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Winter Wheat

by John K. Samson

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released October 21, 2016

Produced by
Christine Fellows and Jason Tait
Mixed by
Robbie Lackritz
Recorded by
Christine Fellows, Cam Loeppky, Shotgun Jimmie,
JKS, Greg Smith, and Jason Tait in Winnipeg at
Traditional Grip Audio, Argyle Studios, and at home
Mastered by
Philip Shaw Bova at Bova Lab Mastering in Ottawa
Layout and Design by
Mike Carroll
Artwork by
David Owen Lucas
Photography by
Leif Norman
Cat by
Paul Robles
Ashley Au
double bass, electric bass, vocals
Christine Fellows
piano, melodica, autoharp, baritone ukulele,
keyboards, vibraphone, vocals
Shotgun Jimmie
lead guitars on Postdoc Blues,
Vampire Alberta Blues, and Fellow Traveller
John K. Samson
vocals, acoustic, classical,
and electric guitars, Casio SK1
Greg Smith
electric bass
Jason Tait
drums, electric guitars, percussion,
vibraphones, keyboards, drones and sounds
Leanne Zacharias

All lyrics and songs C 2016 by John K. Samson,
except 17th Street Treatment Centre and VPW 13 Blues,
C 2016 by Christine Fellows and John K. Samson

All songs published by The JKS Concern (SOCAN)
and Songs Of The Mothership (ASCAP)

Grand Valley painting C 2009 by David Owen Lucas

JKS plays Beardsell Guitars, Wray Chapman’s Gibson J45,
and Mike Tait’s Martin GPCPA4

Additional equipment generously supplied by Al Beardsell,
Cam Loeppky, Keith McLeod, and David Schellenberg

Select All Delete, Capital, Vampire Alberta Blues, Carrie Ends the Call, and VPW 13 Blues were commissioned for Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers’ production of Brent Lott’s For the Turnstiles, inspired by Neil Young’s On the Beach.
Winter Wheat was written for Miriam Toews and her family, and premiered at Torn From the Pages in Toronto, May 2015.
Requests was commissioned for Erika
MacPherson’s film Heimþrá (In Thrall to Home).
Prayer for Ruby Elm was commissioned for
Erika MacPherson’s film May We Grow.
Oldest Oak at Brookside was commissioned by Camerata Nova.
Select All Delete, Vampire Alberta Blues, and VPW 13 Blues
cite Neil Young. Winter Wheat cites Miriam Toews.
Alpha Adept cites T.S. Eliot.
The end of Postdoc Blues was inspired by Active Hope,
by Chris Johnstone and Joanna Macy.
Fellow Traveller was encouraged by Rudy Rempel.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.

Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier,
le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie
des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.


all rights reserved



John K. Samson Winnipeg, Manitoba

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Track Name: Select All Delete
That hashtag wants me dead, but I don’t mind. It’s just another way we grieve for all the times we fail to be the ones we thought we had the chance to be. And when it gets too complicated, when you can’t get to sleep, when the morning seems impossible: select all delete. Select all delete. Select all delete.

I don’t mean to miss the good old days. The good old days were mostly bad. But I recall how dark the night got then, how absences could make me glad. So when it’s too illuminated, too loud and indiscreet. When it gets you stoned or gets you strange, select all delete. Select all delete. Select all delete.
Track Name: Postdoc Blues
So your presentation went terrible. All wrong dongle, sweat stains and stares. Leave the TV on with the sound down low, in your underwear. Don’t despair, you’ll get it right tomorrow night in Thunder Bay, maybe. Don’t delay, your day is short, you can’t afford to wait. I believe in you and your PowerPoints. I know why you can’t stay away. Out on Highway One with a rental car and a lot to say. Don’t despair, you’ll get it right tomorrow night in Nipigon, maybe. Don’t delay, our day is short, we can’t afford to wait. So take that laminate out of your wallet and read it, and recommit yourself to the healing of the world, and to the welfare of all creatures upon it. Pursue a practice that will strengthen your heart.
Track Name: Winter Wheat
Woke up in a parking lot, air-mattresses gone flat, the sun selecting targets for the shadows to attack. So make a visor with your hand and squint at where you’re from—a lonely line of buildings you can block out with your thumb. Salute the ways we tried. And no one knows we’re anywhere we’re not supposed to be, so stay awhile and watch the wind throw patterns on a field. This crop withstood the months of snow, the scavengers and blight, tuned every ear towards a tiny lengthening of light, and found a way to rise. We know this world is good enough because it has to be. Allow the hope that we will meet again, out in the winter wheat. Find me in the winter wheat.
Track Name: Requests
I want you to know what I forgive you for, now that you’re all ashes anyway. Every step into the river pushes you further away. I want you to hear the farm apologize for letting you believe you could return. I want you to dream in all the languages we couldn’t learn. I want you to write my name under your name, with the year I was born and you began to disappear. I want you to watch the generations sprawl, constellations in a northern sky. I want all the satellites to circle you when you arrive. I want every highway sign to remember we were here. I want you to take your time to disappear.
Track Name: Oldest Oak at Brookside
Before we built that smirking airport, before the phones told us where to go, before the strike, before the streetcar, before we read comics on the radio. Long before we found a way to gauge the coldest day. Before the flood, before the treaty, before we broke a promise to appear. Before we drew the new team logo. Before the taste of Malathion lingered here. Way before we skated down the Eaton Place Parkade, you were lifted by a blue jay, beating wings above a sea, with a wave of grazing bison and tallgrass prairie.

You were set in sandy soil, and stand, a mighty oak.
Track Name: Capital
So when they wonder where the money went, and we can’t swim here anymore, and bankers warble algorithmically from the shore, the stations pump the new austerity, the Ogallala Aquifer and crackling California reservoirs making sure we’re priced out of that old neighborhood for good.

The payday lonely pray in parking lots. A one bar WiFi kinda town. The pilot flares oppose another night coming down.
Track Name: 17th Street Treatment Centre
On the 21st day, the sun didn’t hate me, the food wasn’t angry, the bed didn’t sigh. The ceiling said it’s possible I might get my looks back, on the 21st day of my stay here. On the 21st day I danced through the 12 step, examined, admitted I’m powerless to. Sang the one about the spring the cat ran away, on the 21st day of my court-ordered stay here. The punk and the priest and the real estate agent, the girl with no teeth and the shaky marine, the Serbian dead-head who wears his sunglasses “so no one can see at my eyes.” In for three weeks or in for forever, here at the 17th Street Treatment Centre. Most of us probably not getting better, but not getting better together.
Track Name: Vampire Alberta Blues
Oh the vampire Alberta stalks across the money market rates and ducks into a Hummer. The vampire Alberta wears a bowtie and a pin that says Support the Arts. Yeah the vampire Alberta takes a photo for another slide in the PowerPoint of all the places we won’t remember. Oh the vampire Alberta wipes an oily mouth along
a sleeve of forest in the foothills. The vampire Alberta drools a perfect inky tailing pond, and shakes awake. The vampire Alberta lifts a nearly empty glass and pleads, “I need another one of these, and keep ’em coming.” Good times are coming.
Track Name: Carrie Ends the Call
So long living in between a tiny screen and a slightly larger screen, the loneliest way to stay alone. Your face frozen up in lines from milder climates and wilder times—I can’t watch it glitching

I know why you had to go. An ocean asked you to play another show. The mountains arranged for you to rhyme. I knew you would do your best, in vacuum tubes where the feedbacks nest, to make me smile. But it seems impossible now, from another December we will barely remember when summer arrives.

So so long living in between.
Track Name: Fellow Traveller
“After his statement, Blunt, who is now 72, broke down in tears. Then he left the Times looking a lonely figure, and pursued by pressmen.”
—BBC Nine O’Clock News, November 20, 1979

Rain for the last day that I will be known the way that I want them to know me. Rain for reporters’ predictable leads on the darkening stain of my name. Rain, like the morning you left with the International Brigade, the streak of your face at the glass
when the train pulled away. The aspidistra that refused to die;
a miniature camera in a Cambridge tie; to get that Soviet control to crack a smile. All in our file, my fellow traveller. Sleep for the telephone’s silent receiver on its beetle-black back in the hall. Sleep for the bottle that rolled off my desk and danced itself out on the floor. Sleep for the overturned ashtray splayed across an unmade bed, while I interrogate every word that I ever said. I fall from buildings into angry air, lecture my students in my underwear, but once I was allowed to dream of you instead,
my dear defected fellow traveller—how you booked your final passage with a passport that you paid for with a pair of roller skates, how you dyed your hair and moustache, put on a Mid-Atlantic accent but you couldn’t stop the shakes when they asked where you had come from, and you muttered, “That’s a good one,” that you were “never really certain.” Every umbrella down on Portman Square opens and closes to arraign our fair theory of something I can’t picture anymore: a forgery for my fellow travellers. I won’t wait to see. I still believe in you and me. My fellow traveller.
Track Name: Quiz Night at Looky Lou's
Quiz Night at Looky Lou’s, Quiz Night at Looky Lou’s, Quiz Night at Looky Lou’s, I trust you will know what to do.

I can’t recall what we were waiting in line for when the first plane fell a block away, and the next, even closer, massive thumps and flames, and then I woke up with a calico cat on my chest in the basement of a bar in Sudbury. I sang to it calmly with my mind and it obeyed my commands and slunk off to rub itself against the leg of a broken Terminator 2 pinball machine. I dream of the line and the falling planes once or twice a week these days, usually after a particularly challenging Quiz Night, which, for a reasonable fee and a place to sleep, I administer in bars and lounges across the land.

Quiz night at Looky Lou’s. Quiz night at Looky Lou’s. When we meet and I sing you this song with my mind you will know what you need to do.

The quiz I have developed is an elaborately coded message, a quiz within a quiz, answerable only by Alpha Adepts and Mind Singers. Each night I am certain they will reveal themselves to me. Each night I am disappointed. I must admit I am getting older, and years of folding my legs into a Greyhound seat every day is beginning to dull my powers, which were once considerable, and are now wasted, instructing cats or warding off the body odor of my fellow passengers. So when I saw you standing in line in the dream, I felt joyful and certain. When we finally meet tonight at Looky Lou’s Sports Tavern in Sioux Lookout, I will sing you the following song with my mind and hand you all my quiz materials. I trust you will know what to do.

Quiz night at Looky Lou’s. Quiz night at Looky Lou’s. When we meet and I sing you this song with my mind you will know what you need to do. Quiz night at Looky Lou’s. Quiz Night at Looky Lou’s. Quiz Night at Looky Lou’s. I trust you will know what to do.
Track Name: Alpha Adept
For now I know we are alone here, still we should be prepared to leave. I found a place where I have hidden supplies and books and sleeping bags. And I’ll sing in my prescriptions from our fort out in a forest near a stream. And they’ll place them in a tiny yellow sailboat and sail them to me.

All I can say is I’m excited. All I can do is let you know you are the one I want to be with when they return to claim the Earth for a planet near Orion’s belt where everyone is happier and tall, and they sing a billion stories with their minds while flying all around the sky.

I have heard them singing each to each, and who’s to say that they won’t sing to me. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to sing a song for you and me.
Track Name: Prayer for Ruby Elm
May the roots reach beneath the sleeping street,
station in the riverbed, register what we won’t hear.
May the leaves puzzle out the canopy,
shake and photosynthesize everything we’re sorry for
into one long breath of air.

May the ring of Tanglefoot and fibreglass
guard against the thunderstorm, cankerworms and climate change.
May the bark rub away the power line,
bandage over knots and burls, commemorate our injuries.
May the hydro worker’s blade be swift and precise.

May the rope remember all the rhymes for knots
to lift me up and lay me down, bear the swinging weight of love.
May the birds answer carabiner clicks,
carry off the tiny seeds of better ways to be alive.
May it all seem plausible:
wherever we land, may we grow.
Track Name: VPW 13 Blues
Back in those old punk-rock days, mornings were rough enough. Public Access volunteers, we were always, always in between micing up the Tec Voc choir, and waiting for our turn to play. We were here to take your call every telethon. We were keeping jive alive at the Beausejour Senior Centre Dance. Rolling down the driver’s side, toss an ember to the night.

We end this broadcast day, we knew that it was coming. We end this broadcast day, keep the camera running on the last time.
Track Name: Virtute at Rest
Now that the treatment and anti-depressants and seven months sober have built me a bed in the back of your brain, where the memories flicker, and I paw at the synapses, bright bits of string, you should know I am with you. Know I forgive you. Know I am proud of the steps that you’ve made. Know it will never be easy or simple. Know I will dig in my claws when you stray. So let us rest here, like we used to, in a line of late-afternoon sun. Let it rest—
all you can’t change. Let it rest and be done.

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