City Songs

by Adam Bricks

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First things first: Adam Bricks is an unabashed, head-held-high folksinger, the kind of musician and songwriter that used to push music forwards but these days gets relegated to the dingy club while vapid electronic beats bounce plasticized pop mannequins around on stage. Now, with that said, he’s decidedly not a countryish, roaming-through-the-woods kind of folkie — City Songs isn’t Fleet Foxes or For Emma, Forever Ago, and thank God for that.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve got nothing against the whole pastoral-/country-folk thing in general, and I like folks like Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver and Iron & Wine and Noah and the Whale and Mumford & Sons quite a bit. It’s refreshing, nevertheless, to hear folk music that’s rooted not in the bucolic fields and forests but rather in the dirty, neon-lit streets of the naked city.

Bricks himself got his start playing clubs in NYC’s anti-folk scene, which explains a lot about why he sounds the way he does. The guitars may jangle and drift along like Robin Pecknold’s, but there’s a grittiness underlying it that musicians like Pecknold just don’t have (again, not judging, just pointing out the difference). City Songs is exactly what it says it is, for once: it’s a collection of rambling, sideways-smiling, smoky, booze-tinged love songs to The City, that mystifying collection of buildings and bars and alleyways and freeways a lot of us call home.

And despite Bricks’ recent stay in NY, his album is truly an 11-track ode to his hometown, painting a picture of sprawling, confusing, noisy, messy Houston that ignores all that and pulls in close instead, focusing on those aforementioned bars and alleyways and whatnot. In a city where nobody walks, Adam Bricks has written a set of songs for roaming on foot, at night, and it’s goddamned brilliant.

I say this with all sincerity because I have walked this city at night, nearly everywhere I’ve lived within the Loop and without, and it’s always, always, always enthralling, like you’re pulling back the curtain on a play that’s no longer going on and watching the cleaning crew quietly go about doing the stuff you don’t see out in the light.

Houston’s not New York, obviously, or New Orleans, or San Francisco, or any of the other big “story-cities,” but yes, we’ve got our own magical moments, like the well-dressed guy walking down the sidewalk ahead of me late at night in Downtown who suddenly, spontaneously, busts a move for no apparent reason.

Or the wild-eyed guy in the stained t-shirt who I see slide up to a corner, look around to see if he’s being followed, and then pull off his shoe and start talking into it earnestly. Houston has these moments of beautiful strangeness, and it feels to me like Bricks has channeled some of that into his music.

City Songs somehow sounds like the city and the people that live and work and everything else in it; it’s pretty and fragile at times, sure, but it’s still got a raggedy-edged, cracked-sidewalk, crumbled brick-dust vibe to it. You can’t hear this album and think the guy’s singing about his home back in Kentucky, trust me.

The biggest, most obvious touchstone for Bricks, of course, is Bob Dylan. I can’t deny it; there’s a resemblance. More than that, though, what I keep hearing in my head as the guy sings is Lou Reed — there’s a far, far greater resemblance, to my ears, to the VU frontman’s delivery and lyricism, and hey, I’m good with that. There’s also a similar ethos of simplicity, this general feeling that the songs aren’t necessarily complex because they damn well don’t need to be. And yeah, I can get behind that, too.

The most Reed-esque moment comes on the somewhat-surreal, rambling “A Dog,” which jangles its way along like a B-side from one of his early solo albums, but it’s definitely there throughout, like on “Waiter’s Song,” which is the only explicitly “New York” song on here. There’s also an occasional hint of Damien Jurado floating through, especially on the somber goodbye of “Don’t Care If It Rains,” and even a little Glen Hansard on the elegaic “On Your Doorstep.”

Vocally, Bricks makes me think of another of my absolute-favorite songwriters, John K. Samson of The Weakerthans, who like Bricks is himself essentially a troubadour of the city. It comes through strongest on jangly, cheery “Colorado Bar” or on album closer “Kristmas,” which is a “Christmas song,” certainly, but a bleaker one than most of us think of when we hear those words. It’s gentle and swaying and waltz-y, and both the vocals and lyricism remind me of Samson’s, particularly when Bricks declares, “Christmas don’t come / ’til the cops come around.”

By the time City Songs ends, I’m sitting here in the near-dark on the couch, and I’m struck by this urge to just get out, pick up my coat, and head out the door to wander our Southwest Houston streets. No real destination, just meandering along towards nothing at all. And sometimes, yeah, that’s perfectly okay. - Space City Rock


released April 13, 2013

All songs written by Adam Bricks

Adam Bricks - Guitar/Vocal
James Essary - Guitar, Piano
Matt "The Kid" Willhelm - Bass
Ryan Chavez - Drums

Horn Arrangements on Old Man's Notes, I Was King and Kristmas by James Essary

Horns are:

Saxophone - David Ajin
Trumpet - Mike Ajin
Trombone - Cade Paul Gibbs

Design and Photography by Eric Castorena
Produced By John Griffin
Mastered by Chris Longwood



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Adam Bricks Houston, Texas

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Track Name: Day At The Park
Man carries coffee in a business suit
a woman walks her dog along an empty road
if i had a gun, baby i'd shoot
and leave you at the corner with your bags still on

I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just making friends,
sometimes I'm just weird, thats how its always been
walk with me a while, you'll find you're the same
playing parts until we find where they've all gone

You're not who i expected you to be
But that's alright with me

cause i don't want your number
i just want to talk
let's go to the river
and we'll find a spot
I've been as lonely as a fish in a tank
but compared to the others it just looks like I've drank

Burger king Burger king Texaco
the skyline looks strange when you're driving slow
buildings lit up but the car is cold
i know too many people who look too old

When the night falls over this town
it's like a king has lost his crown
there are smiles going all around
and if were still together were gonna be making out

Now i need you more than i need myself
to pick me up baby and put me on your shelf
Ive got a lot to learn you've got a lot to see
but I'm not gonna burn you its just not my scene

January February March and May
i remember the letters you sent me every day
but the people we knew, honey they're all broke
so now all they do is sit around and smoke

and time, passes like airplanes
you'll find us all the same

and now baby i just want to walk with you
and talk about the things that we thought we knew
the day is coming to a brutal end
but i don't need someone to bury me i need a friend
Track Name: I Was King
Thought i was king
for a day i was king
than came spring,
and it opened up my eyes

Everything was only half of what it seems
then came spring, and it opened up my eyes

I saw what i saw
and i did what i did,
they're ain't nothin to do
about that

And now i am here
without clouds, without fear
alone in this world without disguise

You can buy yourself a ticket
take yourself a train
but they're all in vane
in vane

you can find yourself a place
in this world just to erase yourself
from this world to define

But you run out of money
and you run out of time
and you've got to seek shelter
in someone else's design

but you'll see, the way it goes
nobody knows
so pick up your clothes
and take to the wind that blows
Track Name: Old Man's Notes
Electronic Doors go open
and I'm drinking martinis all day
if i could imagine the rest of my life
i wouldn't have imagined it this way

Gone are the motorcycles and cars
and i stay awake in old time-y bars
and dream of places id rather be
but forget it all by the time I'm done

If this is what, life is supposed to be
air planes, and bad tv
and coming home from work in vane
with very little to explain

I'd give it all to you my friend
id give it all, it's all pretend
Track Name: Don't Care if it Rains
I've got things to do
you've got things you don't
and if I'm telling you
to pack them up you won't

so I'm leaving tomorrow baby i don't care if it rains
I'm leaving tomorrow baby i don't have to explain
from comfort to sorrow every man he has his own name

Say goodbye now don't forget to write me a note
keep alive now won't do you no good if you won't
and send me a message if you ever have to complain
cause I'm leaving tomorrow baby i don't care if it rains

Im leaving this city taking my time with my last goodbyes
leaving the country is hard, its hard to say why
you make your bed or you put it back together again
and I'm leaving tomorrow baby i don't care if it rains

Cause I'm stranded like a live wire in the middle of the road
caught in a cross fire between my empty space and my home
I'm either staying or you say I'm just leaving in vane
but I'm leaving tomorrow baby i don't care if it rains
Track Name: Colorado Bar
In a colorado bar i guess i met my match
jack was telling stories and i slid out the back
and watched the stars slip into holes
i got my ticket and i ain't giving it back

to watch the young converse from across the room
and Kristmas lights hanging out on a July afternoon
we could do this everyday if the weather only worked this way
into the wildest fields i would follow you

we started getting cold and dead set on the south
the key slipped on in and darkness slipped on out
and what a world to watch unfold, i can't sleep when it gets this cold
and if i do i won't be waking up

I thought i saw you swaying with the trees
childhood friends turn into enemies
you know id save that anger if i could and turn it into something good
you know i would if i knew you better than this
Track Name: On Your Doorstep
On your doorstep, i am your trash
i am the sun's brilliant ash
i am the doctor, i am the priest
i am the angel, i am the beast

i am the cup that you left full
i am the curtain that you pull
i am the stranger at your door
the happy millionaire on your floor
and all the danger you felt before

i am love and nothing more
Track Name: Ohio
I drove to Ohio
to see a girl that i knew
and there were dead deer in the middle of the road
and a sky full of Indian jewels

she used to hold me very careful
touch me sweetly tell me i was perfect
and the red brick lined the dark roads
from the prairies to the townships

as i lay staring at the ceiling
between her body and the lamplight
tommorow i will be leaving
down that blood road, New York by midnight

the west is calling, i can feel it
with every footstep, in every day
but in between your destinations
and where you came from, run away
Track Name: Silent Night Houston
Silent night, O silent night
feel the asphalt drop under your feet
see the crooked cops, haunting every street
in the silent night

Now divorce or marriage, can't tell the difference anymore
might as well leave my keys, by the broken door
might as well call it sacred, might as well call it rhyme
but I'm glad you made it, kid you're right on time
this Silent Night

Because the vampires, they won't hurt you here
they ain't looking for blood, they're looking for fear
and its fear i took, picked it from the tree
and as the flowers grew, it made a ghost of me
in the Silent Night

and now i stand, in front of the jury
with my name, swinging from my sleeve
they tell me i will never sleep
i say thats ok, keep my dreams close to me
in the Silent Night

Oh Bitter youth, you chose right
when you chose to leave me outside
with my cigarettes and my candle light
in the silent night

but when some junkie wants, to take my life
who are you to tell him
that it ain't his right
raises his bloody fists, at least he's ready to fight
for his time

Because if time is money, than money is time
and the devil weeps neath the frozen pine
and the songs grow ripe on the trembling vine
in the Silent Night

And what for the day, the ladies dance
with their beads shaking round their pretty hands
oh the diamond day, is gonna be alright
as long as we can make way, through the Silent Night
Track Name: Waiter's Song
I want to work in New York,
I want to be a waiter
so if you can employ me
tell me now don't tell me later

i can sell your food,
and i can do it all night long
you won't be disappointed with me
i will make your team strong

Working till the midnights gone
picking bubblegum off of chairs
sleeping in hallways, emptying ashtrays
paying for my room share

I will be the best employee,
cause thats what you deserve
after spending a year in college learning english
ill be glad to serve

We've got a middle aged hostess
she looks like she's almost dead
and out of all the people sitting in this place
she's the only one who needs bread

it's a hard occupation
but you have to make ends meet
honey if i knew where they were i would
offer them a seat

I don't know a thing about construction
i don't know a thing about cars
but i can tell you what it feels like
to live on Hershey Bars

So if you're young and anxious
do exactly as i say
take pills for your troubles
and an order for your pay
Track Name: Kristmas
Cars drivin by on an old city street
the trees lit up, the cold at your feet
im riding home with this letter to you
just to show my appreciation for bein true

Kristmas don't come til the cops come around
takin down the highways for the cars comin down
And there's nothin to do, but just wait and see
somebody's son is talkin to me

And the lights, from the stars never shined so bright
Kristmas is here, im drivin home tonight

She says there ain't no reason to be hopeless and scared
it's just another holiday, people will share
well some of them win, some of them lose
some of them they'll just be sharin their blues

There's a mattress laid out on the kitchen floor
you're at the window, I'm still at the store
When i get home, you'll be there
with the light in your eyes and the dark of your hair

and the lights from the cars never shined so bright
Kristmas is here but im drivin home tonight

I'm wakin up on a Kristmas morn,
the clock ticks til someone's been born
someone will die by the end of this year
but i got no worries, as long as you're here

see the poor kids waiting under their socks
and the men loading out Chinese toys at the docks
And the radio's playin, a song that you heard
but no one in the car is singin a word

and the lights, from the stars never shined so bright
Kristmas is here, I'm drivin home tonight