Blaze Foley :: Clay Pigeons

blaze_foleyBlaze Foley did not have it easy.

An Arkansas-born, Texas-raised country artist who was revered by the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Merle Haggard, Foley lived and died in obscurity. The man had it all: a penchant for writing simple but achingly poignant songs of heartbreak and struggle and a deep, unadorned and gruff voice — the kind that exudes a reality of hard earned wisdom. Country singer “Lost John” Casner, a friend of Foley’s, said about him, “”There is an uncompromising honesty…There’s just a quality in the way he interacted with people as well as his music; he looked into the very center of your soul and could tell if you were full of shit or not…There ‘s a gritty soul to his songs and the way he performed them. To be honest, Blaze wasn’t always pretty. In a lot of ways he was an outcast.”

It was a series of unfortunate events that kept Foley from the spotlight. The master tapes from his first studio album were confiscated when the executive producer was caught in a drug bust. The masters to a following album were stolen when Foley’s car (which doubled as his home) was broken into. In the late 1980s, at the tender age of 39, Foley was shot dead, after allegedly trying to protect a friend’s pension check from the friend’s son.

Foley left behind his gritty soul in his recordings that, lucky for us, have been made available. The pick of the litter may very well be the devastatingly stark and beautiful “Clay Pigeons,” first made available on the 2010 release Sittin’ by the Road, a compilation of Foley’s mid-70’s home recordings. “Clay Pigeons” finds Foley wandering around in true country troubadour style. Just his forlorn guitar and deep sorrowful voice, he hops on a greyhound bus, destination nowhere, “smokin’ cigarettes in the last seat/tryin’ to hide my sorrow from the people I meet.” It’s a devastatingly beautiful and uncompromising picture of a man who desires redemption, a fresh start, but can’t muster the courage to get going. Instead, he’ll just pass the time, feed the pigeons some clay and build himself a “castle of memories/just to have somewhere to go.”

It’s a masterful, singular piece. And while the stark, bare arrangement is a fitting color to the song’s despondent nature, the song is done no harm by John Prine’s warm, autumn toned rendition, from his 2005 album Fair and Square. Prine’s gorgeously aged and grizzled voice treats the song respectfully and truthfully. The production is positively lived in, a gentle conversation between guitar, harmonica and pedal steel; cozy and auburn tinted, a fresh pot of coffee at sunrise. Sad, sure, but with music this beautiful, how bad can it really be? words / c depasquale

Blaze Foley :: Clay Pigeons
John Prine :: Clay Pigeons

3 thoughts on “Blaze Foley :: Clay Pigeons

  1. These lyrics are so heart-breakingly real and haunting:

    I’m goin’ down to the Greyhound station
    Gonna get a ticket to ride
    Gonna find that lady with two or three kids
    And sit down by her side

    Ride ’til the sun comes up and down around me
    ‘Bout two or three times
    Smokin’ cigarettes in the last seat
    Tryin’ to hide my sorrow from the people I meet
    And get along with it all

    Go down where the people say ‘y’all’
    Sing a song with a friend
    Change the shape that I’m in
    And get back in the game and start playin’ again

    I’d like to stay
    But I might have to go to start over again
    Might go back down to Texas
    Might go to somewhere that I’ve never been

    And get up in the mornin’ and go out at night
    And I won’t have to go home
    Get used to bein’ alone
    Change the words to this song, start singin’ again

    I’m tired of runnin’ ’round lookin’
    For answers to questions that I already know
    I could build me a castle of memories
    Just to have somewhere to go

    Count the days and the nights that it takes
    To get back in the saddle again
    Feed the pigeons some clay, turn the night into day
    Start talkin’ again, when I know what to say

    I’m goin’ down to the Greyhound station
    Gonna get a ticket to ride
    Gonna find that lady with two or three kids
    And sit down by her side

    Ride ’til the sun comes up and down around me
    ‘Bout two or three times
    Smokin’ cigarettes in the last seat
    Tryin’ to hide my sorrow from the people I meet
    And get along with it all

    Go down where the people say ‘y’all’
    Feed the pigeons some clay
    Turn the night into day
    Start talkin’ again when I know what to say

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