Jordan Howell Hallmark | Leaving

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Folk: Appalachian Folk Pop: Folky Pop Moods: Solo Male Artist
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by Jordan Howell Hallmark

From lively to contemplative, recorded in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, shining a light on a new kind of Appalachian folk music with influences from Indy Rock, Country, Rap, Reggae and Traditional Folk . . . with so many stories to tell.
Genre: Folk: Appalachian Folk
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Concrete
5:41 $0.99
2. Box by the Sea
5:18 $0.99
3. Shiftlessness
3:38 $0.99
4. Concerning Her Heart
5:47 $0.99
5. Stones Throw
3:40 $0.99
6. Why
2:03 $0.99
7. You Make Me Smile
2:55 $0.99
8. Big Boppa
3:30 $0.99
9. Untitled
5:34 $0.99
10. Leaving
5:18 $0.99
11. Hathaway
5:51 $0.99
12. Ellipsis
2:47 $0.99
13. Back n Forth
3:33 $0.99
14. Excuses Excuses
4:10 $0.99
15. Gone Today
3:58 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
“True love waits for you…in one form or another….I found it through music.”

Jordan Howell Hallmark (1987-2015) was a gentle, loving soul, under whose modest exterior lurked a feverishly creative mind and a multi-talented musician. All of this comes through clearly on his CD Leaving, his legacy of poetry and song. Many who knew him well did not fathom the extent and beauty of that legacy.

Jordan left notebooks filled with poetry he probably meant one day to turn into songs, as he did—thankfully—with many on this album. He played acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, keyboard, and violin; his voice was versatile, and he sings here in a wide range of styles, including folk, country, pop, and even rap. He wrote and sang of the joys and heartache of love and friendship, of ties to home and family, of his uncertainties about himself and where he was headed in life. There are bittersweet songs of love; spunky, streetwise lyrics; introspective, philosophical songs; and comical numbers. (Four of the fifteen tracks are purely instrumental.) The whole album is alive with an engaging whimsicality. “The listener is pulled through highs, lows, conflict and resolution. Each song carries an element of exploration into the life of a shining individual,” wrote a close friend.

Complexity and ambiguity are interwoven within the rich tapestry of themes in this album. One sees Jordan’s affinity for city life in “Concrete” (“this is our home…Let’s go get lost out in the city”) and “You Make Me Smile” (“In the night on top our bikes the city provides the light”) even as he cherishes his southern, mountain roots—“the hills they fade from view” in “Leaving,” “blackeyed peas and collard greens” in “Stone’s Throw.” We hear Jordan’s anguish and ambivalence over love gained and lost, especially in “Concerning Her Heart,” “Stone’s Throw,” “Why,” and “Back n Forth.” (“I want you close…but I’m sticking to the east side as you’re off to the west coast.”)

Jordan’s love of family shines through in “Big Boppa” (“I come from folks who both create/Build their life off things that they make. I can only hope to do the same…”), “Leaving” (“Just remember where you came from”), and “Hathaway.” He invokes his mother in “Concrete” (“if momma sees that’s it for me”) and “Box By The Sea” (“To my…mom and my God”). In the same song Jordan evidences his fierce loyalty to friends (“To my girls and my boys…), and also in “Concrete” and “You Make Me Smile.” His self doubt and self searching are apparent in “Shiftlessness” (“…I gave it all up So I could tend to being shiftless”) and “Excuses, Excuses” (“Excuses don’t make the man…but walking the walk is something else.”) We even hear intimations of death in “Leaving” (“…any last words?”) and “You Make Me Smile” (“you’ll be my friend till the day I die”).

Jordan characterized his style as “Appalachian pop,” true to his upbringing in the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. We know that among the artists Jordan liked are the Indie pop/rock/folk musicians Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), Elliot Smith, Jack Johnson, and Andrew Bird, all of whom sing with high voices and make use of the complementation of acoustic and digital sound. Jordan’s vocal range is wide, carrying beautifully into his head voice, and is sweeter and prettier than theirs; his guitar playing is at least a match. Like Bird, Jordan sometimes colors his songs with the violin—as in the country fiddle in the opening of “Concrete”—and with whistling—as in “Excuses, Excuses.” Picked banjo figures prominently in “You Make Me Smile.”

But Jordan did not slavishly imitate other artists. His creations are securely his own. Characteristic are his slow vocal and instrumental slides, which flavor many of his songs and even become a signature gesture, as in “Shiftlessness” and “I Don’t Know Why.” His melodies are easy-going, the harmonies largely conventional (though sprinkled with unusual progressions and some spicy counterpoint), but the textures he creates are endlessly new. Listen carefully and you’ll also find haunting, enigmatic features like the minor key choral ending of “Concerning Her Heart,” and the instrumental tune at the beginning of “Concrete” that is played as a recurring motif at least four times in the song, but never sung. The leading four notes of the tune in “Concerning Her Heart” return, wordlessly, near the end of “Back n Forth,” linking these two songs of lost love. Sometimes a song teases by seeming to come to an end, only to start up again after a moment’s pause. Occasionally Jordan inserts an unexpected pause before the last word in a line, giving the tune a whimsical hiccup. Like many a medieval and renaissance composer, Jordan enshrines his name within a song (near the end of “Big Boppa,” itself named after the popular 50’s singer of “Chantilly Lace;” the song ends with Jordan’s imitation of Big Boppa’s voice as a phone message). The album contains some straightforward verse and chorus pieces, but also songs that do not hew to standard forms. “Hathaway,” whose lyrics tell the story of Jordan’s grandmother’s pet crow, becomes a tale of a romantic drifter, and its form “drifts” appealingly. After its initial conventional AABA, an instrumental interlude of new material proceeds to another A, and then the song breaks into an extensive section of narrative rap (!) before fading away over the verse’s harmonies. A friend characterized Jordan’s songs as “well groomed but freedom filled.”

Each of the tracks must have been laid down by Jordan during hours of painstaking work, most of them featuring complex overlays of his singing (solos, but often overdubbed duets and trios with himself), plus multiple acoustic instruments, plain and digitally enhanced, synthesized sounds and sound-effects. Jordan did all this himself in his home studio. (Think of Justin Vernon holing up in his remote Wisconsin cabin for three months.) Technically, as well as musically, the CD is an impressive achievement. Despite all the digital mastery, there is, as a friend observed, “an acoustic flavor baked into” the music.

Jordan’s life was tragically cut short by a freak automobile accident. Leaving is a compilation produced from his digitally stored recordings by students and faculty of The Hayes School of Music, Appalachian State University. Proceeds from sales of the CD will go to the Jordan Howell Hallmark Memorial Scholarship Fund in Music Industry Studies at the Hayes School. The jacket features endearing photographs of him as a toddler, as a young boy with his grandmother Sara Mae (mentioned in “Hathaway”), and as a handsome, smiling young man in his late twenties riding his bike.

We who are shattered by Jordan’s death can take joy and comfort in the legacy of this album. He may be gone, but his music and poetry will remain in our hearts.

Rufus Hallmark, professor emeritus, musicology, Rutgers University
Anne Hallmark, retired faculty member, musicology, New England Conservatory

1. Concrete
Keep out…well bullshit
I’ll kick in your fence
If I can’t get over it
Whatever it takes to get in
Just wanna skate
We’re tryin to ride
Them girls be callin “Hi!”
When we passin by
We ain’t got time
We’d rather skate

Me and my pal, we make one mighty fine team
Struttin our shit like it’s royalty
Him and my board’s about all I need
Let’s go get lost out in the city

Run red lights and stop signs
I’ll show you how to fly
With no wings
I’ll show you how without ever leaving your feet

I tripped and hit the concrete
Thirteen, blacked out, crowded streets,
Sweet dreams, a lady screams,
I ripped my jeans from seam to seam,
I scraped my knee geez
If momma sees, that’s it for me
That’s just my luck…which sucks
But I’m gonna get back up, I’m gonna get back up
I’ll get back up

Me and my pal we want to live our dream
One day I say we’ll both be kings
This is our home, you can’t make us leave
We belong out on the concrete

Me and my pal, we make one mighty fine team
Strutting our shit like it’s royalty
Him and my board’s about all I need
Let’s go get lost out in the city.
Sure, the jacket, it’s gettin nippy.

2. Box By the Sea
I’m goin start right here where I am
Turn around, muse on the length of my path
The things I’ve seen
And them folk that I’ve met
It all sits along that which led me here where I stand

To my girls and my boys and my mom and my God
Whoever hears louder

On my way
I discovered the chi
And the beauty and the life we both give to receive
I gathered it’s here
But it seems I took more than I need
To the earth and its life
And those who died
And the sun and its life
and the stars in the night

Inland east to this box by the sea
Waitin for the change the fall will bring

3. Shiftlessness
It’s probably time to get on,
Get on these plans I’ve drawn.
The sun at dawn peeks above,
Comes right around
And leaves me with nothing done.

The monkey mind makes its way
back and forth across the stage.
It keeps me here
I’ll pass the blame
It’s exactly why I’ll probably stay

The door sits on its hinge
Making light with every inch.
Just enough to let it in,
A little light lights my den.
She brings me back to where I’ve been
Before I gave it all up
So I could tend to being shiftless.

The river runs like a tireless child
I watch the ride there at its side

4. Concerning Her Heart
Such a delicate plate
One that would undoubtedly break
If I had a hold
I thought I saw you look this way

Don’t give it up to a shiftless wretch
who isn’t ready for love.
Stick it out
til you find the one who lifts you up.

Please don’t give in
Even at the bare and dark bottom of your
Loneliness is only what you make of it,
If that’s the case
Then you should find the thing to fill the hole in
It’s often made
Givin up your love is such a common mistake
It’s best to avoid that which causes the heart to break

It burns my skin to the bone
To see such a lovely lady crawl on the floor
Beg all you please
But I will leave you there, down on your knees.

That moment might come
But that moment will surely be gone.
When you feel it hit,
you look to the clock
To get your fix.
Take your time before you get yourself hitched
Well I been looking out for me trying to play the part
When it’s more about her and my concern for her heart.

5. Stone’s Throw
I know I’ll never know
Exactly where this road
Where she’s likely to lead me
Which way I’m likely to go
The only thing I’ve ever known
Is that I want you close
Within a stone’s throw
Or even close enough to hold
But I’m stickin to the east side
As you’re off to the west coast
For a bit of time on your own
To give me mine to grow
But I won’t let go
Can’t let go
Gotta hold on to the hope
I won’t let go

I gotta let go

Mm-mm, Blackeyed peas and collard greens

6. Why
Sometimes my baby cries at night.
I don’t know why, why it is she does that.
Sometimes when the morning brings its sunlight
My baby, my baby cries

I don’t know why
I don’t know why
I don’t know why

Sometimes when we fight
I drift off to the place up in my mind
I glide across the sky, above the trees
The leaves are green
I’m free
I’m free to do me

I wanna get high
I wanna get high
I wanna get high

And I don’t know why
I don’t know why
I don’t know why

7. You make me smile
In the night on top our bikes
The city provides the light
We’ve got time why not ride a while
Don’t the air feel fine
I got the chills linin up to make the way on down my spine

You’ll be my friend until the day I die
You make me smile

8. Big Boppa
Even all the way all she’s likely to break and fade
What a shame that’d be

I come from folks who both create
Build their life off things that they make.
I can only hope to do the same
In this game.
In this game.
What’s his name?
Jordan is my name.

9. Untitled [instrumental]

10. Leaving* [instrumental]
My suitcase is Blue – it carries a certain hue
Like the sky in June – when the hydrangeas bloom
I packed my life into this bag and made my move
The hills they fade from view

Do I define this life or is there something greater
Guiding me along the line
Did I do right by saying my goodbye

She held that gun up to my head and said
“Get on if yens* any last words”
My mind went blank like the page of the poet
Whose hand is cast from being smashed in the window pane
Patience ain’t her thing, I’d say six seconds passed
Before I heard the gun go bang
Right then and there I became her slave
I’d give her all of every single last one of my days

You always would have wondered how boy
Your life had made its way around boy
If you hadn’t done chased it down boy
Get on and go live it up
Just remember where you come from
Don’t you ever let go of that love
It’s all that you are made up of

*These lyrics were found in Jordan’s papers, but hadn’t been recorded.

11. Hathaway
A silver pendant reflected the sun's light
and caught the interest of a bird's eye
I might not be telling it quite right, but either way, on that day
a young Hathaway met Sara Mae.

Back then Fort Bragg harvested the sugar pine
cuttin down soft wood just to open up the sky.
When his tree came down it hit the ground harder than the heart pounds
when you make eyes with your true love for the very, very, very, very, very first time

Lucky for him, she heard his cry
and brought him in for the night.

And they drank wine…
sweet, sherry wine.
Stayed up til five
dancin 'round a glass of sherry wine.
Friends for life,
just sharin smiles

Didn't even take a week before he was just another member of the family…
Rufus, Eugene, Alexander the G, Ms. Sara Mae,
and their dog of the short legged long bodied breed…Toby.

Anyway, Hathaway he passed his days chasin shiny things
like trinkets, rings, and even my daddy's keys.
Not quite like a thief, but don't stealin seem appealin
when you're dealin with nothin but feelin?
Feelin's what he felt when he stood above his treasures of old,
silver and gold, pieced into a bowl,
or rather a nest in which to sit upon.

See, Toby showed him how to bark just like a dog,
He'd right that which was wrong,
Proficient in the ancient art of song.
See, he specialized in lullabies, it helped her to sleep at night.
With him around life was just that much more nice.

We'd watch him glide through the sky flyin higher and higher
He'd pull them clothespins from the clothesline drinking sweet sherry wine
Venture out for a while, even out for the night
which turned into days and then weeks at a time
until eventually he didn't return.
But either way, it needs sayin,
Love abides and so does his light.
That was Hathaway.

I guess he headed south
Wherever crows go in winter once it gets cold.
Joined a murder, maybe met himself a girl.
Perhaps he's livin on his own down on a beach in Mexico

12. Ellipsis [instrumental]

13. Back n forth
Say what you will,
But it won’t change a thing
We had a deal.

I play by the rules.
If I’ve got the shot I’m gonna shoot.
There ain’t nothin you can do
There’s simply nothin you can do.

I know you wanna gloat
For the very fact alone
You’ve got me doin as I’m told
Well, how’s it feel to have control?

Take two
You’re gonna do just what you wanna do
Anyhow, what’s that about
You know I doubt I’ll ever come on back around
To taste a crippling kiss
Those smoky lips
Leave me ripped

So you’ve come to give more
Always back n forth, back n forth, back n forth, back n

14. Excuses, Excuses
If time would only give I’d give myself the chance to sit
And dwell on that which once was what my passion resided in
That thing that came so painlessly it’s now wearing on me,
But who’s to blame when me and mine are all that’s gettin in the way

If only I’d put my pride to the side
I might see it for what it really is
But despite all of it there is only this
I’m not sleeping til I put it to rest

Excuses don’t make the man
A man is made in confidence
Talk the talk all you will
But walkin the walk is somethin else

15. Gone Today [instrumental]

"Leaving, by Jordan Hallmark, is an album that opens several doors to reveal a true student of music. The listener is pulled through highs, lows, conflict and resolution. Each song carries an element of exploration into the life of a shining individual, who left this earth at a young age, in a car accident. Jordan lived in service to those he loved and his music is proof of the joy that he took in doing so. An acoustic flavor is baked into many of Jordan's 15 featured tracks. Although, there is notable contrast in a number of these well groomed but freedom-filled songs. The opening track "Concrete" shows off the talent and playfulness of the composer - lyrically and via guitar. "Hathaway" stands out with a catchy lyrical flow, providing a narrative around a man's experience with life and finding his wife. There are also a number of instrumental tracks that highlight a unique style. Leaving is a gem that says "goodbye but I'll always be there" in a texture of music and love that belongs only to Jordan Hallmark.”



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