Warm Strangers (2004)

Released: February 24, 2004

1  Feather Moon
2  Harbor
3  Hope On Fire
4  Shine
5  Mission Street
6  My Medea
7  Shasta
8  Homecoming
9  Anna Rose
10  Passage
11  The Atheist Christmas Carol
12  Green Island Serenade [hidden track]


Lyrics

 

Feather Moon

 
feather moon
scarlet sky
living clouds
my blinded eye
waters black
wood in snow
dead of night
how bright you glow

breathe in breathe out
exhale and inhale

seven sins
god of stone
all is true
down to the bone
feather moon
scarlet sky
I love you endlessly
not knowing why
 
 
Jim Batcho – drums, percussion
Chris Carmichael – violins, viola
David Henry – cellos, euphonium
Vienna Teng – piano, vocals

words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

Harbor

 
we’re here where the daylight begins
the fog on the streetlight slowly thins
water on water’s the way
the safety of shoreline fading away

sail your sea
meet your storm
all I want is to be your harbor
the light in me
will guide you home
all I want is to be your harbor

fear is the brightest of signs
the shape of the boundary you leave behind
so sing all your questions to sleep
the answers are out there in the drowning deep

you’ve got a journey to make
there’s your horizon to chase
so go far beyond where we stand
no matter the distance
I’m holding your hand
 
 
Jim Batcho – drums, percussion
Chris Carmichael – viola
David Henry – bass, cello, horns
Jacob Lawson – violin
Robbie Shankle – oboe
Vienna Teng – piano, vocals, marimba

strings arranged by Chris Carmichael
words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

Hope On Fire

 
gotta fight gotta strike
’cause there’s no turning away
from what you don’t want to know
gotta see gotta be
if they’re all going astray
don’t let them take you in tow

you’re a one-man shift in the weather
you’re the woman who just won’t sell
climbing up and ringing the bell

ooh you’re gonna make your mark this time
ooh you’re gonna set your hope on fire

gotta leave gotta bleed
you’ve gotta stop lying still
’cause this is no kind of life
you don’t need guarantees
you just want something to build
before you turn to the knife

when the streets are aflood like a fever
it’s a holiday of the new
we’re coming closer now to the truth

gotta move gotta choose
you’ve got a difference to make
don’t watch it happen again
gotta change rearrange
something’s bending to break
it’s just a matter of when
 
 
Jim Batcho – drums, shakers, backing vocals, acoustic guitar
Chris Carmichael – violins
David Henry – bass, cellos, backing vocals, mandolin
Vienna Teng – piano, vocals, lowery organ

words by Vienna Teng
music by Vienna Teng, David Henry and Jim Batcho
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

Shine

 
in this desert land
I know some rain must fall
see where we began
we’ve come so far
on this harbor shore
we hear the ocean call
in our minds at war
we have so far to go

shine with all the untold
hold the light given unto you
find the love to unfold
in this broken world we choose

in unending storms
we search for space to breathe
how our hearts are worn
we’ve come so far
in this desert
how we blossom and we cease
tell your story now
we have so much to know
 
 
Jim Batcho – drums
Chris Carmichael – violins
David Henry – bass, cello
Vienna Teng – piano, vocals, wurlitzer, lowery organ

words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

Mission Street

 
Mission Street is a striking dark-eyed stranger
who speaks a language I don’t know but long to learn
its cadences fall endlessly beyond the windowpane
as I sit as though awaiting some return

and my hands are cold tonight
I’m sleepless in this dark
forgetting what it was I came to find
and it seems that I’ve been wrong
more than I’ve been right
more than I’ve been right

Mission Street calls out to me by name
then hurries on before I’ve hardly turned my head
promises of answers muttered underneath her breath
like an offering of contraband misread

and my hands are cold tonight
on the strings of this guitar
looking for the chords of what I’ve left behind
and it seems that I’ve been wrong
more than I’ve been right
more than I’ve been right

Mission Street is alive at every hour
like I’ve never been and feared I may not ever be
a light so steady on the mountains in the distance
a solitude so deep it might awaken me

well my hands are cold tonight
but the sky is bright with stars
and I’m tearing through the veil that keeps me blind
and it seems the more I’m wrong
the more that I am right
the more that I am right
 
 
Jim Batcho – percussion, programming, hi hat, coffee maker
David Henry – bass, cello, lots of acoustic guitar editing
Steve Herrman – flugelhorn, mariachi trumpet
Vienna Teng – acoustic guitar, piano, vocals, bag of bottles, broom

words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

My Medea

 
inside the labyrinth walls
there lies a tiny child who sleeps alone
and as the daylight falls
the wind becomes so wild across the stone

for I have made her prison be
her every step away from me
and this child I would destroy
if you tried to set her free

so come to me my love
I’ll tap into your strength and drain it dry
can never have enough
for you I’d burn the length and breadth of sky

for it’s my thoughts that bind me here
it’s this love that I most fear
and this child I would destroy
for I hold her pain most dear

no haven for this heart
no shelter for this child in mazes lost
heaven keep us apart
a curse for every mile of ocean crossed

for I must die for what I’ve done
a twist of fate a desert sun
for I see what I destroy
sweet reflection knife into me
for I see what I destroy
I can see what I’ve begun
 
 
Jim Batcho – percussion, drums, rhythm programming, bowed cymbal, piano preparation
Chris Carmichael – violins, viola
David Henry – cello
Robbie Shankle – english horn
Vienna Teng – piano, vocals, wurlitzer, prepared piano, piano strings, hyperventilating

words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

Shasta

 
so far so good
you’re coming to the bend at the end of the road
you put a hand to the belly that’s foreign more
with every day like an oversize load

and you’re thinking about clouds the color of fire
and the scent of an orange peel
the way Mt. Shasta explodes into windshield view
and your hands steady on the wheel

so far so good
coffee motel coffee diner coffee go on
styrofoam is drying like the tears that once did flow
starting 10 o’clock and ending at dawn

and you can’t go back but you’re going back
and you don’t know what you’ll say
you’ve got half-formed sentences
explanations for a life half-broken away
and they just may
they’ll take you in their arms and then take out their knives
so you drive on thinking

so far so good
but you can’t go on much longer like this you know
you’re all alone in this world no that’s not true
the nice Christian lady told you so

she was handing out pamphlets by the clinic door
saying “Jesus knows what you’ve been through
take the Savior into your heart my child
there’s love waiting for the both of you”

well you don’t believe but you have to believe
it’s still crumpled there in your back seat
were you the hero or the worst kind of coward back there
putting pavement back under your feet
couldn’t stand the heat
couldn’t stand the thought of ghosts with a negative age
turn the page
OK

so far so good
you try to sing along to the radio
but it’s not your language not your song
it’s from some other time ago

and you’re thinking about how someone died that day
the you that was so carefully planned
but then again maybe this life is like a sleeping mountain
waking up to shape the land

calm calm let it come let it come back to you
calm calm breathe on out you know you know what to do
 
 
Jim Batcho – drums, percussion
David Henry – bass, guitar
Steve Herrman – trumpet
Vienna Teng – piano, vocals, lowery organ

words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

Homecoming

 
it’s desert ice outside but this diner has thawed my ears
hot coffee in a clean white mug and a smile when the waitress hears
that I was born in North Carolina
not an hour from her home town
and we used to play the same pizza parlor pinball

and there’s a glance in time suspended as I wonder how it is
we’ve been swept up just by circumstance to where the coyote lives
where my days are strips of highway
and she’s wiping tables down
holding on and still waiting for that windfall

but I’ve come home
even though I’ve never had so far to go
I’ve come home

I pay the check and leave the change from a crumpled ten-dollar bill
head across the street where VACANCY is burning in neon still
well the night eats up my body heat
and there’s no sign of another
and I find myself slipping down into that black

but things are good I’ve got a lot of followers of my faith
I’ve got a whole congregation living in my head these days
and I’m preaching from the pulpit
to cries of “Amen brother”
closing my eyes to feel the warmth come back

and I’ve come home
even though I swear I’ve never been so alone
I’ve come home

I just want to be living as I’m dying
just like everybody here
just want to know my little flicker of time is worthwhile
and I don’t know where I’m driving to
but I know I’m getting old
and there’s a blessing in every moment every mile

thin white terry bars of soap and a couple little plastic cups
old Gideons Bible in the nightstand drawer saying “Go on open up”
well I’ll kneel down on the carpet here
though I never was sure of God
think tonight I’ll give Him the benefit of the doubt

I switch off the lights and imagine that waitress outlined in the bed
her hair falling all around me
I smile and shake my head
well we all write our own endings
and we all have our own scars
but tonight I think I see what it’s all about

because I’ve come home
I’ve come home
 
 
Jim Batcho – drums,
David Henry – upright bass, vocal
Will Kimbrough – slide and acoustic guitars
Vienna Teng – piano, vocal, lowery organ

words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

Anna Rose

 
Anna Rose sleep well tonight
the stars are dancing on the carpet of the sky
time to close your wondering eyes
where I see the sleepiness creeping

Anna Rose it makes my heart smile
to know you give love so freely
Anna Rose it makes it worthwhile
your love makes me see things so clearly
how it grows heaven knows
Anna Rose sleep well tonight

Anna Rose it’s time to dream
I see that your imagination knows no bounds
there it flows like some magical stream
and carries you on its journey

Anna Rose it makes my heart smile
to know you give love so freely
Anna Rose it makes it worthwhile
your love makes me see things so clearly
how it grows heaven knows
Anna Rose dream well tonight
 
 
Chris Carmichael – violin
David Henry – cello
Vienna Teng – piano, vocal

words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

Passage

 
I died in a car crash two days ago
was unrecognizable
when they pulled me from the gears
no one’s fault, no one’s bottle
no one’s teenage pride or throttle
our innocence is all the worse for fears
the other walked away alive
arms wrapped now around his wife

my lover sits, the silent eye
in a hurricane of warmth and word
my mother trembles with the sobs
whose absence seems absurd
my sister shouts to let her see
through the cloud of crowd surrounding me
my colleagues call for silence in my name

I died in a car crash three months ago
they burned me until I glowed
and crumbled to a fine gray sand
now I am nothing, everywhere
several breaths of strangers’ air
and all thoughts ever written in my hand
they plant my tree out in the yard
it grows but takes the winter hard

my lover holds a knife to wrist
says tomorrow comes, hold on a while
my mother tosses in the sheets
and dreams me holding my own child
my sister plays our homemade tapes
laughs as tears run down her face
my office door now wears a different name

I died in a car crash four years ago
my tree drinks melted snow
just eight feet tall a pale and fragile thing
bee stings beaches bright vacations
sunburnt high-school graduations
a sparrow healing from a broken wing
this year a glimpse of second chances
tiny apples on my tree’s branches

my lover hears the open wind
and crawls blinking into the sun
my mother leafs through photographs
and thinks "yes she was a lovely one"
my sister can’t decide her truth
asks aloud what I might do
in a conference hall my brief efforts engraved

I died in a car crash
a lifetime ago it seems
a decade or two or three
they’ve come out with a new design
bars and bags front and behind
my fate now an impossibility
safely packaged hurtling down
the highway hardly make a sound

my lover very much alive
arms wrapped now around his wife
 
 
Vienna Teng – vocal

words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP

 

The Atheist Christmas Carol

 
it’s the season of grace coming out of the void
where a man is saved by a voice in the distance
it’s the season of possible miracle cures
where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown
where time begins to fade
and age is welcome home

it’s the season of eyes meeting over the noise
and holding fast with sharp realization
it’s the season of cold making warmth a divine intervention
you are safe here you know now

don’t forget
don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

it’s the season of scars and of wounds in the heart
of feeling the full weight of our burdens
it’s the season of bowing our heads in the wind
and knowing we are not alone in fear
not alone in the dark
 
 
Jim Batcho – cymbals, snare drum
David Henry – cello
Vienna Teng – piano, vocal

words and music by Vienna Teng
© 2003 Soltruna Music/ASCAP