Dakota

by Stephen Michael

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about

Written while visiting the Dakotas (both North and South) Stephen Michael presents an album of train songs and cowboy poetry

Not your ordinary folk record, this disc features 6 songs and 6 poems, written in the dusty swath of Americana

Set in a fictitious old west "Dakota" deals with themes of death, rebirth, religion, love, and outlaws

All songs and poems written by Stephen Michael except "The Weight" originally recorded by "The Band" in 1968

credits

released October 18, 2015

Recorded in 2 days at Hillside Recorders in Hayward, CA

Mixed by Stephen Michael at Hillside Recorders in Hayward, CA

Songs mastered by Robert Nunes at Hillside Recorders
Poems mastered by Justin Vanegas in Alameda, CA

Produced by Stephen Michael
Co-Produced by Erik Baughn
Engineered by Robert Nunes

Stephen Michael - Vocals/Guitar/Harmonica/Drums/Bass/Keys
Erik Baughn - Banjo/Vocals
Judy Cruses - Violin/Vocals
Shayna Butler - Vocals

Cover Photo by Shayna Butler

Thanks to everyone who made this album possible, it couldn't have been done without all the support! Extra special thanks to my love Shayna for giving my a skyline to fall in love with :)

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about

Stephen Michael Oakland, California

Stephen Michael is a Guitarist from the San Fransisco Bay Area. He has been playing and recording music for ten years and has released four solo records to date. He is adept at playing technically complex instrumental rock or singing simple acoustic folk songs. ... more

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Track Name: Dakota
I'm leavin' town tomorrow, on an old freight train to you
They'll follow me on horseback & when they catch me what they'll do
Is take me back to Texas and prison to do more time
But I won't let them get me, 'cause I'm all done with lyin'

I'm goin' to South Dakota, with Dakota on my mind...

I met her down in Georgia, Dakota was her name
She came to buy some horses and build the family name
But I was on the run, when I left her she was cryin'
They put me in that box car, lord knows I was trying

To get to South Dakota, with Dakota on my mind...

Now the winter's comin' and I got holes in my boots
I been goin' to every stagecoach and runnin' when they shoot
'cause you can change your saddle and you can change your stride
But you can't run from the things, that are eatin' you inside

So I'm goin' to South Dakota, with Dakota on my mind...

Last time that I saw her, she was standin' there
With flower bracelets on her wrist and ribbons in her hair
But I was bleedin' so bad, they'd shot me from behind
And on those tracks to heaven, I swear I saw her face so kind

I was goin' to South Dakota, with Dakota on my mind...
Track Name: The Runt Hand (Poem)
At the poker table I check my hand
And take another drag on my broken cigarette
As she sips her scotch in that long red dress

I'm not broke, but only a twenty dollar bill
Pads my pocket from the chair

She reaches over her hand and touches mine
The cool smoke makes rings
Around her sapphire eyes

The hand is a runt, so we leave

In the cool Vegas air she leans in for a kiss
But I can feel her hand in my back pocket
Fingering the green

I push her away
But she swings back
And sends me to the blacktop

Penniless

Beneath the sweetly shining stars

Of chaos
Track Name: A Wanted Man
I been ridin' through the desert for 40 days and 40 nights
When I get back to my family, I swear I'll makes things right

I robbed a bank in Albuquerque and brother did I fly
Those old law men can't catch me, they'll stumble if they try

[chorus]

A wanted man, a wanted man
Ridin' through the plains, 6 gun in my hand
A wanted man, a wanted man
Forever on the run, I'm a wanted man


The law was against me right form the start
Even when I was an honest man
They pierced me through the heart

I was a cattle rancher 'till the sheriff took my claim
Then I rode this 6 shooter to fortune and to fame

[chorus]

Out here on the west coast you ride 100 miles a day
But unlike those dirty rangers, you'll make an honest pay

For is you seek true justice, you'll have to make a stand
And with a smokin' pistol, the law is in your hands

[chorus]
Track Name: Shells (Poem)
God, with her infinite spiraling arms
Wraps me in a warm embrace
And as we near the center
The searing heat of unmeasurable truth
Melts the skin

Our bodies were not meant
To rejoin the great choir of the skies
Which is why we sing down here on Earth
Vessels for the spirit inside

A song is the truth;
A truth of common experience
That makes a man at once
Both human and divine

Suffering is a mode of interpretation
And malice an act of shutting down the pain

Those who act out simply do not know how to convert
Energy into form

And why should they be made to suffer more?
Are any of us different?

Making mistakes, causing pain, having pain done to us,
crying out in response

It is all part of the human symphony
One which will only end
When we fly too close to an eternal sun
And destroy our earthly forms
Track Name: Sunflowers
I hear that golden moon, a-singin' to that old oak tree
I can hear your heart a beatin' as you're lyin' next to me

But the words you're sayin', they don't make sense they do not rhyme
For I'm runin' out of choices and we're runin' out of time

[chorus]

As the willows whisper in the wind
About our lives that could have been
And we're caught in a warm summer shower
Lyin' in that field of yellow sunflowers


When I think back to the days that I have spent
In the pastel rose garden of your tender kiss

I wish I could run back to your soft embrace so fine
But I've found a dearth of power in turning back the time

[chorus]

When I fall asleep and I dream of your sweet voice
It twists and melts like honey, into my cup of joy

But I dread when I awake I will feel as cold as snow
For my tempered fate she calls me, I can not stay I must go

[chorus]

Yellow sunflowers

Your smile it reminds me of yellow sunflowers
Track Name: Horizon (Poem)
The horizon is flat emptiness
The trees are all gone
The ire sticks in the back of my throat
For the lonely howl of song

In a hollowed out shell lie my dreams
Awake but gasping in the dust

Just this morning
Hope had flooded into my ears
On the wings of a honey bee
Her voice pouring into my soul
Like nectar

And now I am awake

But sleeping
On the vast stretch of skeletal flat riverbed
That is the American Dream

For me the very notion of a place
Where all we imagine comes true
Has rot out like the stump
Of a tree cut down by the wind

Those of us in chains; chains of our own design
Will never be free

And a line runs from the suit in his office
To the con in his cage

But still I smile and still I laugh

At the tipping sunlight
Pouring in through our interwoven palms
Fingers splayed out like roses
In a city where we can fall in love

Again

I laugh for the moment
Then I cry

Because for me there is no exit
Only the dark end of a tunnel
With no chance of escaping light
Track Name: Oil Men
chorus]

Oil Man, Oil Man
Don'tcha sign my life away
While you're out stealin' millions
I'm makin' dollars a day


Now oil man, come sit with me, I think that you will find
All your drillin' and schemin' will kill the world in time

My crops they are a dyin', my land it is so dry
And all because you want black rain to fall from the sky

[chorus]

Army Man, Army Man keep them troops at bay
These lands are for fishin', not the empire USA

Natives they have lived here, since the dawn of time|
Puttin' them in reservations is a crime to all mankind

[chorus]

Banker Man, Banker Man, dontcha stack that deck of cards
The money you're a-lendin' was written in the stars

'cause there's nothin' that's as real as the grain that's in my barn
Your papers they can't make me give you back the farm

[chorus]

Businessman, Businessman, I think that you can see
If you don't have money, you'll lack equality

If everyman were a richman, there'd be no man in the jail
And you'd all be locked up, instead of too big to fail

[chorus]
Track Name: The Hardest Line (Poem)
This feeling? This darkness?
How can I sink into this feeling?
How can I describe the sheer terror?

The hardest line I have ever walked?

How can I sink into this feeling without it swallowing me whole?

Sink like my legs each step on the ethereal plain

Blending into the landscape
Where the wheat weary mess
And the wine blend together
To flatten the Earth
And all her violent retribution

Or like a walk in the woods
Blending into the trees

My legs becoming the roots
My arms the branches
My heart the horizon

How can I become this in order to transcend it?

Immersing myself in the desperation
choking on the waters of depression
In order to rise above them

Or will this instead become a type of quicksand
Swallowing me whole
Filling my lungs with dust
And rotting any trace
Of my existence
Track Name: Black Hills
The ambitions of men will lead them astray
From the will of God who has given birth to the day
And in this grove I fall on my knees and pray
To be in the favor of my Lord, I've lost the way

[chorus]

As tonight the moon is waning across a starless sky
The light is fading, I pray that I might die
A painless death, for in my heart there is darkness
I wish to kill and leave buried
In these black hills


From the dawn of time men have carried darkness in their hearts
And cruel degradation has plagued us from the start
To wallow in the coal choked halls of humanity
Is for the soul to be lost at sea

[chorus]

No one is safe from wretched sin
That will match us equals in the end
If flesh binds flesh and blood breeds blood
Then all will be scattered in the sacred flood

[chorus]
Track Name: Moonlit River (Poem)
Between the trees
And the grave

That's where you'll find me

Arms waving
In a moonlit river

And trembling
With ecstasy...
Track Name: Wings of My Savior
When time is short, time is precious
You prat to make things right with the lord
You call to angels, heaven save us
But they don't answer anymore

[chorus]

So rest on the wings of my savior
Not the one I followed years before
But with the blood of my lover
Light will keep us forever more


When the sun is fallen behind the mountain
And your sins flow like a river to the sea
There is only darkness in the valley
Your eyes can't find the fire to see

[chorus]

When the grace of God has finally left us
The winds won't guide you to the shore
I'll take your hands, when you feel restless
We'll find what love is truly for

[chorus]
Track Name: Loving Arms (Poem)
There is a spirit and it knows the way
But sometimes it's easy to get lost

When you're blinded by all that light
You make a wrong turn
And find yourself in the forest
In the pale moonlight
A dagger in hand
And no idea how you got there

But you can be sure
That if you start lookin'
You'll find your way back

For mother's arms
Are kind and forgiving
And she'll always take you in...
Track Name: Wings of My Savior (Reprise)
When time is short, time is precious
You prat to make things right with the lord
You call to angels, heaven save us
But they don't answer anymore

[chorus]

So rest on the wings of my savior
Not the one I followed years before
But with the blood of my lover
Light will keep us forever more


When the sun is fallen behind the mountain
And your sins flow like a river to the sea
There is only darkness in the valley
Your eyes can't find the fire to see

[chorus]

When the grace of God has finally left us
The winds won't guide you to the shore
I'll take your hands, when you feel restless
We'll find what love is truly for

[chorus]