Book of Travelers

by Gabriel Kahane

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  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

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    A new, limited edition pressing of the critically-acclaimed 2018 album is here on gorgeous translucent orange vinyl.

    “a stunning portrait of a singular moment in America” — Rolling Stone
    “one of the finest, most searching songwriters of the day” — Alex Ross, The New Yorker

    Includes unlimited streaming of Book of Travelers via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Sheet Music

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    Full Score, Piano & Voice, for Book of Travelers. Engraved, note for note, by the composer. 70 pp.
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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Comes in a digipak with complete lyrics and original photography. You will be emailed a link to download a song upon pre-ordering, and will receive four additional songs (one every 10-14 days) leading up to the release. (Image is just a mock-up; physical product doesn't exist yet!)

    Includes unlimited streaming of Book of Travelers via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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      $9 USD  or more

     

  • Full Digital Discography

    Get all 12 Gabriel Kahane releases available on Bandcamp and save 30%.

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality downloads of emergency shelter intake form, Little Love (ruined lace edition), Book of Travelers, Works on Paper: Music for Solo Piano, Crane Palimpsest EP, Dream Job, The Fiction Issue, Fringe Elements, and 4 more. , and , .

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1.
03:52
When last we spoke I sang of end times, Of cities washed away, The bloodless halls, A flooded station, And that last train from L.A. Well, three years have passed And here I am in the waiting room, Delayed with all the restless, Some sixty eyes fixed Hard and fast on the TV Playing something senseless. Me, I dream of a broken watch With hands like vines. In the dream I see the The sweep of centuries; I am a prehistoric bird. And I wandered six lane It would be generous to call them boulevards With their dead-eyed metal herd. I’ve come to peck the faces, All of the faces off of every clock, Then set myself to ponder The golden shoals, the clouds, The rotting dock. Can you hear the carnival rising, The brutal fairgrounds aglow? Sunburned families laughing at The toy gun game stall, Someone screaming below. And I want to tell you About November, The people that I met, And sleeping badly On Pullman pallets, Blue blanket caked in sweat. Cardiogram power lines, Heart of the department of the interior. Glow-in-the-dark Casio, Breathing fast. When last we spoke I sang of end times Of cities washed away, The bloodless halls, A flooded station, Could a train be an escape?
2.
03:34
I got the news on the satellite phone: Jason, come home, Jason, dear, I heard it on the forest floor. Six years of back country trails to the lake, Machete and snake, machete I learned To cradle in the Old State Park. Roosevelt, ’33, he had a plan For every young man: Give him an ax and a seed; Give him a pack and a tree; Teach him to care for himself; Give him fresh air for his health; Send money back to family. Back to Baltimore, The tallboy convenience store, The indifferent, the endless war. And I know what that is, And I know what that is, And I don’t need it anymore, But I have to go home. Luke was the son of some well-to-do folk; My family was broke, but we became friends, The parking lot, the chewed up field. I started in the park just as he was going in, A hard eight to ten for selling to kids; My momma worked the county jail. Roosevelt’s Tree Army, under the sun, The work would be done while America Bled by the greed of the rich, The boys planted trees and found God in the pitch, They stared at the sod in each fist— Why am I telling you this? Is it that I’m nervous to be going back? Back to Baltimore, The tallboy convenience store, The indifferent, the endless war. And I know what that is, And I know what that is, And I don’t need it anymore, But I have to go home. Luke, I guess, got himself into a fight, Took him to the infirmary later that night, Nothing serious, sure, but next morning he died, Then the satellite phone with the crew, Which meant I didn’t cry. I’m taking the train to take time for my thoughts, Pregnant with loss, preparing for all The things that maybe make you feel. I’ll pay my respects and then I’ll take a walk, The neighborhood block, And then I will leave.
3.
03:38
The man who played with model trains In the furnished basement painted black— How it pleased him every day, The pattern of the rail, The pattern of the tiny track. One night he slips and hits his head As he reaches for a sleeper car, And the lights kept blinking red, Now level with his eye, His miniature Place de la Gare. The kids knew something wasn’t right In the morning when he kissed them all, He didn’t say a word. And the model trains keep going round. Showered, shaved, but sullied still, With a fist of pink and blue and red. And he will swallow every pill To help him with his fear Of getting from the bath to bed. And the model trains keep going round. Eyes cased in rime. A face that’s chapped with tiger’s tears. How his wife will mark the time By learning how to love; He’s been like this for seven years. And now as a last resort, She takes him to the ward in Redding Thirty miles away. And through, through the spidered glass, The headstraps and the gas, She watches as they put him under. And the model trains keep going round. She drives him home in the family car Stealing glances at this body strange: The vacant smile, the clean white scar On the man who disappeared, The man who played with model trains. The man who made her laugh, The man who played with model trains.
4.
03:26
raise a black-heeled sky put it up to the moon shaking the sand from your mind delay, dead of night when you reach for the baedeker leather bound book from another time red line for railroad black line for river carving the country sweetbread and liver maps that tell secrets maps that run backward learn to be lost now learn to be shattered a dream where you don’t feel right on your knees in an open field startled by silence you don’t recognize white light on a thousand lakes like paths of glass that someone breaks before the barefoot contortionist makes her grand debut blood leaks from the frozen moon you think about the wound and wonder who will die? amber nebraska pink minnesota mint green for kansas blue north dakota red line for railroad black line for river carving the country sweetbread and liver raise a black-heeled sky put it up to the moon shaking the sand from your mind
5.
Those neighbor kids, they meant no harm. Came home from church to find a three-alarm. To my sister’s, she gave us a key. Three years, one room, two kids and me. But he would lift my burden— All the power, the comfort In his name. Is that so much to ask— To believe and be unashamed? Stay after church, for friends of friends of Bill. I tell the story of my son, his need, the pain to kill. How I saved all the money, a box in a drawer. How I’d give it to him; knew what it was for. But he would lift my burden— All the power, the comfort In his name. Is that so much to ask To believe and be unashamed? The visits get harder. He lowers his eyes, and every time They get darker. I show him the pictures drawn by his kid. How do you learn you can smother someone with your love? Isn’t loving at all in this world hard enough? Those neighbor kids, they meant no harm.
6.
03:12
The flag was torn in a Tuesday tug-of-war I was standing there in tatters when the carnie took the floor, Left my cellphone for a suitcase, Checked the pockets for a clue— There was an atlas; It reminded me of you. Chinese dragon inches toward the boarding gate. Found my seat and told a joke to break the ice, but it broke too late. The punchline shattered on the carpet, All our faces turned to shale Up the Hudson for a furlough to the rail. 8980 on an overnight train Crawling back toward the national pain, I’m a city boy swimming in the Laramie plain Looking for something— What it is? I just wanna talk to you. I just wanna talk to you. I just wanna talk to you. Smoke break breathing North Dakota in the snow. Is difference only distance from the people I don’t know? ‘Cause here I am with strangers Singing four-part harmony Of a pasture undivided to the sea. 8980 on an overnight train Crawling back toward the national pain, I’m a city boy swimming in the Laramie plain Looking for something— What it is? I just wanna talk to you. I just wanna talk to you. I just wanna talk to you. Last light sinking in an unfamiliar bed, Crooked shoulder, crooked conversation Running through my head, Gonna count the trees and taillights ‘Til the hour I’m left to dream Of that pasture undivided to the sea, Undivided to the sea.
7.
03:12
A long grey silence had ambled down the coast You drew in sand all the things we’d miss the most Little love, little love Little love, little love Little love, little love I hope we die here when we’re old. We’ll case the shore to record this holy place White cliffs and starfish, the tide like ruined lace Little love, little love Little love, little love Little love, little love I hope we die here when we’re old. And when we’re frail in our lawn chairs by the sea All twisted hands, shrunken spines, and halting speech, We’ll listen for the long grey silence to gather and increase And when it does we’ll close our eyes and rest in narrow peace Little love, little love Little love, little love Little love, little love I hope we die here when we’re old, Little love, little love I hope we die here when we’re old.
8.
“What if I told you That I’m on this train Because my two grown sons were frightened— Me driving through the night On a stretch of farm-stand highway In Mississippi— ‘Cause they don’t need a hood or a cross or a tree. What if I told you That I’m headed to a funeral in Tupelo On the hundred acre farm Purchased by my great-grandfather Who learned to read ‘Cause his master’s daughter, Taught him secretly, And not knowing What kind of schooling His own children would receive, He taught them never to sign Their names on anything— ‘Cause they don’t need a hood or a cross or a tree. And would he have believed That his great-granddaughter— All the way to the Ivy League? And would he have believed The millions of dollars— And yet still unsafe On that stretch of farm-stand highway? What if I told you That my eldest son Loves a white girl Whom I adore, But who lives in a part of town where A black man might be mistaken for— ‘Cause they don’t need a hood or a cross or a tree. No, they don’t need a hood or a cross or a tree. And if I told you all of that, Maybe you would understand Why I have limited sympathy For your desire to know the suffering Of the working white man.” Monica explained In the dining car As we hurtled South In the growing dark.
9.
We are travelling, through a flat, beautiful landscape writes my grandmother Ancient forests; trees like bewitched figures, thickets of shrubs in 1939, Farmlands, small wooden houses, blue lakes, green village ponds. her father arrested, then released. Now and then, cattle. Earth covered with high grasses. fake passports Enchanting places, where one would like to stop. a steamship from Hamburg to Havana Now, a small wooden church, Now, a village train depot. six months on an island I wish then New Orleans I wish I could then a train to Los Angeles I wish I could describe where she keeps a diary I wish which I read on a different train I wish I could describe each place to you almost eighty years to the day... ••• After school They chant her name. She runs home She prays. But caught because her father Couldn’t quite believe What ought to’ve been plain to see, ‘Til broken glass was at their feet, And now they could not wait, Some clothes and letters in a crate; Left the cat and drove away. Steamship. Wool sky. All seasick, The tide. She held her breath until At last they’d got across, But they weren’t allowed to dock, All because the country didn’t want To let those people through. Ain’t that a familiar tune? I have to sing it back to you. History don’t have a chance. Drowning in the false, fat present tense. And why would you need To know anything That happened any earlier Than late last week? Lucky one, She got in— Some papers signed By distant kin, And every night she wrote Six postcards sent back home, And when she read the brief replies, My grandmother would start to cry, The careful script it could not hide The fear in every one She read beneath the L.A. sun Until the letters did not come. History don’t have a chance. Drowning in the force-fed present tense. Why would you need To know anything That happened any earlier Than late last week? Than late last week? Than late last week?
10.
We have finished planting for the season, And now we make our way to Pasco, Washington To see our distant relations On our once-a-year vacation. We took two buses and a train to get to this one. As long as we don’t drive, that’s alright within our creed. When people stare at us we’re taught to look away, But it’s hard not to wonder what they see. Singing with a stranger Singing with a stranger Singing with a stranger From the false world, Singing with a stranger Singing with a stranger Singing with a stranger From the false world.

about

The morning after the 2016 presidential election, I packed a suitcase and boarded Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited bound for Chicago. Over the next thirteen days, I talked to dozens of strangers whom I met, primarily, in dining cars aboard the six trains that would carry me some 8,980 miles around the country. The songs on this album are intended as a kind of loose diary of that journey, and as a portrait of America at a time of profound national turbulence.

credits

released August 24, 2018

Gabriel Kahane, piano & voice.

Recorded at Zeitgeist Studios, Los Angeles, CA, in 2017.
Produced by Tony Berg and Gabriel Kahane.
Engineered and Mixed by Joseph Lorge.

© 2018 Gabriel Kahane under exclusive license to Nonesuch Records

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