Ash & Iron

Dustin Welch, Super Rooster Music (SESAC); Kevin Welch, Monkey Head Songs (SESAC)

The nights are growing colder now and the days begin to dim
So dark the shadows are that close me in
Outside I hear the shutters banging in the howling wind
So dark the shadows are that close me in

Lately I’ve been feeling like there’s no one I can trust
And everything that I’ve got left I’ve left to rust
These precious memories only sit around and gather dust
And everything that I’ve got left I’ve left to rust

Chorus
Mother, please forgive your son
That is my one and only prayer
I’ve got the taste of ash and iron on my tongue
And every word I let escape hangs in the air.

Now a bare lightbulb it swings above a mattress on the floor
I listen for my angels singing low
I set the static dial on the radio
And I hear my angels singing sweet and low

Repeat Chorus

Yeah, the nights are growing colder now and the days begin to dim
So dark the shadows are that close me in
Outside I hear the shutters banging in the howling wind
So dark the shadows are that close me in

Repeat Chorus

Dustin Welch: lead vocals, banjo; Jeremy Nail: electric guitar, background vocals; Scotty Bucklin: keyboards; Trisha Keefer: violin; Steve Bernal: bass, background vocals; Eldridge Goins: drums, percussion, background vocals

For three years, I went to Sturgeon Bay, WI for the Steel Bridge Songfest and Writing Retreat, where they take about forty songwriters and musicians, throw them all in a hotel for a week, and turn them loose on each other. A couple rooms are converted into recording studios and there are little showcase gigs all over town. It’s nonstop action the entire time. By the end of the week people are practically talking to each other in song lines and metaphor and have to pull out their note pad every few minutes to write down yet another verse or song idea. It’s exhausting, but absolutely amazing. Several songs on this record had something to do with those weeks I spent there. This one in particular came on the first day of my second year. They pair you up with people by playing spin the bottle, and I ended up with a fella named Robbie Schiller from this great Wisconsin band called the Blueheels, and a gal named Kim Manning who’s a background vocalist for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. I suggested we try an a cappella song and started singing the ah-ooh-weh’s as a foundation. There are actually several lines from that original piece I re-tooled which ended up in here.

A few months later, I was staying out at my dad’s little guest cabin in Wimberley and for days on end wouldn’t see or even talk to another person. I had my old drummer, Joe Humel send me this big rock drum track I remembered that he’d recorded when we were roommates. I took an old guitar line I’d had laying around since the old Chicken Shack days in Nashville, and made it into this dance remix sounding synth bass track, threw in a creepy Appalachian banjo melody I used to soundcheck with, and sang that West African a cappella thing over it. It was crazy, these four seemingly unrelated elements coming together. I sat down and wrote and rewrote what I needed to about this isolated character coming to grips with his madness, passing straight through the ghosts which haunt him. My dad turned up at one point and suggested the first couple lines on the chorus, and there it was. The ‘taste of ash & iron on my tongue’ is a reference to Psalms 102:9, “For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.” Looking back, that night in the little cabin, I resembled this character quite a bit more than I realized at the time.