Halfway Decent

by Tracy Jean Manuel

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    The Halfway Decent physical package: 14 tracks snugly wrapped in original artwork and shipped to your door. This bonus track version of the album includes two exclusive, solo acoustic alternate takes not included in the downloadable incarnation.

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This album was recorded in two weeks' worth of housesitting, edited/mixed/mastered in two months' worth of headphone hair, and eventually wrassled into completion at the end of an entire summer's worth of nervous eating. All vocal and instrumental tracks were laid down one at a time in front of one mic inside a pillow fort in a living room. Additional electronic texturing (thanks to my brother Greg) helped to flesh out the initial arrangements via the use of sampled instruments and digital effects.

Due to this project’s inherent mishing and mashing of processes, genres, and philosophies, the resulting album is a DIY Frankenstein stranded somewhere between familiar singer/songwriter schtick and the whooshing sonic backwoods of the universe. It’s one part barehanded, homemade folk and one part something else entirely. I hope you’ll unearth something you like in there.

A heartfelt, unconditional, and preemptive THANK YOU to anyone who takes the time to listen. And feel free to drop a line! (Or throw a rope.) I’d sure be glad to hear your thoughts.

Yours in trial ’n’ error,



released August 16, 2012

Music & lyrics, arrangements, vocals, tenor ukulele, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, percussion, "mixing," "mastering," cover art/visual development, all odds to all ends -- Tracy Manuel

Electronics, piccolo sampling, religious aestheticism, MIDI stuff, omni-consulting, sauce cooking -- Greg Manuel

Harmony vocals on Glass Hymn and Move On Through -- Torri Pratt and Jim Dyar

Thanks to Chris Schiller and Bethany Schaarschmidt for the super-stupendous studio space.

Also, big ol' thanks to team Tripleshack for unreasonable generosity and support.

Also-also, thanks to Mama Bear for copyediting.



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Tracy Jean Manuel Redding, California

Alt-folk singer/songwritin' for nice people who don't like love songs.

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Track Name: Glass Hymn
Glass Hymn (Lyrics)

Will another morning be enough to wake you
From all you knew could only do you harm?
Will all in all the troubles that have raised you
Wake to find you missing from their arms?

Or would you stay behind and lonely 'til the harvest
And tend to every moment come to pass?
When all the world is poured out into darkness
Will they pull you from the bottom of the glass?

When all the world is poured out into darkness
Will they pull you from the bottom of the glass?
Track Name: Halfway Decent People
Halfway Decent People (Lyrics)

Oh, those halfway decent people of the village where I’m from
Halfway where they’re going and halfway where they’ve come
Sharin’ half a history of what they seen and done
And a little yellow star to light up half the world at once

Those halfway decent people, they don’t know half the mess they’re in
Halfway between the middle and the middle of the end
And half don’t have a clue about half of what’s been did
They say it ain’t half bad but that’s exactly what it is

One day,
Those halfway decent people, they decided it was time
To give up half their problems, so they drew a halfway line
'Till they could hardly see across and to the other side
Where half kept all the reason and half kept all the rhyme

And those halfway decent people, they still carry on that way
Burnin’ half of every bridge; half of every soul is saved
Some got half a mind to leave, but I figure that it takes
More than half a mind to know to go and less than half to stay

So they stay.
Track Name: New Work Song Of Dirty Irv
New Work Song Of Dirty Irv (Lyrics)

Now Irv, he don’t no longer pack a gun under his hat
He just put his last ten dollars toward a collared shirt and slacks
New job ain’t half as steady as his trigger finger been
Pull it all the way to Friday, now an outlaw’s never in

He says:
“Now the boot is on the other foot and I’m the one afraid
Irony is 90-proof; I’ve had all I can take
Sleep with one eye open, newfangled modern day
Done shot the bluebird off my shoulder from 8,000 feet away.”

(“And I am not okay.”)

Now Irv’s starin’ down the barrel of a gas and 'lectric bill
And he’s truckin’ to the drugstore for his whiskey and his pills
Where the boy behind the counter says, “How can I help you?”
And Irv says, “If you only knew, son, if you only knew.”

“Cause I got nothin’ left to lose, and I know that I don’t fit
I was born with three tattoos and with this snakebite on my lip
And I got the new world blues and I’m so tired that I’m sick
After all that I been through, you gonna tell me this is it?”

“I guess I’m just a hired gun
For any side, for anyone
I know how far I haven’t come.”

“I only been a hired gun
Hate to think on what I done
I know I’m not the only one.”

“I guess everyone’s a hired gun
Everyone’s a hired gun
Never we been nothin’ but.”

“Never we been nothin’ but.”
Track Name: Ghost Song
Ghost Song (Lyrics)

This town got no room for a ghost
'Tween the dust and the cigarette smoke
And the words in the air so thick
'Cause they fall so slow

But he says, “I’m beginning to see
I got nowhere better to be
Spent my life killing time till time
Came back and killed me.”

“Now I feel the days getting slower
They’re still as the air I don’t breathe
This place just ain’t the same as it used to be
Or maybe it’s me
Or maybe it’s me.”

Then he said, “Bein’ dead is okay
Can’t tell much the difference it makes
At the end of the day
You can say you lost weight.”

“And even now, I really don’t mind
People looked through me for most of my life
And they found what they wanted to find
In the back of their minds
The whole time.”

“So maybe I’ll head back down the coastline
Find me a place to rest by the shore
Right now this town ain’t how it was before
I’m not really there anymore
I’m not anywhere anymore
And I’m dead sure.”

“Now, everyone gets the call home
But some folks don’t pick up the phone
I stayed behind and I ran for my life
Down here below.”

“And if I gotta die ten times over
There are some things that I’ll never know
Like why I did what I did
And where I’ll go
When I go.”
Track Name: Move On Through
Move On Through (Lyrics)

Someday, someday in your old hometown
There’ll be no one left walkin’ that warm, hard ground
Everywhere you been, everyone you knew
Well, they came and went, yeah, they moved on through

I remember watching lightning near
When the clouds rolled over; didn’t shed no tear
Set the hills aflame, nothin’ we could do
'Cept watch and wait for it to move on through

Move on through, move on through, move on through
Ain’t nothin’ left 'round here
Better move on through

And no one listens to an honest man
'Till he hit rock bottom, finds a place to stand
And then he goes missin’, must’ve found the truth
Must’ve took it with him when he moved on through

Move on through, move on through, move on through
Ain’t nothin’ left 'round here
Better move on through

Do I cross your heart? Do I cross your mind?
Why can’t I cross them both at the same damn time?
Got my doubts, just as so do you
But it’s over now, time to move on through

Sometimes you can’t go over and you can’t go under
And you can’t go around, no you can’t go around
When you can’t go around, no; what do you do?
Well, you settle on down now, and you move on through

Yeah, you settle on down now, and you move on through
Yeah, you settle on down and you move on through.
Track Name: Bottlebrush Ruins
Bottlebrush Ruins (Lyrics)

Now, it’s not like
You’ve been marking the days with a pocketknife
Only made up half a mind, or no
Wipe out the lines under your eyes and go
So mark that trail and stack the stones
When the sunset came, it came too close
For comfort last night, no
There ain’t nowhere left to go

Now, everyone here
Been waiting on that light to change
This place has got a way of making you relate
To songs about booze and devils and trains
Hey, it ain’t your words; ain’t your choice
But you better say ‘em if you got ‘em
It takes a village to raise a voice

I think I see the problem

It’s nothing new,
Bottlebrush ruins.

Now it’s cold as the stone, cold as the night
Cold on your face, turn away from the light
Cold on the river, oh, pavement shivers
California frozen like a TV dinner
So serve it up, stand and deliver
With nowhere to run, nowhere to hide
One small step for man or mankind,
You put one foot forward
And you leave one behind

You leave one behind.

You been drinking from the tap
Tryin’ to wash it from your mouth
Gotta hand in the cookie jar; mind in the gutter, now
I betcha never wonder how you’re ever getting out, how
How you’re ever getting out

Of them bottlebrush ruins.
Track Name: Every Little Bird
Every Little Bird (Lyrics)

You were born the rust belt child
You grew tall and the grass grew wild
Wanna fake your death like you faked a smile
For the photo in your hand

But a picture’s worth the thousand words
You’ll never have to say you heard
They’ll love you any way they’ve learned
All the reasons that you can’t

Now, heaven ain’t nothin’ but a place to stay
Long enough to fill the tank and forget the name
And you shut the door, get on your way
The world grows ever wider

So fly off somewhere if you think you can
If you do you’re damned; if you don’t you’re damned
Take God and country by the hand
And see who holds on tighter

I’ll leave it to you, every little bird knows
That you’re never, ever, ever gonna fly away home
Or so, so you like to hope
Leave it to me, every little bird knows
There’s nowhere you can turn when you turn to go
Or so you hope that it ain’t so

You took off in the dead of night
With your heart split open and your cheek on ice
Knowing it’s so hard to put up a fight
When you don’t like where you stand

But you left the ring, you chased that star
Now we don’t know who or where you are
I betcha can’t forget where you got that scar
That you keep on the back of your hand

I’ll leave it to you, every little bird knows
That you're never, ever, ever gonna fly away home
Or so, so you like to hope
Leave it to me, every little bird knows
Nowhere you can turn when you turn to go
Or so you hope that it ain’t so
Track Name: Polyester Hester
Polyester Hester (Lyrics)

Polyester Hester (a hurricane must’ve dressed her)
But suck it in, Girl, don’t you waste your breath
Nothin’ comes between this nation and cut-off circulation
For the best

Still, nature don’t come calling wrapped in cotton poly
Or standin’ in the shoes that you have on
I don’t think you’d recognize it
From the leopard-printed lycra on your arm

They’ll want you to change
Quit your colors and your schemes
It’s so hard to stay awake
When life is but a dream

Everybody’s tryin’
To tell you what to do
But how would they know what you’re buyin’
If they hadn’t bought in too?

Polyester Hester, you’re the queen o’ Neo-Western
But don’t you hitch your skirt to somethin’ that won’t stay
You’ll have to let it all unravel
By the time you fly to heaven, what the HEY

Most won’t be so sympathetic when half of you’s synthetic
And out there you can bet it’s gonna be
But I’d take 50/50 any day
No, that don’t sound too bad to me

But don’t you ever mind
Let nothing you dismay
Keep on wearin’ what you like
And call it good or call it great

'Cause there will come a day
When what is real and what is actual
Might not matter anyway
And that’s the truth unnatural

That’s the truth unnatural.
Track Name: Devil Song
Devil Song (Lyrics)

I met the devil in the hardware store
And he told me what he was lookin’ there for
Took a couple of hammers and a jigsaw too
Turns out everybody here got work to do

So I followed him down to the end of the aisle
Wonderin’ what in the hell could be worth his while
He said, “The things you build with your two hands
Might not stand for nothin’, maybe they just stand.”

“Maybe they just stand
Might not stand for nothing, maybe they just stand.”

I met the devil in the pastry shop
Just a-leanin’ on the counter with a smile when he talked
Dropped 15 dollars for a chocolate cake
Offered me a piece, I said, “That’s okaaaay.”

He took a box of matches and he shook one out
Lit himself a birthday candle and he blew it down
When I asked him, he said, “Truth be told
I think both good and evil been getting old.”

“They been getting old
Both good and evil been getting old.”

I met the devil down a dead end road
He said, “You shouldn’t be here; better get yourself home."
And I says, "Sure I’ll go, but when I do
How do I know you won’t be following too?”

“'Cause I’ve been bitter and I’ve been blind
You’ve always tipped your hat to me in kind
You’ve been a friend, but heaven knows
I think we both could use some time alone.”

“Some time alone
I think we both could use some time alone.”
Track Name: This Machine Won't
This Machine Won’t (Lyrics)

Draw another line
To tear yourself in two
You’ll die broke in time
So don’t you break too soon

Wait to realign
Your every moving part
Moving on is fine
But moving is a start

And that day
Is coming soon
Won’t you take
The rest of you?

Don’t you run for cover
Don’t you cry no more
This machine won’t kill nothin’
That ain’t been killed before

Some will never be
Alright with what is wrong
And they’ll take what’s left of me
And fix it for a song

But if every bit and piece
Got somewhere to belong
Then, no, I just don’t see
What’s taking them so long

No, I don’t see
Set me down
Where I should be

Where the circuit is unbroken
And I’ll be on the mend
This machine won’t kill nothin’
That won’t come back again

This machine won’t kill nothin’
That won’t come back again.