Sparrows

Dustin Welch, Super Rooster Music (SESAC); Zander Cox, Uh-What Music (SESAC)

Weigh me down my weary bones, lay me out to dry
I won’t forget the way you looked last time we said goodbye
Now nothing else makes any sense or ever has since then
If I could I’d do it all over again

Instead I’m stumbling down this backstreet gutter of a town
And upset every sorrow I have yet to drown
Now everywhere I turn expecting slander and scorn
For the life of me I beg to be reborn

Chorus
I’ve got to find somewhere to get out of the rain
This coat don’t keep the cold out anymore
And my heart don’t beat the same
As it did before

I had another one of those nervous episodes last night
I dreamt about an unmarked headstone on the high hillside
My backbone had been bent and broken by some ruthless clime
My mind had been caught on a wrought design

So, I’ll turn my back and walk away and not return again
I hear the distant drums beating on the wind
The branch will always break the banks of the river dammed
And I’ve about had all that I can stand

Repeat Chorus

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

When I was probably fifteen or sixteen I had a vision. My very first band was called The Groundlings with my neighbor Cary Ann Hearst who is now one half of the duo Shovels & Rope. We’d played at this hippie commune we used to go down to all the time called The Farm in a beautiful part of southern Tennessee. We were sleeping in a bunkhouse attached to the building where the stage was, and as I was going to sleep, dead sober mind you, I flashed on several images and heard the sound of this strange, complex melody. A mixture of Celtic and Appalachian Folk set to this rock and jazz rhythm. I saw Trisha, my violinist, and I saw Drew, my old rhythm guitar player. I heard his voice. I swear to God. I heard this archaic language, and it was gritty and raw, with big harmonies. It was profound. It felt like horses running wild. I’d never heard anything like it, and at the time I never intended on having my own band, wasn’t really even writing yet, and wouldn’t have thought it could ever be music of my own. There was a moment on stage many years later, as we were playing this song, that I realized this is what I’d heard and felt. Even at that point, I didn’t imagine the impact this song would have on my life.

I wrote this melody while I was staying in my buddy Travis Nicholson’s apartment in LA with a week off in between tours with Scotch Greens. Zander had turned me onto a fella named Dirk Powell and I particularly loved a song of his called ‘Waterbound’. I wrote the melody for this, chorus and all at Trav’s place looking out over Hollywood, and slowly, very slowly began writing the lyrics. I labored over them for a year and a half. It became about a returning Vietnam War Vet. I’ve no idea why, the music didn’t exactly convey the sense of this character, but something about the sentiment, the emotion of the sadness and longing and determination made me write in that direction. I finally got the last of it when I was staying with Zander in Boise doing some pre-production work on an album we began but never finished. Zander drove me the whole time to perfect it. I wanted him to sing it, so I kept coming to him with versions I thought were done, and he’d point at a verse or a few lines and tell me it just wasn’t there yet. I loathed him for it every time, but he was always right. I’ve never had such satisfaction from completing a song as I did once this was done. I still feel like it’s my best work to date. The title ‘Sparrows’ refers to a line from Hamlet in Act V, Scene 2 where he says “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.”

Playing at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX one night a couple years later, I was asked by a fella to contribute a song to a record for returning war vets from Iraq and Afghanistan. He actually wanted Goodbye, but I knew I had one better. One for the folks that did make it back, although maybe not all way. The record was called Voices of a Grateful Nation. In performing various benefits for the organization, I began to get to know more and more of our returning veterans. A couple years ago I began teaching weekly music and songwriting workshops and developed the structure to spread these into national programs. I have now given out around forty instruments, have facilitated these folks in writing half a dozen very powerful songs, host two weekly sessions, have begun five chapters within Texas and a dozen nationwide. Every week, I see these folks getting their lives back more and more. Regaining their speech, their short term memory, their marriages. I’ve seen many of them laugh and cry more than their own therapists have. As one of these veterans expressed to me, music has the power to change the world, and it has changed theirs for the better.