The Devil You Know

by John Vournakis

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credits

released November 20, 2015

Recorded at the Cottage in Atlanta, GA
Engineered and Produced by Damon Moon

All songs written and performed by John Vournakis with:

Damon Moon - bass on all songs
Jacob Smith - lap steel on "Hallowed"
Marie Robertson - trombone on "Left Brain Riot"
Sydney Eloise - vocals on "Sweet Madeline", "Closet", and "Choke"

Thank you.

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about

John Vournakis Atlanta, Georgia

Born in Connecticut, raised in Georgia, and edified in Michigan, John Vournakis writes songs in the American tradition that wander toward a ground he can call his own.

With lyrics and melodies equal parts nostalgic and haunted, Vournakis questions what it means to be a good man in America today.
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Track Name: Hallowed Ground
I came to the waiting room of hell,
born to a Michigan man and his West Virginia belle.
I traded Douglas Fir and Concord grape
for confederate flags and man-made lakes,
and these Bradford Pears, their rotting stench in the spring time.
And the war of Northern aggression
that'll be fought for the rest of Southern time.

I spent 16 years in the August heat,
sweating through my 600 thread count sheets.
Oh, this place I call home,
it's a beacon to insanity.

So I ran away to my Dad's home state,
where I found peace in the rust belt lakes
and the dying towns -
where no one gets out unscathed.
Where the rich can never want enough,
and the rest never get their way.

Though I've been gone a long time,
I still know the roads that keep me goin'
I-75 in the summer time,
my devil mama bring me home.

I know mosquito bites and willow whips
and sultry southern gals.
Their sweet tea breath will grace your ears,
may you be ever watchful now.

Our mountain tops are made of glass and steel
and nobody knows how
to get out of this hole that once you've dug,
your life is over.
Track Name: Little Detroit
I used to live on Irwin Avenue
in a little bitty house painted baby blue.
I used to live on Irwin Avenue.

Then I moved down Washington Street
in a cardboard box - simple and discreet.
That's how I lived on Washington Street.

I wake up numb every morning
And I get stoned to feel alive.
What has happened to my life?

I wish my kids wanted to see me.
They'd be just what i need
to get back on my feet.

I wonder why, I wonder why
so many times, why did I do this?
Why did I do this to my life?

I thought I might go to California
so I bought a bus ticket and started waiting for it.
But the bus never came so I just stayed and stayed the same.

I thought I might go to Bangladesh,
find some false prophet like David Koresh.
I just wanted someone to say they say God in my eyes.

But, I'm a fucking mess.
I can't even go to sleep.
I don't know what's wrong with me.

I wish my mother were still alive.
She'd know just what to do
and how to get to me.

I wonder why, I wonder why
so many times, why, why did I do this?
Why did I do this to my life?

Well, I'm going back to Irwin Avenue,
get my little bitty house, paint it baby blue.
I'm going back, yes I'm going back
to Irwin Avenue.
Track Name: New Girl
Janie's new on my street.
She don't notice me
as we wait at the bus stop every day.

But now it's been two weeks
and Janie splits her drugs with me,
and we waste every pretty day away.

She says "I'd kill for a pill
to get me through the day.
To wake up and feel unashamed."

She says "I'm down in this hole.
I'm never not alone.
I don't know how to wash these sins away."

She ain't got no one to hold her,
to just there and let her cry.
I'm too dumb to even notice,
so I just sat there and watched her die.

Well, I wish that she would think
better than she drinks,
but she plays stupid and empty
just like me.

Janie's just my kind of girl,
but this ain't our sort of world.
We were born for a simpler time
Track Name: Closet
It hung in your closet - a green and black lumberjack shirt.
I asked "Can I have it?" You said "Of course."
Belonged to your brother before it was yours,
and just like that blanket, it kept me so warm
on all of those nights when I was far from home.

Darlin', you left me nothin' that smells of your skin.
Your hair fell in locks to my sheets,
my summertime queen.

I ache for you most in the evening,
when you'd sit with.
We'd listen to sad country music,
and you'd sing to me.

I went by your house last week.
Don't know what I expected to see,
but you sat in the window, reading a book
with a glass of red wine, and him by your side.
He leaned in to kiss you the way that I did for so many years.

Darlin', you left me nothin' that smells of your skin.
Your hair fell in locks to my sheets,
my summertime queen.

I ache for you most in the evening,
when you'd sit with.
We'd listen to sad country music.
Track Name: Sweet Madeline
Every time you shake your head,
and say "I don't wanna think about that."
Well, that's just one more thing
that we haven't dealt with yet.

Every time I fall down at the bar with my last glass
I think, this sweet girl might be the last.
The last one that I love and that I'll ever come to know
but c'mon, sweet Madeline, we both know.

Every time I fall down at the bar with my last pint,
she thinks "I might be this sweet boy's wife."
The last one that he'll know and that he'll ever come to love
but c'mon, sweet Madeline, you're not the one.

Now I'm putting on her pearls and all her fur,
trying to remember how it felt to hold her.
I walk home from the bar, south down Superior.
Down by the river where I first saw her.

Every time I fall down at the bar with my last glass
I think, this sweet girl might be the last.
The last one that I love and that I'll ever come to know
but c'mon, sweet Madeline, we both know.

Every time I fall down at the bar with my last pint,
she thinks "I might be this sweet boy's wife."
The last one that he'll know and that he'll ever come to love
but c'mon, sweet Madeline, you're not the one.

Sweet Madeline, you're not the one.
Track Name: ***
The only lining I can understand
is the silver top on my beer can.
Lost my hands in the basin sink,
I scrubbed off the dirty things I was thinking.
Down with the suds and the dirt I washed,
went my hands they were far too soft.
Never seen a laboring day in my life.
Never had to worry.

She was the girl with the pea buried at the bottom of the mattress stack.

The willows crooked like Grandma’s bones
and the cluster of lights in my old tone poems
Housewives in their tennis skirts
who slither so slick like the rain wet worms.

I come from a city that sucks its’ children’s bones dry.

Met this woman at the swallerin’ place.
Found her in my inebriated embrace.
And as I learned to smile again,
she bedded me down with the finest gin.

So, here I sit reviled and scarred
with a cigarette burning in the old bone yard.
Haunted by the wife I truly miss,
her arms my last real golden bliss.

There’s a spear in her side and she’s asking me for water.
I know she’s not here so I just try to ignore her.
I stare through the vapor and into the blanketing darkness of my room.
Please, let her sleep.
Track Name: Sweet Virginia
She said “C’mon, boy, let’s hop that train.
The one that rolls behind the apartment.

We could head north and find some new place.
Somewhere that we wouldn’t feel quite so common.

Head up to Carolina then on through Virginia.
Spend some time in New York, but then still sweet Virgninia.”

But I told her “that train moves too quick
for either one of us to ever catch up to it.”

She proved me wrong on the day that she left me.
No name was addressed just the city where she met me.

She said “I swear to God, Atlanta, I’m gonna miss you.
And I’m sorry for the things that you’ll find I stole from you:

Your sunglasses, books, and those old worn out blue jeans.
And the hope that someday you’ll be brave enough to find me.

Just head up to Carolina then on through Virginia.
Spend some time in New York, but then still sweet Virginia.”

She said “C’mon, boy, let’s hop that train.”
Track Name: Choke
I don’t wanna go as some sentence that you choke
out in the early hours of morning.
I’d much rather stay as the pain in your skinned knee,
that you seem to need so much to ease.
I’d be remembered as some sonnet that you loved,
back when you were sixteen and free.

I’ll die that dog-eared beaten page –
the one you marked, but never did re-read.
Or maybe just some corner of a sheet –
and you’d pull it up, to cover all your dreams.

I just wanna be your coffee morning black.
Wake you as I move through your insides.
I’d slosh around your belly, your huger I’d abate
through the middle of the afternoon.

And on your fifteen minute break,
I’d be the jitters in the nerves behind your eyes.

But lately, I’ve just been that Christmas tree –
January 3rd out by the curb.
Waiting to be collected by someone I don’t know,
to break me down and shower out my bones.
Track Name: The Devil You Know
I said “Momma, you don’t know where I have been.
It will only break your heart to hear it all.”
So I’ll spare you all of the sordid, tawdry details,
suffice to say it’s time that I move on.

Oh, my lord, it must be hot there in the heavens
while you wait on all of us to come back home,
but I won’t be there. I’ll be on my own.

I never strayed from you without my good reason,
I put a thousand rounds between your barren thighs.
You let me down all of the time, so don’t even
try to pretend that this should all be pinned on me.
I’ll drink that sadness in our dusking time crescendo,
thinking “the devil you know is better than one you don’t.”

Some sweet bird must be drowning in my freedom,
In the black heat that still boils those old bones
that God left here when he left us alone.

If I walked down the aisle in my suit
and my shiny leather shoes,
I would lie to myself (oh how I’d lie)
if I tried then, to take you.

I don’t love you like I used to.
I don’t love you,
I don’t want you,
I’m through.
Track Name: Left Brain Riot
Lord, I lay in the deep blue quiet.
Toss and dream of all these buzzing bees,
I wake in a left brain riot,
shake my body alive and listen.
Things keep moving, it gets easier to breathe.

My brain beats to a sweet staccato.
Her eyes pumped up like those black stilettos
that she wore for me. Now my baby can
ditch that weekend scene.
Tension keeps clothes on my limbs and shoes my feet.

But there’s still this violent thing inside of me.
Oh, there’s still this violent sin inside of me.

She keeps jars of baby teeth
and locks of her own hair.
I don’t understand it,
but I’m sure she doesn’t care.
I’d rather chew this rotten meat
than keep some sadistic souvenir.
Track Name: Sold in Bunches
My sister, she once told me:
“Don’t go walking in the rain.”
I didn’t get it then, but now I know
it’s so I wouldn’t float away.

A man I loved once dared me
to drink from that dirty river.
I feel like I’ve been stuck since then
and I’ll never make it back there.

So I sold my love in bunches
and I let it slide away,
I gnashed my teeth to try to make you stay.
I never liked the people we were then –
I betrayed my friends, you were digging an early grave.

The person that you’ve always been,
you are simple and you are small.
You never loved me at all.

The things I need to bring me peace,
they are simple and they are small.
I’m not asking for it all.