Jonathan Byrd

Jonathan Byrd

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Award-winning songwriter Jonathan Byrd has strong southern roots. Tom Paxton says of Byrd, "What a treat to hear someone so deeply rooted in tradition, yet growing in his own beautiful way."

Biography

Jonathan Byrd released his first CD, Wildflowers, in late 2001. With spare production, these simple tales of love and death seemed to be a hundred years old or more. Folk legend Tom Paxton discovered Byrd's music online and wrote, "What a treat to hear someone so deeply rooted in tradition, yet growing in his own beautiful way." One of the original tunes from this album entitled “Velma” has become somewhat of a “new standard,” as other touring musicians -- like Jack Lawrence and Larry Keel – play this modern-day murder ballad in their live sets.

Songs from Byrd’s second release, The Waitress won the prestigious New Folk competition in Kerrville, TX, and the folk community responded. The Waitress reached #22 on the folkradio.org chart, and folk-mag Sing Out! printed the words and music for the song “The Ballad of Larry” and included it on their CD sampler. By 2003, Byrd had gotten the attention of writers like Scott Alarik (from the Boston Globe and author of the hip new folk travelogue, Deep Community), who called Jonathan "the most buzzed-about new songwriter in folkdom."

Byrd sometimes tours with the critically acclaimed world-music duo known as Dromedary. In the last two years, these young musicians have been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, toured the East and West Coasts heavily, released 2 albums, composed music for 3 films (including the 2004 Sundance Film Festival’s “Dirty Work” co-produced by Edward Norton) and have had nothing but overwhelmingly positive reviews and articles written about them in the press (see www.dromedarymusic.com). Like Byrd, Dromedary has developed a reputation for consistently producing meaningful artistic work. In the words of North Carolina’s famed WNCW, Jonathan Byrd and Dromedary is “a perfect match that no one but them could have ever dreamed up.”

Lyrics

The Young Slaver

Written By: Jonathan Byrd

Oh my dear, you prepare, are you going anywhere
Oh my dear, back from town, are you to a vessel bound
Off to war on an angry sea

Fairest one, I love you, this is something I must do
Fairest one, if I stay, then your honor I’d betray
So I seek lesser company

Oh my dear, please don’t leave, there are tears upon my sleeve
Oh my dear, if you go, down the archipelago
You will never return to me

Fairest one, let me go, for you know I love you so
Fairest one, I’ll return and your marriage I will earn
With promotion and bravery

Oh my dear, you are gone, I will mourn you ere the dawn
All the young and the brave are the first to find their graves
In Her Majesty’s company

Fairest one, never knew, what I’m really set to do
Fairest one, I never told, trading slaves for rum and gold
To win her from her family

Oh my dear, I have dreams, in the night I hear the screams
Oh my dear, in those lands, you have blood upon your hands
And your soul is in jeopardy

Fairest one of my land, I do not deserve your hand
Fairest one, like a fool, I have been the devil’s tool
And my soul is in jeopardy

Oh my dear, I have learned, all the ships of war returned
Oh my dear, as you know, they did not return with you
So I made you a grave by the sea

Fairest one, I have sins rum or gold could never cleanse
Fairest one, in the deep, I will lay my soul to sleep
And make me a grave of the sea

The River Girl

Written By: Jonathan Byrd

The moss is green, oh, and wet on the elder tree
The river’s angry and so is the sea
I walk the bridge, I walk the bridge again
To see the river girl weave and spin

If she lay sick, I would tend to her
She would be like a child to me
I walk the bridge, I walk the bridge again
To see the river girl weave and spin

Her curtains, they are of the finest lace
And in the night, they shield her face from me
I walk the bridge, I walk the bridge again
To see the river girl weave and spin

The Ballad of Larry

Written By: Jonathan Byrd

Larry is a veteran, I seen him at the store
A six pack of malt liquor- it’s the Prozac of the poor
A can o’ chili and a can o’ beans and a pack of cigarettes
Four cheap cigars- he writes a check
He climbs into his van, it’s a blue Econoline
They’re both on their last legs, if looks are any sign
There’s a flag on the bumper and, just to the right
A bald eagle with a nail file says, “it’s time to fight.”

You think you’ve got nothing to give
Look around how people live
Loneliness is poverty
Say, “hey,” say, “hey,” to me.

I had an old piano, it just didn’t belong
A couple missin’ keys that seem to be in every song
Even when I had it tuned, it didn’t sound that good
I was tempted to scrap the guts and burn the wood
I put it in the paper, a piano for free
If you can haul it, you can have it, and people came to see
Some folks played “Chopsticks” or “Body and Soul”
Always, they’d hammer in the empty holes

You think you’ve got nothing to give
Look around how people live
Loneliness is poverty
Say, “hey,” say, “hey,” to me.
“I heard you got a piano,” he said with suspicion
He was shakin’ from the cold and probably malnutrition
I said, “Hey, Larry, won’t you come on in
Can I make you some coffee?” but he wasn’t listenin’
He went to that piano like he’d seen an old friend
He drew his name in the dust, he told me where it was made and when
He said, “I haven’t seen one like this since I was a boy.”
His face was twisted into joy.

You think you’ve got nothing to give
Look around how people live
Loneliness is poverty
Say, “hey,” say, “hey,” to me.
Well, we talked a few minutes, then the coffee was hot
I said, “Hey, Larry, won’t you show me what you’ve got.”
He showed me what he had alright, with conviction and soul
He banged the barrelhouse blues, baby, he rolled like Jellyroll
He played songs of love and country, “from sea to shining sea”
And not once, not once, did I hear a broken key
A broken old piano and a broken old man
Rolled away smokin’ in a broken old van

You think you’ve got nothing to give
Look around how people live
Loneliness is poverty
Say, “hey,” say, “hey,” to me.

Discography

Jonathan Byrd- Wildflowers, 2001 and The Waitress, 2002
Jonathan Byrd and Dromedary- The Sea and the Sky 2004

Set List

Jonathan plays original songs, traditional material, and modern-day covers from Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, etc. In between songs, Byrd is a masterful storyteller and entertainer. A show can be tailored to almost any need.