True

by Willie Wisely

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    Based on the exclaimed lyric from "True's" 'National Council of Jewish Women's Thrift Store'. This soft, stretchy cotton tee is totally hip, with a unique heathered, moss-green shirt. Designed by my favorite eccentric John Berry.

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about

18 years after playing their final gig, the original Willie Wisely Trio reunite for a new album & tour dates. "True" captures the enduring chemistry of this road-warrior band, giving fans their most wild-eyed album yet. If Grandma Moses could rock'n'roll, she would've sounded like this.

Laser Surgery & The Perfect Mirror

As road warriors in the early 1990′s, the four original members of the Willie Wisely Trio cut our teeth, playing over 400 gigs, across four years, and a couple hundred thousand miles. We climbed mountains together, musically, geographically and personally. Now, almost two decades after breaking up, well into our forties, little in our contemporary lives can approximate the experience of couch-surf touring. Back then, the road was more of a wilderness––before cell phones, before navigation systems, before email, and (in the case of our old van) before functional AC, before cassette decks were standard equipment, and (it seemed) before rust proofing. Oh yeah, and before vegetarians were allowed to cross over the state line into Iowa.

The real “work” of the music career was the time spent lugging amplifiers; suffering the theft of suitcases; playing to empty clubs; putting the moves on girls just to avoid sleeping in the van; or even sleeping underneath the van on a snowy night, trying to stay warm from the residual heat of the engine block. Misery was most the career. The forty-five minutes on stage was your remuneration––Lord knows it wouldn’t come in the form of cash.

So, when I approached Peter Anderson (drums), James Voss (upright bass) and Greg Wold (trombone) in late 2006 about recording and maybe playing again I wasn’t banking on their enthusiasm. And though it took a year to organize recording sessions, and a few more for the gigs, it seems that the importance of those freaky times, back when time was for killing, meant more to each of us than I expected.

We started recording “True” (or “Rosewood,” as it was originally called) in January of 2007 at Flowers Studio in South Minneapolis, with Flowers Studio producing. The basic tracks were made in a marathon of live recording, always with at least the bass and drums playing simultaneously. We wanted to stay true to the routine we’d established during our first recording sessions back in 1989, deep in the basement of Delisi’s Bar, in Nordeast. It was then that we first recorded “Mule” and “Low” on a 4-track cassette deck, with the rhythm section playing live to a pre-recorded guitar take. This freed me up to engineer, and to carefully place microphones so that we would get the most out of our lo-fi recording gear. The guitar take would usually be my only attempt at the performance because many of our songs defied click tracks. Whether flawed or not, the guitar take was final once we recorded drums and bass on it. The sessions for “True”, twenty years on, had the benefit of modern technology, but we felt obliged to engage the old work mode.

Later in 2007, we held more sessions, primarily to overdub trombone and euphonium. Greg scowled at this work. He hadn’t played much in 15 years and getting his lip back while we all watched and scrutinized was a challenge. His self-loathing was frightening. It made me feel bad for awakening this reluctant monster in him. Strangely he kept stepping back to the microphone, sentimentally expressing his love for all of us. It was a reminder of the deep impression our years together had left.

In 2009 the project went dormant, because my singing voice was being consumed by a chronic sore throat. Many doctors, many dietary changes, many alternative treatments later, it continued to worsen. Creating accurate pitch became impossible. In desperation, convinced I’d never sing again, I insisted we start mixing. But the tracks weren’t fully baked and I wasn’t in any condition to be driving the process.

By early 2010, doctors would diagnose a hematoma on my right vocal cord. Knowing that the problem might be fixable with surgery gave me enough faith to finish overdubs, adding DJ Bonebrake of the band X on concert bells, vibraphone and marimba; Andy Sullivan on banjo; and Robert Russel on sax. Still, in the back of my head, the project was a requiem for my dissipated voice. Without my former self, there was no longer a compulsion to sing or play or write. It physically hurt too much. Emotionally, it wracked me as though I’d been the victim of a crime. So with a growing sense of futility, but yet a compulsion to complete our swan song, we finished overdubbing at my studio in Laurel Canyon; at Tuft’s Mansion a bed and breakfast in Neillsville, WI; and a cabin in Luck, WI.

Later in 2010, after dropping three songs, the mixing process began, halting on many occasions as I struggled to care. Our mixer Chuck Zwicky held steady as I again and again requested changes. Each song, except the 27 minute long “Surreal,” went through ten different versions. Chuck was a saint, as the mixing process dragged on for a year and a half, or more, but would eventually end.

Now, with the vocal cord surgery almost a year past, there’s a desire to make music again––despite a chunk of uncontrollable notes in the tenor range. Many songs on “True” will never again be sung in the way I did them in the studio. That’s a frightening mortal reminder.

In 2011, for a spate of 18-year reunion shows, I figured out ways to sing, avoiding the weak ranges. Strangely, the more I pushed the voice to hoarseness, the more it came back. Inflammation around the scar tissue from the laser surgery helped to flatten the vocal cord surface, giving me back some pitch control that I thought was gone forever.

We added a lot of back catalog to the reunion sets, re-learning old tricks from over 100 vintage board tapes (see the album “Turn Up the Suck“). Clearly hearing who we were two decades ago was startling. We didn’t recognize our selves and the parts we played. Plus many of the old licks don’t come naturally any more because new musical ideas demand to be heard. During rehearsals, our growth as players and human beings illuminated how our time together had shaped us. Music vividly evokes the past and simultaneously pushes you forward.

Making music is a tough road, but it’s a perfect mirror when you see those ancient reflections of yourself in the performances. The goofy lyrics (the likes of which you’ll never write again); the improbable and impossible-to-play guitar licks; the over-enthusiastic tempos; and the guileless ambition of living in a van, are a challenge to reproduce. But the summer reunion gigs proved that we will never wrestle that weird naiveté from our hearts. We were four young men, convinced that no one in the world could do what we were doing. We were right.

There are a thousand assumptions and delusions that compel a hard-working band to do the crazed stuff they do. All that energy leaves a footprint on the consciousness of those who make the noise as well as on those who listen to it. As the opening track on “True” exclaims: “Too bad your face got the boot print / so high, the price of delight.”

credits

released March 27, 2012

Peter Anderson: drums/percussion
James Voss: upright & electric bass/backing vocals
Willie Wisely: vocals/guitar/percussion/piano
Greg Wold: trombone/euphonium/trumpet

Andy Sullivan: banjo, Moog synthesizer
DJ Bonebrake: marimba, vibraphone, concert bells
Ed Ackerson: electric guitar track 7
Robert Russel: saxophone
Benno Nelson: backing vocals tracks 2 & 4

Engineered by Ed Ackerson, Peter Anderson, Willie Wisely, also Andy Sullivan, Ken Chastain, Jim Rickard
Recorded at Flowers Studio (Minneapolis)
Mastered by Chuck Zwicky
Art by Japa

Produced by Willie Wisely & Ed Ackerson
Mixed by Chuck Zwicky
Written by William John Wisely Jr. (Wisely Publishers ASCAP) except track 4 by William John Wisely Jr., James Benno Nelson & Michael H. Ruekberg (Wisely Publishers ASCAP/National Dynamite Music ASCAP/Acrimony N Cheese Music ASCAP), and track 6 by William John Wisely Jr. & Andy Dick (Wisely Publishers ASCAP/Pollywog Sounds Publishing Company BMI)

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about

Willie Wisely Los Angeles, California

Willie Wisely released his first full-length album in 1992, touring the US and Japan ever since, building a following for his evocative pop. He is a songwriter’s songwriter, often compared with Elliot Smith, Ron Sexsmith and Paul McCartney. His latest CD marks the 18-year reunion of his Minneapolis-based group the Willie Wisely Trio, road warriors noted for their circusy, jazz-anti-jazz aesthetic. ... more

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Track Name: Kiss Her And Make It Right
Oh man don’t act so insulted
You know she’s smart to the truth
Can’t stop the lie once they’re started
Kiss her and keep it true

Who cares your face got the boot print
So high, the price of delight
She’s going to give you the rainbow
Kiss her and make it right

Kiss her and make it right

So go and ruin a good thing
Go on you won’t get a fight
I swear if I weren’t your friend I’d
Kiss her and make it right

Hard to believe you’d dare let her go
So many boys would have died for what you’ve known
Kiss her and make it right

I say you should be the man now
You’ve got the chance to do right
And if she shows you the rainbow (grand pause)
Kiss her and make it right

Hard to believe you’d dare let her go
So many soldiers have died for what you’ve known
Kiss her and make it right
Track Name: Dr. Jack
Well I’m Dr. Jack in a tin-foil suit
Bring on the spectators
Wax me up and it fits like skin
Warm the incubators

Well I’m Dr. Jack on the precipice
Bring on my investors
Bring to me their riches
Taste the fruits of my endeavors

Cells collide and then divide
One of me now two of I

Well I’m Dr. Jack and the crowd cheers on
Hail to God and science

Oh my sweet girl Friday
Said she must leave my employ

Well I’m Dr. Jack in a custom can
Bring on my detractors
I’ll eat them all for their vitamins
Belch the voice of traitors

Cells collide and multiply
Two of me times lambda pi

Well I’m Dr. Jack in the millennium
And I have seen the view
And science is for the few
Track Name: Mule
I’m a man named Mule without a home
The river gives me two directions known
I’m a man named Mule without a queen
I’d raft upstream to find your swarthy dream

I have seen the skies turning green
Clouds run blue, sun and moon disagree
Brine meets blue, out there on that horize
No point on which to fix my Mississippi eyes

I have seen your ship out on the rise
It comes so near then sinks below the skies
So I followed you to Cairo Illinois
You knew this man and gave him mooring lines

I have seen the skies turning green
Clouds run blue, sun and moon disagree
Brine meets blue, out there on that horize
No point on which to fix my Mississippi eyes

I can see the day I broke my knees
Two feet towards the town two towards the trees
I’m a man named Mule without a queen
They’ll drag the riverbed for my remains

I have seen the skies turning green
Clouds run blue, sun and moon disagree
Brine meets blue, out there on that horize
No point on which to fix my Mississippi eyes
Track Name: Everybody Fears The Lord
Everybody pays for their sins someday
So you’d better start fearing the lord come Sunday
No jumping ship when it goes down
No shaking his hand when Jesus comes to town
Everybody fears the lord come Sunday

Everybody carries something they regret now
Burn that bridge once we get to it now
No jumping ship when it goes down
No shaking his hand when Jesus comes to town
Everybody fears the lord come Sunday

Come along hell or high holy water
No messing ‘round with the preachers daughter
No jumping ship when it goes down
No shaking his hand when Jesus comes to town
Everybody fears the lord come Sunday
Everybody fears the lord come Sunday
Everybody fears the lord come Sunday
Track Name: Drownin' Of Two
Well I try to be kind then I find that I
Lied to hide how I feel
So I smile but you know how deeply it goes
Low, oh I got it bad

I seen you baby, sit stare at the pool
You wait till I’m watching you
Before you jump in
Fool you know you can’t swim, so let it begin
The drowning of two

I seen you baby, sit stare at the pool
You wait till I’m watching you
Before you jump in
Fool you know you can’t swim, so let it begin
The drowning of two
The drowning of two
Track Name: National Council of Jewish Women's Thrift Store
The National Council of Jewish Women’s Thrift Stores
That’s where I go to purchase all my clothes
I need some pants “These are nice”
A little tight in the rear
How about a t-shirt that says I’m here
I am here
I am here

The National Council of Jewish Women’s Thrift Store
That’s where I go to purchase all my stuff
Like this macramé basket
Or an old chandelier
But I still need a t-shirt that says I’m here
I am here
Yep still here

Farrah Fawcett
Coors Light Beer
I’m with Stupid
The buck stops here
My bucks stop here

The National Council of Jewish Women’s Thrift Store
That’s where I go to purchase all this junk
Like this stein from Hamburg but I supposedly gave up beer
And I still want that t-shirt that says I’m here
Not I’m queer
Just here

Lee Majors
Billy Beer
I’m no longer with stupid
The buck stopped there

World’s greatest grandma
32
Black is beautiful
And bark at the moon

Meat is murder
Jesus saves
Just say no
And have a nice day
Have a nice day
I had a nice day
Track Name: Duration
Bring me on lassie
Take me along
We’ll find a canyon
Make it our home, make it our home
Well bring me ‘long with you now
Show me your dreams
Bring me to places
I ain’t never been to, I ain’t never been

I’m in for the duration
I’m in for the dura-
Take me on down on you crusading mission
I’m in for the dura-a-a-tion

Take me from body now
Show me your mind
My life it’s yours
So don’t leave it behind, I love your behind, flaughty!
Take me from territory
Fortress of gold
I’ll walk the fences
You take the road, I’ll take the road.

Chorus…
Track Name: True
It’s a short walk down past sidewalk café
Where the green line connects with blue
It’s hard work singing for strangers all day
But I do

If my song is good
And my rent’s past due
Be the echo and ring
True

It’s a long day under the city of drones
But the heat lifts when trains speed by
And I can’t hear the string I just played with my thumb
But I try

If my song is real
My weary tune
Be the echo and ring
True
True

My song is good
You can sing it too
Be the echo and ring
True, True, True
Track Name: Low
Yes I’m down
Yes I’m down
So incredibly low
I couldn’t go no further
Less I’d be near underground

Yes I’m high
Yes I’m high
So incredibly up I’s afraid I’d bust a nut
So afraid to crack my eyes

I’m young & I just don’t care
Take me back
Free to go

I’s away
I’s away
So incredibly far I parked my car beside the road
I walked for days

I’m near
I’m near
Well I’m so incredibly close that the chair that you sit down in
Is still warm from my respiring do you feel someone whispering in your ear

I’m young & I just don’t care
Take me back
Free to go

Yes I’m good
Very good
I’m oh so damn delicious that you gotta lick your dishes
Come on baby fetch my slippers like you know you should

Yes I’m bad
Yes I’m bad for you
Well I’m so incredibly worse than a drunkard in church
Or that pistol in your purse
Oh my lady wants to see me riding in a hearse

I’m young & I just don’t care
Take me back
Free to go

I’m young & I just don’t care
Take me back
Free to go
Track Name: The Kensington Lows
Paid to tally the hours
After offices close
The bell of St. Kate’s tower
Ring over Kensington Row

Keeping time with a pencil
Tweak up the radio
He drums at local pubs and stations
He’s in the Kensington Lows

And on stage he shines
So why’s he always someone’s minion?
Rehearsal’s at nine
Meet the Kensington Lows

Nodding off on the subway
To the circle lines drone
His pillow, it’s The Times
Read on Kensington woes

solo

And he’s been doing time
Counting other peoples’ millions
Rehearsal’s at nine
Meet the Kensington Lows

solo

Just a cog in the grind
The boss chimed in his opinions
“You’re on company time”
Not some Kensington dole

And he quits in his mind
So wracked with indecision
Just off Kensington Hyde
He’ll play the Kensington lows
Track Name: Real
When famine flies land in the face of people
And hungry eyes, tell you fate is sealed

This might smart a bit
No avoiding it
It’s not counterfeit… it’s real

The ambassadors failed to gain appeals
At the backstage door where she finessed the deal

No more alibis
Broadcast to justify
The years we all denied… what’s real

Whatcha doing about tomorrow?

Nations wiggle out, curmudgeons grudging steel
And they whistle a tune of drought, the bodies are revealed

It’s no TV show
To hell with rock and roll
It’s not a vaudeville joke
Or extra terrestrial… it’s real

You can’t wiggle out
With your frown or pout
Why don’t you cut it out
This here’s all about… real
Track Name: Surreal
Guilty from the womb you were torn
They kept you ill equipped and uninformed. [United we stand with hand in form]
Delusion of those who proffer scorn
Upon the hunchbacks, hunchbacks

And Hindemith paints a brass parade
As locksmith’s tumblers turn cascade
And the piano tuner stashes all the loot
It’s a suit of loot

You’re surreal (That’s one raw (big) deal)
You’re surreal
Far too cerebral (enhanced appeal)
For mass appeal (I want my girls real)

You were never much for ironic twists
The way the nuns swat at your wrist
While sophists pray you get their gist
Is that bad for you? Is that bad for you?

Well the purse snatch went according to plan
The victim himself was a masked man
And everybody laughs who was not them [Oh and every laugh’s now is now not them]
Quoting stats on Satchel Page

Chorus

Judging by the sudden loss of blood
While sleeping on your rooftop house floods
I built this house to float in pairs of two
That’s a hint for you. That’s a hint for you.

Whoa and losers play that old time riverboat theme
As Bix blows the ecumenical reveille
And from city hall comes the wire that said simply ‘boo’
Here comes the judge, here comes the judge, judge to judge

Chorus

Well I think by now you know how leftists rage
The sans culottes submit their great complaint
And complacent you say the wrong is now right
It’s a freight train night. It’s a freight train night.

Oh and all the wrong dudes take their bows
Stolen from those who actually push the plows
A father dreams his son will settle his scores [And fathers dream who would not accomplish more]
Come on home from war. Come on home from war ya’ll

Chorus

And deep inside you covet turbaned dream
With windows soaped saying close for remodeling
And all the well-wishers wish well upon you
Oh the derring do. It’s a derring-do.

What once was a shear face of rock
Is now a dress shop’s parking lot
And everything that was vertical is so blasé
When do we animate. We animate.

Chorus

Hurricane Betsy takes an orthodox hue
As Souza fires a picaloed solo flute
And every one of those rascally Kaiser krauts
Should run like hell. Should run like hell.

Oh and Wizard takes a headless form
While dealing strip poker in the girl’s dorm
While head mistress peaks below the keyhole prone
In shock and awe, she amazed, surmised

Chorus

And Dali paints a ghastly night
Ghostly by accounts of those men who write
Imagine what we’d do if no one knew
What’s red is read. What’s red is read.

So often I’ve been called the leather-clad dad
Ridiculed by those who ought to forget
Well for once wearing my moustache as a hat
It sounded good, but felt much better.

Chorus

And Enoch Light sequesters the light brigade
So docents can now lower the pencil cage
And all the folly of Paris string band foam
It’s made of glue. Peter, it’s made of glue.

So into the fray we gaily gadfly leap
With a single pair of tweezers to clog the leak
Coyly placing every eyebrow ever plucked
On the BBQ. On the BBQ. Hell.

Chorus

I’d like to thank the forerunners fomenting yeoman’s grief
Admit he cannot help everyone in need
The fat is his own ignoble steed
That’s a trick for you. That’s a trick for you.

As the penny post cards demands a raise in pay cash
While Cleopatra straightens up her asp
My Girlfriend’s toupee pipes up “relax”
A pair of cockatoos, pair of cockatoos.

Chorus

Igniting coarse comeuppance conch shells sing
“Of thee I do” the velocoraptor screams
And all the iceberg lettuce you could husk
Is now a mask for you. Is now a mask for you.

Oh the rooster quits his day job weather vanes
Adoring plums that sit upon the counterpane
Into the sea is thrown compressed propane
That’s tea overboard boys, tea overboard.

Chorus

The bandstands play a sound heretofore unknown
As Macbeth’s favorite play swordfish trombone
And everyone worth knowing becomes a clone
Turn off your phones. Did you turn off your cell phones?

Well the manufacturers rep sings violent night
Hello she chirps you look like the silent type
And suddenly an eggshell cracks on your head
You hear it moan. Fly on home.

You’re surreal
Far too surreal
Far too cerebral
I like my girls real

Ho Chi Mien says lady that’s a wrap
As every pro and con takes a victory lap
Reminding us all for things we lack
That’s apocryphal wit for you. Your thoughts subdued.

Oh the Beatles reunite for one last jam
And it stinks but we love it cause it’s them
And his wife sends a postcard from Siam
That’s so untrue. That’s so untrue.

Chorus

Magnificent corpse hogs oxygen room
And rises from the chair as Claire de Lune
The salad forks go outside of the spoon
Where were you born? Where were you born?

Crunching rocks became a parlor game
Of every well-mandibled chap with two first names
The philatelic exhibit forecasts rain
Stamps stick together. Stamps stick together.

Chorus

So I said, “chewing gum says he’ll break the picket line.”
While bruiser fills his fists with copper coins
And baby coddle fish all you could eat
Is cooked in bleach. Cooked in bleach.

Beehivers prone to misbehave
Discover all there siblings lost in caves
But telephone lines crawl up the walls
It’s Minnesota in fall. That’s right ‘cuz

Chorus

Atop the canyon appears a golden cask
As Cindy tells her editors we’ve been attacked
And moaning widows rake the fury peak
In hiccup speak, hiccup speak

And all the while a ragged rainbow tell
Saran wrap filled with aloe gel
Squirting which begat the horseman’s saddle sore swell
It’s the name of Dog. What’s the name of that Dog?

‘Cuz he’s surreal, Doug
You’re too surreal, Doug
Far too cerebral
For mass appeal

There’s never been a philosopher named Doug.
Alright hold tight.

Raisin puckers up to kiss the bride
But a rancher has his birdie strung too tight
And there’s no here getting out alive
That’s what Jim says, yeah

Upside-down the cushion looked so clean
But right side up the chair became a guillotine
Yeah and every head he’s had the pleasure to know
Just let it roll baby, jellyroll

Chorus

Get back on it, get back on it.

A fortnight came smarty pants since was wed
And nothings quite been the same ever since you left
Since when did ebb & tide stop up the flow
And cause the flu. And cause the flu.

And as circumstance would have it there we part
You drove away your europena buggy cart
With your head bloviating performance art
I’m done with you. I’m done with you, ‘Cuz

Chorus

The see through nighty you’ve bought and always loved
Grew a butler’s pantry and tonsil gloves
For wearing once per year in my parade
For no one else. And no one was saved

Prairie reclamation you purport
Will bring all the queens ship safely to port
And instinct never wore on you too well.
It all peels off. It all peels off, ‘cuz

Chorus

Inside our hearts we always knew what’s true
Rarely thought did we let it guide what we’d do
But life is noting you’d pretend to ever control
Check my bank account. Check the bank account.

Well from the Poconos to Des Moines we tore the land
And rock-n-roll was young, ya’ll be damned
But we were four and yeah four were we
Hey guys, it’s a symphony, it’s a symphony.

Chorus

Jelly smeared across the pizza pie
What 3 year old ordered this and why?
For to be passed on all through out the land
Don’t pinch my gland. Don’t pinch my gland.

Lester frowns his hair till he escapes
Then falls on his own shovel mending drapes
While turkeys call it a spokesmen to you
Forgotten tongue. Forgotten tongue. Forgotten tongue. Forgotten tongue. Forgotten tongue.

It’s Kwanza! Dance!

Lothario comes before the panel’s judge
It’s not to late to parry, tart & lunge
And just because it tickled when you cough
You can fake your death. Hey fake your death.

And Jones writes for Harpers Bazarr Digest
Dangling gorgeous lies off his chest
A mobile memorially military consequence
Trumps murder now. Trumps murder now.

Chorus

The ruffian combs a five-foot pompadour
Conscribe the whole affair to stevedores
Who rules the drainage pipes where you lived
Give proper flow. Give proper flow.

And underground the lonesome jailbird sings
In comes another thief dressed in chains
And all the untrue I’m an innocent man
Yes I am. Yes I am.

You’re surreal
Far too surreal
I like my girls real
For mass appeal

I want to hear Greg. Where’s Greg?

Wash your hands and hide a broken heart shade
Ammonia guarantees a cocktails made
When the fuzz broke in and busted up the door
You’re flat on the floor. Flat on the floor.

Cancer might become what gets you in the end
Or the end may pass you by, taken for a friend
Well there’s no guessing yet which diver has the Bens
Just make it up. Just make it up.

Chorus

The stranger Italian straightens up his suit
We actually heard dirty words say “poof”
Madame he was always a thunderous roar
Now his throat is sore. Now his throat is sore.

Chinese herbs say, “No cure won’t count you.”
From Saigon to Pyongyang they spoke the truth
Monsoon loves a deep-sea scroll
They cheer for you. They cheer for you, ‘cuz

Chorus

One more. What happened to the trombone?
What happened to the trombone Albert?
He’s got a cleft palette.

Willa Beatrice sure looks sad
The paint job on her rocket ship turned out drab
Mortified Chaucer goes ribald
It’s a free for all. It’s a free for all

And Günter Grass has a booth down at the mall.
An attic full of reds and alcohol
And Ayn Rand with her collection of shrunken heads.
Motionless. Motionless. Motionless. One more time.

Chorus