Cluck Old Bull

by Steven Sherrill w/Harold Taddy

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about

Cluck Old Bull: a soundtrack ​liner notes
​​​*from The Minotaur’s thoughts on poetry, by Miroslav Holub

​Certainly this thing exists.
​Because
​a thousand bulls want to be
​human.
​And vice versa.

Here, friends, hear. My Minotaur (from The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break and the brand new The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time) rears his horny head in sound and song. In collaboration with the musically genius Harold Taddy, we've made this full length CD that refuses category. It is experimental. It is Folk, Americana, Old Time, Electronic, and more. The Bull struggles. The Bull yearns. Succeeds and fails gloriously. There are banjos aplenty.

The idea for the record came in December 2015, when Taddy emailed to say he was looking for a new project. Asking if I would write lyrics for a couple songs. I didn’t know him, the Taddness. But we had been in each other’s local orbits for a while. He provided musical brilliance for two of my literary events. And I knew, without doubt, though without being able to articulate it, that he carried, and manifested, his own Bull in his sonic soul. After resisting my Bull for so long before succumbing, I had just completed the final revisions on The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time, and I had made half a dozen Minotaur paintings by then. Taddy’s request lit a fuse.

I have something of a magical basement, filled with paintings and musical instruments and sound-making toys, but I was nascent in my musical life. Tentative. Fearful. Taddy’s request opened a door in my mind. Cluck Old Bull was conceived and recorded in a fervor, a furious back and forth email collaboration, in January, February, and March of 2016. I recorded individual files on an outdated Tascam Digital 8 track (haphazard messy noise) then sent them to Taddy who made magic happen in his sound studio. Sometimes I just sent lyrics, and Taddy added another kind of magic. It was a very fluid, intuitive, collaboration, one idea lighting fire to the next. In the end we are both very proud of and bedazzled by the experience and the record that came out of it. To be sure, other projects are in the works.

Cluck Old Bull tells the story of my Minotaur through sound and song. The irony is not lost that my Bull struggles mightily with speech, with communication. The narrative arc, sometimes subtle and sometimes raw, is crafted with intention. In the story I draw heavily (but not exclusively) from the themes and details of my novels and paintings. And most clearly from my own life and upbringing.
And let it be known, we are not finished with this old man beast.



Cluck Old Bull​: a soundtrack​ ​Steven Sherrill w/Harold Taddy

1. “Wail Old Bull and Moan” The Minotaur in his Labyrinth. Dark. Utterly alone.
Music by Steven Sherrill​Magic by Harold Taddy
(Sherrill: Shruti Box, Percussion, Guitar, Electric Kalimba, Shanty Pants, Theremin.)

2. “And Is He Born to Die/The Minotaur’s Lament”​Deep in the old Bull’s psyche, his
dreams reveal his Humanity.
Lyrics by Sherrill​Music & Magic by Taddy
(Annalisa Barron: Vocals; Taddy: Guitar, voice, vocalizations; Alyson Kate: Voice; Sherrill: Shruti Box.)

​And Is He Born to Die
In the gall of sleep, dreams the Minotaur
his mother’s desire. She lies
with the fishmonger, his fingers, slick and silver
She lies in the halibut’s migrating eye.
The comb of the harlequin cock.
With the heifer and the ox.
She lies with Lot’s daughters. She lies
With the foreskins of a hundred Philistines.
And nobody wonders why.
With the drum and with the drummer.
With the milk pail fresh from the udder.
And cloven hoof and crimson madder
She lies with tyger stripes. She lies
On death death death death death row.
Lies too in the stropped shadow
of Crow’s beak. Lies quiet among clacking looms.
She lies with cornbread and beans,
And with two thieves, and in red clay.
She lies, she lies, she lies.

The Minotaur’s Lament
The Minotaur dreams of his past as if it were tomorrow. Yearns
For the thick hide gauntlets that singe against the heat, his heat,
that stiffen and split with age, as if they were still flesh.
For the scratch awl and punch. The need for calibration. Yearns.
For the blueprint
For the malleable heart.
For the brittle heart.
For the shear and the press and everything sharp, tongued out on the lathe.
For the give and take of the ballpeen hammer.
For the arc, struck and sustained. The sliver of fire
that finds and claims for its own a piece of my flesh.
For everything that is not soft, and in my life.
For the meadow near Cnossus, where the hyacinth petals
turn and turn out like so many palms refusing applause. Yearns and yearns.
Think of me Pasiphae, in your moment of cramped ecstasy. Yearns and yearns.


3. “Crow’s Stump Speech” ​The Bull finds an unlikely, but fitting, ally.
Magic by Taddy
(Sherrill: Crow Call; Taddy: Sound construction/manipulation.)

4. “Mirror Mirror”​The Minotaur faces his plight, finds his footing, gathers momentum.
Music & Magic by Taddy
(Taddy: Percussion; Kent Fairman Wilson: Cello.)

5. “Dreams the Minotaur”​Here the Bull beings to imagine other ways, other lives.
Lyrics by Sherrill ​Music & Magic by Taddy
(Barron: Vocals; Taddy: Percussion, Electronics.)

In the gall of sleep, dreams the Minotaur
his mother’s desire. She lies
with the fishmonger, his fingers, slick and silver
She lies in the halibut’s migrating eye.
The comb of the harlequin cock.
With the heifer and the ox.
She lies with Lot’s daughters. She lies
With the foreskins of a hundred Philistines.
And nobody wonders why.
With the drum and with the drummer.
With the milk pail fresh from the udder.
And cloven hoof and crimson madder
She lies with tyger stripes. She lies
On death death death death death row.
Lies too in the stropped shadow
of Crow’s beak. Lies quiet among clacking looms.
She lies with cornbread and beans,
And with two thieves, and in red clay.
She lies alone.

6. “Idumea”​The Old Bull finds his way into pathos, onto the tongue of ragged faith.
Traditional Lyrics by Charles Wesley
(Steven Sherrill: Vocals)

And am I born to die?
To lay this body down!
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown
A land of deepest shade
Unpierced by human thought
The dreary regions of the dead
Where all things are forgot
Soon as from earth I go
Must then my portion be!
Eternal happiness or woe
What will become of me?

7. “Out of Chaos, Out of Eros, Out of Earth’s Prolific and Indiscriminate Womb Begot”​The Minotaur wants. The Minotaur needs. The Minotaur believes.
Lyrics by Sherrill​Music by Taddy
(Taddy: layered vocals, Electronics.)

​​​Out of Chaos, out of Eros, out of Earth’s prolific and indiscriminate womb begot.
Arise. All rise. Rise all.
Gnaw the ocean of bones at your feet. The chiseled heaven above you, gore.
Arise. All rise. Rise all.
Beats the Taurean heart against a cage made of horn. The blood of a man pounds your veins.
Arise. All rise. Rise all.
Arise. All rise. Rise all.
Arise. All rise. Rise all.
Arise. All rise. Rise all.

8. “The Minotaur’s Hoedown”​Sun warms the old snout, heats up the dulled horn tips.
Music & Lyrics by Sherrill​​Magic by Taddy
(Sherrill: Vocals, Shruti Box, Oil Can Banjo, Dobro Banjo, Cello Banjo)
Old bull, raise your head.
*This was the very first track, first conceived, first recorded. The lyrics, spontaneous.

9. “Stampede of One”​The Minotaur remembers. Remembers what he is capable of.
Music & Lyrics by Sherrill​​Magic by Taddy
(Taddy: Vocals; Sherrill: guitar, percussion, Shanty Pants, Vietnamese Mouth Harp {Dan Moi}.)

10. “What is Bound Will Not Be Bound”​ Here, for better or worse, the Bull breaks free of his
​bondage.
Lyrics by Sherrill​​Music & Magic by Taddy
(Taddy: Vocals, percussion, Electronics.)

You think geometry will be enough. You are wrong.
Boom clang! Boom clang!

You think, again, ad nauseum, geometry will be enough. You are right.
Boom clang, motherfucker. Boom clang!

You think the stapled planks anchor. Enough.
Black twine wound around black twine.
Boom clang!

Cage this, you think. Cage that. The packed trunk contains whatever it contains.
Boom clang, motherfucker.

See how the brass hinges wink against the dust. Hear, the books in flight
gnashing their silly old chapters. As if. As if. As if.
Boom. Clang.

"I once knew a boy..." and you tuck the whole story into an empty shoe.
Bite your tongue. "Remember that time I....with that thing I..."
You've made your bed. Now. Lie. In it.
Boom clang. Boom clang. Boom clang, motherfucker. Boom clang!

11. “Bull Charms Snake” The Minotaur grows confident. Sassy. Seductive. Though misguided.
Music by Sherrill​Magic by Taddy
(Sherrill: Electric Oil Can Banjo as banjo and percussion, Dobro Banjo, Cello Banjo as banjo and percussion.)

12. “I Know a Boy”​Desire burns. Brands the flesh. Bites to the bone.
Music & Lyrics by Sherrill​Magic by Taddy
(Sherrill: Vocals, Dobro Banjo, Shruti Box, percussion.)

I know a boy. I know a bull, made of mirror.
I know a boy made of hoof ​made of snout ​ made of empty
I know a bull divided by two. I know a boy and he knows you
I know a boy made of Stones. All of them
I know a bull made of you. Made of me. Made of us. Made of us.
I know a dervish made of man, spin if you dare
I know a boy made of bellows. Made of roar.
Tell me about the ocean she says. And I do. Watch us drown.

13. “Bull Sings Her Praise”​Love hits hard.
Music by Taddy and Sherrill​​Lyrics by John Newton
(Sherrill: Vocals, Keyboard, Synthesized Kalimba, Shanty Pants, drums, Cello Banjo percussion; Taddy: vocalizations, synths, madness.)
​​Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…

14. “Cluck Old Bull” Cocky. Arrogant. The Bull oversteps. Goes too far.
Music & Lyrics by Sherrill​Magic by Taddy
(Sherrill: vocals, oil can banjo, cello banjo, dobro banjo, shruti box.)

My old bull’s good old bull.
He might plow but he won’t pull

Had a little bull, put him on a spit
He looked me in the eye,
Said I don’t give a shit.

Had a little bull, he had a wooden leg
Ask him real nice and he’ll lay a wooden egg.

Cluck old bull, cluck and plow

Stuck my little bull right behind the plow
Kicked me in the head said I don’t know how

Cluck old bull​Cluck and moan
Tell me what you know ‘bout this old soup bone.


15. “Mongrel Goes a-Courtin’” The Minotaur wallows in his beast essence.
Music & Lyrics by Sherrill​Magic by Taddy
(Sherrill: vocals, guitars; Taddy: voice and sound manipulation.)
Ten thousand bulls. ​​​​Ten thousand men.
Ten thousand bulls. ​​​​Ten thousand men.
It’s aww-llll​​pink!​​on the in-si-da!

Whittle them teeth. And strop that tongue.
Whittle your teeth. And strop my tongue.
It’s all​​pink​on the in-side.

We’re gonna put on​our big boy boots
We’re gonna put on​our big boy boots
It’s all​​pink​on the in-side.

Ride ‘em cow-boyeeeeeeee
Stomp stomp stomp stomp Stomp stomp stomp stomp

Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
It’s all​​pink​on the in-side.

All them polyglots ​want to get in your pants
All them polyglots ​want to get in your pants
It’s all​​pink​on the in-side.

Got a matador heart ​got a hoodoo spine
Got a matador heart ​got a hoodoo spine
It’s all​​pink​on the in-side.
Ride ‘em​cow-boyeeeeeeee!
Stampede of one.
Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
It’s all​​pink​on the in-side.

Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men.
Ten thousand bulls. Ten thousand men-a
Who’s ​the monster now?

16. “Mirror Mirror, Reprise”​Hold tight, Big Boy.
Music & Magic by Taddy​Lyrics by Sherrill
(Taddy: vocalizations, electronics; Sherrill: vocals and vocalizations.)

17. “Utterance” Here, the Minotaur makes one final plea.
Music & Lyrics by Sherrill​​Magic by Taddy
(Sherrill: Udu drum, shanty pants, Theremin, electric kalimba, shruti box, vocals and vocalizations.)

A b c d…goddamn it…a b c d e f g.

18. “The Minotaur at Prayer” Inevitably, the old Bull is back in his prison. The dark stone walls
​ surround him. The Minotaur bellows. The Minotaur laments.
Music by Sherrill & Taddy​Lyrics by Sherrill​Magic by Taddy
(Sherrill: guitar, percussion, shanty pants. Taddy: sonic madness.)

God damn these walls!

credits

released March 2, 2017

*I am grateful to the Penn State Institute of Arts & Humanities for their generous support with this project. And to Kent Fairman Wilson, Alyson Kate, and Annalisa Barron for their contributions.

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about

Steven Sherrill State College, Pennsylvania

Steven Sherrill is a novelist, painter, and erstwhile musician. He occasionally captains the Allegheny Bilge Rats Shanty Choir. He has five novels and a book of poems in the world. There are other books in the works, paintings always underway, much musical silliness in progress, and 750 vintage wooden crutches in his basement. ... more

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