Purgatory, CA (Deluxe)

by Tracy Manuel

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1.
Tread On Us 04:11
High as a drone, bald as an eagle Monday, Tuesday, everyday people They know freedom ain’t free, there’s a $2 cover To come watch a weeknight blend into another Here comes that feelgood nervous breakdown that gets me every time I try to be here in person, try to stay out past nine Feel that white-hot country panic, every single song says, This is who I am, this is what I want And they say more of it And they say don’t hide it And they say you’ll love it If baby, you just try it Now I read all the latest fistfights and the entertainment news ‘Bout who makes $60 a night to pour peroxide on the blues When they stop through on their way to Portland or LA Sign our bathroom walls, while we’re circling the drain And there’s a TV from the 90s, still flickers in the dark As all the evening anchors read the news from where we aren’t How pretty people get in trouble, pretty people get ahead And fill the pretty magazines (most of ours are filled with lead) And they say more of it And they say don’t hide it And they say you’ll love it If baby, you just try it My country tis of thee, but she don’t look at me No she don’t look at me, she never looks at me Just stares right out the window with contempt across her face With a scab on every knuckle and a keyring hung with Mace So stagger back to where you parked and hope your window isn’t smashed You sometimes carry heat but you try not to carry cash And now the air is getting heavy and the pavement shiny wet And we’re all standing in the puddle of the bullets that we’ve sweat And they say more of it And they say don’t hide it And they say you’ll love it If baby, you just try it And so leave your tears Leave them in the dust Baby, angels fear To tread on us Tread on us
2.
Drove all the way to Napa for a $15 burger Wiped the ash off of the hood and fed the meter on the corner Let me go, let me go Had my two feet on the sidewalk and my spirit trying to quit me I was standing in the sunlight wishing I could feel it hit me Wasn’t close, not even close This world been dipped in chocolate kerosene Drove up and down the valley as the smoke poured off the mountains Gather all of your prescriptions, throw your nickels in the fountains Call it hope, call it hope ‘Cause staying put is suicide and leaving’s close to torture Eden’s getting past its prime, they’re gonna burn the orchard Got to go, you have to go This world been dipped in chocolate kerosene And time’s a hungry flame beneath our feet Maybe someday in the push and pull I’ll crawl out of this burning bowl And wonder why I ever cared When smoke rose in my rear view mirror But I care, I care, I care, I care Because every place I’ve been to makes me start to wonder whether maybe I could never wander farther than you’d throw a feather Baby, throw, I don’t know ‘Cause this world been dipped in chocolate kerosene And time’s a hungry flame beneath our feet This world been dipped in chocolate kerosene If you’re prepared to burn, I guess it’s sweet
3.
4.
Late Bloomer 03:25
They told me The road to hell is paved with fake IDs You couldn’t help but take one off the street See if it’d get you through the door Why would you wait your turn? There are so many ways to live and learn Lover left you with a freezer burn But you can’t feel it anymore But that’s the way it goes The faster that you grow The faster you’ll end up flat on the ground I ain’t a thing like you I think you probably knew I was Just barely old enough to let you down The petals fall You see your old friends in the checkout stalls You say you’re fine and hide the Tylenol And they pretend that they don’t see You hate their wedding gowns That roll of measure tape that’s wrapped around The waist of every girl who’s still in town And you pretend you’re walking free So if you wanna self destruct Then go and self-destruct And blow this neighborhood to smithereens No use to take your time Keep clinging to the vine While everyone you know is withering Must not have gave a damn When you reached for my hand that night No, you weren’t looking for a graceful landing There’s nothing to repent I was scared back then Now I’m just scared to be the last one standing Late bloomers are the true survivors Late bloomers barely know their friends Late bloomers turn to nine-to-fivers Late bloomers worry how it ends
5.
Purgatory 03:12
Purgatory, CA Local ER, Friday night Saline coming down in torrents Sunburned arms with wristbands white Fractured little conversations Losing someone ‘bout my age I remember graduation, Praying it’d be worth the wait They said, Can you see your future now? Can you see your future clear? Can you see your future clear? It’s hard to see it here I take bad news on an empty stomach Good news with a grain of salt I bite my lip ‘till I taste blood And worry when those sirens call There’s no cure for boredom, ain’t it Hard to grow up underage? But come in here, they’ll call you patient Whether not you make the wait They say, Can you see your future now? Can you see your future clear? Can you see your future clear? It’s hard to see it here When you’re several worlds away From the waiting room TV And peoples’ ways to renovate Their bodies, homes, and dreams ‘Cause they can see their future now They can see their future clear Oh, don’t it look so bright and clear People they say the future’s now People say the future’s clear Oh, they can see the future clear But they’re not looking here
6.
Well, you woke up in a fever When you was just a kid Brought you down to the floor, oh lord And you ain’t ever been up since But now you gotta, gotta, gotta find you Something that can pull you through Cause this is a bootstrap nation — Ain’t nobody pulling for you Well, your mama was the corporation Your daddy loved her through and through Your daddy, he was blind ambition Your mama told him what to do Then one day they sat you down And they taught you everything they knew That this is a bootstrap nation — Ain’t nobody pulling for you Well, your name’s the only thing they gave you Before they wrapped you up in fear And prayed it’d be enough to save you Before they handed you away down here ‘Cause you were born when the sky was torn Ain’t ever seen it back to blue And the world don’t fit between your shoulder blades Even if you would’ve wanted it to When those doors swing wide, every woman and child And man had better know what to do ‘Cause this is a bootstrap nation — Ain’t nobody pulling for you ‘Cause this is a bootstrap nation — Ain’t nobody pulling for you
7.
Deja Boom 03:13
Our fire season brides are expecting the worst Every dry lightning strike, every propane tank burst Sweet summer dreams turn to ash every year So hitch up your dress, girl, and cover your ears Deja boom Hear the roar of the planes Another June In this tinderbox state Say, “I do” To the new normal, babe Again and again and again Two in the morning, somewhere ‘cross town Somebody thought they were standing their ground Somebody else thought they might do the same Now there’s two white chalk outlines behind caution tape Deja boom Hear that shot through the dark Where were you When they closed down the bar? Local news Breaks the same repertoire Again and again and again The headlines are wrapped into circles of words And stuffed in a bag and left out on the curb As the world keeps on turning itself inside out We’ve been here before and we’ll see you next round So go mow your lawn and fold up your sheets And hope your town skips out on fate for a beat Keep repetitive stress from grinding you down Nuclear families, powder keg towns Deja boom Feel the blood in your ears Live in truth Though the truth tastes like fear Always knew That it could happen here Again and again and again
8.
Saw it there before your eyes World exploded into noise And from the ashes you will rise But it ain’t like you have a choice The things that pass for hope these days Bad times don’t last but good things break So sift through ash for cups and plates The things that pass for hope these days From every corner people heard And pressed their hearts to retina screens It’s good to know they know it hurts Still don’t know the hell it means The things that pass for hope these days Bad times don’t last, or so they say So stack your cans and powdered eggs The things that pass for hope these days I just need a little laugh I just need to sleep tonight I only took a half a tab I only need to know you’re fine The things that pass for hope these days Bad times don’t last, some scars don’t fade So pick up trash and wash your face The things that pass for hope these days
9.
This country loves a broken heart So donate blood and strip for parts Take courage Cause those takeout numbers and stripper names Are lined up to defibrillate Or nourish And I could fill a shopping bag With jumbo dogs and mini flags to wave Usher in this iron pyrite age The jury loves a hypocrite The cocaine frost is on the lip Of freedom But every time I try to look away The barcode tattooed on my brain Starts bleedin’ But I could fill a script or ten And haul myself into an empty pew To relearn that iron pyrite rule The voters love an empty threat So tap the mic and let’s pretend It’s alright Stack up cinder blocks along the beach And take a bubble bath in bleach It’s alright You could fill a gilded toilet bowl With all the ways you lost control of this And clench your iron pyrite fist This country loves a broken heart So feel it up for plastic shards One last time It’s skin and bone and cellophane Its silicon and whiskey stain And pastime White men say that fools rush in But if a better world’s a garbage bin, ok Just end this iron pyrite age
10.
Hell We Earn 04:38
Go and throw a brick at a car See if you can jerk off a tear I’m just trying to get a hold of my heart It’s beating all the blood to my ears Now it’s the hottest part of the day I guess I shouldn’t walk here alone There ain’t nothing that can keep me away But that don’t mean I’m ever at home Tell me where I hurt you the most See if you can tell it apart From the bullet in the chest of your ghost The murmur in the back of your heart The thorn that you still got in your side From trying to separate the rose from the weeds Be careful who you look in the eye Unless you think you’re ready to see All the hell we pay All the hell we earn Every single day Leaves another burn If I make it out ok I just don’t know what it’s worth The iron in your vein is just the iron in the dirt So try to see it through to the end See if you get lost in the crowd But I can feel it every time I walk in I know that you don’t want me around I guess there’s really nothing to say At least there’s always something to see Maybe everything will turn out ok The rodeo can crucify me All the hell we pay All the hell we earn Every single day Leaves another burn If I make it out ok I just don’t know what it’s worth The iron in your vein is just the iron in the dirt Same sinking feeling, who wore it better? Pulling us apart and tearing us together Same sinking feeling, who wore it better Not everything gets better Not everything gets better
11.
Today I put my ear up to the grapevine I ain’t heard no good news here for a long time Just silent fields of things that grow in straight lines And crooked me So tonight I’ll put a barricade around me Cause I don’t trust nobody in this county But if this paranoia’s gonna drown me It might as well Before someone else does All the filthy little stars above the central valley know It’s not a bluff, it’s not a show All my bitterness below And all the filthy little things I only say when I’m alone They float right up through the windshield Let them ring out ‘cross the dome tonight I have seen the writing on the foam core These days every yard sale is a class war See ‘em lined up all the way around the corner For a slice of life If I give up all the clothes that don’t quite fit me Just in case there’s some else here here in this city Who would rather be invisible than pretty Or bullet-proof Make me bulletproof If all the filthy little stars above the central valley see That there are people less than free The threats are carved into the trees It’s just a filthy little secret for the universe to keep God, I know you saw it happen Don’t tell me to get some sleep, tonight, tonight And maybe I will make it to tomorrow See my neighbor with his 9:00am Modelo And a SuperLotto scratcher Desperate times and desperate measures Desperate times and desperate measures Tomorrow I’ll wake up in consternation And try to find a little strength and patience As the sky full of exhaust and constellations Fades to blue There’s work to do
12.
Now won't you come inside while the coffee's hot And tell me three good reasons why you want this job I don't think you got what this place demands, kid your resume look like Peter Pan's So you can walk out and leave the door wide open Walk out and leave the door wide open Now we've learned a few things since public school How to lock our cars and hold our booze Got two hospitals and a county jail It's a seven-hour wait and a three dollar bail And we walk out and leave the door wide open We walk out and leave the door wide open Walk out and leave the door wide open Walk out and leave the door wide open It's the last one standing gonna clean this dump If it ain't rock bottom, it's the third rung up Take your new religion, old mnemonics Burn that bridge while I'm still on it But if I walk out, leave the door wide open If I walk out, leave the door wide open Walk out, leave the door wide open Walk out, leave the door wide open

about

ASHES AND HOPE
Tracy Manuel was born and raised in the “other California” — Far NorCal, where the rivers run faster and the Internet runs slower. Starting her teenage years gigging in bars as a drummer, she went on to make a name for herself as a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter in the local country music scene, sharing the stage and studio with members of hometown hero Merle Haggard’s band. Manuel also got an underage glimpse of the inner workings of Redding — prominent on many “Most Miserable Towns of America” lists — and a growing obsession with how it got that way.

In her new genre-bending, self-produced album, Purgatory, CA, Manuel paints an unflinching portrait of coming of age in contemporary rural America. She stands witness to a multiplicity of devastations, from self-sabotage to harmful ideologies to natural — and unnatural — disasters. With most of the songs written months before her hometown was ravaged by the 2018 Carr Fire, these tales of ash and disillusionment reach beyond one community’s tragedy to reveal a national malaise.

Sonically, Purgatory, CA could be slotted somewhere between rootsy alt-country and electric freak-folk, but its big heart and mongrel affinities for melding tech twists to kick-ass rhythm and blues push it well into uncharted terrain. Supported by pedal and lap steel from Keith Cary, Manuel’s a multi-tracked one-woman band — she plays acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and drums while juicing up her sound with a host of effects buried deep in the mix. The stacked and blended overdrives, rhythmic delays, and rattling percussion swirl into a psychedelic sheen, summoning luminous soundscapes from traditional song forms. It’s all in service to Manuel’s resonant alto, which spans moods from introspective hesitance to bar-band swagger.

She segues with ease from bluesy rockers (like the barbed, anti-capitalist “Bootstrap Nation”) to “Late Bloomer,” an unsparing meditation on adolescence based on an exploding electric guitar riff, antiquated satellite pings, and otherworldly pedal steel effects that could have been sent straight from Sputnik. The title track weaves delicate, vibrato-laden Telecaster in and out of lucid observations from a small-town ER waiting room, catalyzing a chorus that scorns empty promises of the future.

Barely-there fingerpicking propels the bitter, nostalgic “Chocolate Kerosene.” Surrounded by reverberant electric guitar, the braided harmonies of the bridge evoke a mournful, old-timey thrill. Then, solo for the final line, Manuel repeats the reluctant two-word mantra in a choked whisper:

Maybe someday in the push and pull
I’ll crawl out of this burning bowl
And wonder why I ever cared
When smoke rose in my rear-view mirror
But I care, I care, I care, I care…

Fans of Hayes Carll’s thick-and-fast lyrical sensibility will appreciate the wry blues-rocker anti-anthem “Tread On Us.” Subverting high-ABV country-rock tropes, each overdriven riff pounds bravado into a pathos that still sounds like joy. The more stripped-down songs are equally potent: The weary “Hope These Days,” with its post-mortem tempo, lagging snare snaps, and snaky guitar work, recalls Lucinda Williams, and Manuel sings the verses of “Deja Boom,” a prescient warning to her calamity-prone hometown, accompanied only by solo guitar before unleashing a riot of bass, drums, and slide. And despite its technological underpinnings, the album’s deep country roots and elegiac theme can claim close kinship with Iris DeMent’s classic lament, “Our Town.”

Far Northern California has never garnered much attention in the news or the arts — too rural, too down-and-out, too problematic. With this ground- and heartbreaking album, it’s safe to say that Manuel has put it on the media map, establishing herself as an artist of consequence.

She also continues to amplify her message. Following this record release and her work as co-creator of UC Davis Center for Design in the Public Interest’s Outpatient Radio — an award-winning documentary on chronic pain — Manuel begins a graduate fellowship in community development to study resiliency and healing in struggling rural communities, focusing on her own. Maybe the other California will find some hope these days after all.

–Laurie O’Connell
Producer, World Imitation Productions: Meat Puppets, Monitor

credits

released September 25, 2018

Tracy Manuel
guitars, bass, drums, percussion, vocals

Keith Cary
lap steel, pedal steel

Jacob Aaron Rubanowitz
bass on "Hell We Earn" + secret track

M'Gilvry Allen — mgilvryallen.com
fiddle

Gabe Saron
mandolin

Recorded and mixed by Steve O'Neill at Foxtail Sound in Dixon, CA.

Mastered by Bruce Turgon at After Hours Recorders in Redding, CA.

All songs written, arranged, and produced by Tracy Jean Manuel (BMI).

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Tracy Manuel Davis, California

SiNgEr-sOnGwRiTeR

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