Strange New State

by Common Jack

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about

Strange New State marks the second full length album from singer-songwriter John Gardner, who began performing under the Common Jack moniker during a two and a half year world tour with the actor/musician Broadway show, Once. The first Common Jack album was recorded in Washington DC at the historic Cue Recording Studios with platinum producer Jim Ebert. After finishing that record, Gardner immediately began working on the second LP, this time with his band at Degraw Sound in Brooklyn with co-producer Harper James (of the breakout band Eighty Ninety). Common Jack's sound has been praised in the past for the "the richness of the sound (from minimalist to quite symphonic) , a richness that tells the diversity of life in general ...these songs, these sounds and his voice take us in quite a poetic world, in a very original musical dimension, he makes us fly...a musical escape..." (Mike Penard of ISA Radio) & listeners can expect an expansion on that sentiment with Strange New State. With the anthemic Fine Line, Gardner's soaring voice reminds us of Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard. Those in favor of socio-political commentary will love the grittiness of Postmodern Blues and will wonder if this is the type of song that would've been written during a collaboration between Bob Dylan and Kendrick Lamar. The lead single off the record, Spanish Bird, is a guitar-drenched folk dreamscape about lovers being separated by distance.

All-in-all, Strange New State is a breathtaking second effort. It's scope is wide, it's lyrics poetic and sharp, and its music uniquely American. It's a promising evolution for this young Brooklyn band.

// // //

Liner Notes by John Gardner

It's been a while I know. // I was stuck on the N train coming home & Sally with her cloud-head Sam got on & started taking pics of me alone. She said smile & I said I wake up at night hearing you scream about front men, the type who burn you up & how you wouldn't love anyone but them & I swore you tore me a new one over a Clover Son who wasn't the one you wanted so you run & gun & yes that's the patriot way...it's a common fact but not well understood nowadays that wars have only been fought for gold. Not for safety or liberty or god or any of those jokes the filter queen smokes on the sets or reads you on silver screens. One & two & asia &am & the gulf where we buried ourselves & ran to gulp the mud, prying open our throats to fill them up til they were blacker than the night sky or that man the police were killing in missoura & yes maybe that would be a lovely way to go on to whatever’s next. somewhere along the line living life was replaced by getting degrees & paying & paying & paying for them & you have the gall to ask if it's too late now to say sorry. I have worms in my ears & I'm picking them out of my coffee which was burnt by the new pill poet percolating behind the bar. He cut off his left ear, shelfed it onto his right, & balancing his head with all the others, guessed which way the Lazy Tastey was gonna blow his brains so they could jump in front & hope it made them Great. With glazed eyes he tries to cry but yeah...it's too late now to say sorry. // I've missed you so, munch...the UnTouchables are laughing at a joke but they don’t understand the punch line. Ah that’s okay, I rub my eyes awake, you're next to me & it’s late...I could swear your skin is glowing & the sky is still blue in this strange new state.

// // //

credits

released September 9, 2016

Produced by
John Gardner & Harper James

Engineered by
Harper James

Mixed by
John Gardner & Harper James

Mastered by Jim DeMain,
Assisted by Amy Marie at
Yes Master Studios, Nashville, TN

Recorded at
Degraw Sound in Brooklyn, NY

All songs written by
John Gardner
with the exception of
Who’s Feeling Young Now?
which was written & performed by
Punch Brothers

Cover photo taken by
John Gardner

Album art graphic design by
Todd Johnson & John Gardner

John Gardner - Guitar, vox, harmonica, bass guitar, piano, synth, drums
Ryan Link - Drums, saxophone
Alex Nee - Bass
Joe Carroll - Guitar
Josh Carter - Keys
Erica Swindell - Violin & vox
Harper James - Additional guitar

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about

Common Jack New York, New York

Moniker of singer-songwriter John Gardner. Virginia bred, NYC based Americana.

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Track Name: Fine Line
I am a man
Tied to the land
Born with both hands reaching away.

& you might make fun
But I am not done
I'll always run to the end of the line.

I walk along
I walk along
A fine, fine line.

& I felt you squirmin'
During the sermon
That heat was burnin' you up inside.

Cause you are not me
You are not we
You'll only see your narrow ways.

I walk along
I walk along
A fine, fine line.

I walk along
I walk along
A fine, fine line.

I am so tired of your desires.
You treated me so bad
Like a sad little dog
& you're blinding yourself.

There's nothing left inside my thirsty chest.
My eyes are dy from all the cryin' that I did,
But I'm told it's all worthwhile.

I walk along
I walk along
A fine, fine line.

I walk along
I walk along
A fine, fine line.

I walk along
I walk along
A fine, fine line.

I walk along
I walk along
A fine, fine line.
Track Name: She Don't
She don’t love me like no other girl
No she don’t love me like no other girl
She’s got a picture in her pocket & a pistol in her hand.

She don’t stand like nobody else,
No she don’t stand like nobody else.
The room will light up & she and I will lay the land.

I don’t know what Chicago said
No I don’t know what Chicago said
Cause I buried myself beneath the dirt and grass
Yes I buried myself beneath the dirt and the grass.

So I will love her like no other girl
Yes I will love her like no other girl.
Cause she don’t care what has come to pass
No she don’t care, no she don’t care what’s come to pass.
Track Name: I Still Think Of You
I come home again at the end of a lonesome day
And when I listen close all the voices seem to say
That I still think of you while I watch the clock go round and round.
Cause I saw the news yesterday,
what a rodeo,
A grown up man thought it was another little boy’s turn to go
And I am wondering if I’d better leave to broken town.

Cause it feels like it’s burning down.

I found you wanderin’ all by yourself
You grabbed me, shook me hard, and said “hey man what the hell,
I really needed you when my heart was heavy as a stone.

& I saw them on a paper throne
Yes I saw them on a paper throne.

And I’ve had my luck, yeah I’ve had my way,
But lately all I’ve really had is an empty word to say
Oh, I still think of you even after all this passing time.
So if you’re wanderin’ down by my door,
I hope you wander in to laugh with me before we both are westward bound
To a shelter from this storm at last.

Cause they never answered the questions that I ask.
No they never answered the questions that I asked.
Track Name: A Little Time
He wears a coat that doesn’t shield him from the rain.
She’s hanging by a thread & calling out his name
Every time he holds her, he can feel her pain.

He tries to say what’s really weighing on his mind,
She guesses silent contradictions are entwined,
So he looks at his boots & thinks he should get them shined.

Oh babe, he loves you
If only you knew
He is trying to tell you
He only needs a little time.

She swiped her thumb and sits so numbly on the floor,
He says the words but she has heard them all before,
So they sit in silence & they stare at the door.

Oh he loves you
If only you knew
He is trying to tell you
He only needs a little time.
Track Name: Postmodern Blues
Don’t be alarmed if you speak & I don’t talk back,
My mind’s gone elsewhere to avoid another panic attack
Because he realized the generation that raised him are the ones
Responsible for all the false adoration of these
Things that always seem to miss the mark before they start;
We’re spending all our money and in return expect a fuller heart.
The man who lent you twenty dollar bills is standing at your door
Asking for thirty
& this time a little more.

I woke up Monday morning, went to check my phone,
I saw a talking head convinced I thought I was prone
To hysteria stirred by an unknown face & a lack of courage stuck to the sticking place.
Maggie always told me don’t let the control be divided by those on high who always seek to troll me.
The coward out of power’s always first to run away,
Seems a shame to let him go until today.

All we really want is a change of pace.
So keep walking and don’t speak softly.

I’m not deaf but I doubt I’ll hear a word you say,
I’m much to busy writing hate mail to the NRA,
& Paul is making calls to ask a favor for his friend,
The deputy who says he knows a guy is stepping in.
But the postmodern world looks like the old one,
The riots at the door have turned their hate into a slogan,
The postmodern rebel’s turned his cause into a label;
His megaphone a muzzle, his stage into a stable.

So look out kid, don’t you know they’re coming back for you,
They never like it when a newcomer can see right through
The false ads & the ceilings all made of glass,
The golden ticket they had promised but was made of brass.
So gather all your strength & take a step down the road,
You’re going to need it when the frustration overflows.
They’re teaching us the enemies are the ones with different skin
But the ones they really should be fearing lie within.

All we really want is a change of pace.
So keep walking and don’t speak softly.
Keep walking. Don’t speak softly.

I want to love you but I cannot trust you.
I want to love you but I do not trust you.
Track Name: Eli Fletcher
Eli fletcher was a fine fine man
Born to a woman who was fine as sand
In the mountains on a Blue Ridge Breeze,
He grew up beneath the dogwood trees.
A high school hero of the football team,
He stuck around for his brunette dream.
His shoulders broad & his cheekbones high,
He made you feel he could kiss the sky.

One Sunday night I found him in town,
Drunk on whiskey and his own renown,
Telling tales of glory days,
Of good ol’ boys & their good ol’ ways.
We sate for hours and chewed the fat
Growing older where our fathers sat.
& after a while, he gave his chin a stroke,
And said “my friends I need a pack of smokes.”

What a man he could’ve been.
What a man he could’ve been.

So out the door into the frosty night,
Eli went for his Camel Lights.
I followed suit to take his keys,
Saying “hey man, you’re way drunker than me.”
He waved me off and said “I’m fine.”
So we piled in and drove down the line.
And for a Sunday night, things were looking up,
Then I turned my head and saw the semi truck.

& what a scene we must’ve been,
Our Ford flipping like a bowling pin.
Tumbling through the frozen night,
Poor Eli took a mighty flight.
When I woke up with stars below my feet,
I spotted Fletcher a ways down the street,
& I started praying to our good lord
Cause he must’ve flown a hundred yards or more.

What a man he could’ve been.
What a man he could’ve been.

Now I wasn’t there but from what I heard,
The town lost faith in their holy word,
Their golden son had been struck down,
What was left of him, they put in the ground.
And at the site of our untimely crash
Our names remembered on a little plaque.
The good ol’ boys tried to move on,
Though the best of them was now long gone.

The plaque still sits, just two years past,
Eli’s memory will forever last
But no one speaks or seems to think
Of Fletcher’s end or his charming winks.
And I must confess I somehow feel
That dusty stone is much more real
Than the idol sign and what it means
To be a legend or a king of queens.
Track Name: Forever, Ms. Crowne!
If I could be part of something greater,
I would give myself away.
Oh I would steal the sun from the equator
Just to be by your side again.

I am nothing without you.
After all we have been through,
You’ve turned me into something
I never thought I’d be.

See the smile you drew on my face?
Don’t you think I look so damn lovely?
Yes I would wait forever & a day
If it meant you'd love only me.

I am nothing without you.
After all we have been through,
It would be a shame
To see you walk away.

Come my love, you’re like a wire,
Unwind yourself in my arms tonight.
Come and swallow some sweeter fire,
We’ll nurse our troubled once more.

I am nothing without you,
After all we have been through,
I am nothing without you,
After all we have been through,
If you said the word,
I’d never speak again.
Track Name: Spanish Bird
In my sleep I heard your voice a-singin’
Like a quiet call from some wide open space
And as the forest seems to keep a-fallin’
I bent my back to keep your corner safe.

So I flew on boots of leather from Murcia
To the place where I was told they saw you last.
But I was overrun by horses of ‘Lucia
So I hung from branches til they galloped past.

And from where I clung all I could see
Was swallowed by the sound of you in the cherry tree.
Your song was all I heard
Sweet Spanish bird.

Maybe we could take a small siesta
Down among the waves in Bay Biscay
To wash away the years of all our yearning
And drown the sieve that sucked our time away.

And victorious we’d ride in through the archway
To greet the people who were waiting there
And celebrate our fortune with the farmers
Who planted seeds for us inside the square.

And from where I stood all I could see
Was swallowed by the sound of you in the cherry tree.
Your song was all I heard
Sweet Spanish bird.

Well I hope you find a way to come flying back to me
Cause I know I’ve done my best to wait so patiently,
And after two long years I swear I’ll always stay.

Yeah there’s nothing left to say
Except something I’ll forget in just a day
Cause darling bird you know how much I want you
So spread your wings like a smile across my face.

And from where I stood all that I could see
Was swallowed by the sound of you in the cherry tree.
Your song was all I heard
Sweet Spanish bird.
Track Name: Babe, We've Been Here Before
On the sidewalk I saw brother beg for water,
So I crossed and walked along the other side
& as I tried to think of places I was going,
He sat there all alone inside my mind.

Hold my breath again
Tread among amens.
Floating to the side
Of the great divide.
Drag me back to the shore,
Babe, we’ve been here before.

In the city there is something more forgotten,
Downtown her mind was lost and overthrown.
We tried hard to find our way back to each other
But through the silver glow our brother said “Child go home.”

& I fell through my phone
Just to find myself alone
Without the sweeter sounds
Of the singing towns.
Cut the line, burn every cord,
Babe, we’ve been here before.

On the campus I heard someone cry for mercy,
& I felt petty with yet another heavy sigh.
Cause the mothers stand in stillness in their gardens
As the flowers they have tended slowly die.

Hold me close my dear,
This is an ugly fear,
I thought we had known
Not to throw that stone.
Shut the blinds, close every door,
Babe, we’ve been here before.

On the highway we saw long forgotten tread marks
We saw monuments to the ruined reverie.
So we walked along the road until the sunrise
Burned a hole into our brains to set us free.

& I saw my face
In that crowded place
It was tossed away
With a fearful name.
The rose will bear its thorns
In the dirt from which it was born
& it shakes me down to my core
Cause babe, we’ve been here before.
Track Name: Who's Feeling Young Now?
I wasn't tired
I'm never tired
Youth will not be wasted on this one
In a dark room
Another dark room
She said hey you're gonna like this
It's easy to like by candlelight if not under the sun
Who's feeling young now?

Dark room to doorway
Doorway to sidewalk
Youth will not be wasted on this one
In a thick fog
Another thick fog
I said hey this isn't like me
It's a little like there could be something new under the sun
Who's feeling young now?

They try to tell us and at times we try to listen
But we can't hear a thing when all we think about are all the things we think we might be missing
'Cause if we think we are we are
And if we don't we aren't worth the time it takes to think of making love with who we're kissing
They tried to tell us and at times we tried to listen
No!

She wasn't perfect
Nobody's perfect
Gray hair ain't a crown of wisdom
When you're a young man
'Til you're an old man
She says hey you look a lot like
Someone I liked who flew just far enough under the sun to never come down
Who's feeling young

They try to tell us and at times we try to listen
But we can't hear a thing when all we think about are all the things we think we might be missing
'Cause if we think we are we are
And if we don't we aren't worth the time it takes to think of making love with who we're kissing
They tried to tell us and at times we tried to listen
Track Name: Old Faded Flag
This city has the same name
But is different than the one I left.
The sights and sounds have changed somehow
And I’m struggling to catch my breath.
Maybe I’m just growing older,
Maybe I haven’t grown at all,
But I measured myself on the train tracks
& found I was two feet tall.
The subway prophets who lay in their coffins,
They beg me not to nag.
So I covered all their faces
With an old faded flag.

The brothers & sisters standing,
Unknown to each other there,
Crane their necks to see what’s up
As the landlord pulls up a chair.
He lights a joint he rolled himself
When the times were not so bad;
When all he had to worry ‘bout
Were the tenants that he had.
But now he’s got just an empty lot
Overflowing with garbage bags,
And standing in the middle
Is an old faded flag.

They’ve boarded up the windows
To prepare for the hurricane.
The Colonel never loved his wife
Cause like him, she’s quite insane.
Colonel’s lover, he argues trials,
While Glen torches old receipts
And leads the crowd in protest songs
As the circus council meets.
The doomsday patrol makes them all pay a toll
And dresses them in red name tags
For burning in a fire
Their old faded flag.

I saw Sammy on a tightrope,
Reciting some old Rimbaud -
Trying to feel his heart is real
Instead of a frozen stone -
The people who wandered past him
Asked why Sam was so possessed,
So Dave drove by & said, “I know why!
There’s an anvil on his chest!”
And the good ol’ boys with their rifle toys
Shouted “Sam you’re a sad eyed fag.”
As they went home to keep
Dreaming of their old faded flag.

The symphony is tuning up
For the second Sunday mass
While obedient young followers
Proudly pat themselves on the back.
Outside a homeless mother
Is lost in a photograph
And the poet in the parking lot
Shouts out his epitaph.
I can only stare from the city square
As the phantom figures wag
A condescending finger
At the old faded flag.

Little Red is quite alarming,
The wolf is a stubborn drunk
& grandma’s in the back room
Sorting ancient piles of junk
While the reporters on the barstools
Imagine they have found some dirt
By pointing their flash bomb cameras
Up Little Red’s floral skirt
But by now she’s bored cause she’s been here before
So she lights a Dunhill & takes a drag
& wraps herself discreetly
In her old faded flag.

The politicians are gathering
To set their watches back
To when the slow revolving door
Had frozen in its tracks.
They take a look around themselves –
It feels like the stuff of dreams –
They were so sure the sheep cared more
About collecting likes and memes.
Scrambling I saw them climb the steps
Of a building draped in rags;
Raising their right hands
In salute to their old faded flag.

Well I’m told that no one listens,
I’m told that no one sees,
I’m told my generation’s dead
From a frightful lack of means.
Well I saw my best friends drowning
Where the first responders wept
& my Uncle Sam only sent a note
Saying “son, you better watch your step.”
Now I’m sure this crumbling floor
Was built on our crooked backs,
& planted in our spinal cord
Is an old faded flag.