April Audio

Please consider supporting CSN by supporting our advertisers!

Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Halfway from Birmingham
I'm new & this is the first song I'm trying to post.
I'm not sensitive about being critiqued, so tear it apart all you like.
I know the performance is rough, but this was one of 15 songs I did in the 3 hours of studio time I could afford. They came out good enough for the copyright office.
Hope you enjoy it.


Music and lyrics by Paul Shell
copyright 2016

I put the lights of Birmingham in my mirrors before dawn.
I'll be pushing 18 wheels west to Oklahoma before the day is gone.
I got a slow air leak in a brake line and a warrant for failure to appear.
But there's mortgage money waiting out there on an L.A shipping pier.
My wife prays that God will see us through. I'm just looking for some highway sign.
Lord, I'm a sinful man, but sometimes I swear I can hear you in the highway whine,
Saying come down from your fences and find a better way,
If you're hauling halfway from Birmingham to Calvary today.
Halfway from Birmingham.

He passed me on a hard tail panhead. He was chasing his setting sun.
I swear I could read his life in every patch and scar he'd won.
At sixteen got his first tattoo. Eighteen he's a Marine Corps boot.
Then he's fighting a war for politicians who don't deserve his salute.
Once you taste the fruit of knowledge of what people can do, you'll never be the same.
Maybe it's only someone who was crucified like you, you can hear calling out your name,
Saying come down from your fences and find a better way,
If you're riding halfway from Birmingham to Calvary today.
Halfway from Birmingham.

He dreamed cathedrals as a young man, but now he drives the road.
Running a third-hand beat up Peterbilt with a chapel for a load.
His only incense is the sting of diesel from the trucks idle there at rest.
He's a voice crying out to the wanderers in a blacktop wilderness.
And he calls out to the drivers, the bikers, the tourists and the whores,
Saying the toll ahead's too much to pay but it's been paid for you before.
And you can come down from your fences and find a better way,
If you're hauling halfway from Birmingham to Calvary today.
Halfway from Birmingham.
Halfway from any town.

Hi Paul,
Lots of great visuals in here and I like the overall sound you created, it goes hand-in-hand with the type of song you wrote.
I think if I was to offer one thing for consideration it would be to try and keep the great visuals but find ways to use less words, it feels like you are forcing some lines by using too many words for the music to support.
Keep up the great work, looking forward to seeing some of your other work posted.
Thanks for the critique, Skip.
I was afraid the song was just going to lie there with nobody saying they liked it or hated it. You may be right about me being overly wordy.
I'm going to try to post a song each month or so. If you'd like to hear more of my stuff, I think you can search for Paul Shell & all my songs will show up.
The Christian ones are "21," "I Got Issues," "The Call" (I discovered there's about 50 songs named The Call), "The Fisherman," The Fourth Nail," "The Intolerance Song," "The Proverbial Fool" and "What is Written."
Thanks again for the input.
+1 on everything that Skip said. As an exercise, try going through each line and asking yourself this about every word:

"Is it crucial or is it just taking up precious real estate?"

Here are a couple of the hallmarks of great songwriting where lyrics are concerned: every word counts, and the meter flows organically with little to no need of shoehorning in the syllables. Easy to say, not always very easy to do!
I am a damp hamster, a small moist rodent with a pea-sized brain... so what do I know?! 

Thanks for the input. I think "Birmingham" was the first Christian song I wrote. Maybe I'll try to find a more recent one to post next & see if you guys think it's improved.
I'd usually agree about using too many words... But sometimes the words need to go on a diet, and sometimes you just need a better fitting pair of pants? Is that a personal rationalization I'm making? Sorry for the digression.

Really though, this is the kind of writing that gets me excited. It hits me as real and fresh and original, and my first reaction is to perk up and say "What's this"? The lyric writing is sort of like Johnny Cash's voice where I'm reluctant to mess it up. Not saying I wouldn't like to see some lyric changes - I would, but (for whatever its worth) I wouldn't go there first. I wouldn't want to accidentally erase the authenticity that seems to come through it.

The structure/melody of the song isn't at quite the same level. I think musically it is bland and doesn't move the story along. I'm being blunt because (for whatever its worth) I think the song deserves the extra effort. Just my opinion, but its REALLY COOL to me. I would leave the alone lyrics for a while, make some some musical changes, and then come back to them as I think that would affect you choices. But maybe just me - I tend to work iteratively that way.

At the moment the weakest part of the song lyrically in my opinion might also be the most important from a message point of view. You got me hearing Jesus in the highway whine, eager to hear what he has to say next... but coming down from fences? Kind of out of context from the rest of the song and a little bit of an overused cliche? Give us something deep and personal there, tie it closely with the hook "halfway from Birmingham" and man...

I'd also like it to come to a firm conclusion at the end of each verse/chorus, so that when the second verse switches to a different perspective or character the listener doesn't feel like you left them hanging and so that the song as a whole feels complete . I can't write this particular scene with the same point of view as you, so definitely take this with some extra grains of salt please. But maybe the first time chorus sometime like:

Lord, I'm a sinful man, but sometimes I swear I can hear you in the highway whine,
Catch my eye and nudge me back to my side of the line.
Hard miles, Feels like I'm halfway from Birmingham to Calvary today.
But not alone, Halfway from Birmingham.

Then I dunno, notice the biker, some non-verbal communication and kinda pass it on to the rider as far as he looks tired took nudging him to keep going to and stay awake in his lane... I really just mean to give a concrete illustration here, not saying that's great writing on my part or anything. Third verse you meet the third guy, you bond and strengthen each other... hey keep or sweep any of this as you wish....

You know, Greg, that fences line is the one I'm least happy with in this song. I kind of stole it from The Eagles' "Desperado" anyway. I could change it to "leave that lonely road you're on and find a better way ..."
or maybe "dead-end road."
I'm hoping to get into a studio maybe after the first of the year and do agood recording of this song with real musicians. The tune is likely to evolve some then.
Thanks for the listen and ideas.
Cool. Tell you what though - a studio may be be the most expensive and LAST place where you want to be working on the tune and structure. Also IMO real musicians are never the answer to bettering a song. Like shining a... well, you know. They can make gold shine but there is a limit on other materials...
That's true. You want all your musical ducks in a row & everyone knowing their parts before you start paying for studio time. The guys I'd use would probably be willing to work on the song if I fed them at rehearsals & paid them for the session.
Hey Paul - first thing that hit me was the harmonica was way louder than the acoustic which came in first, so I was shocked when it hit me.

the verb is dripping from your vox (and the acoustic) and I'd consider backing it off.

hmmm...that harmonica again. it kind of "scares me" whenever it comes in since it's so much louder than anything else. I'd suggest either dropping the volume way down on it or even cutting it out and just using the acoustic and vocals as a "singer/songwriter" type song.

nice song - possibly some minor changes of perspective on the lyrics.

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)
DFW Christian Songwriters

Please consider supporting CSN by supporting our advertisers!