Seven Cities

by D. R. Commander

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about

Perhaps best described as "Progressive Americana", Commander's self-produced, genre-busting debut album borrows from classic rock, country, bluegrass, and jazz to create a sonic tapestry that expands far beyond the traditional singer/songwriter paradigm.

“Seven Cities” represents a sort of musical road trip across North America and back, exploring love and loss against the backdrop of urban skylines, small towns, and scenic western vistas. The name calls to mind the expedition of Coronado, who searched far and wide for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold but ended up finding only a rich and beautiful land, a treasure far more valuable than gold. In the same way, the songs in “Seven Cities” tell stories of our own personal searches for gold and how we rarely find it but sometimes find ourselves in the process.

"Seven Cities" was mastered using traditional (pre-"loudness war") techniques and has been given a rating of DR12 (dynamic range of 12 dB) by the Pleasurize Music Foundation (www.pleasurizemusic.com).

credits

released 17 April 2013

Musicians:
D. R. Commander (Piano, keyboards, electronic drums/percussion, vocals)
G. Pat Harris (Upright and/or electric bass)
Aaron Goldfarb (Guitars)
Graeme Francis (Drums on "Atlanta" and "Hill Country Rain")
Lloyd Maines (Pedal steel guitar on "Atlanta" and "The American Dream")
Andrea Whaley (Backing vocals on "Atlanta", "Jennifer", "The Blacksmith Shop", and "One-Way Line")
Akina Adderley (Backing vocals on "Dead to the World")

Drums on "One-Way Line" by Drums On Demand

Recorded by D. R. Commander at Spare Oom Studio, Austin, Texas except:
"Atlanta" and "Hill Country Rain" recorded at The Congress House Studio (www.congresshouse.com), Austin, Texas (engineer: Andre Moran)
Andrea Whaley's backing vocals and vocal on "Hill Country Rain" recorded at The Zone Recording Studio (www.thezonerecordingstudio.com), Dripping Springs, Texas (engineer: Mike Morgan)

Produced by D. R. Commander
Mixed by Pat Manske at The Zone Recording Studio
Mastered by Nick Landis at Terra Nova Digital Audio, Inc. (www.terranovamastering.com), Austin, Texas

Cover Artwork: "The darkness lifted in a blaze of deafening flame, and with that silence was all that remained" by Roy Moore (controlimages.zenfolio.com)

Special thanks:
-- David Gignac, for helping me find the sound (careful that you don't dink the vinyl)
-- Pat Harris, for always having just the right bit of sage advice that kept me from thinking I was crazy to attempt this
-- Maxwell McDaniel, for always managing to find those hidden gems of New Orleans culture
-- The late, great Johnny Gordon. I may have sat at your bench, but I could never fill your shoes.
-- Dad, for infecting me with your love of bluegrass
-- Mom, for lighting the fire under my butt to finish the project
-- Liz Reeder Neubauer, for the stories that inspired more than one of these songs, and for giving them a sounding board when they were still in their infancy
-- Marshall Frech and the cast & crew of "Flash Flood Alley"
-- All of the bands to which I belong or have belonged, including Peter Rowan's Twang an' Groove, Flounders Without Eyes, Akina Adderley & the Vintage Playboys, The Harmony Theory, Laredo, and Hot Flash. Each and every one of you has contributed an important piece to the patchwork quilt of my musical identity.

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about

D. R. Commander Austin, Texas

A self-taught pianist, D. R. Commander's approach to the instrument is somewhat non-traditional and is influenced as much by Earl Scruggs and Mark Knopfler as by Bruce Hornsby and Jackson Browne. His songs paint pictures of far-off, beautiful places inhabited by people who are different on the surface but whose lives intertwine in the same universal quest. ... more

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Track Name: The Way We Started
“The Way We Started”
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2007 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
You've been climbing up the stairway lost in a dream,
And I've been hanging in your shadows behind the scenes
You've got me running like a rat who's lost in a maze

Doing lunches, taking meetings, and dropping some names,
And throwing bones out to whoever got you your fame
Hollywood's been kind to you, but I'm still the same

[Chorus]
Let's go back to the way we started
Time won't change the way we parted
You've been hiding out from me,
Cursing what we used to be
Why can't we start it again?

[Verse]
I can't keep up with all that SoCal drama you bring
Sometimes I wonder if you give a damn when I sing
Larger than life still doesn't mean that you know everything

You've been flying on a first-class ticket for free,
And I've been riding in your trunk and paying the fee
I think you're special, and on that much we agree

[Chorus]

[Bridge]
You're taking your life for granted, and you're leaving me
Holding the bag while you're chewing up the scenery
Why can't we go back to the way things used to be?
I'm still I, and I think there's something left of “we”

[Verse]
You've been going all the places I couldn't go,
And I've been hanging on the dock out back of the show
Sometimes I wonder, and other times I just know

[Chorus]
Track Name: Dead to the World
"Dead to the World"
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2007 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
He gets high on cigarettes and coffee,
Lennon and McCartney, Willie and Merle
Smokin' C's out back of Lucky Seven,
Film it at 11, dead to the world

[Chorus]
Joey had the ladies in his freeze frame,
Playing at the wrong game, dishing out the wrong blame
Mikey took the cash and went to DC
Now he's on the TV looking for a new fame

[Verse]
Making movies all over the city,
Neon lights are pretty, but nights are long
Second crew in just as many days,
The cast is in a haze between right and wrong

[Chorus]
Prada bags lined up along the floor,
The girls scream out for more, but the lead is out the door
Take the bottle out into the skyway,
My way or the highway, looking for a new score

[Solo]

[Verse]
Trailer park in the cover of the dark,
He tries to make his mark, but she just ran away
Filling reels from Burbank to La Jolla,
'98 Toyota hunting for prey

[Chorus]
Steely Dan was playing on the hi-fi,
Something from Katy Lied going back to seven-five
She was living life just like her picture
No one's gonna miss her, looking for a new dive

[Verse]
She gets high on cigarettes and coffee,
Lennon and McCartney, denim and pearls
Smokin' J's out back of Lucky Seven,
Watch it at 11, dead to the world
Track Name: Atlanta
“Atlanta”
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2007 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
You know I don't owe the kind of debt that makes a proud man lay his cards upon the table
They say I can't offer you the moon the way I could when we were young and so in love
The promise is something I can't give to you
The truth is, I just can't live for two,
And it only takes one to run

[Chorus]
Hey hey, I got to keep heading down the road
I've got the voice that's calling me,
Writing a one-way ticket back there to Atlanta
I want to be holding you tonight,
Even though it's plain to see
There's just no way this could be right

[Verse]
Maybe I shouldn't have gone on about the way you seem to light up every room
And Baby, I should have left last week, but I can't help but think that maybe it's too soon
If there's a pillar, I can hide behind it
If there's a way, you know I'd try to find it
If I only had the time

[Chorus]
Hey hey, I got to keep heading down the road
I've got the voice that's calling me,
Writing a one-way ticket back there to Atlanta
I shouldn't be holding you this way,
Even though we both know
I would be better off if I could stay

[Solo]

[Verse]
You know I don't climb the tallest tower just to get closer to God than to you
You know I don't play my only ace unless I have nothing left to win or lose
You can't say I didn't warn you
I wouldn't be here by morning light
I've got to make Baton Rouge tonight

[Chorus]
Hey hey, I got to keep heading down the road
I've got the voice that's calling me,
Writing a one-way ticket back there to Atlanta
I want to be holding you tonight,
Even though I've got to go
You know I won't forget to write you from Atlanta
Track Name: The American Dream
"The American Dream"
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2008 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
Lonely child in the dark staring out at the gray skyline
She hears the clock on the wall chiming half past nine
She took the train down from Madison hoping to meet her kind
She wants a house in the suburbs and 2.5,
Living on the edge of time

[Chorus]
Far across the fields like the cover of a magazine
Filling up on cheap wine, burgers, and gasoline
Things never work out like they do on the silver screen
Was she running from herself, was she living the American dream?

[Verse]
She met him down at a bar on the corner of 17,
In the heart of the downtown social scene
She had the scent of desperation and nicotine
He was holding back fearing the world unseen,
Living in the in-between

[Chorus]
She was never married to the prince in the Snow White scene,
But living all alone's not the loneliest you can be
She wanted all that his eyes reflected from the TV screen
They were living in silence and living the American dream

[Solo]

[Verse]
Lonely child in the dark staring out at the gray skyline
She sees the mark on the wall reading half past nine,
Living on the edge of time
Track Name: Jennifer
“Jennifer”
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2007 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
Staring out into this midnight summer sky
The stars reflecting like a mirror in her eyes
I wonder if I can find her heart
We were drawn together but worlds apart
She don't know what's going on
She can't see the sunlight for the dawn

While the fire dies and the night starts growing old
While the embers dance and my coffee's getting cold
She tries to hide behind her pain
Like a silver cloud in the pouring rain
She gives me a reason to come home,
To stay up waiting by the phone

[Chorus]
Jennifer, don't let my heart break one more time
Jennifer, don't leave me hanging on your line
Tell me what's on your mind
Don't say you're the losing kind
Whisper your sweetest dreams to me

[Verse]
I see an eagle soaring above that red rock hill
He reminds me of the way I used to feel
On our lone mountains there we stood,
Both of us waiting for something good
Why does love have to be that hard?
Why does her heart have to be so far?

[Chorus]

[Solo]

[Chorus]
Track Name: The Blacksmith Shop
“The Blacksmith Shop”
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2007 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
Down past the lights and crowds of Bourbon street,
There sits a pub that's stuck in time
Back in the corner, Johnny plays the tunes
Just like he's done since '65

You can see the wind and the flood in the lines on his face,
Forty years of four-hour nights
The quarter is mostly back together post-K,
And everywhere's a waterline
But the Whos, they dance and sing without a care,
Without tomorrow on their mind

[Chorus]
And Johnny played 'em an old tune
They can't quite remember, and neither could he
In that smoke-filled room,
For a moment all the world seems to stop
Down at the Blacksmith Shop

[Verse]
Maxwell bought me hurricanes, and he didn't tell me he'd arranged
For me to sit in
But I believed it kind of strange when Johnny said,
"Hey, just for a change, you know I'd like to ask my friend ..."

I was half a drink past quiet humility,
And I was three quarters of a drink past knowing how to sing,
And I had long out-drunk my swiss cheese memory, so I sang 'em
"Crocodile Rock", and "Take it Easy",
and "I've Got Friends in Low Places",
And half of "Running on Empty"

[Chorus]
So I sang 'em an old tune
They can't quite remember, and neither could I
In that smoke-filled room,
For a moment all the world seems to stop
Down at the Blacksmith Shop

[Solo]

[Chorus]
And Johnny played 'em an old tune
They can't quite remember, and neither could he
In that smoke-filled room,
For a moment all the world seems to stop
Down at the Blacksmith Shop

Down past the lights and crowds of Bourbon street,
There sits a pub that's stuck in time
Track Name: Hill Country Rain
"Hill Country Rain"
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2008 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
It was a cold, gray morning in '98 when someone opened up Heaven's gate
Clouds began their dance over that sleepy German town
The sky fell down like a hurricane, dropping 4 inches an hour of rain,
Falling like a stone upon the ground

Before another hour had passed us by, the river rose to 40 feet high,
And houses floated down just like a leaf upon the breeze
22 feet above the plain didn't spare us all from the endless rain,
Once the river turned into a sea

No one ever thought it could happen here
With the dam upstream we had no fear,
But dams can't hold back water that beneath their shadow flows
It rose so fast as the rains came down that we barely made it to higher ground
With nothing but the children and our clothes

The storm moved on in time with the flood, pushing half the Mississippi's worth of mud,
Sweeping down through Cuero like a runaway freight train
A 20-foot wave covered half the town
They went 7 miles to find dry ground,
Stranded in the cold Hill Country rain

[Chorus]
Hill Country rain is falling down into the canyons and the streams
Hill Country rain is going to drown all of our sweet American dreams
When the rivers start to fill, you'd better head up to the hills
'Cause only time can stop the cold Hill Country rain

[Verses]
Two old men said, back in '72, this place filled up like a swimming pool,
But we just smiled and shook our heads and looked the other way
Everybody thought they had bought the dream 'til they saw it floating away downstream
Underneath October skies of gray

I once knew a man down on Rio Drive
His wife didn't make it out of there alive
They climbed a 40-foot tree, until the river rose some more
He floated seven miles on a piece of wood, along with most of the neighborhood,
But eight of them never made it to the shore

There was never any doubt that we'd build again
We loved the water like a long-lost friend,
Though our friend would sometimes tend to fly into a rage
We built like a fortress against the tide, between the pecans on the riverside
We kept one eye on the sky and another on the gauge

Four years later, Fourth of July, the ground was cracked and three months dry
A record storm moved up the river, much to our relief
Everybody thought we were out of harm's way 'til the lake rose 50 feet in a day
The dam had done its job, but there was too much rain to keep

The water, it hit the spillway breach, and just like the waves crashing on the beach,
Three times the Mighty Colorado pouring down the hill
This had never happened since they built the lake, and some of the Corps thought the dam might break
The rains had fallen hard, but then the rains fell harder still

The lake came down with a mighty roar, then the river rose and then it rose some more
I turned on the TV to see my house float down the street
We had just rebuilt from the flood before when the Guadalupe knocked down our door
And came into our house just like a thief

Not many people remember that day, and there's millions more built in harm's way
Everything that we build, Nature one day will reclaim
But if every few years it happens again, then why do they call it the ”hundred-year plain"?
You can't blame it all on the cold Hill Country rain

[Double chorus]
Track Name: One-Way Line
"One-Way Line"
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2007 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
Heading into the Vancouver skyline
Staring out the window, I've got nothing but time
Destination: Waterfront Station
I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

I tried to bury my dreams with the past
Her eyes shone like a diamond in the morning light
Now I can't make this train go any faster
I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

[Chorus]
I'm moving on a twilight feeling,
Trying to stop my heart from healing,
Wondering why I'd ever let her go
The city lights in different places,
The nameless and the lonely faces
Telling me what I already know

[Verse]
Across the blue of the cold, cold sound
She's standing in the wind and the evening tide
Looking down on that Squamish town
While I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

She never wanted that neon life,
But she stepped into the shadows thinking everything's fine
It's hard being a musician's wife,
So I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

[Chorus]
We're moving through the silent midnight,
Reflecting with the harbor moonlight,
Marking time with countless beating hearts
The trees in simulated freeze frame,
The statues in a giant chess game
Moving like a whisper in the dark

[Verse]
The train cuts the city like a knife,
I'm heading into town, leaving Richmond behind
Looking down on that slice of life,
I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

Heading into the Vancouver skyline
Staring out the window, I've got nothing but time
Destination: Waterfront Station
I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line
Riding down the rails of a one-way line
Riding down the rails of a one-way line
Track Name: Jennifer (Mostly Unplugged)
“Jennifer”
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2007 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
Staring out into this midnight summer sky
The stars reflecting like a mirror in her eyes
I wonder if I can find her heart
We were drawn together but worlds apart
She don't know what's going on
She can't see the sunlight for the dawn

While the fire dies and the night starts growing old
While the embers dance and my coffee's getting cold
She tries to hide behind her pain
Like a silver cloud in the pouring rain
She gives me a reason to come home,
To stay up waiting by the phone

[Chorus]
Jennifer, don't let my heart break one more time
Jennifer, don't leave me hanging on your line
Tell me what's on your mind
Don't say you're the losing kind
Whisper your sweetest dreams to me

[Verse]
I see an eagle soaring above that red rock hill
He reminds me of the way I used to feel
On our lone mountains there we stood,
Both of us waiting for something good
Why does love have to be that hard?
Why does her heart have to be so far?

[Chorus]

[Solo]

[Chorus]
Track Name: One-Way Line (Mostly Unplugged)
"One-Way Line"
Words and Music by D. R. Commander
Copyright ©2007 Twelve-Foot Hedgehog Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.

[Verse]
Heading into the Vancouver skyline
Staring out the window, I've got nothing but time
Destination: Waterfront Station
I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

I tried to bury my dreams with the past
Her eyes shone like a diamond in the morning light
Now I can't make this train go any faster
I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

[Chorus]
I'm moving on a twilight feeling,
Trying to stop my heart from healing,
Wondering why I'd ever let her go
The city lights in different places,
The nameless and the lonely faces
Telling me what I already know

[Verse]
Across the blue of the cold, cold sound
She's standing in the wind and the evening tide
Looking down on that Squamish town
While I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

She never wanted that neon life,
But she stepped into the shadows thinking everything's fine
It's hard being a musician's wife,
So I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

[Chorus]
We're moving through the silent midnight,
Reflecting with the harbor moonlight,
Marking time with countless beating hearts
The trees in simulated freeze frame,
The statues in a giant chess game
Moving like a whisper in the dark

[Verse]
The train cuts the city like a knife,
I'm heading into town, leaving Richmond behind
Looking down on that slice of life,
I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line

Heading into the Vancouver skyline
Staring out the window, I've got nothing but time
Destination: Waterfront Station
I'm riding down the rails of a one-way line
Riding down the rails of a one-way line
Riding down the rails of a one-way line