New Mexico

by Jacob Smigel

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about

The idea for "New Mexico," my third album of music, came from author and playwright William Saroyan's book "Places Where I've Done Time." Saroyan makes the case that individuals are largely the product of the people they've known and the places they've been, and his book is a collection of short works about places that were important to him-- mostly various hotel rooms it seems. I thought about doing this myself and ended up settling on just one place: my family's run-down adobe cabin in Northern New Mexico. I had ventured there with friends the year before and made hours of field recordings and live campfire jams, which ended up becoming part of the final album. "New Mexico" also combines spoken word and personal research to present a trip through the montage memories of my childhood, ending squarely in the hardship of adulthood.

"New Mexico" is very much a product of my life then. I had a hobby of making field recordings of road trips, and later editing the recordings-- improvised songs, bits of conversation, sounds of nature-- into a CD-length "vacation album" that I would send to the people involved. "New Mexico" is in many ways the ultimate "vacation album," transcending time and delving deeper into the meaning and history of the region. This played out in the album's lengthy liner notes, which like 2006's "Eavesdrop: a wealth of found sound," were meant to add depth and context to the album itself.

The original run of this album was housed in blank digi-paks that were painted with horizontal bands of flat paint. The colors themselves were inspired by those I had once seen in the aged and sun-bleached awning of the Gold Strike Casino, formerly located in downtown Las Vegas (which has long sense been demolished). Their 70's sunset cascade really spoke to me and I did my best to reproduce it on the album's cover. The rest of the album art was made with custom ink stamps and water proof "grocer's ink." This gave the album a striking appearance that I'm still proud of, which also seemed to confuse those who handled it, given its unique feel.

credits

released May 14, 2007

The non-field recorded portions were recorded at home, with me playing all the parts, except where noted in the individual song notes. The field recordings were captured in New Mexico in August of 2005, while camping with my brother Jesse Smigel, the brothers Kendall (Joe and Matt), and friends Joe Webb, Chris Hanna, Sean Langdon, and Deanna Reynolds.

Band mates Joe Kendall and Aly Unna helped these songs mature by performing them with me for audiences all over the US. Nikki Pink helped with album design and hand-painting of the first digi-pak run, and Jesse Smigel lent his brand new airbrush for this purpose. This album benefited largely from the careful mixing and mastering work of Michael Lavin, which took place in Las Vegas, NV.

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Jacob Smigel Austin, Texas

Born in Las Vegas, Nevada. It screwed me up.

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Track Name: New Mexico
New Mexico

New Mexico, your motto it is so right,
There was a pack rat that died twice (twice).
From a mountain top a cloud was born,
And a thousand blue beetles swarmed,
And in dying turned black as night,
When fireballs took flight,
My hair all full of mice…

New Mexico, your motto it is so right.
I count split-pines and lightening strikes,
And make blisters of my hands.
Three families of local folks,
Chant “I hate rabbits” wards off smoke,
La Cañada Del Oso (O’ so) close,
Yet so far away…

Is it for the things that pass before our eyes,
That we hold on to such grey hairs?
Or is it because we’re afraid to die,
That we hold on to the same grey hairs?
I sense an opportunity to investigate the matter:

Jacob: “Hey Joe, are you scared of Black Bears?”
Joe: “Oh, hell no!!”
Jacob: “Matt are, you scared of Mountain Lions?”
Matt: “No!!”
Jacob: “Nikki, are you scared of a Wooded Owl?”
Nikki: “Mm, mm…(laughs)”
Jacob: “Neither am I, I punch my stomach when it growls…”

New Mexico, your motto it is so right,
There was a pack rat that died twice (twice!!)
From a mountain top a cloud was born,
And a thousand blue beetles swarmed,
And a three-legged dog spent the night,
When fireballs took flight,
My hair all full of mice…
Track Name: Let Me See If This Be Real
Let me see if this be real
(Lyrics adapted from Songs of the Tewa, as collected and translated by H. J. Spinden )

As my eyes trace the land,
I feel the summer in the spring,
And she pretends to be indifferent,
My true love my dear.

And people have a new custom,
They die at intervals now,
And the squirrel in his shirt,
Slender he stands up there.

And the squirrel in his shirt,
Slender he stands up there…

Let me see if this be real (x 3),
This life I am living (x 4).

There is dust from the whirlwind,
And the rocks they are a’ ringing,
They are ringing in the mountains.
And as my eyes trace the land,
I feel the summer in the spring.
And as my eyes trace the land,
I feel the summer in the spring…

Let me see if this be real (x 3),
This life I am living,
This life I am living…
Track Name: Mandarin Oranges
Mandarin Oranges

Let us share a can of mandarin oranges by the stream on the rocks,
Leaping from stone to stone as if without choice,
How little is my voice,
I can’t tell anyone…

When your parents die, they’ll be no more giants in the world,
I’m just kiddin’ how could I know.
I’ve seen kisses blown and I’ve seen hits and misses thrown,
In New Mexico…

Let us share a can of mandarin oranges by the stream on the rocks,
Leaping from stone to stone as if without choice,
How little is my voice,
I can’t tell anyone…
Track Name: Broken Record
Broken Record

Do you think we can be entertained without all our toys?
We call ourselves young men, but we act like old boys.
What’s a song without a story? Just a bunch of noise!!
And if we pause for a minute like a VCR,
You can pay me a penny for my thoughts,
Like a human jukebox full of broken records.

I shot a pack rat in the face and the very next day another took its place.
How do we keep the things that happen to us close,
And in the retelling, not wear them out?
Like a human jukebox full of broken records.
I wanna live my life tellin’ stories,
I’d like to live my life tellin’ stories,
I’m gonna live my life tellin’ stories,
And never open my mouth like a human jukebox,
Full of broken (broken) records.

And if we pause for a moment like a VCR,
You can pay me a penny for my thoughts.
Track Name: Half-Imagined World
Half-imagined World

I’m sorry to every dead tweety bird,
Whose legs I sawed off.
You see I did not believe they were diseased,
Like the local kids told me.
Like the local kids told me.

Part of me was playing along
With the things they wished were true,
Lightning-balls and underground bunkers.
I scoured the country for clues.
So I scoured the country for clues.

I found something unexpected,
In their half-imagined world,
It was sad and sweet and I knew complete,
I and never would have found it on my own.

In the same way I followed my dad,
To the hills he loved so much.
Filled with crumbling homes
Like bubbles that burst to the touch,
Bubbles that burst to the touch.

Part of me was playing along,
With the things that he wished were true,
Cabins, car bodies, and water rights,
Still I scoured the country for clues,
Yes I scoured the country for clues.

I found something unexpected,
In his half-imagined world,
It was sad and sweet and I knew complete,
I and never would have found it on my own.
Track Name: Funeral Of Enkidu
Funeral of Enkidu
(Adapted from The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet VIII, as translated by Andrew George)

At the first glimmer of brightening dawn,
Sat Gilgamesh mourning his friend.
Your mother a gazelle and your father, a donkey, did raise.
Whom the wild asses did rear with their milk,
Whom the beasts of the wild did praise.

May the sacred river, may it mourn you.
May the peaks of the hills and mountains mourn you pure,
May the pastures, lament like your mother,
May the pastures, lament like your mother.

Now what is this sleep that has seized you?
He covered like a bride, the face of his friend.
Like an eagle, he circled around him,
He paced to and fro, this way and that.

May the sacred river, may it mourn you.
May the peaks of the hills and mountains mourn you pure,
May the pastures, lament like your mother,
May the pastures, lament like your mother.
Track Name: If You Can Touch Her At All
If you can touch her at all
(Written by Lee Clayton; Published by EMI/Resaca Music Publishing)

It’s funny a woman can come off so wild and free,
Yet insist I not watch her undress, or watch her watch me.
She’ll stand by the bed and shiver as if she were cold,
Just to lie down beside me and touch me as if I were gold.

One night of love don’t make up for six nights alone,
But I’d rather have one than none cause I’m flesh and bone.
Sometimes it seems she ain’t worth the trouble at all,
She can be worth the world if somehow, you can touch her at all.