“This life’s a rich and muddled mess We squander, cherish, curse and bless Though it passes all the same Echoing my mother’s name Joy…”
Featuring 12 originals, a Scottish folk song and a musical setting of a Siegfried Sassoon poem, Tiger Tattoo marked a new direction in Andrew Calhoun’s songwriting journey, with a focus on storytelling.
“Joy,” a modern carol, features a vocal arrangement by the late Dave Carter, sung by Carter, Tracy Grammer, and Claire Bard, with Fuzzy Purcell on mandolin. “Catching on Fire,” with Donny Wright on bowed bass, is the first of four chronological, autobiographical story songs, comprising a self-portrait. “Miss Hill” recounts an incident of psychological mob violence from a 5th grade classroom in 1967. “Goin’ Down to See John Prine” contrasts the best and worst of times “Fred’s Brother” portrays a family’s struggles through time. “Day In and Night Out,” written 25 years ago and sung here as a duet with Claire Bard, was the song Calhoun performed at “Fred’s” wedding. “Tom Brown” presents another true story about an unusual family. “Tiger Tattoo” recounts the poignant life experience of a woman Calhoun met while working a temp job in October of 2000. Tracy Grammer contributes a twin fiddle break. “I’m a Rover,” a night-visiting ballad from Northeast Scotland, presaged “Telfer’s Cows, a 2004 project featuring ballads translated from Scots dialect.
Calhoun’s metaphorical style resurfaces on “The Scyther,”; “Shadow Song,” and “When I Have Arms Again,” which refracts a mental breakdown through the prism of the Icarus myth. “I Shall Not Look Away,” written a few days after Dave Carter’s death, as well as a new musical setting of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon, are offered as tributes to Dave. Siegfried Sassoon, a British poet who saw duty in the trenches in World War I, evokes the spirit of Dave Carter’s songs in “Everyone Sang”:
“My heart was shaken with tears, And horror drifted away. O but everyone Was a bird; and the song was wordless The singing will never be done.”
Tiger Tattoo was recorded in Salem, Oregon by Don “Fuzzy” Purcell, and mastered in Portland by Mark Frethem.
- Catching On Fire
- Miss Hill Listen
- Goin’ Down To See John Prine
- Fred’s Brother Listen
- Day In And Night Out
- Tom Brown
- Tiger Tattoo
- I’m A Rover
- The Scyther
- Shadow Song
- When I Have Arms Again
- I Shall Not Look Away
- Everyone Sang
TIGER TATTOO by Andrew Calhoun
It’s quiet as ghosts, 6 am There’s a new temp in the mailroom, Amy Lynn A weary woman of 23 I look at her and she looks at me I look at her and she looks at me
She moved up from nevada last year With her 4-year old daughter and boyfriend to live here Near his kids and the wife that he left for her Now he thinks of returning, he’s not really sure He thinks of returning, he’s not really sure
And her little girl pines for a mystery father She’s got sister and brothers by three other mothers And Amy’s had a cancer, and she’s missing fillings, Can’t afford a pap smear, can’t abide drilling
And she looks so pale, like she’s wasting away I lend her my walkman to get through the day She brings halloween cookies, silly names make us laugh And she shows me a white tiger tattooed on her calf Shows me a tiger tattoo on her calf
She likes Scottish pipe tunes, and she wants another baby “Before I’m gutted” – she says it sedately – As if after all her poor parts have been through They won’t last as long as that tiger tattoo They won’t last as long at her tiger tattoo
Something unspeakable happened to Amy It was held in a poem she never did show me A quiet goodbye, my assignment is through May the angel pass over that tiger tattoo May the angel pass over your tiger tattoo.