") and others. And there's exquisite guitar work too...a man who not only carefully crafts his lyrics, but his guitar playing. I implore you to go check him out.
Al Moir, Country Music People

With a delicately soft cracked slightly nasal voice (think James Taylor crossbred with John Prine) that belies his bearded bulk, the fourth album since the former professional blackjack player and peace activist traded gambling and protests for the troubadour circuit back in '96 further confirms his status as a singer songwriter in the great storytelling tradition of Harry Chapin and Mickey Newbury.
Mike Davies, NetRhythms.co.uk

Great albums are few and far between these days, but Darryl Purpose has come close with this, his latest effort. With this album Purpose shows off his skills left and right, dazzling the listener. Not many albums can beat this masterpiece.
Nick Powills, Folkwax

_____________________________________________________________
Recorded and Mixed by Evan Brubaker in Seattle WA and Salt Lake City UT
Executive Producers: Peggy and Gary Thompson, Kevin Deame, J.D. and Ann Stillwater, Burk Clark, Heddy Brown, Jean Hickson, Kimberly Hickson, Leni Silberman, Joe and Lori Kinczel, Paul and Mary Zeoli, Alan and Ellen Goltz, Milo Fryling, Gordon Polatnik

Ellis Paul appears courtesy Rounder Records
Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer appear courtesy Signature Sounds Records
Evan Brubaker appears courtesy Cake Records
Mark Josephs appears courtesy of High Diving Horse Records

Photography by Elizabeth Hancock Ungerlieder
Design by Pi Design (Sharene Santos)
Hat-guy drawing by Hector Santos

Darryl Purpose plays Taylor Guitars and uses D'Addario Strings

Additional recording:
Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer overdubs at Tracy's Kitchen Studios, Portland OR; Engineers Mark Sinnard, Tracy Grammer;
Ellis Paul overdubs - Red Shoe Studios, Medford MA;
Mark Josephs harmonica recorded at Hammond's House Of Sound, Long Beach CA;
Piano recorded at David Lange Studios, Edgewood WA;
additional guitar and vocals recorded by Evan Brubaker at Ruby Studio, Salt Lake City UT;
Strings recorded at Jim Nunally's in Crockett CA;
DP's quartet vocal recorded at Thomas Eaton Studios, Newburyport MA;
Mastered by David Glasser at Airshow Mastering, Boulder CO

Darryl Purpose - Gambler's Grace Music - SESAC
Robert Morgan Fisher - Extended Family Music - BMI
Paul Zollo - Flying Schnauzer Music - BMI
Ellis Paul - Ellis Paul Publishing - SESAC

THANK YOU:
Peggy and Gary Thompson; Gary Brody; Evan Brubaker; Sharene and Hector Santos;
For the music and more:
Ellis Paul. Dave Carter, Tracy Grammer, Robert Morgan Fisher, Paul Zollo, Daryl S, Mark Josephs, J.D. Stillwater, Sally Johnson, Don Conoscenti, Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro

Also:
Maggie Gabriel, Eric Bridgham,Laini Sporbert, Marc Polonsky, Bill O'Neill, Elizabeth Hancock Ungerleider, Steve Po, Michael Tisserand, Linda Silas and Tom Noe, James Knight, Chris Faber, David Baumgarten, Art Tashjian, Richard Munchkin, Ida Unger, Toby Goldberg, Karen Cameron, Jodi Sussman, Paula Geno, Todd Long, Linda Stephan, Betsy Potterfield (for her Late For Dinner story), Nathan Clarenburg, Ande Bloom, Lori Kraut, Jennifer Ratoff, Debbie French, Jean Chistensen, AmyBeth Hurst, Dale and Marilyn Barcellos, Tim and Patty Barry, Marilyn Rae Beyer, Sonnie Brown, Steve See, Melissa Hague, Mary Sue Twohy, Kevin Faherty, Freight and Salvage, Club Passim, and to my family, immediate and extended.

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about

Darryl Purpose Portland, Oregon

Darryl went to Las Vegas at 19 and became a professional blackjack player, which he still calls the 'only real job I've ever had'. He is a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
Since 1996, he has toured extensively and released 8 albums of original music.
Darryl's last two albums spent weeks at #1 on the RMR radio charts. Next Time Around and Still The Birds
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