Jack of Diamonds

Jack of Diamonds is an old song, but it’s one of the first songs I wrote that I was really proud of. I don’t remember much about the process or the story but I do remember that it was written in basically one sitting in 2006. Maybe it was less that I wrote it and more likely that I caught it.

There’s a great interview that author Liz Gilbert did on Tom Waits (who is at the top of my musical heroes list) where he talked about songwriting, creativity and the idea that sometimes, you have to grab onto a song as it’s passing by.

“There are songs that are like scared birds that you have to sneak up on over the course of months in the woods.”


LG: “He was caught in traffic. He had one song, and he talks about songs that you have to bully and songs that are like dreams through a straw, and then this one: He said that there are songs that don’t want to exist, and you have to let them go, and you have to let them not haunt you — which is another way to not become insane as an artist.

And he was driving down the freeway one day in Los Angeles, and he heard a little tiny trace of a beautiful melody, and he panicked because he didn’t have his waterproof paper, and he didn’t have his tape recorder, and he didn’t have a pen, he didn’t have a pencil — he had no way to get it.

And he thought, “How am I going to catch this song?” And he started to have all that old panic and anxiety that artists have about feeling like you’re going to miss something, and then he just slowed down and he looked up at the sky, and he looked up and he said, “Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving? If you’re serious about wanting to exist, come back and see me in the studio. I spend six hours a day there, you know where to find me, at my piano. Otherwise, go bother somebody else. Go bother Leonard Cohen.””

2006 – Union Pacific Gospel

This track originally appeared on my first proper solo record “Union Pacific Gospel” back in 2006. It’s much more of a standard alt-country or country tune the kicked off the album and has been a song I’ve played solo for many many years.

At that time I was playing with The Reuben James and we rented a small space in what is basically a tenement building in downtown Utica where we built a makeshift studio out of whatever gear we could afford. The space had no heat, terrible electric, heavy metal bands as neighbors and it felt that at any moment the building might collapse in on itself. It was above a pizza parlor and much of our equipment took on the permanent smell that was a mix of grease, smoke and mold. But we made some great songs in that space.

Union Pacific Gospel (and the original version of Jack of Diamonds) was recorded in its entirety in that room on our own equipment.

2019 - Jack of Diamonds

The recording that appears on this record is a complete fluke. While I was recording all of the ‘Reprise’ versions of “Late Night Radio,” “Til The Wheels Come Off” and “Postcards” I was noodling around between takes and started sounding Jack of Diamonds out on the piano. I’d never tried this before but the slower pace and space felt good. And as the tape kept rolling I did a pass or two of it and forgot about it.

When the record was being mixed, Matt asked if I wanted to have him mix Jack of Diamonds and I forgot that it was tacked on to another song – but upon listening it really worked and the take was solid.

So that’s how this version came to be. You can hear the noodling in the beginning of the recording and although there really isn’t any semblance of steady tempo or cadence, I love that the song can be brought back in a new form almost 13 years after it was first released.


Oh Marie, have you settled all the scores?
And I’m wondering what we’ve all been fighting for
See I was dodging buillets ‘tween the glory and the sound
And I was taking shelter when you fired several rounds
Baby I was taking shelter when you fired several rounds

Oh Marie, I’m walking all the lines
Still smiling with the crows feet in my eyes
My songs spin like broken records, and I hope you think of me
If I’m the Jack of Diamonds of the Hearts you are the Queen
If I’m the Jack of Diamonds of the Hearts you are the Queen

Maria please, we’re all beggars, tramps and thieves
But California seemed pretty good to me
Well I could use a cup of coffee and you could use some company
If I’m the Jack of Diamonds of the Hearts you are the Queen
If I’m the Jack of Diamonds of the Hearts you are the Queen

Jack of Diamonds