The Big Show

by Stephen Simmons

supported by
Matthew Woodman
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Matthew Woodman Simmons is a literary singer-songwriter: the analogy of seeing life as a circus isn't a new one, but I haven't seen it developed and extended as well as Simmons does on this album. All of Simmons's works are worth picking up; this one's great for how he mixes a discussion of his personal struggles with universal and political dimensions. Favorite track: Just What I Got.


Brand new album from Stephen Simmons. Official release date is July 19 2011, but you can order your advance copy here NOW directly from my Bandcamp Merchandise page.


released July 19, 2011

Produced by: Stephen Simmons
Recorded and Mixed by: Eric Fritsch
at Eastwood Studios, East Nashville, TN
Mastered by Alex McCollough
at Yes Master, Nashville, TN
Photography by: Staci McQueen
Design by: Adam Pinney
Circus Photographs:(WHS Image ID 11749 & 77821) Wisconsin Historical Society

All songs written by Stephen Simmons
Published by Shiny Geode Music, SESAC
© 2011 Locke Creek Records

Stephen Simmons: vocals, acoustic guitars, harmonicas
Eric Fritsch: electric guitars, acoustic guitar, b-3 (tracks 3,6,7,12,13,17,18)
Tim Marks: bass (tracks 1,2,7,9,13)
Matt Crouse: drums, percussion (tracks 1,2,7,9,13)
Dave Jacques: bass (tracks 6,11,14,16,18)
Paul Griffith: drums (tracks 6,11,14,16,18)
Jen Gunderman: piano, wurlitzer, b-3, harmonium, accordian (tracks 2,3,7,8,9,10,11,13,14,16,19)
Dave Coleman: electric guitars, background vocals (tracks 2,7,9,13,16)
Alex McCollough: pedal steel guitar (tracks 2,11,13)
Wendy Newcomer: harmony vocals
Smith Curry: lap steel (track 3)



all rights reserved


Stephen Simmons Nashville, Tennessee

Stephen Simmons was raised in the small town of Woodbury, Tennessee. As a songwriter and Ten years as a Road Dog, Stephen’s vision has grown to entail more than just reflections of rural America. Stephen’s records (which were compared to everyone from Johnny Cash to Ryan Adams) combine virtuosic songcraft and musicianship with unparalleled artistic honesty. ... more


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Track Name: I'm Late
Well I was practicing the words
To a song I probably won’t play
And it got me to thinking
‘Bout the one that got away
And I was gonna write it down
But I couldn’t find a pen
And I thought I had the time to muse
But when I was supposed to play forgot when
So I’m coming to you tonight
A little delayed upon this stage
And I hope you will forgive me
For I tried my best today
And I tried so hard to please you
But you know the muse is king
And I'm the subject of a bloody tyrant
Who uses me for his little plaything

So I threw my shit up in my truck
Jumped in and cranked the key
And I headed down the road still late
But only fashionably
But I forgot my favorite harmonica
The one in the key of E
The one that goes so perfectly with the song that I was practicing
Before I had to leave
Yeah I’m the subject of a bloody tyrant
Who tugs on my little heartstrings
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
©copyright secured all rights reserved
Track Name: Parchcorn Falls
I’m gonna make it after all
I’m gonna get up but it was a damn hard fall
And baby you can take it with you when you leave
It was something I never really liked anyways about me
And I’ve been driving all night long
And I’m so tired of throwing stones
Baby do you think we could take a nice long walk
Down on Parchcorn Falls
Down on Parchcorn Falls
There’s a hummingbird on my windowsill
And there’s a humming ringing between my ears
There ain’t a cloud up in the sky
And there ain’t a doubt down in this heart of mine
There’s a time and a season
Feels so right for no rhyme or reason
And I’ve been thinking you and I could steal a little time
For walking in our bare feet down by that cool creek side
Oh Baby let’s walk
Please baby out on Parchcorn Falls
Oh Baby let’s walk
Please baby down on Parchcorn Falls

Down on Parchcorn Falls
Down on Parchcorn Falls
Down on Parchcorn Falls

Words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
©Copyright secured all rights reserved
Track Name: Spark
On a 747 with Halifax beneath
Spilling into the Atlantic Sea
Heading into Dublin, thinking bout a girl and wondering
Yeah wondering what she means to me
I’ve been on a bus, in a van, on a plane
Till the view all looks the same
I’ve been the stranger in town, the one they talk about
And seen the marquee with my name
I’ve been looking for a spark
I’ve been looking for passion
I've been looking for truth
I’ve been looking for a selfless love
I’ve been looking for me
Maybe I’m looking for you
It’s the way that the evening sky touches sea
Yet so much lies in between
It’s the way she calls my name, it’s the sound of midnight rain
When she’s sleeping next to me
I’ve sacrificed love seen it die in vein
Felt my heart give way to pride and shame
But I won’t sacrifice the truth, not even for my muse
Let alone for minor fame
Maybe a song can heal a soul
Like prayers don’t know where they come from or they go
Lilting lullabyes under the cover of night
Long ago I heard someone say
Seek yourself and you’ll be on your way
But sometimes that’s just like trying to making lightning strike 

Words and music by Stephen Simmons
©copyright secured all rights reserved
Shiny Geode Music, SESAC
Track Name: Empty Belly Blues No.32
Well there’s folk stars in East Nashville and country wannabees downtown
Who look up to all the has beens in the Brentwood mansion crowd
And the Goth kids in the malls, menthol-smoking, pierced and tattoed
All think that Johnny Cash hung the moon
Well there’s slim and trendy girls out near the Five Points
And hard candy Vandy girls out west are such a joy
And there’s well-adjusted, well-kept, from Bellvue living in my songs
But none of ‘em will ever let me stay for long
And I’m singing each night for my supper
And folks ask me how I’m doing and they can’t tell
So I stretch the truth till it sounds just right
But my stomach tells me things ain’t going too well
And my friends back home all say they’re pulling for me
Such a tough business they say it seems
But I just shrug my shoulders, sip their beer and nod but then acknowledge
Rock 'n' Roll's damn sure good work if you can get it
And so I hang out with my Cousin and smoke his good weed
And have lunch with my Uncle and let him buy mine for me
And I find an old lost lover man just in time for supper
And I ask my brother if his store is hiring part-time workers
Words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
© copyright secured all rights reserved
Track Name: Step Right Up & Place Your Bets

From the instant our little spirit decides
“Screw it” and bolts for the womb's door
And ole sawbones welcomes us to this World with a smack on the ass
We suck in all it's pain and glory
Burning our tiny lungs
Earth's oxygen
For the very first time

Beginning here
It's all one magnificent gamble
A dizzying, ever-expanding, incomprehensible Roulette Wheel

But why we so fret a game played on the house's money
Is beyond me

Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
Track Name: The Circus
It’s so hard to keep it all together
So hard to get everything just right
Just when I think I got it all in order
Man that’s when lightning usually strikes
So I been trying to keep my ship tight
Make sure everything’s where it goes
Sure all my pictures are just hung right
Starched and pressed my good clothes
Baby take me down to the Circus
Sometime when it’s in town
Show me all around
The Big Show
On the fast rides
How you laugh and smile
How it feels when you let go
I been readin' in the papers
I been listening to the radio
They say you better get your house in order
Least you be left here alone
So I straighten up my posture
And polish up these old dusty bones
And my suit’s tailor made to order
To greet the king of this Big Show
I saw a man lying on the roadside
Somebody had covered his face with a towel
The police or the ambulance hadn’t even gotten there
Guess it’d all just gone down
And as I drove on I couldn’t help but think about it
Couldn’t seem to get past what I’d just seen
Did I just happen to drive by as his soul leaked out?
Or did God come for him and just want me to see?
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
©copyright secured all rights reserved
Track Name: C'mon World
Dirt underneath my fingernails
Grease in my hair
My body old and frail
I look a wreck, I feel a mess
And I’d look in the mirror
If I weren’t scared to death
Trouble goes on day by day
She always says she loves me
But she never stays
If I had a penny for every heartbreak
I’d buy myself a new heart
To take mine’s place
Trouble be gone and trouble be damned
I’m just down tonight, I ain’t ashamed of my self
I just want a love that’ll last awhile
And enough good times to prove how I felt
Somebody tell me if I’m crazy or not
C’mon world, is this all you got?
So you get on with your life
Drive down that road
Pay your dues and be on time
But on the other side
There’s a grave dug for ya
Do you live till then or just wait to die
I’m not asking for the stars up above
I’m not asking you to lasso the moon my love
Stitch up these scars and try and keep my spirits high
And give your best damn shot cause I’ll give mine
Words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
copyright secured, all rights reserved
Track Name: Heart Trouble

When I was twenty-three
See they cut right into me
Stuffed wires in through my veins
And screwed right into my heart

Found I was born with this disease
Seems my heart she didn't always beat
Now the chunk of metal in my my chest
kicks her into start

Now I'm staring in the mirror
At my six day beard
At the bandage o'er my chest
And all the things I fear
As I wonder
How long
I'll be here

And Oh
The words I heard
Sound so hard to believe
But Oh
We all hurt
We all have scars and we all bleed
And Heart trouble's
Happened to me

Now I've lived to be an older man
Who feels like he got a second chance
To live passionate and true if not always smart

We all think we hold this life in our hands
But it's never guaranteed to last
But you're a better man than me if you can fool your own heart

Staring in the mirror
Into all the faces I've peered
For the one that fits my own
As I now appear
As I wonder
How long
I'll be here


Yeah Heart Trouble's happened to me

words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music, SESAC
all rights reserved / copyright secured
Track Name: Just What I Got

I gotta van been across this land
Been all across this country
Gotta girl who rocks my world
But she no longer loves me
I get a buzz sometimes just cuz
I drink too much bourbon 'fore bed
Cause I'm scared a creepy nightmares
Rather be hungover instead
And I don’t know when I’m gonna figure it out
Just what I got in this world for sure
And I guess nobody is without doubt
But just for once I want something pure
I get a goose runnin wild and loose
Runnin all over my grave at the thought
Her looking so cold as she turned to go
And me with my stomach in knots
I gotta scar proves the ground is hard
On the side of my head
I gotta scar proves the beat of my heart
Runnin across my chest
They say all you got in this world is what you came with
And it’s all you gonna take a when you go
So what about all a these things that I got now
I’ll shed ‘em if it’s true what we’re told
Or are they gonna stick to my soul?
I gotta van been across this land
Been all across this country
Gotta girl who rocks my world
But she no longer loves me

words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
all rights reserved / copyright secured
Track Name: Kool In Nashville

Would you teach me if I nicely asked you?
Would you show me how it is that you do?
You know I’ll be so thankful I promise if you will
Show me how to be kool in Nashville
Don’t want no gold records
No house in Hendersonville
Work part-time at the coffee shop
And it pays some of the bills
I see you each morning
But never before ten
You flirt with our cute barista
And you always call me kid
I’ve been to all your shows
Like you grew out a beard
I know all your groupies names
I know their favorite beer
I watch you take your pick
And I cry little hipster tears
They drip in my PBR
A cry that no one hears
I’m really sorry
That it came to all of this but do not fear
I only want what’s yours
You can scream but no one can hear you here
I promise to let you go
And give back your vintage amp
As soon as the local papers
Hail me as your heir apparent
Would you teach me I tried nicely asked you?
Would you show me how it is that you do?
You know I’ll be so thankful when my shows so good it kills
Show me how to be kool in Nashville

Words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
Copyright secured all rights reserved
Track Name: Hadley's Bend

Gordon’s Gin goes down
Easy in Hadley’s Bend
If you listen you can hear the sound
Of Old Hickory in the wind
Trail of Tears had passed
Through here it’s been said
Now we’ve got a golf course
Souvenir shops with arrowheads
You can hear the sound of souls trapped in this bend
There’s only one way out but a million ways in
Hadley’s Bend
A Rayon City flat
A masonite siding trap
And a DuPont job that put
Clothes on all our backs
This place once made the powder
That helped to win the war
Then the cellophane and rayon
Kept open these plant doors
Bobby joined the service
And now he’s in Iraq
Susie ran off and got married
At DuPont High she usta run track
Sarah she let go
In the summer of ‘92
We usta dream of retirement
Now I’m wishing I could let go too
Gordon’s Gin goes down
Easy in Hadley’s Bend
If you listen you can hear the sound
Of Old Hickory in the wind

Words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
©Copyright secured All rights reserved
Track Name: Born With A Mind
I was born with a mind
That will not be quiet
So I read, I write, I process
And all that it requires
I was born with a mind
That will not let me sleep
So I pour another drink
As he only ignores my pleas
I was born with a mind
That becomes obsessed and burns white hot
And when focused will burn anything
If I leave it on that spot
I was born with a mind
That’s worried permanent wrinkles in my brow
Anxiously fretting unchangeable things
Leaving me with this permanent scowl
I was born with a mind
That does not let me rest - yet
I’m tired and wish I could sleep
If only I could get some peace and quiet - yes?

Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
all rights reserved / copyright secured
Track Name: Shine
I was just a stone in the bottom of the river that caught your eye
The way the light cast on me
But I don’t really glow it’s just the ripples and the waves of the water
And the way the light shone on me
So why should I be surprised
That my shine had caught your eye
But I knew that you would put me down in time
When I no longer shined
I was just a round old geode that someone cracked open
In some Grandma’s flower garden
And my jagged angles glowed in the sunlight among the tulips
Just fools gold for children
Oh it seems to take a lifetime to achieve perfection
In your maker’s eyes
But it only takes an instant to lose the attention
Or the sparkle in a young beholder’s eyes
When you no longer shine
I was just a singer in a bar with a beat up guitar
And a sack full of songs at my show
And I caught your eye and I suppose you had a fancy
For things under lights that seemed to glow

Words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
©copyright secured all rights reserved
Track Name: By My Side
Well first light I’m headed out
Won’t be back for sometime
So few pleasures were allowed
Precious moments like tonight
I’d love to ask of you
To be here when I return
And I’ll look forward if you do
But if you don’t I won’t feel spurned
Cause there’s too many times
I’ve failed though I’ve tried
And too many nights
Without you by my side
Now I’m still too young
To give up on love so pure
But I’m much too old
To believe that anything is sure
So babe tonight
Can I have you by my side?
They say the Lord took from Adam
A rib from his side
Created a companion
And a place to symbolize
And I’ve had many a companion
Who walked ahead and who walked behind
And it feels so right to have one
Finally have one by my side
In earlier years
When time was on my side
Squandered love in fear
Confused with lust, consumed with pride
I sense those days are near an end
From the whispers my soul hears
Humbled by years I can’t rescind
And how seldom love appears
Yeah babe tonight can I have you by my side
Words and music by Stephen Simmons
©copyright secured all rights reserved
Shiny Geode Music, SESAC
Track Name: I Am Not
Well there’s moonstones
And sandstones
And there’s tombstones
And there’s just rocks
And there’s dogwoods
And big ole redwoods
And there’s deadwood
And just plain ole logs
Don’t mistake me for what I am not
Won't find me at church, but I believe in God
Write me off as some random crackpot
Not sure just what I am
But you
I am not
Well there’s raindrops
And there’s teardrops
And there's lemon drops and london drops
And when someone drops the ball we all make a fuss
Well there’s firestorms
And rainstorms
And freezing cold snowstorms
And sometimes the weather just sucks
Well there’s black holes
And little bitty pinholes
And when our taxes get too high we make up loopholes
And there’s just plain dots
Well there’s red wine
And there’s white wine
And in the name of Jesus Christ there’s good ole communion wine
But it won’t be fine before it’s time
Unless it’s grape juice, but Hell just that don’t rhyme

words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
all rights reserved / copyright secured
Track Name: Limavady Blues

In a Limavady Hotel
Banging my head against the wall
And no one but these same ole blues
That I got left to call

I woke up this morning
In the wrong hotel room
Don't know what I did to lose you must've been
Something I've yet to do

And I said “Oh you're gonna be the one that breaks me”
And she said “No, I'll only love you long as you're wild and free”
And she said “Oh, you could be the one that saves me”
And I said “No, I can't save you from what you want to be”

I feel asleep in Dublin woke up in Frankfurt
Dreamed of you and home
I found the Little House of the Devil
Hoping to ease my troubled soul

But I never found any answers
Just questions more and more
As my own words returned to haunt me to prove that I'm
No better than I was before


Put the wheels in the wind
Towards you and the coast
But California's shaking like a lost child
Each time that I turn to go

No matter how fast I'm traveling
Or how far I roam
When I wash my face in the morning the same ole blues
Are the first to say “hello”


words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
all rights reserved / copyright secured
Track Name: Dangerous Days For Dreamers
These are dangerous days for dreamers
And rather cautious ones even for the schemers
Dangerous for passion
For beautiful things
Dangerous for love
For art, for dreams
Fatal days for the losers
Who go down in fatal ways in bone-hard poverty
It didn’t work?
It didn’t turn a dime?
There must be something wrong with it
These are grand ole days for vices who offer security
For God, for dogma, for party
Peddle that rainbow, that elixir, that shit somewhere else Sir
Here it’s not very well regarded
In the old days the schemers were awash in laughter
In drink, in self-praise
They seek forgiveness and understanding from their victims
Their facades, their curtains all stripped away
These are dangerous days for dreamers
I’m awake
I’m asleep
I’m awake
I’m asleep
But I don’t dream
I don’t dare
It’s not safe
Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
Track Name: Revelations No.34

There’s a million senseless reasons
Why these stores on Main are closing down
As a million changing seasons leave their mark
On these people and these buildings downtown
A billion vulgar dealings
Left these institutions bankrupt of soul
And a billion greedy minions took great harvest
A harvest they never laboured or sowed
With a hundred faceless coins in your pockets
And a hundred unmarked bills in useless wallets
Thought she had the answers to our ails
In her big and blue Star Spangled eyes
Took the milk from her breast, then looked West
And marched on towards a blood red sky
Self-worship was the only flowing fountain
As other well’s soon ran dry
Vanity’s once proud, majestic mountains
Timber stripped and her stones long since mined
Fasten these brass buttons on this thin worn out coat
Step into these sole-less boots and into the New World’s cold
There’s a pile of dried out bones upon that hill
Underneath the maple’s Autumn turning leaves
Driving by with my family, five years old
Not sure if it’s a dream, a ghost, or an implanted memory
There’s a pile of faded letters in foreign languages
Up to the threshold high
And though I cannot read them they call out to me
In the middle of this all revealing night
Confusing what’s not real and what’s certain to the eyes
And confusing what can’t change and what could If I’d just learn how to try
The cosmos swung open and mankind
Did clumsily appear
And chaos was the order, but so was feared,
And so hated as entropy was revered
And so we turned our love to Destiny and Fate
As we struggled to take control of these quiet, desperate lives
But Chaos never blinked he knew that Order
Was Divine and really always on his side
Copycat calamity and original sin
But don’t you get too close there boy this property’s condemned
Help wanted sign in the window of the Diner
As you enter and take your seat within
Old man in his corner wicker rocker
Chastens you with a toothless grin
His stories from the old days make you long
For simpler and easier times
And the sweet nostalgic candy pulls you in
As it’s cavity’s dig deep into your mind
He’s quoting Revelations and George Wallace
And every empty suit and false prophet who dares to call us
We all stood at the alter vowing charity
In an innocent time
We took our bride with promises of love
And honor and obedient lives
And the fruits of our love bore us children
Named malcontent, apathy and denial
But when the mother of our children shows her age we break our vows
And leave her with these kids that just won’t mind
Ah but Stawberries will never taste so sweet to the lips touch
And the thighs of all the women, they have surely lost their clutch
At the bottom of an eternal abyss
Where once truth did lie
We scratch around with the Veils of Maya
Pulled back o’er our eyes
The thoughts in our head
Can’t seem to find their way to our tongue
Blood in vein can’t find the heart
And the air can’t find our lungs
The artist’s of our time void of expression
Collective petty thoughts of false conviction
We ride upon a great horse that does not trust us
Command a mighty army that will not obey us
We bear children upon children who do not love us
As we seek to prove that free will does not suite us

Words and music by Stephen Simmons
Copyright secured all rights reserved
Shiny Geode Music, SESAC
Track Name: Bars On Woodland
All the bars closed down early on Woodland tonight
And it’s warm for the winter and a foggy night
And it softens the glow from the streetlights on the edge of my road
And Fourteenth and Ordway’s a Hell of a right
When you don’t wanna go home but there’s nowhere to drive
But I could come out all right with a girl I know just two streets over
And downtown is calling it’s vibrant and bright
And tourists don’t come to shut it down while there’s still night
But we all know their money and their time isn’t here forever
But all things by the park they are eerily quiet
No dogs they are barking long as no one’s in sight
Could take the edge of this night in a house I know just four streets over
It’s come here so quickly thirty years old
A life full of something just nothing to show
And I hear my neighbor’s radio and it’s playing all the songs that I know
And every now and again there are cars that drive by
And they’re looking for that feeling they lack in their lives
And I wonder if they’re going two streets or four streets over
Makes me so crazy
I feel insane
Makes me so crazy
I feel insane
Words and music by
Stephen Simmons
©copyright secured
all rights reserved

Track Name: Spinner of Tales

Oh I’m a spinner of tales
And a drinker of wine
A chaser of tales
And a possessor of vice
But I got this guitar
And I got me some wheels
So I’ll say what I think in my heart
And I'll go where I feel
But I think that I love you
And I like feeling this way
And I know you don’t believe in my stories
So I’ll shut up right now whatever gets you to stay
Oh I’m a spiller of drinks
A maker of noise
And a winker of winks
For a second of joy
Oh I’m a drinker of beer
A writer of words
But ain’t no shedder of tears
No matter what you heard
Oh I’m a strummer of chords
And a smile when you’re sad
Elusive as Hell for sure
But I like it like that
Oh I’m no real poet
Just a singer of songs
But Hell we all make it up don’t you know it
As we go along
Words and music by Stephen Simmons
Shiny Geode Music / SESAC
©Copyright secured all rights reserved