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Richard Shindell — Transit
Album: Somewhere Near Paterson
Avg rating:
6.7

Your rating:
Total ratings: 926









Released: 2000
Length: 5:41
Plays (last 30 days): 1
The merge from the turnpike was murder, but it's never a cinch
It was Friday at five, and no one was giving an inch
They squeezed and the edged and they glared
Half them clearly impaired by rage or exhaustion
The rest were just touchy as hell

Somewhere near Paterson everything slowed to a crawl
The all-news station was thanking someone for the call
It's a van from St. Agnes's choir
There's a nun out there changing a tire
By the time they got by her, tempers were out of control

So they all hit the gas in a dash for position
Bobbing and weaving and flashing their highbeams
Flipping the bird and screaming obscenities
A well-insured hoard hell-bent on Saturday

And so they continued west-bound and into the sun
Law and decorum constraining nary a one
By then it was devil-may-care
Not one even vaguely aware
That they had come all the way to the Delaware Water Gap

But how had it happened? They had all missed their exits
How had it happened? Was it some kind of vortex?
And in they all went, bumper to bumper
Faster and faster, no sign of a trooper
In they all went, like sheep to the slaughter
Bankers and carpenters, doctors and lawyers
And in they all went, families in minivans
Ashcroft republicans, weekend militiamen
They followed the river, and rounded the bend
Between Minsi and Tammany and into their destiny
Lying in ambush right their before them
The angry old sun right on the horizon

Sister Maria tightened the bolts of the spare
She said a quick prayer and put the old van into gear
Thank God that the traffic was light
If she hurried she might not be late
For that evening's performance at the state penitentiary

She entered the common room and their was her choir
Altos and baritones, basses and tenors
Car thieves and crack dealers, mobsters and murderers
Husbands and sons, fathers and brothers
And so it began in glorious harmony
Softly and Tenderly
calling for you and me
With the interstate whining way off in the distance
And the sun going down through the bars of the prison
They poured out their souls, they poured out their memories
They poured out their hopes for what's left of eternity
To sister Maria
her soul like a prism
For the light of forgiveness on all of their faces
Comments (180)add comment
Here we all go into eternity. Time for some understanding and forgiveness. 
Richard Harris Mcarthur Park
strained lyrics
needs a good edit
So scarily truthful!  Go sistah Mary!
Quite amazing. Beautiful use of Latin American riffs underneath and amazing lyrical counterpoint. Ode to the (not) open road and soaring voices confined.  Thanks Bill & RP.
A beautiful, moving, and warning ballad of traffic jams. Oh, if this could be played to all on UK motorways on a Friday afternoon, when traffic is solid and accidents go through the roof. A paean to the sheer fecking waste and pointlessness of mass commuting. In my days I must have wasted years of my precious life stuck in the car breathing in fumes, fuming at others, fuming at myself, to travel to pointless jobs just to pay the bills. 
 ciapia wrote:
ahh..i miss NJ sometimes..
 

Have not had that experience, and I lived there 0-30 years.
 wgsu_1978 wrote:
Typical Friday afternoon on I-80, with New Yorkers and New Jerseyans heading out to the Poconos for the weekend. I've done that route many times, and it can be challenging.
 

Love the references to that commute here.
I love a bit of off-the-wall story-telling.  Combined with interesting music, and a decent voice, this is a solid 8 from me.  
M. Stipe, is that you?
Typical Friday afternoon on I-80, with New Yorkers and New Jerseyans heading out to the Poconos for the weekend. I've done that route many times, and it can be challenging.
I think memorizing the lyrics alone is impressive.  Not a skill I possess!
{#Heartkiss}
Accurate lyrical account of driving behavior everywhere in 'Merica'..
Neil Diamond style, not mine!
Nice.  Brings back memories of vocal stylings of Gordon Lightfoot.
 
Wow. This song just grabs you. Have to stop what you're doing and listen. Hope it holds up on future listens.
For some reason I really didn't like this at all on first listen and love it now.  Think this may be one of those times I rated a song I hadn't heard thinking it was someone else cause the now playing section hadn't updated and I hadn't realised.  Otherwise can't explain 3 to 9 difference of opinion.  I'm not that moody.
Oh great, just in time for my Friday evening commute back to NJ. 
Godlike 10 for sure...
I agree with others... This song definitely looses something with all the instrumentation around it.  Hearing Richard sing it with just a guitar, his voice, and the swells and decrescendos (that seem to disappear with this version) is something special I got to experience in a tiny now-defunct cafe in our tiny town the one time he came through.  Ignore the lyrics, and good god... this song is mundane... especially in this version!

I don't see an "obtuse metaphor" as someone said previously.  Actually, there are a couple of obvious metaphors here in this piece all wrapped up in a beautiful story.  The most obvious metaphor to me is the reference to time... a juxtaposition of the prisoners who have all the time in the world and those weekend warriors in the rat race who are rushing into the "vortex."  This all from someone who hears melody first, then notices the lyrics.  {#Smile} 

This is a beautiful song if only for the beautiful poetry therein, and as someone who moved from the city to a small town, it definitely strikes a chord... pun intended.  {#Smile}
There is something about this song that reminds me of Black Sunday by Jethro Tull (once the lyrics start). Like it.
the lyric to this song is so oddly specific i have to ask, did people somewhere drive off a road into a body of water due to a traffic jam caused by a nun changing a tire or is this some obtuse metaphor for who knows what?
 jjfflyboy wrote:
Her soul like a prism for the light of forgiveness on all of their faces

Amen.

 
{#Yes}
Post Christie, now we now why that traffic jam really occurred. Love this, though.

This gets a 10 simply because he's woven a mundane story into a parable with melody.

In they all went, like sheep to the slaughter
Bankers and carpenters, doctors and lawyers
And in they all went, families in minivans
Ashcroft Republicans, weekend militiamen


Her soul like a prism for the light of forgiveness on all of their faces

Amen.
I think this song is out of tune on purpose. 
This is awful.
Saw Shindell 15 years ago in Boston and thought the show was great. Bought his album, Sparrows Point, and it pretty-much sucked. Definitely struck me as an in-person kind of act that didn't translate well in recorded form. This song does nothing to change my impression.
What storytelling! Love it!
 jadewahoo wrote:
  Walrus_Gumbo wrote:
You forgot groovy!
'Groovy' referred to the spiral grooves on a record disk that was spun upon a turntable w/ needle in order to get the vibes to flow forth as music. hence, something that 'vibed' was 'groovy'. Maybe these days you would want to say it is 'Digitty'?
  That would be Hot Diggitty to you sir.
Worst five minutes of 2012. My ears are bleeding.
Brilliant song by a sleeper artist.

And for the record, NOTHING at all like REM. Do you people have shit in your ears or what?

Thank you and goodnight.
This is a great song... yes, it's repetitive, but Richard Shindell is a storyteller first and foremost.  The magic is in the lyrics if you are willing to study them for a moment.

But something is definitely lost in this studio version.  I wish Bill would swap this out with one of his live performances of this tune, where the passion in his voice (and the band) really comes through.  I have one I'd upload, but quality is too low.

 TJS wrote:
Where's that confounded bridge?  Sort of monotonous dirge to me.
 


Yes, a bit.
 vandal wrote:
To mis-quote another RP member from a different thread: 

". . . plods along with grim, dull determination. . . "
 
 


Quite apt I would add
Never heard of this guy....quite clever songwriting!
Where's that confounded bridge?  Sort of monotonous dirge to me.
I love this.
NJ never felt so poetic...
 
 lemmoth wrote:
Just a wild guess here, but I'm thinking he may have listened to a a few REM records, no?
 
Very Micheal Stipe-esque, not just the sound, but the style. Kind of more baritone though. But I like-y.
Yup, sounds like rush-hour traffic in Nottingham, particularly on a Friday (aka POETS day: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday). Aggro, pollution, and crawling traffic, and all to get away to the 'fresh air' and 'peace' Ho hum.
Another in the Leonard Cohen mordant mould. (mold if you prefer)
To mis-quote another RP member from a different thread: 

". . . plods along with grim, dull determination. . . "
 
Just a wild guess here, but I'm thinking he may have listened to a a few REM records, no?
I was so looking forward to hearing him perform this song when he played Berkeley several years ago. He did, but kept forgetting lyrics, putting little effort into his guitar playing, and appearing to be operating at somewhat less than his highest. These things happen. This piece is not likely to be used as a promotional song by the state of New Jersey, I suspect.
jadewahoo wrote:
True poetry. Allegorical. Evocative. Pensive.

  Walrus_Gumbo wrote:

You forgot groovy!

'Groovy' referred to the spiral grooves on a record disk that was spun upon a turntable w/ needle in order to get the vibes to flow forth as music. hence, something that 'vibed' was 'groovy'. Maybe these days you would want to say it is 'Digitty'?

That´s a hell of a song right there
this would not make a good road trip tune so I give it a 3 now
thanks for playing this!
Not this again?!?  {#Doh}
Wow. I never thought driving on I-80 could evoke such beautiful music...
jadewahoo wrote:
True poetry. Allegorical. Evocative. Pensive.


You forgot groovy!

 ciapia wrote:
ahh..i miss NJ sometimes..
 
I left a lot of good memories in NJ. <3

This is interesting.  Somehow I seemed to have missed this song even I'm a frequent RP listener.  Look forward to hearing it again sometime.

great lyrics, but the delivery. . . well. . . I'm not enjoying it. . .

 jadewahoo wrote:
True poetry. Allegorical. Evocative. Pensive.

 
In my most refined, educated voice, I say, "This is bad-ass!" {#Cool}
True poetry. Allegorical. Evocative. Pensive.

one of Richard's best songs - and he's written many - musically and its story. It's not depressing, au contraire - a song of hope - you have to listen to it a few times maybe to catch the end of the story.
 lerxst wrote:

Geez, Bill, one more depressing song in a row and I'm going to curl up in the fetal position on my floor for the rest of the day.


 

Truly, it leaves one quite powerless...

Geez, Bill, one more depressing song in a row and I'm going to curl up in the fetal position on my floor for the rest of the day.


ben harper...
What an outstanding song/voice - I'm haunted by it!
No thanks.
Wow - I hope this business doesn't happen on the Turnspike every day.....

Two things that (upon hearing this a few times) warms me to this thing:

1) Vocals that actually have real dynamics (bucking the trend these days).

2) The way this almost feels like a song about the voyage of a sailing vessel on the high seas.
The Michael Stipe school of singing and songwriting - sounds like an outtake from a bad R.E.M. album.
jhorton wrote:

Gotta agree. simply brilliant songwriting.

i love this whole damn album. and this song ... damn. just freakin awesome.

The sound of RS's voice makes my skin crawl .... reminds me of an ex ... good riddance!!  (No offense to RS!)
Meh
ahh..i miss NJ sometimes..
Good song, i am interested now :)
richard shindell is a brilliant singer/songwriter - this is one of my favorites
i'm not really getting the rem references posted here 

A mellow song about road rage
 mandolin wrote:
...this is just brilliant...
 
Gotta agree. simply brilliant songwriting.
...this is just brilliant...
 hcaudill wrote:
So ... I like this song but I'm still trying to figure out the story. Did all those other people on the interstate get into a big accident or something? What was their "destiny"? And we're to assume the nice nun avoided the accident because she had a tire to change? And this was divine intervention?

Sorry to be thick...
 

I think it is more of an allegory. Nothing so literal as a wreck. More a suggestion that we should all be more patient, loving, and forgiving before we drive our world over into the abyss.
Excellent CD throughout. Thanks for introducing this to me Bill!
Oh no, not another REM whiner type    {#Eyes}

except, this is a bit good. like a decent REM tune before it is overplayed.-
 holborne wrote:
Wow, I really don't care for this. Overwrought and too pleased with itself by half. Sort of sounds like he's trying to do Bruce Cockburn combined with REM.
 

Came here to make the same REM comparison. Maybe with a few more listens I'll get past the first impression.
I think I'll take the slow way home and drive slowly and calmly this afternoon.
Great lyrics!! Heavy sarcasm here folks. Take it with a grain of salt. Love it. 8
 jyoull wrote:
hahaha it's kind of literal but yeah, i'm cheering "you go!" over here anyway
... and now i'm probably in some database of potential insurgents and nonconformists...

 

If you live in Cambridge, you probably were anyway. {#Smile}
This gets more brilliant every time I hear it.
Wow, I really don't care for this. Overwrought and too pleased with itself by half. Sort of sounds like he's trying to do Bruce Cockburn combined with REM.
hahaha it's kind of literal but yeah, i'm cheering "you go!" over here anyway
... and now i'm probably in some database of potential insurgents and nonconformists...

it certainly is a cool song, I like it a lot

"And the sun going down through the bars of the prison
They poured out their souls, they poured out their memories
They poured out their hopes for what's left of eternity
To sister Maria - her soul like a prism
For the light of forgiveness on all of their faces"


So ... I like this song but I'm still trying to figure out the story. Did all those other people on the interstate get into a big accident or something? What was their "destiny"? And we're to assume the nice nun avoided the accident because she had a tire to change? And this was divine intervention?

Sorry to be thick...


Sounds an awful lot like Martyn Joseph—which is a good thing!
What a fine coincidence.  I just listened to Somewhere Near Paterson yesterday while laying some tile.  It's still pretty easy to call this the best song on the album, but there are other good ones.  Richard is just so freaking good a singer/songwriter/guitarist.  And he's coming to town soon!
Good song, but it's a total rip-off of "String of Pearls" from Soul Asylum. Give them both a listen back-to-back - WAY too similar!
macadavy wrote:
Great song! Unfortunate choice of title (ironic perhaps). If more of us used public transit and fewer used cars such mayhem might be a thing of the past... :think:
HAHAHAHAHAHA! That's what I was thinking too, but I thought it would be too nerdy to say it. Go transit!
Great song! Unfortunate choice of title (ironic perhaps). If more of us used public transit and fewer used cars such mayhem might be a thing of the past... :think:
wedgetable wrote:
Hey this is pretty good. Lyrically, it reminds me of Leonard Cohen. (Also thought it was REM for a while there! Mainly just his voice sounds like Stipe.)
Reminds me more of Josh Joplin (who, according to many, but not me, sounds like Stipe).
i was hoping for a cheering up to finish this thesis, but now... darkest before dawn...
AlienRelic wrote:
Yeah me too. I think it's about the contrast between people engaged in something that transcends whatever bullshit they may have been a part of versus people who are totally wrapped up in the bullshit of every day life, to the point that they become no more than a pack of lemmings driving down the turnpike on a Friday evening. But that's just MY interpretation. The real point is that it's the rare kind of song that makes you think about things like this. Which is why I gave it a 10.
Your comments sum it up beautifully. I find myself falling into the metaphorical pit of doom when I don't have time for patience, compassion and forgiveness. I'm forgetful and become self-serving; me and my agenda, we think we're pretty important... next thing I know, my whole day is headed straight to hell (no handbaskets)
Geecheeboy wrote:
I just love the rhythm of this song.
Killkelly
Hey this is pretty good. Lyrically, it reminds me of Leonard Cohen. (Also thought it was REM for a while there! Mainly just his voice sounds like Stipe.)
gntlemanartist wrote:
:clap:
i thought this is REM, too.
bokey wrote:
Your mother wears combat boots and you sound like REM.
:clap:
Of course not. Mammalian ancestors (known as synapsids) diverged from the vertebrate evolutionary line well before T. rex and other dinosaurs appeared on the scene. So if you think you're the product of dinosaur sex, you're a bird-brain. Literally. lwilkinson wrote:
I simply don't think that any human can have a positive, forward looking attitude by believing that they are an accident of wild sex between two dinosaurs so chill out and enjoy a little music that you only hear on RP. :chillpill:
Forget Springsteen. Shindell is the real bard of Jersey.
lwilkinson wrote:
I simply don't think that any human can have a positive, forward looking attitude by believing that they are an accident of wild sex between two dinosaurs
I prefer to think of myself as the dinosaur of the distant future. It's a big responsibility. :wink: :biggrin:
lwilkinson wrote:
Since it has been well proven that the "saved" have a much lower rate of recividism than the "non-saved" then singing of the moral superiority of the "I've found God, and repent" over the "I have done wrong, I will reform" is not ridiculous based upon the numbers themselves. Exactly why this occurs is of course very difficult to quantify to anything other than "belief". However, for me personally, I prefer a positive life-outcome to that of the nihilistic amongst us and, prefer to have a little faith that I came into existence by the acts of a "superior being/entity/____write-in your personal choice". I simply don't think that any human can have a positive, forward looking attitude by believing that they are an accident of wild sex between two dinosaurs so chill out and enjoy a little music that you only hear on RP. :chillpill:
If you only spent time understanding the beauty and poetic superiority of evolution over the dogmatic spewings of religious leaders of fairy tales that have no evidence of their validity you might just understand how much more miraculous and inspiring evolution is versus being born of dust or a rib depending on your gender. Read "The God Delusion" if you wish to open your mind.
Thanks RP for introducing me to this song. The CD is great.
lee_sf wrote:
Shindell is a story-teller. His collaboration on Cry Cry Cry is near godlike, with Cold Missouri Waters being a fundamental reason to own the album. This song probably rates a B in his overall oeuvre
I can't hear Cold Missouri Waters without Cry Cry Crying at least one tear. That song transports me.
MrSpaz wrote:
...where was He when those gangsters were doing drive-bys downtown, stray bullets finding little girls on the sidewalk?
Arranging for touchdowns and strikeouts, of course. Duh.
Shindell is a story-teller. His collaboration on Cry Cry Cry is near godlike, with Cold Missouri Waters being a fundamental reason to own the album. This song probably rates a B in his overall oeuvre
Someone posted that this was Michael Stipe on a bad day. I feel the complete opposite. I WISH Michael Stipe sounded this good! Very nice song! ANOTHER artist I would not have heard, had it not been for RP!
lwilkinson wrote:
Since it has been well proven that the "saved" have a much lower rate of recividism than the "non-saved" ...
Actually, it has been well proven that any statement that begins with "it has been well proven that ..." invariably fails to have any actual proof of said statement.
MrSpaz wrote:
This song just rubs me the wrong way, and it's because of the lyrics; the whole "prison choir" angle and the God Connection. I generally chafe at the concept of the religion-redeemed prisoner holding some special position, elevated above his peers in jail because of his new-found spirituality. People aren't in jail for what they're doing, they're in there for what they did. Remorse, understanding, atonement; these are all important things, but to consider the man who states "I've found God, and repent" somehow superior to the man who states "I have done wrong, I will reform" is ridiculous. But here we have The God performing miracles to get all those "bad people" (seriously, they're committing moving violations. Traffic tickets. Give me a break) out of the way of his agent Sister Maria so she can go listen to these prisoners sing their souls raw in redemption. Fine, but where was He when those gangsters were doing drive-bys downtown, stray bullets finding little girls on the sidewalk? And where was He when that crack dealer would visit a rotting house in the ghetto and push his product on people in various states of living decay? I guess He was busy those days directing traffic on the Turnpike so Sister Maria wouldn't get hung up on the GWB. Puh-leeze.
Sorry to dampen your sodden perspective, but it appears that you are immune to the metaphorical/lyrical nature of a well-crafted song. This song works so well, in part because it describes a world that is recognizable, yet transcends the gritty mundane (yes, Paterson has its gritty qualities). Obviously this refers to the New Jersey Paterson. If you have never seen this part of America, maybe you should be grateful and leave it at that.
MatClarke wrote:
where is paterson? is it the same place mentioned by dylan in Hurricane?
Where I live, Paterson is one exit west of Turnpike on the only freeway in the area. Weird.
MrSpaz wrote:
This song just rubs me the wrong way, and it's because of the lyrics; the whole "prison choir" angle and the God Connection. I generally chafe at the concept of the religion-redeemed prisoner holding some special position, elevated above his peers in jail because of his new-found spirituality. People aren't in jail for what they're doing, they're in there for what they did. Remorse, understanding, atonement; these are all important things, but to consider the man who states "I've found God, and repent" somehow superior to the man who states "I have done wrong, I will reform" is ridiculous. But here we have The God performing miracles to get all those "bad people" (seriously, they're committing moving violations. Traffic tickets. Give me a break) out of the way of his agent Sister Maria so she can go listen to these prisoners sing their souls raw in redemption. Fine, but where was He when those gangsters were doing drive-bys downtown, stray bullets finding little girls on the sidewalk? And where was He when that crack dealer would visit a rotting house in the ghetto and push his product on people in various states of living decay? I guess He was busy those days directing traffic on the Turnpike so Sister Maria wouldn't get hung up on the GWB. Puh-leeze.
Your username is so perfect. And to think you picked it out for yourself. You are so self emblematic!
Marr wrote:
I rather suspect that we're looking down the barrel of a metaphor here.
Yeah me too. I think it's about the contrast between people engaged in something that transcends whatever bullshit they may have been a part of versus people who are totally wrapped up in the bullshit of every day life, to the point that they become no more than a pack of lemmings driving down the turnpike on a Friday evening. But that's just MY interpretation. The real point is that it's the rare kind of song that makes you think about things like this. Which is why I gave it a 10.
8 -> 9
Oh man, I love this song!
Tonight this song totally drew me in.
I just love the rhythm of this song.
lwilkinson wrote:
Since it has been well proven that the "saved" have a much lower rate of recividism than the "non-saved" then singing of the moral superiority of the "I've found God, and repent" over the "I have done wrong, I will reform" is not ridiculous based upon the numbers themselves.
Do you have any hard evidence of this extremely dubious claim?
musikalia wrote:
Yeah. I was just thinking the same. But the song itself is nice. Only wish another person was singing. Eek!
Further evidence that taste in music is so unpredictable and personal. I've always thought Shindell's voice to be one of the finest out there. Other reviews and comments I've come across have always said the same and I never even questioned it. Now to read this, two people saying "yuck"...it's so bizarre. lwilkinson wrote:
...a much lower rate of recividism than the "non-saved"...
Haha, nice try on the fancy word but no cigar.
MrSpaz wrote:
This song just rubs me the wrong way, and it's because of the lyrics; the whole "prison choir" angle and the God Connection. I generally chafe at the concept of the religion-redeemed prisoner holding some special position, elevated above his peers in jail because of his new-found spirituality. People aren't in jail for what they're doing, they're in there for what they did. Remorse, understanding, atonement; these are all important things, but to consider the man who states "I've found God, and repent" somehow superior to the man who states "I have done wrong, I will reform" is ridiculous. But here we have The God performing miracles to get all those "bad people" (seriously, they're committing moving violations. Traffic tickets. Give me a break) out of the way of his agent Sister Maria so she can go listen to these prisoners sing their souls raw in redemption. Fine, but where was He when those gangsters were doing drive-bys downtown, stray bullets finding little girls on the sidewalk? And where was He when that crack dealer would visit a rotting house in the ghetto and push his product on people in various states of living decay? I guess He was busy those days directing traffic on the Turnpike so Sister Maria wouldn't get hung up on the GWB. Puh-leeze.
Since it has been well proven that the "saved" have a much lower rate of recividism than the "non-saved" then singing of the moral superiority of the "I've found God, and repent" over the "I have done wrong, I will reform" is not ridiculous based upon the numbers themselves. Exactly why this occurs is of course very difficult to quantify to anything other than "belief". However, for me personally, I prefer a positive life-outcome to that of the nihilistic amongst us and, prefer to have a little faith that I came into existence by the acts of a "superior being/entity/____write-in your personal choice". I simply don't think that any human can have a positive, forward looking attitude by believing that they are an accident of wild sex between two dinosaurs so chill out and enjoy a little music that you only hear on RP. :chillpill: