Crooked Earth

by Ben Smith

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about

Crooked Earth was recorded from December 2010 to June 2011 at Milkboy Studios in Ardmore, PA.

credits

released September 6, 2011

All songs by Ben Smith
Produced by Matt Magarahan
Engineered and mixed by Joel Metzler
Except "(Not) Lonesome Tonight"
mixed by Tommy Joyner
Additional Engineering by Karl Petersen
Mastered by Tommy Joyner at Milkboy Studios
String arrangements by Krista Umile

Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered (soup to nuts) at Milkboy Studios in Ardmore, PA.

This album is the result of the friendship and brotherhood offered me by my long-time collaborator, Matt Magarahan. If there is a singable guitar lick, a poignant pause, or a tasteful touch that you like, it is most likely one of Matt's suggestions or performances. He and and I shared most of the music making: I sang and played piano, organ, and acoustic guitar and Matt played the drums, electric guitars, some bass and replaced my acoustic guitar tracks whenever they needed more plums.

Our most sincere thanks goes to Joel Metzler who put in so many hours in this project. We are grateful to his tireless devotion, his expertise, and his calm, easy-going manner. We were all just hanging out making music--and eating sherbet and drinking tonic water. More thanks goes to Tommy Joyner and Jamie Lokoff and all of the interns at Milkboy (but mostly Karl).

Krista Umile's cello graces many of the tracks on this album. Her string arrangements included Dana Weiderhold on violin. Marc Umile, Krista's husband, played electric bass on five songs and Tim Celfo came in and played upright on four more. Eliza Hardy Jones' beautiful voice provided backups wherever you hear bell-like perfection. Aaron Weiss squeezed his squeezebox during "Your Way to Babylon." Mark Kitson drove only a few blocks to lay down pedal steel on "Going to the Mattresses," "Let's Tempt Fate," and "Your Way to Babylon." Tim Sonnefeld ripped through a guitar solo in "(Not) Lonesome Tonight" while his dad waited patiently. Nate Skiles added much needed trumpet to both "(Not) Lonesome Tonight" and "Let's Tempt Fate." Karl Petersen, a former student of mine, makes all of the wonderful guitar noise at the end of "One Stone/Two Birds," despite being restricted by skinny jeans and disintegrating loafers.

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about

Ben Smith West Chester, Pennsylvania

West Chester, PA songwriter Ben Smith's songs sound good in both your front parlor and your back barroom---all Tin Pan Alley piano and a fading choirboy voice.

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Track Name: Your Way to Babylon
The stone the angels rolled away
the rocks that lined its pathway
it rolls into the city street
it's pressed and set into concrete
and that's the road you travel on
on your way to Babylon
follow on the yellow line
Find out if this soul is mine

The rocks your ship was dashed upon
are glowing in the rosy dawn
covered in a mossy skin
Cooled off by the trade-winds
and that's the sea you travel on
on your way to Babylon
follow all the stars that shine
Find out if this soul is mine

The stone that grows out of the ground
from the valley to the icy crown
the echoes barely amplify
they calm the birds and pacify
that's the sky you fly upon
on your way to Babylon
follow clouds that pass on by
find out if this soul is mine.
Track Name: Love Potion #10
Take a nail from a shipwreck that sank outside your home
Find the biggest stone
And take the last lines of all the books you've ever read
let them tumble from your head
and falling to the ground, there they're stuck and
they are set like paper bayonets

and wait for night to come

take the tears of your father and
your mother's wedding dress
take the papers from the desk
the ribbons in the cutting room
and the paints beneath the steps
take everything that's left

and wait for night to come

Stand along the edge
this chance won't come again
not for one hundred years
Close yours eyes and breathe
you've got what you need
it's like you're born again
Love potion #10

Take the needle, take the thread
cut the springs out from the bed
forget everything you've said
pull the bullets from the gun
and use your steady hand
draw a line down in the sand
and as it draws up on the shore
it settles like an ink
now it's good enough to drink

just wait for night to come

Chorus

one and two, just me and you
out of the dust and then
three and four, open the door
sharpen the sword and then
five and six, picking up sticks
starting a fire and
seven and eight, there's nothing to wait for
there's nothing more and
nine and ten, you're back at the end
all of the planets align
Track Name: One Stone/Two Birds
I've only got one stone
but I've got two birds to kill
I've only got one song
but I've got two hearts to fill
I've only got one breath
but I've got two lungs to fill

I've only got one voice
but I've got two truths to tell
I've only got myself
but I'm a hard man to sell

Though I've got one stone
two birds were killed
Though I've got one stone
two birds were killed
Track Name: Friends from out of State
You've gone west, young man
cause the east can't expand
and the south's caught in the past
and the north is falling fast

You know what you've become?
you are what you're running from
and she's running the other way
she keeps the wolves at bay

the heart knows how to bend
each break it suspends
but for now you're just friends from out of state

Girl, look what you've taken on
all the lines that you've drawn
can't hope to hold their shape
against this landscape

You know what you've become?
you are what you're running from
and he's running the other way
faster every day

the heart knows how to bend
each break it suspends
but for now you're just friends from out of state

If prayers could intermix
if their words could transfix
This space between the coasts
might mark your first approach

You know what you've become?
you're what you're running from
and you're running the other way
don't waste another day

the heart knows how to bend
each break it suspends
but for now you're just friends from out of state
Track Name: Wine, Women, Song
Wine, women, song
you pull me along
I can't resist
you taste good on the lips
and you're everything I'll ever need

Wine, women, song
don't make me pick just one
when you combine
you get better each time
and there's nothing I can't wish away

but one, one will leave you after a while
and one, one will get out
running free and wild

Wine, women, song
don't leave me all alone
I'm not myself
I'm losing my health
when you find someone else to admire

and one, one will leave you
gasping for breath
and one, one will take what
what you've got left

Wine, women, song
please stay, the night is long
I can't imagine
no other compassion
so I promise my love every day
Track Name: Going to the Mattresses
I won't close my eyes again
just because it's night
hearts should fear their lonely men
and the candlelight

There's a war on crime, baby
so I hope you understand
that loving's just like fighting
it's always hand to hand
you fight to keep your record clean
until someone turns you in
and you love like there's a chance that you'll get struck

You learn a lot about somebody
when you're on the lam
You might think you know me now
You might love me as I am
But a public enemy needs his partner in crime
so I'll wait till your porch light flickers on

Leave the moon behind and your candlelight
Love don't mean nothing unless
you're putting up a fight
Cause there's nothing unrequited when
you're running from the law
There's no hero in this story, just a tragic flaw
So I'm going to the mattresses and
I hope that it's with you
I'm going to the mattresses for you

Well, they got us cornered, baby
So it's time to get away
I know a little safehouse
where the both of us can stay
Every promise is a ransom cut from the big black book
so I hope you've settled all of your affairs

We can hole up for a while
a keep our voices down
We can pray a little maybe
and hardly make a sound
Not every second coming deserves a second chance
Isn't it time you put it all out on the line?

Leave the moon behind and your candlelight
Love don't mean nothing unless
you're putting up a fight
Cause there's nothing unrequited when
you're running from the law
There's no hero in this story, just a tragic flaw
So I'm going to the mattresses and
I hope that it's with you
I'm going to the mattresses for you

When there's nowhere left to run
and the rain falls on the roof
sometimes a hail of bullets
can be the messenger of truth
There's a price paid by the innocent,
at least that's what they say
But I've never in my life met one of them

So we'll hold each other close
in the corner of the room
There's no regretting now
how you could've settled for the moon
But that's not real love baby,
it's just the reflection of the sun
So we'll close our eyes and hope we're part of something.
Track Name: (Not) Lonesome Tonight
I used to stare at every empty room and empty chair
I used to stand out on the doorstep just to be with the air
I'd concede every evening to somebody else
Got used to me just as myself

but now I'm not lonesome tonight
I'm not lonesome tonight
I'm not lonesome tonight
cause I got you

I used to drive around all night with the radio off
I used to threaten Armageddon with my every thought
I'd pull off of the road and light a signal flare
Thought I was lost, thought the devil may care

I used to walk into the woods when you weren't around
I used to see the trees fall but not make a sound
Track Name: Crooked Earth
You're just a rumor now
wandering the streets
you can't feel your feet below you
or every other heartbeat

Forgiveness is a promise
that's impossible to keep
You can try to outrun sorrow
but the road is always steep

You can't straighten out this crooked earth
this crooked earth has you nailed to the ground
You can't make it out of this crooked earth
this crooked earth is hell-bent, heaven-bound

but you can hold your head up high
you can practice every lie
you can buy yourself some time
but the earth knows every trick
it never panics
it opens up and swallows all the answers

Your breath's just a faint whisper
when the smoke gets in your lungs
Your words are borrowed loosely
now you're speaking in tongues

Forgetting is a bargain
and it's priced-to-move
You can trade something for it
when you can't find the truth

You can't straighten out this crooked earth
this crooked earth has you nailed to the ground
You can't make it out of this crooked earth
this crooked earth is hell-bent, heaven-bound

but you can hold your head up high
you can practice every lie
you can buy yourself some time
but the earth knows every trick
it never panics
it opens up and swallows all the answers
and it's burning in its core
it's warming on the shore
and it opens up and swallows all us with it
Track Name: Let's Tempt Fate
Would you stare straight at the sun
if you thought that it would make us one?
I would stare until a blinded state
Let's tempt fate

We can't leave it up to chance
our love is not a circumstance
we should ignore every great debate
Let's tempt fate

We should cross every line
and seduce this grand design
We can offer ourselves as bait
Let's tempt fate

When there's lightening
and it's striking
and we're standing
under a tree
now how bad can that be?

the ground's shaking
separating
no escaping
but we've got each other
and we've seen it rougher than this

We never question it
to hold on tight you must lose your grip
and even after checkmate
Let's tempt fate
Track Name: No Shadow
She was seventeen years old
aware of all her rights
Planning interventions
for all the quiet types

parked beside the highway
drawing circles in the dust
the sun is hardly moving
it's confusing dawn for dusk

but you're on your way out
no reasonable doubt
and no shadow

summer is a dream
and you are still asleep
falling for a boy
who might just pray your soul to keep

You can rest assured
the days are longer than the nights
but back inside your bedroom
and he's turning out the lights

Chorus

horizon stretching up not out
everywhere you turn around
and surprised to find such space
in such a crowded underground

Don't they know there's nothing
they could offer you to stay
now you've cut your hair
like it's some Roman Holiday
Track Name: Every Wonder in the World
Along the northern border
for mile after mile
I built a wall to guard you
and save you from the wild

I watched its line round every turn
from orbits up above
sometimes protection
is another kind of love

I built a city in stone
cast into a cliff
so every eastern shadow
would harbor you from risk

I built it in a basin
a shelter from the storm
The dust settles closely
and takes another form

Well I'd build it all again
if I thought it would bring back you
Every wise and foolish builder
knows his work is never through
Never losing faith, well it's the least that I can do

And way up on the mountain
reaching from the peak
I built a peaceful man
who gives comfort to the meek

Open arms of soapstone
like a lightening rod
I made it to remind you
of all the acts of God

And not too far from there
on another cloudy hill
hidden under jungle
a city we could fill

We can watch the shadows fall
and line up on the ground
We can hide along the ridges
We can keep from being found

Or a little further north
right beside a well
I built a little platform
where we can cast our spells

Every single eagle
knows the sacrifice
Every drop of blood
gets you paradise

In the center of the city
so everyone can see
I built a place to watch it all
though nothing is for free

Every single seat
has its own view
but I've only built them all
so they would please you

But I never planned to build
a place you'd never leave
a dome that housed your body
wandering round like Eve

And even with this marble
and every minaret and moon
I never thought I’d build
a palace for a tomb

But still there's something permanent
these memories in stone
Strange how something cold and old
cures the fear of being alone

So even when they crumble
and the dust begins to swirl
every memory left from you
beats every wonder in the world
Track Name: I've Embarrassed the Piano Again
I've embarrassed the piano again
I swore I'd learn new chords and
find new words to make pretend
But I'm afraid I've embarrassed the piano again

I don't know a single opera
I have no candles for candleabras
I waste my time
Writing songs that have to rhyme
And I'm afraid I've embarrassed the piano again.

maybe now you'll finally hear
but sweet nothings don't launch careers
I've even tried to plagiarize
beyond my size
But I'm afraid I've embarrassed the piano again.

I've learned what I've learned for you
it comes from all that we've been through
Every verse is a charm
and it's a curse
And I'm afraid I've embarrassed the piano again.