Go Down, Oh Troubles

from by Jon S. Patton

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about

This one gets me in the feels, and I honestly think it's one of the best songs I've written.

I wanted to write a song about the Syrian refugee crisis without being too specific and without aping a music style to tell the story. I read a lot of articles from people on the ground, but the one that really stuck with me was this one in Newsweek: www.newsweek.com/2015/08/28/syria-war-bombing-aleppo-364035.html

Nothing in particular about it ended up in the song -- and there are lots of stories that could be told here, but at the same time I was reading that to research my song, Mosno Al-Moseeki posted a song about the street where he grew up in Sudan. It's a beautiful song. Mosno's story is different, but it did help me realize a common emotional element in the idea of looking for an old home (in the literal sense in his case) and being unable to find it or go back there if one wanted to. (Mosno was banned from Sudan for writing a political song.)

Anyway, I decided that what I really wanted to talk about in relation to the refugee crisis was that losing a home in that way can be like losing a loved one: It's taken from you, by often incomprehensible circumstances, and you can never get it back. I had to go to some pretty dark places to be able to imagine that kind of devastation. To then get to another country and be a pariah, or to see your fellow countrypersons doing things that make others hate you even more in your new home, and never really feeling like you can actually settle down because suddenly no place feels like it can be home, even if your old home was a more dangerous place to be.

The story is pretty self-explanatory and could fit more than one tale, but that's the one I was telling when I wrote it.

I started the lyrics on Thursday 2/18 when I was watching a documentary on Robert Johnson in the background, worked on the chords in the chorus a little that Saturday, then finished the lyrics on Sunday morning while waiting for Rick to come over to record his banjo and harmony parts for "Riddles."

The musical structure is 12 bars, but it's actually 8-bar verses with an extra bar at the end of each line, and not a 12-bar blues style. (I've used this before for a FAWM song in 2013, "The Language of Flowers," which is one of my favorites to play with the band.)

lyrics

F > F/E > Dm > F/C | F > F/E > Dm > F/C | Bb
Go down, oh troubles, I can never get away
F/C F/E | A7
I am many miles from my home
| Bb | C7 |F
and you've followed all my days

F F/E | Dm |F
When the journey will be long
| Bb | F |
There are some things that you keep
|F | Dm | F
I can remember them if I want
| Bb C | F |
Though it might make me weep

There was a little street
And a shop where we worked
There was me and my little brother
Who's laid to rest in the dirt

Well the bombs were so loud
And the bullets came like rain
And you shout and you cry
Till you think you can't ever again

Bridge
Bb | Am | Dm
[Search the] whole world around
Bb | Am | Dm
oh for how long we didn't know
Bb | Am | Dm
You just gotta put your feet down
Bb C | F | D7
Just keep searching for that home

Modulate to G for the final chorus

Last line repeat:
G /F# B7
C D7/C G

credits

from The Howling Tongue of Each Other, released March 11, 2016

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about

baltimericana Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimericana is a place for me (Jon Patton) to stash my solo projects and collaborations with friends. I'm a writer, musician, and (unfortunately) day job schlub from Baltimore and the founder of Baltimore-based folk rock band Midway Fair (midwayfair.org). Be sure to also check out Joe Scala (joescala.wordpress.com), who produced the Baltimericana EP. ... more

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