Blue​-​Eyed Devils

by Walter Ehresman

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about

The 15th solo album from long-time Austin iconoclast Walter Ehresman finds him casting a typically-wide net. Styles range from industrial rock/world music hybrid to post-punk art rock to experimental Waits-ian weirdness to poignant mountain music to scathing solo guitar protest song to complex acoustic guitar suite to post-rock piano singer-songwriter material. Lyrics cut to the bone about the state of the world, and the state of our hearts......with bits of winking humor along the way.

In the midst of preparations to relocate to Mexico in early 2015, Walter Ehresman stops to release "Blue-Eyed Devils" as a parting commentary on life in the US during these troubled times. Fans expect a wide variety of styles on albums by the long-time Austin rabble-rouser, and that's certainly the case here. As with all his releases, finding the right track order is vital to ensuring that the album has a narrative flow that avoids sounding like an unconnected mish-mash of songs. Luckily, "Blue-Eyed Devils" follows well in the footsteps of its predecessors in that regard. While the album is certainly a varied sonic journey, there is a logic to how each song flows into the next. By the end, you feel as if you've passed through some kind of intense rite of passage, emerging changed is ways that may take time to fully blossom in the mind.

Like all his solo albums, "Blue-Eyed Devils" features Ehresman largely in his one-man band mode, with just a few guest spots scattered throughout the album. Also producing and engineering the album, Ehresman made sure to create space and ambiance in the mix to avoid the songs sounding too antiseptic or digitally-claustrophobic.

The title track has a latter-day industrial Bowie vibe, with lyrics shining a piercing light on the cultural devastation overseas when US foreign policy is used as a mere vehicle to further the interests of giant corporations. The music illustrates the theme by alternating a myriad of world music instrumental vignettes with pulverizing electric guitar. Aside from some some of the wildest guitar yet heard from him, Ehresman shows tremendous versatility on instruments from all over the world.......from Middle Eastern oud to Turkish saz to Uzbecki rawap. The didgeridoo, tabla, and Tibetan singing bowl parts also work really well to create a musical reflection of the lyrics. Austinite Nigel Jacobs guests for small segments of throat-singing. It has to be said that this song is a 2X4 upside the head, and it will wear you out.

"A Big Day for the Lizards" is a song Ehresman says was written way back in '89 while watching George Bush Sr. get inaugurated, but which wasn't recorded until 2013. Quite the elephantine gestation period. The song has the quirky art-rock danceability of the augmented touring version (with Adrian Belew, Bernie Worrell, etc.) of The Talking Heads. Both these first two songs show Ehresman really expanding his electric guitar palette into new and exciting directions. NOTE: with the alternating images of right wing bad guys with gristly feeding scenes involving packs of Komodo Dragons, the YouTube video for this song is not for the squeamish.

The track "When You Turn (One Foot in the Elephant Dung)" has a clear Tom Waits influence as its stomping rhythms tell of a romantic partner whose love turns 180 degrees in the blink of an eye, never to flip back. There is an undercurrent of sadness and hurt beneath the raw testifying that imparts a vulnerability shielded by bravado. The list of instrumentation on the CD package is worth noting.....Ehresman is credited with "vocals, keyboards, acoustic guitars, guitar-back percussion, and flatulent canine plush toy."

At this point in the running order, up pops an unexpected piece of sublime, melancholy mountain music ("Now What?"), full of acoustic guitars, mandolins and fiddles and featuring a lovely duet with special guest Katie Shepherd. Lyrically, the song is a world-weary lament that ponders the very timely dilemma of how to be happy in one's life while keeping engaged with all the problems of the world. The plaintive, wistful vocals sing "I just want to be happy/but I don't want to be blind/it's so hard to dance forward/with this weigh on my mind." The song is firmly anchored by the electric bass work of guest Taj Estrada, along with long-time Ehresman cohort James Rader using brushes to play percussion on the album cover to BB King's iconic "Live at Cook County Jail." Nigel Jacobs provides plaintive fiddle. This is authentic roots music, with songwriting that's startling to come from the same pen as the aggressive title track.

The next track, "10 Cent Patriots," is a solo vocal/acoustic guitar number with no overdubs (except for a brief acoustic guitar solo), which is a sparse rarity in the lengthy Ehresman discography. To hear him tell it, "I had this title around for over a decade, and was paralyzed by choice in terms of coming up with suitable lyrics.....Finally, just this year, I sat down with it, found a handle into the subject matter by creating small character vignettes, and at that point the whole thing came together in about 15 minutes." This is a protest song in the classic tradition, alternating scathing social commentary with thumbnail sketches of rage-filled Tea Party fathers who protest abortion rights while terrorizing their own kids at home, and of subjugated housewives who meekly walk behind their husbands (as preached by insidious "Promiskeeper" Christian ideology) as they blindly support the forces that put them there while their innate human potential slowly leaks away.

"I wrote the song 'Holding Pattern' at the moment I decided to leave the ever rightward-shifting US and move to central Mexico," Ehresman tells us. The lyrics sing of a Zen-like jump toward Big Change as a route to a revival of the spirit, and the music features a wonderful 5-string electric violin solo from guest Nigel Jacobs, with a tasteful electric mandola part from Ehresman at the coda to bring the song home. A very satisfying waltz-time piece of music.

"Reduction" is really an acoustic guitar suite, with multiple discrete parts and recurring themes. Bowed bass, cello and string section parts interweave throughout, with a stunning, soaring middle section where the strings surge and a sublime eBow guitar solo brings out the chicken skin. Full of emotion and melancholy, this is really one of the most effective pieces Ehresman has ever recorded (check out the beautiful video for the song on YouTube). Largely instrumental, the brief lyrics sing of those very sad moments when you realize that that a long-term friendship has somehow ended without you even realizing its demise.

The album's final regular track is "A Ghost of Myself," with a tortured, subsonic intro leading into a heartbreaking piano ballad of self-doubt and despair. The singer's disconnect from his own heart and core is accentuated by the vocoder vocals, and an unexpectedly stately Steve Howe-ish electric guitar solo in the middle that seems to provide a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak, desolate landscape.

So as not to end the album on that type of note, Ehresman includes a quite-ridiculous bonus track called "Wayne's Lengthy Ablutions." As he writes in the CD liner notes: "This track was written about a guy I used to work with who spent an inordinate amount of time in the office bathroom fussily doing an inordinate number of things." Nothing more really needs to be said. Very silly indeed.

In some ways, the lyrics and music on the album display a winding up of themes that have dominated Ehresman compositions throughout the decades of his prolific career. As he recently stated, "As I leave the United States behind and move permanently to Mexico, I see myself writing a different kind of music down there......I'm going to stop reading and talking about politics, and focus more on the matters between people in inter-personal relationships....I've written enough protest songs about the corruption in the world's systems, and I've really pretty much said what I have to say on that.....but I know that there are boundless songs to be written about people and how they relate to each other , and I look forward to soaking in my new surroundings and then processing them into new music......music that I can't wait to share with everyone."
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DISCOGRAPHY:
--solo albums: "Honor in the Swine?" ('89); "In the Path of the Cat Chasers" ('90); "Split Brain Theory" ('91); "The Blue Shoat Special" ('96); the spoken-word "The Rants" ('97); "Handwedge from the Trap" ('99); “Le Cafard“ (’01); "The Feral Rugby Team Must GO!" ('03); "No Unifying Theme" ('04); "March, Scream or Cry" ('07); "The ADG Project" ('07); "Monkey Paw Situation" ('09); “Well…..Let‘s Look at Your Track Record, Shall We?” (’10); “Life Outside the Tent“ (’12); and "Blue-Eyed Devils" ('14).

--with Snipe Hunt: "We'll Be Right Back!" ('99); "Dirty Ditties and Cover Tunes" ('00); and "I Saw the Future (But the Damn Train Hit Me Just the Same)" ('02).

--with Los Platos: “Oh, No” EP (’08).

--with Delphi Rising: “For Granted” (‘10)

--compilations (various artists):
(with Swine Patrol) “The Austin Cassette Compendium” (‘86)
(solo) "Monkey Boy Sampler" ('01, '05); and "Several Famous Orchestras" ('03).

www.cdbaby.com/all/snipe snipehunt@austin.rr.com
www.reverbnation.com/walterehresman
www.youtube.com/user/WaltSnipe
soundcloud.com#wehresman
twitter.com/austinwalt

credits

released November 22, 2014

Produced and engineered by Walter Ehresman at Snipe Bog Studios, Austin, Texas.
Mastered by Kurtis Machler at Million Dollar Sound, Austin.
Photography and graphic design by James Rader.

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about

Walter Ehresman San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

Called "the quintessential Austin DIY artist" by famed local disc jockey Charlie Martin , Walter Ehresman was an eccentric presence in the Austin music scene from the '80s until his 2015 move to Mexico. A prolific songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and recording artist...and a restless musical spirit, always looking for something new, expressed with fearlessly honest lyric-writing. ... more

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Track Name: Blue-Eyed Devils
Blue-Eyed Devils
(© 2014 Walter Ehresman)

My eyes, they multiply across the firmament
--the better to see you, again;
My ways, they permeate the color of your skin
--you'll no longer be "you," my friend.
Constant exposure across the aether waves
brings saturation to a culture you can't save;
Your friction just delays you doing things our way (with a flash of light).

[chorus]
Blue-eyed devils proudly kicking down the door;
Blue-eyed devils with a force you can't ignore;
Your family cowers as you wait for the encore (with a flash of light).

My hands, they slip beneath the blouse of privacy
--the better to feel you, again;
My greed, it eats away every wall of sovereignty
--the better to use you, my friend.
You've seen the way we treat the masses of our own—
that should tell you something 'bout the hand that holds the stone;
Your needs are swallowed by the reach of the blast zone (with a flash of light).

[chorus]

[chorus#2]
Blue-eyed devils sing their hymns pitched at a roar;
Blue-eyed devils calculate the final score;
Your family cowers as you wait for the encore (with a flash of light).
Track Name: A Big Day for the Lizards
A Big Day For the Lizards
(© 1989 Walter Ehresman)

It was a big day for the lizards,
as he crawled to his place on the throne.
He slithered past the honor guard;
Benediction with a long forked-tongue.

The front row is the donor list–
smiling only if a reptile could smile;
Puff adders in the owner’s box,
and spitting cobras riding big crocodiles.

Komodos in the limo
(those seats, you know we’ll never get clean);
Gila monsters down on K Street,
making deals to feed on you and on me.

The carnage getting thicker now,
the bodies piling up to our knees;
It’s feeding time all the time [repeat]
Track Name: When You Turn (One Foot in the Elephant Dung)
When You Turn (One Foot in the Elephant Dung)
(© 2011 Walter Ehresman)

I didn’t see the coming of the train;
I didn’t see the filter in your brain;
You put me on the outs–
with the scowl, the frowns, the pouts–
and I’ll never see your brighter side again.
It’s like there is a switch inside your head
that breaks off when you go from green to red;
I was too transfixed to go,
so I stayed and watched the show,
now I’m dented by the cruelty you said.


[chorus]
When you turn
–Everything I say is wrong;
When you turn
–You won’t listen to my song;
You done put me in the box,
with no chance to pick the locks;
Ripped my heart up with the hammer and the tongs.


I didn’t see the changing of the guard;
I didn’t know the girl could be so hard;
Must have been there from the start–
just another fickle heart–
the X-ray specs you sat on, now in shards.
Now I sit here, ruminatin’ on the day
when your bucketful of love just went away;
And I wouldn’t want it back–
now I’ve climbed down off your rack–
and there really isn’t fuck-all more to say.
Track Name: Now What?
Now What?
(© 2013 Walter Ehresman)

If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,
then what happens when you peek behind the curtain?
If all your questions about The Hand of Man
are now answered, are you glad to be certain?
It tore me apart from the time I was small—
wonderin’ why people do what they do;
But with dots all connected and motives sussed out,
I feel prisoned in the face of what’s true.

[chorus]
Now what do we do when our hope bows and bends like the camel with that last piece of straw?
When a lifetime of seein’ how the pieces all fit to form a picture of tooth and of claw?
I just want to be happy, but I don’t want to be blind;
It’s so hard to dance forward with this weight on my mind.

Well, you see them old movies with detectives that drink,
and right now I know just how they feel;
‘cause when look under stones and you dig up old graves,
you best be ready when the scenes get too real.
It tore me apart from the time I was small—
wonderin’ why people do what they do;
But with dots all connected and motives sussed out,
I feel prisoned in the face of what’s true.

[chorus]
Track Name: 10 Cent Patriots
10 Cent Patriots
(© 2014 Walter Ehresman)

He screams to “Save the Babies!”, but he’s brutal with his kids;
He hangs those teabags from his hat, and tightens up his fists;
And he doesn’t think of details, when his eyes roll back to red
--and his life is fits of rage.

She proudly walks two steps behind, just like the pastor said;
She pulls the lever to the right; lies passive in the bed;
And she wave the flag-stained package deal, with all the family
--and her life is fields unsown.

[chorus]
Won’t you tell me what all this means to you,
when you strip away the volume and the sneer?
Are there words there in your Bible about “love your fellow man”?
Are there words down in your logic about corporate greed and fear?
Are there notions in your pride about you being such a sucker
for those think tank boys downtown?
Please turn around.

[break]
One-stop hateful “isms” are so easy to digest, with all the
kids home soon from practice, and the house in such a mess;
and with the herd all going one way out there in the neighborhood,
and when every force upon your life just wants you to be good
--if by “good” you mean “the same.”

They’ve fallen in there way too deep to ask these questions now;
They’ll ride this string out to the end and then they’ll wonder how
they’ve ended up out on the street for all the world to see
--with no net to catch their fall.

[chorus #2]
Won’t you tell me what all this means to you,
when you strip away the volume and the sneer?
Are there words there in your Bible about “love your fellow man”?
Are there words down in your logic about corporate greed and fear?
Are there notions in your pride about you being such a sucker
for those think tank boys downtown?
for those PR flacks downtown?
Please turn around.
Track Name: Holding Pattern
Holding Pattern
(© 2012 Walter Ehresman)

Circling, tenuous;
Failing to progress;
My dreams are a loop,
sleeping under the medicine ball;
And I crawl..........learning to walk again.
Uncharted mapspace,
I don’t know this place,
“Here be monsters” they say,
with a fanciful artifice.
I’ll make my way–
piercing this spider-silk wall;
I’ll be ok–
southward from Tammany Hall.


Waiting and garrulous,
I must confess that
the call of tomorrow
can surely bewitch and enthrall;
And I crawl..........learning to walk again.
Update the mandate
and slow down the pace;
Try that social reset,
and a new point of view, and then
I’ll make my way–
piercing this spider-silk wall;
I’ll be ok–
southward from Tammany Hall.
Track Name: Reduction
Reduction
(© 2013 Walter Ehresman)

Draw lines, one more time,
through faraway
ghosts of friendships fallen through a crack in time;
Goodbye,
Goodbye.
Track Name: A Ghost of Myself
A Ghost of Myself
(©2012 Walter Ehresman)

I am a ghost of myself; the guest unuprooted whose grasp of the uptake has gotten too slow.
An echo of someone who once thought of chances; a flicker of something that left long ago.

The grains in the glass spin the wheel one more turn;
The answers are paid for with silence to burn.
My gravity heavy, like planets more massive;
My skin won’t cool down, and I feel lost in transit.
The edges gone grey, and they lack definition;
And old pleasures now patterns of rote repetition.
–stare the night
–as I’m haunting myself;
–you can see it, my friend
–as you greet someone else;
–and I know that my time is fading
–or already gone;
–but the song, and the music, play on.

So I turn out the lights, and I listen to Sandy–
her voice from the place where no one can find me;
My eyelids feel heavy, but sleep doesn’t live here;
The weight bears me down, and I fall through the aether.
Ain’t it strange how the imprints from youth won’t extinguish;
The cold psychic toll lingers on to the finish.
–stare the night
–as I’m haunting myself;
–you can see it, my friend
–as you greet someone else;
–and I know that my time is fading
–or already gone;
–but the song, and the music, play on.