A Place In The Hills

by Magilla Shuwall

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A recurring theme through the songs led me to name it after a piece of property that's been in my family for generations - the high country in Hamilton County, southern Illinois. They were always just called "The Hills" - I add Hamilton just to clarify. All photos shot at The Hills. Go there yourself on any day and you'll see the Great Architects of the Universe, milling about drinking their wine and writing stories.


released August 20, 2011

Recorded in Mt. Vernon, SI by Tom Greathouse.
Music composed and performed by Magilla Shuwall.
Evil John Wilson sang on "My-Baby's-Here Smile".
Jonathan Raby played drums on "Runt Cats," "Chop Shop," "My-Baby's-Here Smile," "Sweet Thing," "Everybody's Elsewhere," and "I Still Love You".
Guitar arrangements by Michael Suess.
Mix Bouda-Lycaon shops at eBay.
Photography by Amanda Scott of Dream Big Photography.
Nealey Compton, Ember Harrelson, and Rachel Melton were our lovely models.
Back cover and graphics by Joel Lewis.



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Magilla Shuwall Mount Vernon, Illinois

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Track Name: Runt Cats
See them little runt cats a-playin underneath the rusted car
They’re gonna have twenty kittens of their own before they haul it away
They sleep all night in a wheel well never knowin where they are
And so do we too but I guess we like it that way

We don’t know the make or the model-number of this world that spins
But I guess that would only enable us to complain
And I have faith that the dealer wouldn’t want us phoning in
Each time there’s rain

And the night bogs down the mirror inside the valley
And I’m holding it out to the world tonight

Throw another stick on the burn pile, let us light the bonfire high
On a solitaire sort of night that tests our heart against chill
Hold me forever darlin let the tears come from your eye
If emotion don’t make you soon enough the hot ashes will

I forged the trail through the tall grass found a place in the hills
On the backs of generations just to observe
They’ll pull me back in their laps if what I see makes me
Lose my nerve

I’m a baby in this world
(So late to the show)
(Growing arms and legs to walk)
(Great Spirit teach me how to talk)
Track Name: Guilty Place
All the we’s turned to I’s after we said goodbye
In the report of my life to the lord
The weddings he favors with wealth shared to savor
Is something I just can’t afford
I nipped away, a Roman holiday
Behind the back of everlasting grace
And though I’d be forgiven
I’d rather stay hidden
And remember our guilty place

Oh, the picture’s near black
And the audio track is near silent
But for peaks of delight
We drew heavy curtains, still
Could not be certain that no one was watching that night
Those ancient trees, those gentle autumn breezes
The animals who hunt and chase
Care not for our stay, but they would have seen prey
In the corners of a guilty place

Home is where the heart is
And my heart’s in you
And that should suffice, but Earth’s fire and ice
Leave me wanting a structure too

(I never wondered how my love could fill the air
Or who the love went to, the question became where)
Track Name: All The Way Down
Get in my car, I’ll take you for a ride
All the way down I-70
You can sleep in the back, I’ll play a tape you like
With songs soft and heavenly

We’ll stop in Effingham
and get a dinner plate that’s just your size
With piles of fries

You’ll draw the best you can despite the moving car
And fill up pages with your characters

Get on my bus, we’ll ride away from here
‘Cos school is the scariest
I read all the books that are coming out this year
You can learn ‘em vicarious

We’ll build a skyscraper on Merrydale Hill and sell the view
To people coming through
We’ll make a fortune off the people that we know
They love us so

We keep the lights on and the meter running
Puttin’ on a big show just for you
‘Bout time you carry some of that fat weight sugar
Too big for us to carry through

We’ll bind you to the taxman’s treatise of employ and break your back
To pick up all your slack
He’s coming next for your guitar so look alive
And write jingles for pizzerias
Track Name: Sonny and the Lifeguard
The lifeguard unlocks the door, whistlin’ through his keys
Sunlight hits the town Rec Center, peekin’ through the trees
It’s time to start them big pool pumps, lots of kids comin’ out today
And Sonny’s walkin’ back from his mornin’ chocolate milk, ready to play

The lifeguard got an office job, he starts September 6th
Till then, he swings his whistle around and he tosses out diving sticks
Sonny gets faster and faster bringin’ those things back up
‘Cause runnin’ him around is the only way
The lifeguard can get young Sonny to shut up

‘Cause he’ll talk all day ‘bout video games
And schoolyard fights between unknown names
His mama’s glad he’s found a buddy
She also finds it a little funny
That the lifeguard is the only one
But they still have fun

Now the lifeguard works for GuardLife, Ltd, typing out a letter to say
“We’re sorry, but we have to deny your insurance claim”
He didn’t recognie the address, it was that of Sonny’s mom
And Sonny too, and when she read it she knew
She would have to sell the car and sell the farm

They packed everything in a little U-Haul
And took it to the city, let some bitter nights fall
He usually plays with more high-tech stuff
But any shiny object is oddly enough
To keep young Sonny on the run, and he still has fun

His favorite game was to jump real high
Off the c ouch and crush the head of the bad guy
He played late at night when his mama was out
And that wee hour was just about
When the lifeguard’s tryin’ to turn in
He lives below him, and he’s jumpin’ again
Jump Sonny!

Sonny’s getting’ back on track, swimmin’ just to stay warm
And the lifeguard’s new, but just as true in dive-stick-tossin’ form
GuardLife Ltd. Is gettin’ sued, someone was cookin’ up the books
And Mama wasn’t dreamin’ when she thought she saw
The new lifeguard givin’ her that special look

They packed everything in a big U-Haul
And took it to the ocean, sun and surf and all
Sonny’s learnin’ to hang ten
And Mama looks out to the men
That kept her afloat when times got hard
Sonny and the Lifeguard
Track Name: Chop Shop
Strung out on film & video
Face down, you’ve got a place to go
You can walk all night if you pull your coat tighter, yeah
Got a backpack with a drum machine,
A worms’-eye view of the city scene of snow

Friends point fingers while they’re talking
They know who’s down & out
& one boy there wants to take you shopping
If you check his music out
Stay together, be a friend
Share the trash you’re livin’ in
Cause it’s all spare parts for the chop shop sugar

The jaws that bite want you to trust them not to bite right through
Cause they belong to a packmate who would not do that to you
It’s bitter for us, yes
But we shouldn’t second-guess ourselves with love

Strung out among the places where the trains all run aground
by a sound that cuts right through
you know when i see you
i hear it too

strung out and you can't ask me where to go tonight
some clown threw me 300 miles away
down state looks good tonight with the city snow you sent us so
relax and take it in
from a distance my best friend
when it thaws we'll hit the alleyways
for similar spare parts and strays
and spend our days in the chop shop sugar
Track Name: My-Baby's-Here Smile
She walks in the room so light on her feet
Heading in my direction she looks for a seat
She's lit up like the skies over South Marcum beach in July

And when I think who that bright smile might be for
A sharp-dressed young man follows her from the door
Puts his hands on her waist, gives the barkeep their order and I sigh

If she's looking too good to be true
it's never for you
The luckiest man in the world's coming soon
But till then she'll string you along for a while
With her my-baby's here smile.

She sees her grandchildren each Sunday at two
They run around bored, treat the place like a zoo
Her daughter just smiles as she makes her way through the spilt toys

She can't say her name, but her smile tells all
When her husband walks in from the nursing home hall
Kisses her on the cheek and fixes her shawl before joining in the noise

He held her through laughter and tears
For fifty-two years
Her body wore down but the magic appears
On her face when her wheels cross the common room tile
With a my-baby's-here smile

They struggle and suffer to be fit and trim
And choose the right shoes, bags and clothes to fit in
But the best style that women can wear can't be fixed with a comb

There's love in her eyes and she couldn't see clearer
She's put up the makeup and become the mirror
Reflecting the sweet play unfolding around her
And knowing it'll carry her home

Even the craziest cats are passed out
And some tired drunken body has filled every couch
But I’m sober enough to take these empties out before I go

Out on the back porch you raise your eye
And say “You considerate boys are my type”
And I look behind me to see your guy but I don’t

And now it’s not for someone else
That twinkle that tells
Me you’re so glad that you’ve got me to yourself
I threw out my blues with the trash on the pile
When I saw your my-baby’s here smile
Track Name: Steel Reserve
Got a steel reserve and a quarter-pound dog
And a fat stack of papers on my backlog
But I can’t, no I can’t be your dancing clown no more
Gotta set my broken clavicle against the wheel
Take a deep breath & let my burdens feel
The right type of wind that my big brass lungs go for

Bump yourself up a notcher, stoop to conquer
Roll yr choices round yr tongue
If you should falter, pray at the altar
Of the love you draw your livin’ from, oh God
I gotta suit that’s old, but the buttons new
I got an old pair of shoes I took the kiwi to
But I can’t and I won’t dance for you no more

If I roll to the right I get a bump on my toe
I roll to the left I get a freak show
So I’ll sit here with you in the middle of somethin’ good

You know them high-steppin strutters gonna roll that log
Droppin’ waves on an unsuspecting tree frog
It’s two roads diverged in a swampy southern wood

There’s no indication of the frustration
You’ll face when you first sign on
So keep it upright
And tip your cup right
Off the curb till the liquor’s gone

Dance for everybody in the whole reserve
The tall black tango looks a bit unnerving
Stumblin’ around the green years

Make my love better, grow it every day
I drink the hard steel, still my skin’s okay,
Keep touchin me touchin me, smooth like the river on a Sunday
Warm like the willow cryin’ everyday
Tradin’ golden hours for some shit pay

But once in a great great while you see
A light shining through the rain
That makes you wanna alchemize
Your Steel Reserve into champagne
And every time my family asks about that light
They say Hey Magilla, what’s her name
And though It’s held several over many years
It always leaves me feelin’ the same
It always leaves me singin’ the same
Track Name: Sweet Thing
I didn't think it was possible
But you're just as sweet as I thought you were
The right amount of sunshine for my day

I won't let no man make a dog of me
But you're a woman so I guess I'll see
If I can keep my ego at bay

And run up happy to see you
Wagging my tail just to be with you
Alarming how eagerly devoted I'd be, sweet thing

You can call me a thousand times
Call me some pet name that rhymes
I won't get embarrassed, just call me again

Keep me on the shortest leash
I'll bark and bite whenever thieves
Encroach in the night to rob my best friend

Of her peace and her happiness
I know she deserves no less
Than comfort and protection and affection from me, sweet thing

I'll be grateful for our precious ride
Just as long as I can put my head outside
And pretend that I'm flying
But I won't have to pretend
If your hand's in my hand
Put your hand in my hand (shake)

Maybe it's humanity
That keeps me such a lonely me
The money and the problems, just put them away
Something to eat and something to smell
Someone to love and I might as well
Roll over and enjoy these dog days

Without scratching or scrambling
For some phony life that might have been
What more could I need than what's right here with me, sweet thing
Track Name: Everybody's Elsewhere
How long must I wait for you to join me in this world?
I know the person touchin your keys
is the one you really want to be with
But just give this old world a chance, you'll see
How long God's been workin on this funny thing called me
Just use your voice and there I'll be
No network necessary

So much riding on our vast connections
How much do we really have
If we can't suffer silence without text injections
from equally bored strangers with the gift of gab?

I know you can whip your gadget out
and let the fingers fly
But when everybody else is elsewhere, where am I?

Too long have I seen these faces buried in their screens
The world gets smaller every day, and so does people's tunnel vision
Pretty soon it'll slip away & we'll see
Whose song will be playin without digital compression, yeah
It's quiet and it's out of key, but that's me

The data's makin tracks along our busy airwaves, buzzin round our busy brains
Half of it says "are you as bored as I am?"
The other half says "Gotta go, I'm on the plane"
Who knows what distant friends you're flyin off to now
Cause everybody's got more elsewhere
than the good earth will allow

Stay right here with me and I'll show you the world
As walked by two big feet
Feel the same soft rains that'll fall
On the grass after the last text message passes
It just said 'help me, plz'

We're here, and there's not much left to do but let the time go by
You shouldn't have to run and hide
from a world you can't control by typing
Just push that buddy list aside and see
If here is a place that you can handle with both hands free
And soaking in the moon or sunlight, be happy
Everybody's Elsewhere
Track Name: The World Waits
The world waits for you
The world waits for you
Is my heart full of poison because I decide my own fate?
Is the clock full of ego because it tells you how late it’s getting?

The world works for peace
The world works for peace
In your hometowns and cities, you’d see there’s much to be done
But your own four walls are so comfortable
And fun to die in

The world waits for none

I once ran through fields of technicolor green searching for gold
Then they told me how much gold it takes to keep the fields green
And I gave what I had and it wasn’t enough
So the black bulldozers tore my field up
And millers stole the grist

Stealing sodas since the day we were born
Blind to the new bite the pop’s taken on, so numbing
Will we ever live our lives, right or wrong
It’s better than airing our frustrations in the coldest dawn

The boys search for home
The boys search for home
If there’s one to be had in the places where they stay
Are they trusting enough to see it in that way and respect it?

The home stands alone
The home stands alone
And the place in the hills sleeps among the waves of grain
And I thought I was worthy to sing its sweet refrain
Left the monitors on, so the world well knew
All the powerful numbers two dear close friends could do
But did nothing at all
The world’s waiting
Track Name: Auten's Pizza
Suppertime in Mactown, we all get Auten’s Pizza
Got a crew to feed then you better feed ‘em right
Game Day with the Foxes, let’s get Auten’s Pizza
Grab the paper plates and we’ll divvy up the squares of delight

Hamburger, green olives, or a Taco Pie
Collect the little yellow coupons with the Chef Hat Guy
Talkin’ ‘bout Auten’s Pizza

People come from miles around for Auten’s Pizza
Delafield to Broughton, Wayne City to Carmi
Whether workin’ in the fields or fishin’ all day on Dolan
At the end of the day you could use a hot Italian bite

Where there’s open roads, a hand to hold, where there’s a cross
There’ll be crust, hot cheese, and a rich red sauce
(Let's Blues!)
Nothin’s quite as haut’n fresh’n tasty as an Auten’s
Track Name: I Still Love You
I don’t know the last time I saw you
Cause we broke up over the phone
And ever since then, it’s my options gone thinner
And my, how your prospects have grown
Time closed the door, but I still love you

We met in your hometown for coffee
Despite all the places you’ve been
A cup and a sleeve for each miniscule grievance
A lid to keep all that steam in
Let’s drink some more, cause I still love you

Didn’t know what I had until you and the bad
College education was gone
A bad follow through with it and with you
Left me chasing a dream and a song, so long

I’m trouble, my pocketbook’s empty
I’m trouble, I run with strange crowds
And I won’t subject you do attempts to protect you
From rain with my head in the clouds
You deserve so much more, but I still love you

Oi Magillers, don't be a plonker all your life

A newer and brighter romance will inspire
A wave of excitement in you
You’ll love and you’ll laugh hard, and feel the half part
Of everything you but me through, but we’re through

So find a nice place in the city
I’ll send a postcard from the sand
And if the stars are aligned with the X’s I’ve signed with
I’ll pull myself out by your hand
And learn to soar, ‘cause I still love you