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TMI & Free Songs

O Holy Night  

O Holy Night Cover ArtI'm not really into Christmas, haven't been for 20 years or more. The reasons have changed over time, but my ambivalence about the holiday has remained steadfast. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Christmas. I still participate in many of the traditions that come with the season, both religious and cultural. It's just difficult to fully give myself over to a spirit that has always included some amount of mental tumult for me.

My general "grinchiness" began in my late teens and early twenties centered on over-commercialization. I took my faith very seriously and couldn't understand why we let the true meaning of Christmas get lost in capitalism. Starbucks was less of a thing back then but had it been, I would not have been upset about holiday cups. The thing that would have fired me up was why we would even want businesses to use this sacred occasion to sell coffee in the first place. In my mind, the true meaning of Christmas had been lost, not by society as a whole, but by us, Christians. Very Charlie Brown of me.

After that stage of youthful naivete, Christmas continued to erode. This time, it was a product of the re-examination of my belief structure. As I slowly began to let go of the Jesus that I grew up believing in, it became harder for me to participate mentally in the rituals of the season. Celebrating the birth of our "savior" was difficult because I no longer knew what that meant. During those years, my personality leaned toward an all-or-nothing approach. If I wasn't fully confident in my belief, then it was better to avoid it. And when I would participate in Christmas religiously, often out of social pressure to not be outed for my doubt, the internal self-chastisement was strong. I would always feel as if I was approaching God fraudulently. To this day, the grace that I extend to others is far greater than the grace I offer to myself.

Today, I find myself much more at peace with my agnosticism. I still don't know what Christmas means to me, because I still don't know what Jesus means to me. But I'm less inclined to be critical, both socially and religiously. And now and then, I feel the freedom to simply enjoy the things that I do love about the holiday season.  

With that short history in mind, I'm offering up the Christmas song, O Holy Night. It's a song that won't allow me to avoid the discomfort of my past, but the beauty of its melody and lyrics somehow still invites me to find meaning. I may not know how or if the birth of a first-century Jewish man had any effect on the operative nature of the universe, but I do believe that there is hope present in the world today that exists because of Jesus. So I sing. And I hope.

With that, this self-described Scrooge would like to offer you a holiday blessing. No matter what you believe, or what you celebrate, may you find joy, may you find peace, and may you find hope in this and all seasons of your life.

With Love,
Jonathon

 

Devil Will Come (Acoustic Demo)  

Devil Will Come Cover ArtBack pockets exist for days like today. My schedule has been very hectic over the past few months and, sadly, the free monthly music blog has not been getting the attention I would prefer to give it. Still, I'm really trying to finish out the year strong. So this month, I'm reaching into my back pocket and pulling out a little something from the past.

Last month, I was digging through some old burned CDs and came across an acoustic demo that I made at my friend Jon's apartment in Pearland, TX. He had recently bought a digital recorder, a step up from the 4-track cassette that we were using up until that point, and I came over to record a few songs - just to check it out. (I mean, it recorded "straight" to mp3 - what was this magic?)

Several of the songs on the CD were ones that ended up being officially recorded on my first album. There was a handful that didn't make the cut and one or two that I didn't even remember writing in the first place. I think that's when you know you've been writing for a long time - when you can't even remember everything you've created.

And that brings us to this month's song, Devil Will Come. It's one of the earlier songs that I wrote and a staple of the initial sets I would play when I first started performing my own music in front of audiences. For better or worse, it never made it onto any official recordings. Then, as I started writing and playing more, the song slowly slipped out of the setlist and was all but forgotten. Listening to it again gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. It brought back so many good memories of playing music in Houston with all of my friends - Jon, Richard, Merlin, and more.

Some of you may remember those days and those people, possibly even this song. Of course, many of you joined me on this adventure long after and will be hearing Devil Will Come for the first time. Honestly, it's not the greatest thing I've ever written. I don't have some sort of emotional attachment to it lyrically. It simply reminds me of those first few years, when I wasn't trying to make money or build a following, just making music for the love of creating.

Honestly, that's been the spirit of this music blog too. I've rediscovered so much creativity since starting this and I've enjoyed it immensely. That isn't to say I don't care about making a living with music anymore, or building musical relationships with more people. I would love to have as many people as possible be a part of this with me. But these monthly songs have allowed me to follow the creativity wherever it may lead and that in itself is one hell of a reward.

 

Slide  

Slide Album CoverMy friend Jason is often joking around about how I'm just a Goo Goo Dolls cover band. I can't tell you how many times he has thrown out Goo Goo Dolls' song requests to me, knowing that hell would probably freeze over before I actually played one.

Well friends, put on your winter coats because today is the day I make Jason's dreams come true. And, despite my branding, I'm not half-assing this one. I went pedal to the metal Jonathon Reznik on this month's song. This isn't some coffee shop, acoustic version. It's got a freaking horn section and everything. As you can see above, I created a whole new band-name logo, temporarily changing my name to The Dew Dew Vealls. And, since I know Jason will want something he can use to gloat and celebrate the fact that I finally caved, I made t-shirts too! So get 'em while they're here and join Jason with your own celebration of my fall into 90's pop-rock nostalgia.
 

T-ShirtBUY YOUR TICKET TO THE 90's PARTY FOR COOL KIDS HERE

(To be clear, it's the shirt. The ticket is the t-shirt.)


Lastly, just remember that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, even if it's turning a cynical, moody songwriter into a Goo Goo Dolls cover band. All it takes is a little persistence and a solid friendship.

So Jason - here's to you, buddy!

All in All  

All in All Cover

Every now and then, I sit down to write a song and something just flows out of me. Usually, I spend weeks, months, or even years reflecting on ideas and melodies, writing and re-writing until I’m somewhat satisfied with what I’ve distilled into a song. So the rare moments of flow that I receive always feel a bit special. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that spontaneous songs are better, or worse, from a quality standpoint. It’s the state of mind that exists in that moment of conception that brings about the significance. 

Last week, as I was preparing for our IN THE CORNER conversation about nationalism, while also thinking ahead to next month’s topic of racism, I felt the urge to pick up my guitar and start playing. After singing for a few minutes, my first thought was that I had a good start for a future song. But the more I sat with the words ringing in my head, the more I was satisfied with where they left me. 

Sorrowful.
Hopeful.
Incomplete, yet somehow still complete. 

I went to sleep that night and woke up the next morning with the song still on my mind. I opened my computer, made a quick recording, and looked at the time stamp. A little over two minutes. Once again the thought crossed my mind that I had a good start, but it was only a start. I’d keep working and, one day, maybe it’ll turn into a complete song. I listened to the recording and was suddenly brought back into the moment I wrote it. Again, sorrowful. Hopeful. Incomplete, yet somehow still complete. 

I’ve been pondering these ideas for a long time. If you’ve followed my music over the years, these are themes that occur over and over. But in many ways, I’ve only recently discovered a sense of peace in the tension that has always existed. I can be sorrowful at the same time that I am hopeful. I can be incomplete and still somehow fully realized. 

All in All, is a song about nationalism, it’s about racism, it’s about identity and politics. Honestly, it’s about almost everything we’ve talked about in the conversations we’ve had this year. 

My context for “all in all” comes from the Bible, but I know it’s present in many faith traditions. It is an idea to represent completion. Some people put that concept in the future, as something we’re stumbling toward by the grace of God. These days, I understand it more as an idea that permeates all of time. I feel sorrow in my lack of expressing it in the past. I feel hopeful for my ability to incorporate it into the future. And I strive to experience it in the present - incomplete, yet somehow still complete.

 

Production Notes:

I recorded this one at home, very quickly, just a few days ago - trying to capture the feelings before they faded. Even though I had other plans for this month's offering, it shoved its way to the front of the line.

Music:
Written by Jonathon Dewveall (that's me)
Guitar/Keys/Vocals: Jonathon Dewveall (also me)

Cover Art:
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash (not me)
Graphic Design: Jonathon Dewveall (hello, it's me again)

 

My Daughters, My Sons  

My Daughters My Sons Cover Art

Waves of amber and a lack of majesty
Sinking into a shining sea of blood 
A sparking ember, I’ll roll up my sleeves|
Shake the dust off of my feet and love 

Please remember why I’ve come 
Please remember what I’ve done 

All your politics, they are wed to apologies
Silver tongues tied to your greed and lies
But I’m an anthem, I’m a whole-hearted melody
Being sung to the mighty meek to rise 

Please remember why I’ve come
Please remember what I’ve done
Please remember, do not fall asleep my daughters
Do not fall asleep my sons 

Oh my daughters, Oh my sons
We will rise
Oh my daughters, Oh my sons
We will rise 

Be an anthem, be a whole-hearted melody
Sing out, oh you mighty meek and rise 

Please remember why I’ve come
Please remember what I’ve done
Please remember, do not fall asleep my daughters
Do not fall asleep my sons

I wrote My Daughters, My Sons back in 2011, shortly after the mass shooting and assassination attempt on former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, as a reflection on our responses to political adversity in America. It’s incredible to me that, a decade later, the sentiment behind this song continues to ring true while the rift between opposite sides grows larger every day. 

I want to believe that it doesn’t have to be this way. Is it possible to put away our calls to arms and replace them with calls to love, compassion, understanding, and compromise? Can we stop seeing each other as an enemy? I certainly hope so, but it’s getting harder and harder for this life-long idealist to keep believing. Still, even if I’m the only one, I hope to continue to “roll up my sleeves” and do the hard work of loving those around me - even when I don’t agree with them.

 

Production Notes:

When I first started doing this monthly song thing, my good friend Bob Sutton reached out about working together on My Daughters, My Sons. I jumped at the opportunity. 

Melanie and I met Bob twelve years ago when he was running sound at one of our shows in Houston and we’ve been friends ever since. In fact, he recorded that show and it became our live album, Friday Night 9pm. After that night, Bob basically became an honorary member of the band, often joining us on stage whenever we played in Texas. 

The really fun part about this particular collaboration is that all I really did was record an acoustic and vocal track and Bob took over from there, working his own magic to make the version you’re hearing here. I love the little surprises that arise in a musical partnership like this and it was fantastic getting to hear Bob’s take on a song that I wrote.

After you've listened to My Daughters, My Sons, I highly encourage you to find some time to watch a documentary that Bob was a featured composer on, called Truly Texas Mexican. It's a beautiful film about the Native American roots of Texas Mexican culture, told through the lens of culinary tradition. I loved this film and think you might too. It's currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Got Messed Up  

Got Messed Up Cover

Summer is here and Nashville is abuzz with talk of live music. I must admit that I’m a little jealous of the friends who are already out playing shows again and I can’t wait to actually get out on a stage myself. I don’t know exactly when that will happen, but the band that I’m in is starting to look for a few summer shows. Who knows, maybe even a solo show will be in my near future. In the meantime, I’m pushing forward with my monthly free songs. 

This practice, along with the IN THE CORNER conversations, has really given me a sense of musical direction. I spent so long unsure about what I was going to do with music, or even if I was going to continue doing music at all. Even though financially, I’ve taken a large step backward, I am finding much more inspiration and fulfillment. Don’t get me wrong, I hope to figure out a way to make music financially viable again, but I don’t want to fall into the same traps that took the joy out of it for me initially. 

That means continuing to make sure that what I’m doing is more about the conversations and connections that you and I have and less about me just putting my own ideas out into the world. Music may be part of the process, but what I really want is to build community. I want to inspire you and I want you to inspire me. Then, I want us to carry that inspiration to others around us. 

Geez. I started writing about live music and turned it into something else entirely. Sorry for getting all hippie-dippie. That’s the danger of sitting down to write without a clear direction. So I guess I should just introduce this month’s free song and stop rambling. 

This month’s offering is a cover of R.L. Burnside’s song, Got Messed Up, recorded by the psouledelic blues band that I’m in, Vole Nevole. Fair warning, it ain’t going nowhere in a hurry. Sit back and give it a listen. Then reach out and let me know what’s on your mind. 


Production Notes for Got Messed Up: 
Originally Performed by R.L. Burnside 

Produced by Willy Gibbs 
Engineered and Mixed by Dave Coleman 
Cover Art by Jonathon Dewveall 
Cover Photography by Brent Edwards 

Guitars: Willy Gibbs
Bass: Jimmy Flynn 
Drums/Percussion: Chris Gibbs 
Vocals: Jonathan Dewveall

Two Things 

1. Let The Mystery Be by Iris DeMent

 

2. What is Process Thought? by Jay McDaniel

I wish I had this book a decade ago when I first started diving into Process. If you're at all interested in Process, I highly recommend this as a great introduction.

Check Out the Book Here 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comment below with something that has inspired you recently.

Sun Tiger  

Sun Tiger Cover ArtHappiness comes in many forms. Today, my joy takes the shape of Sun Tiger, the brainchild of my 8-year-old daughter, Vada, and her vivid imagination.

She wrote the lyrics, sang, AND played the drums on this song! My heart is so full of pride that I honestly don't know what to write here. Every time I listen, I am amazed at the attitude and personality she put into this recording. Making Sun Tiger with her will forever be one of my most cherished musical memories.

I really hope you enjoy this month's song, Sun Tiger by Starfire & The Planet Destroyers!

 

Production Notes for Sun Tiger:

Performing Artist: Starfire & The Planet Destroyers
Written by Vada Dewveall and Jonathon Dewveall
Cover Art by Vada Dewveall

Vocals, Drums: Vada Dewveall
Guitar, Bass: Jonathon Dewveall

What Was I Thinking? 

CRAYON BOMBS - The Water EP

It isn’t often that I look back on the older songs I’ve written. This is due, in part, to the fact that I don’t carry the curse of popularity and I’m not constantly asked to play the same hit songs over and over again. Once a song, or even an entire album, begins to fall out of my setlist, it rarely finds its way back in. The positive, at least for me, is that I’m always playing the music that feels most relevant to who I am at any given moment. Still, I think it could be valuable to look back on some of my forgotten songs and talk about what they meant to me then, how I’ve changed, and what significance they may take on now. That is the inspiration for this new TMI series, that I’m calling What Was I Thinking? 

Given that the topic of this month’s In the Corner conversation is politics, I thought that Crayon Bombs from The Water EP would be a good start.

LISTEN ON SPOTIFY (or go to the music page of my website).

 

What It Meant to Me Then

The year is a bit fuzzy, somewhere in the mid-2000s, and I was attending my first songwriting conference as a very green singer/songwriter. I technically had an entire record under my belt by that point, but let’s just say there’s a reason that first record is never mentioned and is incredibly hard to find. Checking in at the conference, I was invited to draw a piece of paper from a hat and was told that it would be my song assignment for the weekend. As I unfolded the note, I read the words, “Crayola Bombs to End the War.” Jackpot! 

America, at the time, was smack-dab in the middle of our “War on Terror,” and country singer Toby Keith led the call for putting boots up people’s asses because, well, it’s “the American way.” Now, I have certainly never claimed to be an expert on foreign affairs, but I do have many opinions on the value of human life and I certainly hope that the American way involves much more compassion and nuance, so trying my hand at an anti-war song seemed like a good way to spend my weekend. 

The actual writing of the song came pretty quickly. I mean, it’s all there in the prompt. If only we could get back to the attitudes we often employed as children, full of passion, yes, but also full of grace, creativity, and forgiveness, then maybe we could find ways to solve our problems without violence. 

 

How I’ve Changed

Looking back at myself in that song, I see the idealism that dominated my personality and beliefs. That isn’t to say that I’ve lost all of it now, but, as I’ve grown older, I lean more into the fact that nothing is as simple as we would like it to be. 

I was far removed from my playground days in the mid-2000s. Now, as a parent, I’m reminded that kids are actually not very good at forgiveness. But what they lack in clemency, they more than make up for with forgetfulness. When things are going well for my daughters in their social interactions, past grievances aren’t given a thought. But the moment something negative happens, the emotional war strikes back up. 

The playground conflict is not something that can simply be fixed by coming together momentarily and the same goes for our conflicts as a society. As beautiful as the picture of “crayon bombs” might be, we can’t solve our conflicts through forgetfulness. 

I think about the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914 when German and British troops supposedly put down their weapons to sing carols together. In essence, they lived out my song - only to resume fighting the next day. 

I still love to hear a good idealism. They make me feel warm and fuzzy inside like anything is possible. But I believe that if there is any chance for humanity to find peace, globally or locally, we have to stop waiting for ideals and start putting in the work. Grace, forgiveness, and understanding require practice and intentionality, and most of all humility. 

Yes, let’s “paint the world the color of love,” but we shouldn’t be too entrenched in our own understanding of what that color looks like. We need to listen to people outside of our own community and start seeing love as a multiplicity of color. 

 

I'd love to hear your comments below, along with any suggestions you may have for which of my songs you’d like me to tackle in the next post.

Runaway Sun (Solo)  

Runaway Sun (Solo) Cover Art
In our early days of parenthood, Melanie and I loved singing lullabies to our daughter at bedtime. Most nights involved me playing guitar and picking my way through some song that we had deemed important for her little ears to hear. Sometimes they would be bedtime classics, but more often than not it was something from artists we loved or our own songs that we would adapt for bedtime.

It was around this same time that I started playing shows without Melanie, which was difficult at first. I wasn't finding much inspiration playing solo and I needed to switch things up. So I started leaving my acoustic behind and playing electric instead, which required me to rethink how I played several songs.

It was the mixture of those lullabies and my search for solo inspiration that birthed this version of Runaway Sun.

 

Production Notes:

I kept this one really simple, just like I would play it live at those solo shows. Just a single vocal take, no bgvs. I put an SM57 on my Fender Excelsior and cranked it up just enough to get the amp to break up a little. I even had some radio interference sneaking into the recording, adding to that live feel.

The bulk of the guitar sound comes from one of my favorite pedals, The Retro Sky made by Greenhouse Effects. It's a beautifully sounding delay with a switchable phase effect built-in that only affects the repeats while keeping the attack clean.

Unfortunately, I don't think they make the Retro Sky any longer, but when they did, they actually put up a link to a live version of this song on their website. When Roy, the owner, emailed me to ask if he could use it, I geeked out like a fanboy. I love the way he approaches the design of his pedals and was super honored to be used as an example of what the pedal could do. I highly encourage you to go check out Greenhouse Effects and see what kind of magic Roy has up his sleeves these days.

Lastly, this isn't so much a production note, just a cute photo. My youngest daughter was with me as I recorded the guitar and the amp was pretty loud, so I put some ear protection on her. The sound in the room was so trance-like that she ended up falling asleep on the couch - making the lullaby origins come full circle.

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