New from the Brothers Doug:

Death Warmed Over

The last album, The Last of the Brothers Doug(?) dealt with themes of mortality, and I thought it might be my last outing. But the Brothers weren’t through with me yet. So Death Warmed Over seemed like the logical title for a next album. There’s no particular thematic focus here. Seven of these eleven songs are re-recordings of earlier songs we felt we could do better. The last four are new ones, still coming at things from unexpected angles.

“Let the Captives Go Free” (2014, from Political Unconscious, and included in the “Identity and Difference in Common Collection”) is an old-time protest song, in a country-blues vein, inspired by reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The song’s bridge was inspired by black liberation theologian James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree. He suggests how those two spectral images interpret one another: Jesus was lynched; and African Americans have been crucified by American society. And there’s some of Rene Girard’s scapegoat theory in the mix. The last verse is informed by George Fox, who wrote in 1658 that so many innocent Quakers were being imprisoned for their witness at that time because God’s witness was still imprisoned within England’s rulers. Years after writing the song, I read Bob Dylan’s comment that a protest song shouldn’t be preachy or one-dimensional. “You have to show people a side of themselves that they don’t know is there.” That’s what this song tries to do.

Let the Captives Go Free (2014/22)

“The Magdalene and the Nazarene” (2011, from Terms and Conditions, and included in the “Mary-Jesus-Mary Collection”) is long story-song. The relationship between Mary the Magdalene and Jesus the Nazarene remains mysterious. They grew up only about fourteen miles from each other in Galilee and could easily have known each other before his ministry began (with “the descending dove”). Luke’s gospel comments that Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary. That might suggest what we today would call mental illness. But that might simply be the perspective of the male disciples, whose “minds are clouded by semen” (that is, men’s vexed perceptions of women). In any case, what we often label as mental illness often includes perceptions that most of us miss. Mary is the pivotal figure (especially in the Gospel of John) in recognizing the risen Jesus. As such, she is sometimes called “the apostle to the apostles.” Her witness opened the others to the new revelation. This song explores those possibilities, inspired in part by experiences of my own.

The Magdalene and the Nazarene (2011/22)

“Am I Tragic Yet? (2002, from The Best of Chronicles of Babylon and included in the “Memoir Collection”) came to me in my fifties, those “long, strange years of middle age,” where you begin to wonder if you’ve lost the plot somewhere along the way. I’d also been studying Greek tragedy with its sense of divine providence and the growth of wisdom through tragic events. The tone here is melodramatic, but only half-humorous.

Am I Tragic Yet? (2002/22)

“Living in the End” (2013, from Terms and Conditions, also included in “The Apocalyptic Collection”) is autobiographical or confessional. The song describes how my calling to ministry in the apocalyptic year of 1968 formed me in particular ways. This recording has a riff loosely inspired by Mick Ronson’s great guitar riff on David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” (1972), but played here on a synthesized koto.

Living in the End (2013/22)

I was living in Richmond, Indiana when the Great Recession set in by 2008, and small rust-belt towns were hit harder than some other places. A wave of business closures swept over the town, prompting “All Along the Strip-Mall” (2012, from Terms and Conditions, also included in “The Economy Collection”). The title was inspired by Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” (1967), but here the tower is laid on its side.

All Along the Strip-Mall (2012/23)

“All Fall Down” (2010, from Terms and Conditions) offers a series of images from the Book of Revelation, set to a reggae beat. Bob Marley and the Wailers were a great inspiration to me when I began writing songs in 1977. Their mixture of biblical language, liberation struggle, and snakey rhythms still inspires me, as it inspired this song more than twenty years ago.

All Fall Down (2010/23)

Mary Magdalene returns in “Event Horizon” (2021, from Every Doug Agrees and included in the “Mary-Jesus-Mary Collection”). She takes me to the empty tomb of Jesus, remythologized here in astrophysical terms as an “event horizon,” the term used for the threshold of a black hole, beyond which nothing that happens can be seen from this side. Or at least it cannot be seen from our normal perspective on this side. Mary is the guide who takes me fully through an experience I had only glimpsed earlier. (This relates to a prose piece, “Tomb with a View,” included in my memoir, Life in Gospel-Space, 2020).

Event Horizon (2021/23)

“U-Turnity (Tripping the Light Chiastic)” is new. It plays with the chiastic structure found in biblical and other ancient texts, where a sequence of narrated events or presented ideas repeats itself backward, but in echoes that one doesn’t readily recognize, at least at first. The song suggests that there is a chiastic, forward-and-backward quality to our individual lives and in history. “Tomb with a View,” the prose piece mentioned in the preceding paragraph, explores this concept more thoroughly, where the empty tomb of Jesus functions as the turning-point in a chiastic vision of human history.

U-Turnity (2023)

“(Believe It or Not) God Believes in You” is another new one. It overturns the standard humanistic question whether one believes in God or not. The verses suggest that God has faith, hope, and love in us first, and keeps hoping we’ll respond. The “clueless dope” is all of us, really, because even when we believe, God continues to enter our lives from unexpected angles. And if this is all my imagination, it’s because God imagined me first. This song is in a reggae style, complete with steel drum. It’s a bit of a ditty, but some of the best reggae songs are ditties, like Bob Marley’s “One Love” (1977).

(Believe It or Not) God Believes in You (2023)

“Gothic America,” another new song, ponders the ghosts that haunt American society today — the restless spirits of those exploited, repressed, and killed in the national quest of a “manifest destiny.” Native Americans in particular are named here. I kept cutting out verses, leaving an effect that is more atmosphere than developed ideas.

Gothic America (2023)

Finally, “Runaway Train” is another of my techno-skeptic songs. It expresses misgivings about artificial intelligence (“prosthetic brains”) and where it is taking us. The misgivings of the lyrics are ironically counterpoised by the relaxed musical tone of the song, suggesting the lacadaisical way we are harboring these doubts (“lah-di-dah”). After finishing the song, it began to remind me of “Riders on the Storm” (1970) by the Doors, a similar tension mixing foreboding words and a cool-jazz tone.

Runaway Train (2023)

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