The Believers Will Be Suspicious

The Light, which ironically, is a darkly beautiful song, is from the 11-track album A Year, Six Days, & Seven Nights. This alchemical blues tune was written by R.M. Isaiah and Craig Vail. Together, the two make up The Believers Will Be Suspicious.

Craig Vail plays acoustic guitar and electric guitar on The Light, and R.M. Isaiah plays nylon stringed guitar, bass, keys, and percussion. The honest, nearly spoken vocals are Isaiah’s as well. As I said in an earlier post, R.M. Isaiah’s San Francisco sound  is magically tragic. His voice on The Light, with its world-weary, slightly worn timbre, expresses feelings you may be familiar with, whether you are a musician or not.

You can put me down for your tonight show tomorrow
Televise my barroom battle cry
The walls have grown so tall now I can barely see the grey sky
I’m stuck inside and so low on supplies

Late one night I saw the light
In the heart of a cold dark sky
It was something strange that I cannot explain
But I know I’m never gonna be the same

I go on at ten, so until then, what do I do?
I’m at the bar drinking, thinking of you
If I can’t get my pay, then I’ll be sleeping at the station
Dreaming I am home, in bed with you

Late one night I saw the light
In the heart of a cold dark sky
It was something strange that I cannot explain
But I know I’m never gonna be the same

A twenty dollar room, some cheap red wine, I’ll be fine
Smells like bad perfume and cigarettes
I don’t need shiny things to make me feel like I’m a king
What I don’t spend, I’ll send it home to you

Late one night I saw the light
In the heart of a cold dark sky
It was something strange that I cannot explain
But I know I’m never gonna be the same

Studying music therapy I learned that you can lift your mood using music. What? You already knew that? Of course you did. But what you might not know is that to begin the process of mood alteration you should start by choosing music that mirrors your mood. In other words, start with where you are. Next, listen to a song that’s slightly uptempo from the first one, and so on, until you feel better.

However while you’re in that first song place, deep in the mood that laid you low, you might want to consider Rumi’s poem The Guest House.

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and attend them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each guest has been sent as a guide from beyond.

I think The Believers Will be Suspicious welcome their dark thoughts in, and then hang out with them, probably in a dimly lit room. Despite its title, I imagine this song first showed its face in the shadows, in the dark. That’s where the some of the best stories are born.

The Light makes me think of another great song that tells the story of musicians on the road: Wanted Dead or Alive, from Bon Jovi’s 1986 album Slippery When Wet. The Load-Out from Jackson Browne’s 1977 Running on Empty is another good one, although it’s also a tribute to roadies and fans. It would be kind of cool to compile a list of songs like these, the songs about the shows, about the songs, about the way the players feel after they’ve been gigging for a while.

For a lot of musicians, examining their feelings about their careers as performers might be pretty tough. After all, music, live performances . . . as hard as we try to capture them, they are ephemeral creatures.

For me, Robert Mapplethorpe pegged it as he lay dying. Patti Smith’s shares his words in her amazing book Just Kids. She tells how she was standing by Mapplethorpe’s bed and he suddenly looked up and said, “Patti, did art get us?”

Patti Smith writes her thoughts about Mapplethorpe’s words then concludes, “Only a fool would regret being had by art.”

The Guest House translation by Coleman Barks.

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