LYRICS: & you know you’re getting towards the end when your only friend is the bottle in your hand. & you know you can’t get any lower when you’re never sober to feel the pain. So tell me how am I supposed to feel, when I don’t want to feel a thing? Tell me how am I supposed to be, when I can’t ever let it be? I can’t let it be, it’s just the way I deal. & you can save up your whole life, but you can never buy love because it comes for free. But is it worth the price you’ll pay? For a heavy heart will outweigh the cost in the end. So tell me how am I supposed to feel, when I don’t want to feel a thing? Tell me how am I supposed to be, when I can’t ever let it be? I can’t let it be, it’s just the way I deal. In the game of life, in the game of love, it’s just how I deal.
INTERPRETATION: I could sit here & analyze my every anxiety, mine the depths of my neuroses & equivocate each resulting indulgence… but I won’t. I suppose any dilemma can be either accosted or avoided, sometimes it’s easier to choose the ladder. As Bukowski put it, “That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; & if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”
INSPIRATION: Deal, along with a few other tracks off the first half of Shadowlands, was originally written as potential material for an Americana folk-rock band some friends & I attempted to establish in the mid/late 00’s. Writing specifically within the milieu of country-western & roots rock genres made it that much easier to willingly do-si-do down into the Americana rabbit hole. & while nothing much ever came of our little revival rock dry run, I ultimately emerged from the proverbial whiskey-soaked Wonderland with a pocketful of folk tunes & a hankerin’ to continue writing ‘em… or so the story goes.
INSIGHT: The journey a folk song will take from its intimate inception to its eventual recorded studio version can often be rather drastic. By the time you track drums, bass, auxiliary instrumentation, keys, & backing vocals, what began as a minimal expression quickly builds into a layered orchestration. This was the case for many of the songs on Shadowlands, though not for Deal. I had always envisioned the studio version adhering to a traditional country-western mix; rustic steel-string acoustics, shimmery Telecaster vibratos, soaring tonewheel organ, cool upright bass, warm brush kit, clean vocals with natural room reverb, etc. What I hadn’t expected was to incorporate structural space for a righteous piano solo, courtesy of mastermind Matthew Smith?! He reached down & pulled that one deep out of the Summerteeth era Wilco wilderness – totally sells the tune. I can’t image the arrangement now without it.