Brian Laidlaw

Brian Laidlaw

 Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
BandFolkSinger/Songwriter

Brian Laidlaw's sound is a word-rich take on Americana, owing a stylistic debt to a long lineage of writers, romantics, nostalgics & drunks. He is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota MFA program in poetry, and currently teaches songwriting at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.

Biography

Brian Laidlaw is a poet and folksinger from San Francisco, and a member of the Songwriting faculty at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2005 he graduated from Stanford with a degree in Creative Writing, and spent the next few years living in the Sierra Nevada and touring the U.S. as a solo songwriter.

In 2008 he moved to Minneapolis to earn an MFA in poetry at the University of Minnesota. In the last year he has received awards and honors from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the McKnight Foundation, the Loft Literary Center, the Weisman Art Museum, and the Jerome Foundation. His lyrics have been featured in American Songwriter Magazine and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New American Writing, FIELD, VOLT, Quarter After Eight, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere.

Brian is also founding member of a Twin Cities arts cohort called the Yes!Lets Collective, and the ringleader of a messy folk orchestra called The Family Trade.

Lyrics

The Coal in the Engine

Written By: Brian Laidlaw

THE COAL IN THE ENGINE

Underneath a frightening sky a window-light was glowing
As though it were a boiler room with a bright red bed of coal
Somewhere inside a woman worked to keep the fire going
Enabling an engine to export the country cargo of her soul

When she danced her slender bones were like a model train set
Whose engine moved with grace between the stations of her hands
I waited for a chance to board on each occasion they met
Or else a chance to jump across the junctions in between the iron spans

The coal in the engine is not the engine
The light in the tower is not the tower
The man in the woman is not the woman
The water in the river is not the river
I don’t know what dancing builds, but it is not a boundary
& In the wind the title lines of pastures were obscured
My muscles, skin, and sweaty clothes were falling all around me
But I couldn’t hang the meaning on the famous golden spike of the word

Many counties blew away and we forgot the names
Of desolate and desperate lots untouched by any human
Fences in the dust bowl fell in homesteads without claims
But even with the borders gone, it doesn’t make a union

The coal in the engine is not the engine
The light in the tower is not the tower
The man in the woman is not the woman
The water in the river is not the river

Godspeed

Written By: Brian Laidlaw

GODSPEED

i
Godspeed to your frightened little self
It all felt like a game when you were thrown
Off the wooden bridge in the middle of the forest
Borne by the river and raised by its torrents
But a stick caught in a river’s race
Is at the mercy of the river’s pace
And at the mercy of the course it takes

ii
Godspeed to your frightened little self
You worry like a child at the fair
And whirl in this eddy like a sickening ferris wheel
Circled starry orbits but none of them were real
You saw perfection staying in one place
Took stagnation as a form of grace
At the mercy of the river’s pace

Godspeed to your mighty little self
I’d rather be a stick than be a stone
I’d rather be a-drifting than call the bottom home
iii
Godspeed to your mighty little self
No deluge, dock, or dam will block the way
The estuary calls with several theories and fates
She suggests that you stay calm and let gravity navigate
The world is a carnival, the heavens are a carousel
Dreams are always circular but the days are always parallel
And if they stone you and kick you in the face
You stick up for the river and its pace:
The current rocks you forward into place

Godspeed to your mighty little self
I’d rather be a stick than be a stone
I’d rather be a-drifting than call the bottom home

Waltz From Rawlings

Written By: Brian Laidlaw

WALTZ FROM RAWLINS

Before we became so adult
We were happily roaming
Followed the Andreas fault
East to Wyoming

The ghost towns were calling
We pulled off in Rawlings
With beaches of rust
And tarantulas crawling

We learned about trust
From timberframes falling
Down into the dust
Of the ghost town of Rawlings

But the homestead will stand fast
While many a sandblast
Will polish your face
To a red, ruddy shine
In Rawlings, my darling
Your crosscountry kindness
Did just the same for mine
We followed the frontage road east
Deeper into the valley
Where an ancient mechanical beast
Was beached in an alley

Some homesteader’s treasure
Both precious and hostile
Reared in the gesture
Of a plaintive apostle

The dinosaur thresher
Has turned to a fossil
A century’s pressure
Makes the fiercest gears docile

But the homestead will stand fast
While many a sandblast
Will polish your face
To a red, ruddy shine
In Rawlings my darling
Your crosscountry kindness
Did just the same for mine.
We paused for a moment and kissed
By the railway platform
The horizon a gathering fist
Of a glorious dust-storm

By the rail for supplies
And goods from the salt mine
That split the west lengthwise
Like a manifest fault-line

Dry tufts of crabgrass
And tumbleweed beasts
Can’t suffer the sandblasts
Of the continent’s crease

So it’s three days straight
With the sun setting straight
At our backs, heading straight
For the east, for the east

It’s three days straight
With the sun setting straight
At our backs in the rearview
A red, ruddy shine

In Rawlings my darling
Your crosscountry kindness
Did just the same for mine.

Lullaby for a Lady Asleep Already

Written By: Brian Laidlaw

LULLABY FOR A LADY ASLEEP ALREADY

You know it was a shame and a pain
I came home on the late night train
The darkness slowed me down, stuck to my soft shoe
In the station, waiting to get home to you

Meanwhile at home you were breathing heavily
This is a lullaby for a lady asleep already

Now I’m keeping to myself at 4 a.m.,
While who don’t know who I am
Are on their way to homes I have never seen
But we’re sitting, shaking on the same machine

They move towards home and I move towards you steadily
With a lullaby for a lady asleep already

The fast moving skyline says I’m on the B line
But I don’t know what bridge I just crossed.
I know where you are, but I’m lost.

The engine is a shepherd whose feet are unsteady
And I’m a shepherd for a lamb asleep already.

You are way down south by Coney Island
On a carousel whose animals are silent
I wish my train were quieter; I wish my train were faster
As it took me towards your dreamland pasture

To the tune of its hum I hum a mostly-human melody
A lullaby for a lady asleep already

The fast moving skyline says I missed the deadline
And I don’t know this borough or town.
The subway keeps burrowing down.

The engine is animal whose hunger is deadly
I am a shepherd for a lamb asleep already

When I get home I’ll call and wake you up
You’ll come down half-asleep and take me up
Tomorrow I doubt you’ll remember my arrival
But for me it was a question of survival

Still it’s a sweet, sweet dream to think that you need me
Or my lullaby for a lady asleep already

And to the tune of your hum I hum a mostly human melody
A lullaby for a lady asleep already

The Last Known Whereabouts of Amelia Earhart

Written By: Brian Laidlaw

THE LAST KNOWN WHEREABOUTS OF AMELIA EARHART

Come on come on honey I memorized the train schedule
Every hour on the hour from dusk till dawn
Northbound, southbound
Come on come on honey the streets are paved in nothing
The tar in your boot-soles is all you’re standing on
Facing outbound

Between you and me, the city is a buffer
When the deadlines are tough the lifelines get tougher
But I’ve had enough; we were not born to suffer
Come on come on, come on come on

I hear the east come rhapsodize
I hear the west join the fray
I hear the east come rhapsodize and lead you away.

[+]

Come on come on honey I memorized the birth order
Of every man and woman and infant yet
Every sir and madam
Come on come on I know the line is unstable
From Cain and Abel to the godparents of regret
Named Eve and Adam

The cream of the crop, the dregs of the barrel
I’ve read all the drivel, I’ve worn the apparel
I’ve seen them be civil, I’ve seen them be feral
Come on come on, come on come on

I hear the word come rhapsodize
I hear the world come & ask me to play
I hear the word come rhapsodize and lead you away

[+]

Come on come on honey I memorized the migration patterns
Of every seabeast and landbeast of the realm
All the courting and mating
Come on come on I hear the water table’s rising
My love is an ark but it’s dark and I’m alone at the helm
Honey it’s devastating

The storm was a mess, a forty-day bender
They divide us by dress, class, phylum and gender
Why can’t I be blessed, why can’t you be tender
Come on come on, come on come on

I hear the sea come rhapsodize
I hear the waves hammer the bay
I hear the sea come rhapsodize and lead you away

[+]

Come on come on honey I memorized the book of Revelations
So if it ever happens we can hide inside the right monument
Someplace as dry as Petra
Come on come on I’ve got flotation devices
If it’s really a crisis, I think we’re allowed to repent
Et cetera, et cetera

But I’d rather locate a natural bunker
My animal instinct tells me it’s time to hunker
You be the cavern, I’ll be the spelunker
Come on come on, come on come on

I hear the hills come rhapsodize
I hear the valleys demand that I stay
I hear the hills come rhapsodize and lead you away

[+]

Come on come on honey I memorized the last known whereabouts
Of Amelia Earhart and unicorns and Atlantis and Christ
And Dillinger’s surrender
Come on come on there’s a Broadway adaptation
Everyone’s a sellout but everyone’s affordably priced
At your local vendor

We are not outlaws, we’re peripatetics;
It isn’t a sickness, I don’t need your medics
I don’t know what justice has to do with poetics
Come on come on, come on come on

I hear the news come rhapsodize
I hear the pulp parade and decay
I hear the news come sermonize and lead you away

[+]

Come on come on honey I memorized the complete works of beloved New
England poet and former US poet laureate Robert Frost
All of his trochees and iambs
Come on come on I know his life was a train wreck
He was a fratboy and a dropout
But he knows what to do when you’re lost
And that’s just what I am

There’s no silver bullet, no clairvoyant crystal
It’s life by the compass or death by the pistol
But if you find the high road, send an epistle
Come on come on, come on come on

I hear the east come rhapsodize
I hear the west join the fray
I hear the east come rhapsodize and lead you away

Discography

Whiskey With Goliath - EP, 2013
Wolf Wolf Wolf - Full length, 2011
No Horse Town - EP, 2010
Sparrow Songs - Full length w/ book of poems, 2009
Fond Memories of Sound - Full length, 2007
Why Did We Come Here Together? - EP, 2006
Every Fall - EP, 2005
First Love Songs - EP, 2005
Quarterlife - Full length w/ book of poems, 2004

Set List

--Sets are generally one hour
--Can do 1 or 2 sets (all originals)