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I'm A Stranger Here (Deluxe)

by The Devil Makes Three

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about

“There’s a road that goes out of every town. All you’ve got to do is get on it,” Pete Bernhard says.

The guitarist/singer and his cohorts in the raw and raucous trio The Devil Makes Three have found their way onto that road numerous times since they first left their picaresque rural hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont. Back then, they had no idea it would lead them to such auspicious destinations as the Newport Folk and Austin City Limits Festivals, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, and on tours with Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell and Trampled By Turtles. Along the way, they drew numerous accolades from a growing fan base and press alike.

TDM3’s travels and travails serve as inspiration for their fourth album and their New West Records debut, I’m a Stranger Here, produced by Buddy Miller and recorded at Dan Auerbach’s (Black Keys) Easy Eye Sound in Nashville.

With upright bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean, Bernhard crafted a dozen tunes, part road songs, part heartbreak songs and part barnburners. While most bands are propelled from behind by a drummer, TDM3 builds exuberant rhythms from the inside out, wrapping finger-picked strings and upsurging harmonies around chugging acoustic guitar and bass, plying an ever-growing audience onto its feet to jump, shake and waltz.

TDM3’s sound is garage-y ragtime, punkified blues, old n’ new timey without settling upon a particular era, inspired as much by mountain music as by Preservation Hall jazz. “We bend genres pretty hard,” Bernhard says.

The combination could only have happened via the circuitous route each of them took to forming the band. As kids in Vermont, “all raised by sort of hippie parents” who exposed them to folk, blues and jugbands, Bernhard says, they blazed a path to nearby Boston, Massachusetts in search of punk rock shows. They found venerable venues like The Rat and The Middle East, drawn to east coast bands like the Dropkick Murphys and Aus-Rotten.

“It would be like 6 bucks for 13 bands, everyone playing for 20 minutes,” Bernhard says. “I had so much fun going to shows like that. The energy coming off the stage makes a circle with the crowd and comes back. We were really attracted to that energy.”

Bernhard and McBean, a multi-instrumentalist who plays banjo, musical saw and bass, forged a particular bond. Unlike most of their mutual friends, they both liked to play acoustic music, with McBean showing Bernhard the wonders of Hank Williams and Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys. They kept in touch after high school, when nearly everyone in their clique relocated to the west coast like the characters in Delbert McClinton’s song “Two More Bottles of Wine.”

“It was a mass exodus of kids who went out to start bands and be creative, searching for the unknown, dreaming of something different,” Bernhard says. “We wanted to get away from where we were from, as many kids do, and California was the farthest we could get.” Eventually they landed in sunny Santa Cruz, California, where TDM3 took shape in 2001. Their early gigs were house concerts, then small bars, punk shows, bigger rock clubs and theaters and festivals, all the while defying genre and delighting whomever turned up to listen.

Turino learned bass to join the band, but her unremitting sense of rhythm comes naturally from being raised by parents who were dance teachers, and from her own dance background. Attacking the strings of her upright, she understands how to infuse songs with the force it takes to get a crowd moving.

And the songs on I’m a Stranger Here tell the rest of the story, with the music often joyously juxtaposed against lyric darkness ... the rootless nature of being in a touring band, traveling from town to town with little sense of community, represented by a devil-like character (“Stranger”) ... thorny transitions into adulthood ... struggling with relationships (“Worse or Better”), watching friends succumb to addiction (“Mr. Midnight”), coming to terms with mortality (“Dead Body Moving”), nostalgic notions of childhood (“Spinning Like a Top”). Bernhard even considers the destruction of changing weather patterns, inspired in part by Hurricane Katrina as well as a flood that wreaked havoc in Brattleboro (“Forty Days,” a gospel rave-up recorded with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band).

Bernhard wrote more than 20 songs for the album and turned them over to producer Buddy Miller, who gravitated toward the darker material but insured that the recording was lit up by the band’s innate ebullience. It was Miller’s idea to record at Easy Eye rather than his renowned home studio. “Easy Eye is like Sun Records,” Bernhard says. “There’s one live tracking room filled with amazing gear, and that defines the kind of record you’re going to make. That was exactly the record we wanted to make, and we knew Buddy was the one who could capture us playing together like we do.”

For a band that made its bones with dynamic performances, recording an album is almost like coaxing lightning into a bottle, but Miller and TDM3 succeed on I’m a Stranger Here. Now they’re continuing the journey that began when they found their way to the road that led them out of Vermont. “I can’t wait to get onstage, I love it,” Bernhard says. “Playing music for a living is a blessing and a curse, but for us there’s no other option.”

credits

released March 6, 2015

All songs written by The Devil Makes Three
Monkey Wrench Productions (ASCAP)

Pete Bernhard - lyrics, lead vocals and guitar
Lucia Turino - bass and backing vocals
Cooper McBean - backing vocals, guitar, 4 and 5 string banjo

Buddy Miller - guitar and baritone guitar
Marco Giovino - drums
Casey Dreissen - fiddle
Jim Hoke - horn section leader, arranger, saxophones, vibes and celeste
Steve Herrman - trumpet
Bill Huber - trombone
The Preservation Hall Horns (40 Days)

Produced by Buddy Miller
Recorded and engineered by Collin Dupius
Assistant engineer - Annie Breihan
Recorded at Easy Eye Sound Studio - Nashville, TN
Production coordinator - Kathi Whitley
Mastered by Andy Mendelson at Georgetown Masters - Nashville, TN

Art direction and design by Paul Moore
Photography by Piper Ferguson
Management - Brad Oldham / Vector MGMT

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Track Name: Stranger
Well, I'm alive like a sprouting seed, like the deepest roots of an ancient tree
I did not come here for the bread, no, I have come to wake the dead

They'll say tell us Jack what have you seen, where will you go, now what does it mean
Come on boys, you got to do it right, pray to the moon in the middle of the night

Come on Jack, what do you know, what have you seen, where will you go
Come on boys, I got to tell you true, I'm a stranger here just like you

Chorus:
I get high as the morning sky, this song I sing will never die
I get low as a gravel road, in a thousand tongues my story's told

I'm throwing heat like a funeral pyre, we can get along like a house on fire
This world she's cold, this world is mean, my heart is stone, my hands are clean

They'll say tell us Jack where will you go, what have you seen, what do you know
Come on boys, you got to do it right, pray to the moon in the middle of the night

Come on Jack what do you know, where have you seen, where will you go
Come on boys, I gotta tell you true, I'm a stranger here just like you

Chorus

Watch me roll like an iron wheel, I can stack the deck when the spirits deal
Time cannot hold me in this cage, I'm cheating death, I jump the grave

They'll say tell us Jack, what have you seen, where will you go, what does it mean
Come on boys, you got to do it right, you better pray to the moon in the middle of the night

Come on Jack, where will you go, what have you seen, what do you know
Come on boys, I gotta tell you true, I'm a stranger here just like you

Chorus
Track Name: Worse or Better
Lit like a candle and we burned so bright, gods showed their faces and we rolled the dice
Dove to the bottom, drank so deep, blood black water put us straight to sleep
We prayed for rain and we turned our eyes to the clouds
When the sun came out, man, we screamed out loud

Night becomes the dawn, we were so right, we were so wrong
Worse or better, looks like forever is not that long

The seeds that were planted grew over our heads, closed like a coffin to protect the dead
Struggled at the shackles, strained at the ropes, tried to untangle but there was no hope
Learning the steps made us weak instead of strong
Where wolves were many and the shadows long

We shall not part, so goes the song, we were so right, we were so wrong
Worse or better, looks like forever is not that long

Forgot the clock and the time flew past, blindfolded and chained to the mast
Flew like a rocket, dropped like a stone, digging in the ground for a stranger's bones
Delivered our lines but our voices went unheard until the truth became the devils word

We shall not part, so goes the song, they were so right, they were so wrong
Worse or better looks like forever has come and gone
Track Name: Forty Days
Wouldn't take long for the rivers 'round here to rise
Wouldn't take long for the rivers 'round here to rise
Wouldn't take long for the rivers to rise
There wouldn't be nothing but the sea and the sky
Wouldn't take long for the rivers 'round here to rise

Chorus:
Forty days and forty nights
Forty days and forty nights
Forty days and forty nights
Forty days and forty nights
Forty days and nights of rain and we would start all over again
In just forty days and forty nights of rain

The wind and rain will not knock upon your door
The wind and rain will not knock upon your door
The wind and rain, they came before anybody knew what
a door was for
The wind and rain will not knock upon the door

Chorus

Cities they are built and then they're broken
Nothing lasts forever, so they say
We all know how long it took to build this
But how long would it take now just to wash it all away

These fools believe that they can control the tide
These fools believe that they can turn the tide
No one turns the tide and everybody swims when the waters rise
These fools believe that they can turn the tide

Chorus
Track Name: A Moment's Rest
Lord, I got a heart full of hatred
For me there sure ain't no cure
I wake up and I'm running
I don't know what I'm running for

Lord, I got a head full of worry
Why that is, I've never known
I can go back where I came from
But I ain't ever going home

All this talking does not hold the answers to this life
All you get is a moment's rest from what haunts you deep inside
Is that good enough tonight, is that good enough tonight

Lord, I got eyes full of fire, they can burn off the rain
But I gotta swim to the bottom just to keep from busting into flame

Oh, that bottle does not hold the answers to this life
All you get is a moment's rest from what haunts you deep inside
Is that good enough tonight, hope that's good enough tonight

Lord, I got a heart full of hatred
For me there sure ain't no cure
I wake up and I'm running
I don't know what I'm running for
Track Name: Dead Body Moving
I sing a ragged and crooked song
The sun is setting and it won't be long
My body's weak but this soul is strong
I am shadow dressed up in these skin and bones

We weave our story in a worthless yarn
Trying to escape with all these tricks and charms
It's far too late to ring the alarm
We are just babies falling into the spider's arms

Chorus:
I am a dead body moving, I've got lightning in my hand
I won't be here for long so you got to understand
You can dance with the demon, look him dead into the eyes
I've already been where we go when we die

We are dancing on the graves of the past
The clock is running and the spell is cast
Nothing before our eyes will last
We walk forever in circles on this well-worn path

So many songs to sing before they blow those horns
Will it be harvest or a killing storm
No time to bury and no time to mourn
This race started on the day I was born

Chorus
Track Name: Hallelu
Nothing is wrong here so I'm climbing up the walls
Trying to kill this silence with gun blasts and alcohol
I've been laughing, I've been crying, I've been living, I've been dying
They say tell the truth, they're lying, Hallelu

Chorus:
Hallelu, Hallelu, praise the lord and pass the ammunition too
They say Jesus is coming, he must be walking, he sure ain't running
Who can blame him, look how we done him, Hallelu

What will it take to have this place on bended knee
You run to the forest, you can bet I'll burn the trees
I will poison the water 'cause it's only getting hotter
And we came for sons and daughters
Hallelu

Chorus

Trials and tribulations, that's just bread and wine
Getting my hands dirty, that does not take off the shine
On this farm to get your filling, there's got to be a little killing
So I am ready and I'm willing, Hallelu

Chorus

If you're waiting on salvation you'll need candles and libations
Train ain't coming in the station, Hallelu

They say Jesus is coming, he must be walking, he sure ain't running
Who can blame him, look how we done him, Hallelu
Track Name: Hand Back Down
Headlights burn like torches on the way to a war
Tell me what it was that we were fighting for
Who is this god to which we sacrifice
I say whatever he wants, we better give it to him twice

Chorus:
You want to help me
Give me a hand back down
'Cause I'm feeling a little rough around the edges now

Highway apostles, take me in your arms
Living in these alleys gonna to do me some harm
I'm outside the truck stop talking in tongues
Sermons to the deaf, selling salvation to the dumb

Chorus

Ten years of rolling, it's been a hell of a ride
I learned that getting what you want don't leave you satisfied

Runaway eyes and bullet proof glass
Fearing the future running towards the past
Chained to the counter in some terrible town
I'd like to take you all away, we'd never get off the ground

Chorus
Track Name: Spinning Like A Top
When I was a rover, met a four leaf clover, she was Irish as the day was long
I thought she'd give it to me maybe, now she's married with a baby, I've been dodging bullets all along
Man, we would creep but never lost no sleep, I would cut cat nip into the weed, nobody was the wiser but they could have been higher and it meant more money for me

Chorus:
Here's to not getting caught, doctor it's only a graze
Spinning like a top, running like a villain and the years are going by like days

School bus, I got on it, I was nearly catatonic, I couldn't speak a goddamn word Homeroom class, forge a hall pass and we would get higher than the birds
My foolish nature, the chase for the paper, I would deal in the broad daylight
18 years old, head full of psilocybin and howling at the moon all night

Chorus

Small town shadows, clean out of sight, nothing to fear but the coming of that morning light
Ducking and dodging and diving for that rent, if it couldn't be broken, it could be bent

Washing dishes, stealing kisses, making our deals on the side
She said are you ready honey, we got gas money, going on a real long ride
Lying like a rug, prescription drugs, old guitars, new girlfriends
Everybody shunned me, I just thought that it was funny and I'd do it all over again

Chorus
Track Name: Mr. Midnight
House is burning, you can't go home
Got no reason to be all alone
Sneaking down the alley like a snake in the grass
To see where you're going I don’t need a looking glass

I won't judge you at a distance, we all got our ways to get along
Once the two of you start to dancing, you're gonna dance now till the dance floor's gone

Chorus:
Now you can't go out, can't go home
Even in a crowd you feel all alone, find yourself hiding from the light
You need that money, you got no shame, just a pawn running in his game
With Mr. Midnight, it’s always the same

Too many lies, the web gets so tight
Tangle at an angle that you just can't see right
Heavy loaded and flying low, you say you got it all under control

I know why you go back to him though he’s such a mean old man
He whispers secrets in your ear, now his wish is your command

Chorus

You're running downhill and you just cannot stop
Your whole life is small enough to fit in a matchbox
Holding patterns on well-worn ground
Cowards, corners making the rounds
Who’s looking back at you in the mirror
Skin and bones, you look so thin
This is his song you sing along to, it's called notify my next of kin

'Cause I can't go out, can't go home
Even in a crowd I feel all alone, find myself hiding from the light
Need some money, got no shame, just a pawn running in his game
With Mr. Midnight, it’s always the same
Mr. Midnight it’s always the same
Track Name: Goodbye Old Friend
I need you and I want you 'cause I know you from before
I hate you and I fear you but I hold open the door
I see you and you see me and we know what must be done
So we draw knives and lock eyes 'cause it does no good to run

Chorus:
Goodbye old friend, farewell it seems
We'll dance again in my dreams
Goodbye old friend, farewell it seems
We'll dance again in my dreams

I've missed you, you know that's true and I've retraced every scar
My head sings and the steel rings 'cause we've traveled, oh so far
I chased you to embrace you like the sun chases the moon
I burn you and you burn me but I know I'll see you soon

Chorus

I've watched you and I've seen you and known that you were there
I've held and you've loved me but our lives cannot be spared
I trust you and despised you, shadowed your every move
Scorned you and warned you, befriended everyone you've used

Goodbye old friend, farewell it seems
We'll dance again in my dreams
Goodbye old friend, farewell it seems
We'll dance again in my dreams