East / West

by Dao Strom

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I was living in a little house surrounded by trees, on the side of a hill above the Gastineau Channel in Juneau, Alaska, when I first began writing songs, in 2008, about Vietnam. Maybe it was the long winter nights, or maybe it was the three-decades worth of incubation time my own thoughts and emotions had already had about my origins, that made the first song, “Origin Tale,” emerge as a 9-minute lyric-heavy experience, with no repeated choruses, challenging all sensible concepts of song structure I’d thus far known. Up until that point, I’d been writing fairly traditional “folk” songs (I thought), but these new songs seemed to be asking for more space, more time, more atmosphere. It would take the next 5-7 years of exploring, experimenting, recording, collaborating, learning and growing, releasing some songs and putting others aside till later, before the whole project finally cohered: two sets of songs, roaming two “geographies” both mythic and real: East, West. Within that time, I moved from Alaska to Oregon, with detours back to Texas where I’d lived before Alaska. In Portland, Oregon, I found my way to Dylan Magierek at Type Foundry Studio, who played an integral part in helping me get these songs into the light. One of the most valuable things any music collaborator has ever done for me: he lent me a good-quality microphone and encouraged me to explore recording vocals on my own at home. I found a new voice—the voice these songs needed—in that part of the process, and a little more confidence in my own musical vision. The last song I wrote for the album was “On an Open Field,” an instrumental guitar piece I added vocal sound bites to (snatched from a 1966 broadcast of Pete Seeger on Rainbow Quest talking with a legendary Vietnamese folk singer of that era, Pham Duy). For me, the time spent wrestling with these songs, and with the material in the memoir that accompanies the album, is testament to the untellability—ultimately—of whatever it means to try to write about “Vietnam”— which is on one hand just the name of a place, but also carries many connotations and repercussions. I am just one more voice in the mix, one more survivor/inheritor struggling to express something about a history I know only via memory, absence, and aftermath.

EAST/WEST is an album that accompanies a book, WE WERE MEANT TO BE A GENTLE PEOPLE. A memoir in text + image + song.

In this experimental memoir, author/musician Dao Strom navigates the space between shores, mother and father, two cultures.

More about the book at: paperdollworks.com/project

Artist website: theseaandthemother.com


releases 22 September 2015

all songs by dao strom
except 'hell's gate' by dao strom and darwin smith
and 'sometimes I feel like a motherless child' (traditional)

Dao Strom - vocals, harmonies, acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keys, bells
Nial Nutter - electric guitar on tracks 1, 3, 5, 8, 10; vocals on track 8
Amanda Lawrence - viola on tracks 4, 5
Zane Carter Cook - drums on track 3, 10
William Joersz - bass on tracks 10, 11
Lincoln Meeker - drums on track 11
Dylan Magierek - cymbals on track 11
Hershel Yatovitz - electric guitar, synth strings, ambience, initial recording on track 11
Darwin Smith - percussion, bass, initial recording on track 9
Celia Straub, Cassandra Winney - choral voices on track 5

songs recorded at Type Foundry Studio by Dylan Magierek and at home by Dao Strom
mixing: Dylan Magierek / Mix Foundry Studio
mastering: Timothy Stollenwerk




feeds for this album, this artist


The Sea and The Mother Portland, Oregon

my given name is tiêu-dao....
i was born in Viet Nam, in the wake of a war.
i am the daughter of writers,
i am also the daughter of a political prisoner. but i followed my mother -
i am one of the children divided
between mother & father / mountains & sea / between
i am part of the middle world; a hybrid; a troubadour.

these are my notes from the southern world.
... more

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Track Name: Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
sometimes i feel like a motherless child
sometimes i feel like i'm almost done
but such a long way from home
Track Name: Hell's Gate
These hills of gold are all I have
to offer you, my men, my men
& gold you may find here & toil you will, my dears
but richer will be the ones who vanish their greed

to find within the trees
the secrets my daughters keep
& the ages do bleed
& their patient eyes weep

long have they scratched my skin
and teased my bones
they dressed in feathers and skins
they marked the stones
they climbed quiet as mice to heights
humans don't belong
to heights humans don't belong

& then came Fraser's men and the lady
whose search would never end
for the men lost at sea
to the dark northern degrees

My veins they named a portal to hell,
my blood was turbulent
& for the canyons walls they scaled
I claimed to souls of some of them

& on my belly they did lay a powder soft and grey
They set this afire with a kiss
with a kiss, with a kiss

& the hole this love did create
grew into a cave that the men could climb
deep inside
to extract the substance I hide
Track Name: Two Rivers
Two rivers meet where the water is warm
Two rivers meet where the water is warm
Blackberries stain my childish hands
Blackberries stain my childish hands

it must’ve been the Fall in Washington
Mother says it was in Washington
where we saw two rivers cross
one from the valley
one from up on the rocks
one streamed cold, one streamed hot
in a blackberry forest I saw
the two rivers join into one

Father killed a snake with his bare hands
Father killed a snake with his bare hands
Blackberries on my tongue under the sun
Blackberries on my tongue under the sun

it must’ve been the sun on the hill in Montana
the grass under my hands & my mother & my father
I remember when, I remember when
the blackberries stained my hands
& the water that I washed in then
was Cold on one hand was Hot on the other
was Cold on one hand was Hot on the other
you were angry, you were angry
but the memory is only blackberries
my father the fire, my mother the earth
my father the water, my mother the earth
my father the shadow, my mother the earth

((if I could sing this to the boy in Washington he might understand better the mountain))