Sundown, USA

by JKutchma & The Five Fifths

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about

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'Oh, I don't know bud. They're thinking about shutting it down'
-GHK

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Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Thessalonians 4:21-22

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In 2012 JKutchma & The Five Fifths were on tour, driving through Detroit en route to a show. As we came into the city, Evan told us how the fire company was instructed to let abandoned houses burn. After decades of decline, there was no more money to save them.

During the gasoline crisis of the 1970’s, consumers were opting for more fuel-efficient cars produced by foreign companies. The sales and market shares of Detroit’s automobile companies declined. In the mid-80’s, the city borrowed against a promising future that never arrived. There was an exodus to the suburbs. Debt escalated and revenue did not return. The bribery, kickbacks and greed, always greasing the wheels for the desperate and small, were overlooked when the system provided bounty. But now, sliding towards bankruptcy, the corruption was front page news.

A city of buildings abandoned. Beautiful, gorgeous buildings shuttered. As Evan drove, I saw a two children playing on a ten-foot high pile of rubble. In the distance, below the early moon in a Detroit sky, there was ignored smoke from an ignored fire of another forgotten building.

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“It has always seemed strange to me...The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

-John Steinbeck
Cannery Row

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For many years, every time I’d ask him how work is going, without fail he'd say ‘Oh I don’t know, bud. They’re thinking about shutting it down’. It’s been this way in Johnstown since the 80’s. As the union and the workers slowly lost power, he'd always answer the same question with the same answer: ‘Oh I don’t know, bud. They’re thinking about shutting it down'.

A month before starting production on Sundown, I was in Johnstown. We talked about our industries, our jobs. That year, the conversation was different. He wasn’t explaining that the mill may shut down because of various declining numbers listed on some tally sheet or new contract. He said the mill should shut down because of the declining quality in the process of steel production. The end product, what he's responsible for, relies on all the steps the steel went through before it got to him. Can't cook a good omelet with bad eggs. His work and his pride depend on the material that he is given to work with and now it is coming from places that don't have the same regard for their work as he's had for the past forty years.

For the first time he tells me without a blink or a pause that the plant should close because he doesn’t want that kind of work out in the world.

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‘No account of music in Detroit would be complete without the sound of Motown. In 1959, a young black man, Berry Gordy, Jr. borrowed $800 from his family and founded the Motown Record Corporation. Located in a house on West Grand Boulevard, Motown began as one of a number of small rhythm and blues record companies which sprang up in Detroit during the 1950’s, partly in response to a demand for such music by black-oriented radio stations'

'Motown meant, and continues to mean, music. It is a special sound, born on the streets of Detroit, listened to and enjoyed the world over by all who know the Motown Sound’

-from Detroit: American Urban Renaissance, copright 1979 by Continental Heritage, Inc. Editors: Larry P. Silvey and Douglas S. Drown, Principal Author: Arthur M. Woodford part of The American Portrait Series of premium books published by The Continental Heritage Press of Tulsa Oklahoma.

Others in the series include:
The San Antonio Story
Houston: a history of a giant
Des Moines: Capital City
The Saint Louis Portrait
and
Cleveland

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Around the time of Sundown, USA's completion, I received a call from my father. They were officially closing down his plant. When I was a teenager, he told me that he’d probably continue working until whenever his body wouldn’t be able. He knew it from the first day on: this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And for most of his life, he made a pretty good run of it.

I wondered if there was a time early in his career when it was all real good. The money was good, the benefits were good, there was no limit, no ceiling to how good this could get. Then, in a strange half-second the darkest thought crept in: this will all end.

I wondered if at some point in my life someone will call me one day and tell me not to bother to come in tomorrow, they’ve closed the plant. It seems ludicrous. And yet it terrifies me.

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“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I thought about those two industries, the relationship of steel to automobiles, of Johnstown to Detroit. I thought a lot about the future of my own industry, and the statement: ‘Don’t bother coming in tomorrow, the factory is closed’.

As a musician or as an artist, could anyone ever say that to me? I write and record music and obviously make the decision every day whether my song-writing factory is cranking up or shutting down but I wonder: at what point does the process of making a work of art seem to transform from being a personal statement to being a product of an Industry where I allow myself to even entertain the thought?

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Father Gabriel Richard was a Roman Catholic priest who later founded the University of Michigan. Born in La Ville de Saintes 1767, he entered the seminary in Angers at age 17 and was ordained six years later. In 1792, he emigrated to Baltimore, Maryland and was later stationed in Illinois to do missionary work with Native Americans.

In 1804 he opened a school in Detroit. As the school was destroyed by a fire that leveled the city in 1805, Fr. Gabriel Richard wrote Detroit's motto: Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus;

In English: "We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes."

-George B. Catlin
The Story of Detroit
1923

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Save for the layoffs in the 80’s, he spent those forty-some odd years at the same mill, in the same building. How rare that is these days. I wonder if in the future the buildings will even survive that long. I wanted to walk home with him from the mill that one final time but on that last day of May I was on tour chasing suns with my Five Fifths.

That night, we were in Arkansas playing The White Water Tavern, one of the best bars in America. Travis Hill, the owner of Little Rock-based Last Chance Records, the label that puts out my albums, met me in the parking lot before the show. He wouldn't be able to stay for too long, his son was born just a few days prior, but he wanted to give me something. He opened up the trunk of his car. Sitting there, an unopened box of Sundown vinyl records, fresh from the plant. Evan offered his pen-knife and I sliced the packing tape down the center fold.

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“As I rode back to Detroit, a vision of Henry Ford's industrial empire kept passing before my eyes. In my ears, I heard the wonderful symphony which came from his factories where metals were shaped into tools for men's service. It was a new music, waiting for the composer with genius enough to give it communicable form.

I thought of the millions of different men by whose combined labor and thought automobiles were produced, from the miners who dug the iron ore out of the earth to the railroad men and teamsters who brought the finished machines to the consumer, so that man, space, and time might be conquered, and ever-expanding victories be won against death.”

- Diego Rivera with Gladys March
My Art, My Life
1960

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The demos for Sundown, USA are available here:

jkutchma.bandcamp.com/album/detroit

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credits

released June 11, 2013

Jason Kutchma : vocals, guitar, accordion, harmonica
Steve Oliva : bass, guitar
Tom Rau : keys
Evan Rowe : drums
Nathan Golub : pedal steel

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Andrew Blass : vocals on Then We'll Take the Moon, I Believe Everything's Gonna Be Alright, The Carolers at 3 AM, February Is My Finish Line, & I'll Move No More

Caitlyn Cary : vocal & violin on I'll Move No More

Leah Gibson : cello on The Carolers at 3AM

Jeff Herrick : horns on Then We'll Take the Moon

Beth-Ann Kutchma : vocal on Then We'll Take the Moon

Reese McHenry : vocal on Something Got in the Way

Ben Riseling : saxophones on Something Got in the Way

Betsy Shane: vocal on I Believe Everything's Gonna Be Alright, flutes on The Carolers at 3AM

Andy Shull: horns on Then We'll Take the Moon

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Engineered and mixed by Donald Meints except for 'Sundown, USA' engineered by James Phillips and Donald Meints

Album cover by Steve Oliva at Kitchen Island Show Print
kitchenislandshowprint.com

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feeds

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Track Name: Then We'll Take the Moon
Can we take the moon?
One day we’ll be able to
Can we just get out of here?
That would be alright with me dear
Get a house on the shore?
And a cabin in the woods for when we get bored?
Then we’ll take the moon?
Yes, then we’ll take the moon
Can we take the sun?
It’s just right there on the horizon
It don’t look too far away
Betcha we make it in half a day
Oh I did that once
Well I went around the world just chasing suns
You get close but they go down
So let’s just stick with the moon for now

We’ll call it home
Just like that yes call it home
All alone
No more knocks on the door no calls on the phone
Just like that
Real soon
We’re going to take the moon

I think up in them stars
We’ll be better than where we are
I think up in that sky
We’ll be better yes you and I
We’ll smile when we look back down
And I’ll ask does my baby feel better now
And you’ll say yes oh I do
Oh I do oh baby yes I do
But what will we do you and I
When that moon looks like a lemon slice
Looks like that don’t you think
Like the kind they put in them fancy drinks
We’ll do what we do now
When we walk on the corner of Some Way and Some How
And hope they don’t disappear
We’ll hope they don’t disappear

Just like home
Just like what we call home
And alone
With all of our shit on the side of the road
Along with me and you
Just like that
Track Name: I Believe Everything's Gonna Be Alright
I believe that I’m this month’s centerfold in How-To-Be-Down-And-Out
I believe I got no certainties except for this I got no doubt
There aint' no greater hurt on the heartless earth
Than when you lose the ability to dream
But I believe I’m gonna be alright

I scratched and crawled I cried and bawled I was shamed cause I believed
That somehow this, the way it is, ain’t how it’s supposed to be
How I love every one of my poor failed dreams
And the failed friends they'd always bring
But their lies, their heathen lies, got me sad and low
So sad and low

So sad and low
Do you hear me?
I said sad and low!
And although I’ve lost complete control
I'm gonna have every one of you know
I’m gonna be there standing tall
Oh yes when tomorrow comes
Side by side with my poor battered dreams oh yes
in spite of none of them dreams have ever been appeased
By no small amount of my blood
I believe I’m going to be alright
Track Name: Nowhere in the World I'd Rather Be
There's nothing I’d rather see right now than your eyes
Nothing I’d rather see right now than your eyes
Oh to see and think oh Boy I really hope those are tears of joy
No, nothing I’d rather see right now than your eyes

There's nothing I’d rather have right now than your kiss
Nothing I’d rather have right now than your kiss
However you got them soft or strong baby just make them last all night long
There's nothing I’d rather have right now than your kiss

There's nowhere I’d rather be than in your arms
Nowhere in the world I’d rather be than in your arms
You make feel all loosey goosey like .38 Special singing ‘Hang on, Lucy!’
There's nowhere in the world I’d rather be than in your arms

There's nowhere in the world I’d rather be than home with you
Nowhere in the world I’d rather be than home with you
We’d roll around them covers till noon then order us some of that Chinese food
Nowhere in the world I’d rather be than home with you

There's nothing I’d rather have right now than your touch
No, nothing I’d rather have right now than your touch
I’d travel East to West and I’d make it fast just to get you baby whatever you ask
Just don’t ever ask me for too much cause I’m broke

There's nothing I’d rather do right now than sing you a lullaby
Nope, nothing I’d rather do right now than sing you a lullaby
But I got me problems called Time and Space, Einstein says it's all bullshit anyways
Though that don’t really help me out one bit right now

I just want to lay my head on your shoulder
Just want to lay my head on your shoulder
And you'll put your little hand in mine and we’d thumb wrestle best out of nine
And I’d be happy just to watch you get older
Track Name: The Carolers at 3AM
Hear the siren, the wail of the law
It think Honey they’re playing our song
The carolers at 3 AM

Blue and red lights black and white sing
To the right of the wrong frequency
Then the strings of the strays join in

One day I'll find way
I’ll be sure, I will know
One day I'll find my way
I’ll be sure, I will know
My way back home

The sing from the depths of the deep of their chest
And only stop to catch their breath
So badly they want to say

With howls and bays that this will end
With a major to minor bend
Or rather say descend

One day I'll find way
I’ll be sure I will know
One day I'll find my way
I’ll be sure I will know
My way back home
Track Name: Something Got in the Way
How many days had I alone
Just like this with no lights on
Thinking how many more ahead me lie?

Some light downtown burning bright
And some dumb kid looks up to the sky
He says nothing’s gonna stand in my way

It’s going to come soon enough
I hope you’re strong I hope you were raised tough
I hope your Momma never cut you no slack

Almost, almost, you’ll be so close
But this was not how it was supposed to go
Cause something'll get in your way

Everybody’s says that you’ll be fine
But it’s just what they ay not what’s on their minds

Put away your photographs
Take away those things from the past
Take them away
Erase them from your mind

Everybody says that you’ll be fine
But it’s just what they ay not what’s on their minds
Everybody says that I’ll be fine
I must look unsure cause they say it all the time
Track Name: February Is My Finish Line
Besides the pills and bills and my belly ills I really can’t complain
Though back when it was good it really wasn’t great
But I got less calls from these assholes who're ringing me twenty times a day
Saying there’s some other damn thing that I got to pay

Mister, you got the wrong number
No one here no no one knows that guy
Hey Mister Governor
Believe me yes believe me I’m really gonna try
But in January I’m just gonna squeak on by

Well I must admit the heart tugs a bit at your semi-friendly voice
As you talk and talk and talk and yakkity yak
Like I got a Rolls Royce

I give the wife a kiss and I go to the crib and I grab my girl and boy
We say into the phone no no one’s home
But please sir don’t be annoyed

Mister, you got the wrong number
We think you confused your fours and fives
Hey Mister Governor
You think maybe just once in my life
February can be my finish line?
Track Name: I'll Move No More
Oh I did yes I did get the hell out of the way
And I did yes I did left when you said don’t stay
Whatever you wanted I’d walk or I’d run
To always wind up back at square one
I moved when you yes you said so
I moved when you yes you said I got to gotta go
Then I bawled when called coward times two three and four
But I meant what I said I’m a coward no more

My time has come
My time has come
Push me or pull me or knock me to the floor
I meant what I said and I’ll move no more

Poked and prodded then knocked to the ground
I bowed and allowed you to keep me down
Until you yes you you make your amends
I will not break and I will not bend
You fooled me once and you fooled me twice
But I am the fool for being fooled all my life
Why is this space yours? Why yours and not mine?
You should be the one to move along this is occupied

My time has come
My time has come
Push me or pull me or knock me to the floor
I meant what I said and I’ll move no more

Not one step will I take not one bone will I move
I’ve made up my mind and I’m tired of being used
Used for your joys then used for your gains
You used me till almost nothing remained
I will not hide and I will not run
I am not through and I am not done
Don’t tell me to go don’t tell me to leave
I will move when I damn well please

My time has come
My time has come
Push me or pull me or knock me to the floor
I meant what I said and I’ll move no more
Track Name: The Moment When the Full Moon'll Rise
Hey yo
Hey yo hey yo
You need a friend tonight
I’ll look over there
You can look me anywhere
Except in the eye
We can sit here
Side by side
Watch the moonbeam
Paper punched moonbeam
On a black paper night

And though the world may no more turn
And all these cars gonna fucking burn
Me and my graffiti eyes
Are going to sit and wait for the full moon to rise

You think he’ll just stay there
Huh? Just gonna stay there
Stay there all night?
So big and full
Baby you’re so beautiful
Motor City sky
You got any more of that
Huh? You got any more of that
My mouth’s so dry
You can look all around
Just don’t you look down
And tonight’s all right

And though the world may no more turn
And all these cars gonna fucking burn
Me and my graffiti eyes
Are going to sit and wait for the full moon to rise

Hey yo
Hey yo hey yo
You need a friend tonight
I’ll look over there
You can look me anywhere
Except in the eye
We can sit here
Side by side
Watch the moonbeam
Paper punched moonbeam
On a black paper night

And though the world may no more turn
And all these cars gonna fucking burn
Me and my graffiti eyes
Are going to sit and wait for the full moon to rise
Track Name: Sundown, USA
At the end of every day I make a sun set
I fade it down on another town where Luck’s a better bet
While I’m living in an old city’s ribcage long since dead

This is a town that’s one first last stand
This is a town that’s one last first chance
All my blood and my sweat that never scrubs out
Holes in my wallet remind me what I’m all about
And all of them fellas all out getting stoned
Paying workingman’s money just to fade
Maybe forget about
Their workingman’s home

Watch them drink maybe buy them one more
Lift that glass with soiled fingers and they'll be stumbling to that door
Ask if Luck made that gash? Did it make lights dim?
Did it bloat that body and will what’s sunk ever swim in Sundown

Some say the road out of here it never ends
Kinda fades across this country just to come round and begin again
Somewhere on that highway there may be a change
But I bet the only difference will be a porch and new paint

I look ahead again at that faraway town and see a sun’s final rays
I see a home in weakening light then I catch an old man’s gaze
Looking back into darkness to faint light of fading stars
Still so sure Luck will rearrange the lie of a gypsy’s cards
Is there a limit to our luck like there is to our time and belief?
Then what did he run out of if he believed such things every sundown?

There was a time when I hated here
I only wanted Sundown in the rearview mirror
In dreams I’d drive as far as I could
But in life Sundown sets at the front of my hood
Oh that sun it’ll rise and it’ll fall
But will Luck have its way with you all
Like Love a power we can’t create
Or is it one we do like Fear and Hate
And if I were on this Earth its only soul
On Life would Luck have it's way and its hold
Or would I say it's jsut the way life goes sometimes

I have so many secrets so much I keep to myself
But up on the hill for the ninety ninth time
This one I think I can tell
With Luck but not with Chance
If you don’t pretend it fraud
If no fortune’s ever had
Don’t blame Luck
Blame the Odds
Don't say I never said
It's not the fault of Sundown

At the end of every day I make a sun set
Track Name: Centric
Nothing lasts forever
No matter how hard you try
That with life is that with lifetime

It all takes one step further
Sorry I meant farther away
Sometimes I wonder if just perspective's changed

Don't say it never mattered
Once it really did
Life or death in the 17th Century

Everyone a judge or juror
Scientist, high priest
Reputation always on the line

All locked up in that prison
Some find the key
Being alone is a consequence of being free

Weren't you loud enough?
Were you just too proud there huh
When the night came in?

Or did the day decide to leave you
When you were by yourself?