by James Wallace and the Naked Light

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Hannah Coates
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Hannah Coates I first heard JWATNL as the soundtrack to a Perennial Plate short film about Turkey and I thought it was marvellously folky pop. I still do. Favorite track: Dancing Star (No Naked Light).
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released April 12, 2009

All music and Lyrics by James Wallace
Co-produced by James Wallace, Kevin Dailey, Paul Padgett
Engineered by Kevin Dailey, Miles Price, Paul Padgett, and James Wallace
Additional Horn arrangements by Kai Welch and Travis Gordon
Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, recorded at The Blue Room in Nashville, TN (October, 2007- August 2008)
Track 4 recorded at 1116 Sigler St. Nashville, TN (May 2007)
Track 9 recorded secretly in an condemned trailer behind the Gaslight Theater in Opryland. (October 2007)



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James Wallace and the Naked Light Nashville, Tennessee

Once, in an abandoned house, I found a tape of Black Gospel music pirated from a station out of Greensboro in 1967. Like a child of the middle class, I wrote down how it felt. Now we're six or seven together, and loud enough.

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Track Name: This Song
This Song

I heard you wrote this song when I was only five years old.
I heard you wrote this song, then you left home.
Scribbled on a napkin with a trembling, shaking paw.
Pa, look how I’ve grown.

And I remember every word,
and I learned I don’t need your hand to see.

Your name’s been following me.

But tonight I need you here, I don’t care what you say
Yes, tonight I need you here, I don’t care what songs we play.
Track Name: Dancing Star (No Naked Light)
Dancing Star (No Naked Light)

Back in my work-hour, serious days my dreams were raising bass on a farm.
I booked a pear-sized room beneath Frank,
started catching rats with a broom I had found.
Then when the city got fat off the rare fish they ate
that could only be caught with a mouse,
Game Warden, jailed me for poaching,
swore to his soul I’d have to hang in the square.

Now, I’m thankful for that diamond of light that was shining
through the corner of my eight-point cell,
the one I scratched at with my fingers until I saw the highway
and the world that had thrown me in hell.

And now somewhere in a fly is a piece of my skin
that fell off while I was stuck all that time,
but the rest of me is running free,
now a prisoner of a greater device.


Now I’ve been in your country for a week
and I’ve been to Wu Dao Kou seventeen times
If you’re trying to hit the bottom, hit the bottom,
don’t let them make you think your alright.

If you’re looking for your love in the streets with good intentions
and keep lying through your teeth just to find her alone,
then from the twenty-seventh floor, the fireworks exploding
will only make you feel older inside.
She said, “You’ve been in my country for a year
but I can speak your language better than you can mine
and you’re not pretty, but you’re able to be loved
as she placed her hand on my thigh.

Some things are taller than a pile of fish in naked light.
Some things get rougher than my rough fingernails.
But still, there’s nothing louder than the sound of the bossa nova rhythms
trapped inside a schoolboy’s hollow mind,
when he’s been stuck in his room for a summer week
dreaming about the contours of parallel lines,
bending over the horizon,
never intersecting,
side by side.


Oh, the head lights,
shining brighter than the stars,
reflecting off those headlights,
and all the little people in their cars:

Walk it down
Climb that hill.
What time is it?
Track Name: Killing The Dog
Killing the Dog

I’m staring into the eye of a puppy who’s missing an eye,
he’s laying on his side next to Winthrow’s grave.

Do you want to die little dog, or are you just laying there?

Keep nodding your head, dog,
I’ll keep Nodding mine too.

Over in the park a little boy is talking to a tulip
that he holds, but he’ll never give away.

And all the little river frogs sing along
to a song about a little colored boy

the band has just begun to play.

If you look over in the streets there’s a car parked,
all the lights are on, a door is open.

It’s been open since I couldn’t drive anymore today.

And now I’m staring into the eye of a puppy who’s missing an eye...
Track Name: The Bench
The Bench

Oh, I sat down like a champ ‘till the bench burned a hole in my Psoas,
my feet spoke by stomping on the floor:
“Walk out the door and go home.”

I was young, maybe twelve. Still thought God was a clock that could kill me.
Clocks were moving backwards on the walls.
“Walk out the door and go home.”

And the lies would lift me further up off the ground.
They lift me up, they don’t break my fall
until I’m tumbling down like a pharaoh
carry me, say I’m a rock,
because I am.

Did the girls love you like you’ve got a disease called something longer in Latin
than your name and/or your birth-given right?
“Walk out the door and go home.”

Eat the pills and they’ll make you feel better, then in two weeks: a threatening glance, an “I don’t need you anymore,
walk out the door and go home.”


Did you think that if you ran yourself so far latter
that your mother’d cry tears, county-flags hanging mid-staff on the poles?

Now you’re worried the beard makes your face look fatter
you’re alone in the park listening hard to the chatter of the doves.

And if someone walks past me in my three-foot comfort zone with my three-foot arm I’ll grab them pull them right back in and then I’m gonna shake them ‘till that candy-coating comes off their nose it might stain their clothes but I’ll keep on shaking until their heart’s on fire and when their heart’s on fire they’ll burn until I wave the smoke and their heart drug through the sand and the sea will be underneath a glass bottle waiting for me and all I’ll have to do is pick them up and hold them close like desperate times when there really wasn’t anything else to hold onto.

Track Name: Saved At The Bottom
Saved at the bottom, Powhatan County, 2001

You are saved at the bottom of the ocean,
at the bottom of the ocean you are saved.
You can fill your lungs with air,
you might never make it there
but if you make it to the bottom at the bottom, you are saved.

Where in those more Prehistoric Counties,
where rocks are about the size of brains
and red mud still flows down white faces in the rain,
where, my story began.

And unfortunately, it was the most beautiful day
leaves were growing,
lawnmowers carving rectangular paths
around sad, rectangular lives.

I was there along Anderson Highway, walking,
just released on a non-guilty verdict
resolving an event that Chief described
as an attempt at my own life.

But my lawyer called it a “Misunderstanding of Location”
Given there were still three weeks left until summer vacation
and any boy could misjudge their arm
in relation to the sharp end of a knife.

And even today, if you asked what I was doing
I wouldn’t have said dying
I’d say my head was too far left, and the only way to center
would be to fall real hard into the cold, shallow water of the James

Kite and line above me and Virginia Pines
send a message down to me from the middle of the sky:
“Hold me when I’m old,
make me warm me when I am cold
and when I’m tired find a place to go inside, and sit down.”

Sometimes the way the light curves
along an old river bending
intersecting a nice long stretch of highway ending
makes you think you can see three-hundred and sixty degrees
at the same time.

It was there I saw the house of Blanche,
that fabulous girl, who never loved me
and few broken homes of the boys
who used to kick me down at the benches of P. E.

And it was probably all that nervous staring,
that, a mile and a half out from Maidens Bridge landing
caused me to spy upon an old side car bar
half buried in the briars

And It was the ugliest place I’d ever seen,
only two green windows
and a sign on one that said “we poison our beers,

Being only seventeen, anxious and hurt
and not wanting anymore trouble
Just stubborn to see if nine days in jail left me with the stubble
to get served.

I knocked twice and then just walked inside
to find a man speaking prayer with tears his eyes
wipe them, then ask me,
“Boy, what the hell are you doing here now?”

I was quite prepared to tell him my story
about being too left, and needing getting back to center
when I realized his question to me had been asked
one too many times.

I knew because I felt my face turn red
and I knew because I got a pain in my chest
and I knew because I started talking real fast and real loud

I said, “Have you ever found that perfect sentence
to describe the way your feeling
and you say it out loud for the whole class to hear it
and the teacher says:
‘Boy, go over there to that principal bench, and sit down.’

And so you sit down, but you forget all the good things you thought
because you’re so angry
and the whole day goes by
while you wonder if the stucco on the ceiling is pointing in or out.

And when you stand up, your light head knocks you down
and so you fall on your knees
and swear you’ll drown
yourself in the local, ancient river
because they’ll never understand.”

“Boy!” he said. “You’ve amused me!

...and it’s good to know I won’t be ending your life any sooner than it was already gonna.”

“You see ten years ago today
I poisoned a boy like you passing this way
who now belongs to some of the meanest pack of hounds
Central Virginia’s ever seen.

‘And he’s made it clear many times,
they’ll be coming for me on this day before the sun sinks into the pines
and right now they’re probably the distance between you and me
seven hundred times.

‘So don’t think about leaving, they’ll just track you down
they’re motorcycle clowns
and they’ll kill you just for seeing
the evil thing they’ve been dreaming up all day.

‘So why don’t we stare for a while, at these ceiling tiles
and think about the stucco
and listen to that faint sound of engines roaring in the distance

‘Now let’s pour you here, your last real live beer.
and start swimming in that liquid but before you go down
pray that you get saved
at the bottom of the ocean.”

Then I was awake,
in a small sunlight
facing the sidecar,
with the ugly sound of lawnmower engines buzzing in my ears.

And it was there I realized drinking,
and jumping of the bridge
would have to get locked up in that childhood box
I kept my toys in.

Because when you’re alive
and you’ve got an old man’s words and one beer
floating around your head
sometimes it’s better, not knowing, that you’ve been poisoned.

If you are saved at the bottom of the ocean.
Track Name: Colors

Colors are a lie
Reflecting mirrors keep pushing that lie
Do you want to know who I am?

Am I an idea you had once, too much to water so you let me die?
Now, I follow you around like an old swinging bell

It’s a tangible hell.
Brought on by my immobility.

It’s a surreal feeling
when you can’t even lose a feeling
when you try

I’m learning something new now. What’s it to you?
Life is gray when you’re young
but feel like you’ve wasted it way too much
playing Nintendo through a sunset sunday afternoon.

It’s a cold, ancient hell
If only I could sing about that hell
I could live in society
my dreams would come alive so well.

Damn this discussion
What do you mean I can’t combust them?
When I already know, I already felt the pieces burn in my hand?

Pray for the F.M. radio.
And all those little spinning, winding waves,
flying over Baghdad, and eating turkey with us during wartime

I’m learning something new now.

I’m almost at the state line.
My head is spinning and I don’t know why.