Music That You Can’t Dance To

Back in college, during a period of unrequited infatuation, I fancied myself a singer-songwriter. I had taken guitar lessons for a few months when I was 12, but quit when my teacher accused me of never practicing (which was true). I didn’t realize until high school that girls liked musicians, so I retaught myself from some Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel chord books.

Most of these songs were recorded in my room using the internal mic of a dual-cassette Fisher ghetto blaster. The second vocal track was added by playing track 1 on the Fisher while singing along into an Aiwa cassette recorder with a tiny stereo microphone. The background noise is awful, even after a software cleanup attempt.

The “album” title comes from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, where Orlando claims to be “love-shaked” while Rosalind points out that he has none of the signs of a man in love, including “a beard neglected” (as well as “a shoe untied, and everything about you demonstrating a careless desolation”). It was also the name of a blog I attempted in 2005 until I realized the public me is not interesting and the private me doesn’t want to write about it in public.

The cover photo is a self-portrait from a Spring Break camping trip in Southern Utah during a sleepless night.

But my life is (compared to college days) stable now, which doesn’t lend itself to much songwriting. Lately I’ve taken to doing covers for YouTube.

A few of the old songs

I’d Write a Country Song (Demo)

By Justin Hill, Summer 1996.
This version is me sitting in front of my laptop with an acoustic guitar — not a high-quality recording by any means. I wrote the song while I was working at Jacob Lake Inn in response to the non sequitur “You play the guitar but you don’t like country music?” It was intended to poke some light fun at her, but she liked the song.

Just John (Demo)

By Justin Hill, January 1999.
A song about a guy I met on a bus in France who thought he was John the Revelator. Or maybe I thought he thought he was John the Revelator.

Elisabeth, Emilie, and Me (Demo)

By Justin Hill, January 2001.
For Elisabeth with backup vocals and screaming by Emilie.

It’s My Turn

About changing diapers. Features the banjo for a few seconds.


The Beatles

One has to completely humiliate oneself to be what the Beatles were, and that’s what I resent. I didn’t know, I didn’t foresee. It happened bit by bit, gradually, until this complete craziness is surrounding you, and you’re doing exactly what you don’t want to do with people you can’t stand-the people you hated when you were ten. — John Lennon

Songwriting is about getting the demon out of me. It’s like being possessed. You try to go to sleep, but the song won’t let you. So you have to get up and make it into something, and then you’re allowed to sleep. It’s always in the middle of the bloody night, or when you’re half-awake or tired, when your critical faculties are switched off. So letting go is what the whole game is. Every time you try to put your finger on it, it slips away. You turn on the lights and the cockroaches run away. You can never grasp them. — John Lennon

Music you should try

Folk and Singer-Songwriters
David Wilcox – best album is How Did You Find Me Here
Cheryl Wheeler – best album is Mrs. Pinocci’s Guitar
Paul Simon – best album is first solo album Paul Simon.

Alison Krauss – best album is Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection
Nickel Creek – best album is Nickel Creek
Chris Thile (of Nickel Creek) – Not All Who Wander Are Lost

The Chieftains – best album is Irish Heartbeat with Van Morrison

For archival purposes, here’s my old album cover and track listing –

Track listing -If I Wrote You A Love Song
So Clever
If I Were Ever To Admit
How Can You Say
Kiss’d Me
How Sad that Makes You
Too In Love With You
Hold Me
I’d Write A Country Song
It’s Been So Long
A Beard Neglected
Love Triangle
Learn To Fly
Suddenly She’s Beautiful
Just John
Suddenly Outtake
Elisabeth, Emilie, And Me
Don’t Have Time