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Angel, Big Black Wings

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

…settled down on my park bench in that rainy spring…



(Sample here.) Words and music, © Derek Lamson (2010, 2023). Produced January - June 2023 by April Redmond Vanderwal.


Lead / backup vocals, April; piano, backing vocals, Aaron Pruitt; electric guitar, recording engineer, Nate Macy; bass, Rich Vanderwal; percussion, Bill Norris-York. Mixed by Rich Vanderwal.


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Angel, Big Black Wings started out funny, I mean like goofy funny: a swooping half jazz, half folk, gospel-y thing about what appears to be a weeping angel escapee from the Good Omens set.


Anyway, the first verse was cool and fun and the second got serious. I kept working on it…


I never figured out why the Angel was crying, though her mascara is surely running… but when she offered me the feather, I started to get it that at least part of the song was about addiction; my addictions anyway. So in the song, she offers the guy one big black feather, and she says, “You can have anything you want if you can carry this away…” One gets it what a backbreaking task that one feather could be.


I have to date enjoyed 11 years alcohol free and 9 years tobacco free - both of which I fought with most of my life, including in 2008 when I was writing this song. I never could carry it, BTW. though I assert, with joy, that my experience is that God can carry it away, and will if God is sought…


So the song started out funny, and then thank God, got funnier still; for one, I decided I liked the way the complicated lyric in the slo-burn cabaret part sutured into the simple-minded sweetness of the chorus. It was sort of cool how the lyric seemed to move with the music, by turns sophisticated and very simple.


I struggle to write music that’s more than 1-4-5 folk, so when I get interesting music, I pay attention…..


I listened to this song, coming out of my mouth and off of my fingers, and I watched other people too when I played it.


In maybe 2018 I got a chance to try this in ensemble with an audience, and in an inspired moment invited mon vieux April Vanderwal to sing lead. She killed it (that is "did well" in music talk) in performance that night at West Hills, so in 2021 (for all the reasons noted above) the song made the list for this project.


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We gathered to record at the church on a quiet summer evening: me on acoustic guitar, April as lead vocal, Bill percussion, Rich bass, Jill Townley and Ruba Byrd and Melissa Thomas for harmony backup vocals. Nate was our recording engineer. We were going to at least take a shot at recording it ensemble-style, that is, all together (that is, the hard way).


So… this is where the story gets interesting. The facts are bald enough: for one, we figured out it was a piano song, not a Derek-on-the-guitar song. With Nate on keys, we tried a couple, of recordings, and frankly, I thought we got it… but…


What worked out over the summer and fall was that April was saying we can do better; I want to do better; I want more time with this, and so I asked her to produce it, and she did, and this is what we got back: and isn’t it amazing? It’s absolutely one of the important reasons I wanted anthology-style: room for people to stretch out.


There may be more to say about Angel, Big Black Wings down the road; I can stop here today. Keep scrolling: meet April, and Nate, and all the people who made this song happen.


  • Derek Labor Day Weekend, 2023 Eugene




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