In the Dark

by Matt Harlan

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about

Recorded in a living room studio in Houston, TX, the album features Harlan on acoustic, electric, and bass guitars, trading with Jones’s crystalline voice on harmonies and leads for their first self-produced effort. The pair called on local Houston artists to fill in the organic and minimalist backdrop.

A quiet reflection on pre- and post-gig rituals opens the set, as the “dark” metaphor emerges alongside sleepily picked guitars and whispering keys. Elsewhere, free-verse musings and atmospheric lap steel licks hide the beating heart of a changing zeitgeist (“The Time is Now”), while more straight-ahead folk songs embrace themes of reincarnation (“Mozart”), death (“Something Bigger”), and family dynamics (“My Mother’s Song”). There’s even a tune about climate-change, disguised as a jazz-inflected, lost love song (“Warm November”). Each track is packed with symbols of change and something larger hiding just beneath the surface.

The songs on In the Dark rely more on poetry than previous, narrative-driving outings - aiming subtlety, coded metaphors, and contradiction like flashlights into shadows of a changing culture. Hints of accordion, lap steel, and piano lend an idea that there is light on the horizon, while a few rockers mine the depth of shadows (“Move Slow”) in the stripped-down vein of the Black Keys or give a slow burning, modern folk-rock indictment of our hi-tech, celebrity-obsessed society (“Strangers on the Hill”).

credits

released November 11, 2016

Produced, sung & played by:
Matt Harlan & Rachel Jones

Recorded, mixed & mastered by:
Jeff McDonald at IFLM Records, Houston, TX

With special guests:
Tony Barilla - Accordion, Keys
Steve Candelari - Drums
Allison Fisher - Vocals (My Mother's Song)
Willy T Golden - Lap steel

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about

Matt Harlan Houston, Texas

Matt Harlan is a troubadour of the first degree, bringing songs of bus-stops, coffee-shops and lives overlooked to stages across his home-state of Texas, the USA and Europe. His expressive vocals recall Chris Smither and Chris Knight, shading his poignant songs with soaring heart and aching grit. ... more

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Track Name: In the Dark
Sitting here in the dark—A slow and easy grin.
Setting up to lay it down: three sheets again.
You know how the mind starts to wander
As the evening crowd rolls in.
Sitting here in the dark.

Sitting here in the dark—there’s a secret code:
You meet the man in the alley way to lighten up your load.
It’s always one for the money,
And a few more for the road.
Sitting here in the dark.

Sitting here in the dark—trying to race the sun.
The cover of the moonlight. A stranger on the run.
It’s alright to watch the morning rising
As the shadows come undone.
Sitting here in the dark.
Track Name: The Time is Now
Running til I’m outta breath
Closing in on something dark
Trains can’t haul this sin away
It’s the flame that lives before the spark

Tears that turned this river red
The heavy air that’s weighin’ down
Buried in this river bed
Dreams of angels layin’ down

I’ve been walking after dark
Searching for the stars
And I’m not finding what I used to see
And I wonder if it’s me…

Burning daylight into dust
Dirty shadows on the ground
Break the chains before they rust
The time was then, it still is now…

I’ve been walking after dark
Searching for the stars
And I’m not finding what I used to see
And I wonder if it’s me…

Shining flashlights in the dark
Tuning in the strangest sounds
Transmissions from another world
Where they still believe the time is now
Coming from another world
Where they still believe the time is now.
Track Name: Move Slow
Cold wind blowin’ off the coast.
The birds are circlin’ wild and low.
Two trees shakin’ long and free
Growin’ close like you and me.

Darlin, let’s go – You can’t even feel the rain.
Move slow – we might never get the chance again.

Evening tide and settin’ sun,
Singin’ loud when summer’s done.
Seasons brought us back again
Dancin’ in the shifting sand.

Darlin, let’s go – You can’t even feel the rain.
Move slow – we might never get the chance again.

I guess every day is a gift from somewhere else –
Spinning on the beach and falling, laughing at ourselves.
Just imagine all the time we’ll never get
To dance out in the thunderstorms – never getting wet.
Track Name: Warm November
The sky’s two shades of purple from the clouds and city lights
I sit alone on a cold, stone bench on a warm November night
Thinking everything starts so simply in this world and in my mind
But ol’ time ties it all together, just like a mess of creepin’ vines

And if I drank to find an answer, or screamed to calm my mind I’d just be
Slippin’ farther, Oh lord, all along that line.
But I don’t celebrate my madness, or cry for my mistakes (But it’s just)
Too hot for November and I’m just about to break

Rollin’ through those hillsides: the highway feels so fine,
And the wind blows through the windows as the dirt road gives way to the lime.
This great, big world has got me desperate. Got me swingin at the knees.
And these hands can’t feel to keep holding the wheel through this high, lonesome breeze.

And if forgiveness is the high-road, who’s to say you’re there
Oh but I been walkin’ lower darlin’ and draggin’ hard on this killin’ air.
But in dreams I do remember, how solid life must seem
When you’re the clouds that taste every drop that we waste as it melts back into the sea.
Track Name: Strangers on the Hill
Simple story: Time drifts by. Lights on the horizon getting near.
But in that changing something dies – sweet songs we may never get to hear again

So, find a payphone and call me collect
Try to do anything without being tracked
You can’t, you can’t, you can’t do it
Sleep as sound as your grandparents did
Save the world for your grandchildren’s kids
You can’t, you can’t, you can’t do it anymore.

Dog-eared pages, precious lines: information hiding on the shelf
Obligations, tensions high: trying to live like the strangers on the hill

So, take a picture and call it your life
Sell your soul for a handful of eyes
You can’t, you can’t, you can’t do it
Spill the ink out and cover the page
Put the demons back into the cage
You can’t, you can’t, you can’t do it anymore.

When the world ends with a whimper
What are you gonna do?
When the dark stares back?
And the screens go black?

Cut the cables and turn out the lights
Feel around for the needle’s disguise
You can’t, you can’t, you can’t do it
Tear the mountains down into the sea
Smash the windows and head to the streets
You can’t, you can’t, you can’t do it anymore.
Track Name: My Mother's Song (at Seventeen)
You look at me and disagree and shake your head and sigh.
The thing that you don't understand is I'm not you, I'm I.
That is to say, in my own way, that I am only me.
The thing that you don't understand is, That's all I want to be.

I've no desire to aspire, all others to exceed.
The thing that you don't understand is these things I don't need.
That's not to say in any way I'm right and that you're wrong
The thing that you don't understand is, we sing a different song.

That's to imply that thoughts that I have differ quite from you.
The thing that you don't understand is, my thoughts do count too.
That's not to say in any way you're wrong and that I'm right.
The thing that you don't understand is we see a different light.

Different strokes for different folks, that's the way the saying goes.
That's not to say that you're not right, it's just that No One knows
So let this thought go not for ought, and help us see a Light.
Since No One knows, I guess it's so, that Both of Us are Right.
Track Name: Something Bigger
I don’t deny myself a drop or two at dinner time.
I won’t admit to half the things you think I’ve never tried.
I ain’t no fool—you lift your head, they pull the trigger.
It’s the battles that you choose that keep you safe.
The war is something bigger.

I’ve lit out angry at the trains a’passing by the way.
I’ve thrown my hands up and I’ve hollered out for it to rain.
The silence was strong—but I guess the message was delivered.
Just a voice out in the wilderness
Calling out to something bigger.

There’s a single star that makes the morning bright,
But when you pull the shade—a million points of light.
And they’ve been there all along.

The old man rambled soft and low about his golden days,
Closed his eyes and drifted off to sometime far away.
The whole room went cold. He said, “the angels come to get her.”
Another shovelful of tumbling dust
On the road to something bigger.

There’s a single star before the evening falls,
But when you pull the shade—then you can see them all.
And they’ve been there all along.
You’ve never been alone.
Track Name: Mozart
Mozart will always be Mozart, just like disco will always be dead.
But me as long as I’m living I’m changing with each drop of sweat that rolls off of my head.
The falling will always be certain, but the landing don’t have to be hard.
Yes, and sometimes you’ll find when you’re knocked down a level
You’re free to decide who you are.

‘Cause a new day is dawning with every day’s end.
And we might be returning to clay, so make use of your lungs while you can.
If one thing I’ve learned is true, the shade’s bound to close on you.
So turn another leaf over all you broke-down high-rollers
And I’ll see you the next time around.

‘Cause you can never go back where you came from—all the dirt roads are highways now, friend.
But it gets me to thinking that this has already happened and I’m just passing through once again.
And that sign by the side of the railroad ain’t changed since I lived here it seems.
But there’s rust that keeps growing at the speed of a century. The grandkids might know what I mean.

‘Cause a new day is dawning with every day’s end.
And we might be returning to clay, so make use of your lungs while you can.
If one thing I’ve learned is true, the shade’s bound to close on you.
Last words to my brothers, all you lost and you lovers:
I’ll see you the next time around.

Mozart will always be Mozart: a young man who laid himself down.
But me as long as I’m living I’m changing with each drop of sweat that rolls off of my brow.
Oh, as long as I’m living I’m changing with each drop of sweat that rolls off of my brow.