but so beautiful

by Jonathan J. Bower

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    Produced by Evan Phillips, James Glaves, James Dommek Jr. & Jonathan J. Bower. Comes in a gatefold case & feat. art by Gabe Travis, & photography by Brian Adams.

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“At once old-timey and poignantly modern, Bower’s guitar playing will reverberate in your ears long after the music is over. Lyrics this thoughtful and haunting could only come from a born writer, so you won’t be surprised to learn he has an MFA in writing. Check out Bower’s website for some examples of what great songwriting sounds like.”

- Anonymous - Alaska Travel Blog

"elegies, little victories, and masterful storytelling...But So Beautiful is a compelling package, one that ultimately conjures images of getting on despite gritty circumstances. [These songs] manage to weave beautiful, forlorn tales in a matter of minutes, but with a defiant note of hope."

- Jeri Kopet - The Anchorage Press


released September 30, 2012

Produced by Evan Phillips, James Glaves, James Dommek Jr., & Jonathan J. Bower

Recorded at The Wolverine Den & Twisted Penguin Studios in Anchorage, Alaska, December 2011 – May 2012

Mixed by James Glaves at Twisted Penguin

Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, Boston, MA

Assistant Mastering Engineer: Maria Rice

Jonathan J. Bower: Gibson LG, Vocals, Lyrics

Evan Phillips: Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Banjo, Tambourine, & Vocals; Sage & Architect

James Glaves: Wunderkind, Electric Guitars, Bass, Noise, Ears of Gold

James Dommek Jr, : Drums, Percussion, Keys, Guitars, Bass; The Secret Weapon

Aaron Benolkin: Pedal Steel
Miriah May: Violin
Molly McDermott: Cello
Corwyn Wilkey: Trumpet

All songs © rafflemyheart music 2012

Album artwork by Gabe Travis

Photography by Brian Adams

Gratitude to those mentioned above; who brought their skills to the fore for this project, investing time, wares, and resources in the composition of these songs.

Special thanks: Ken Sease, Jeri Kopet, Wes Hartlieb, Marc Bourdon, Craig & Cheryl Lyon, Suzanne Drinen, Winterberry, Skrappy, The Bowers, Whorleys, Viles, Marcins, & Dwyers, Pendle Hill, Chris Gunderson & Kelly Overacker, Kumamoto-shi, Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Natsuko Uemara, the Mishima family, Masahiro Hori, Paul Silverman, Emma Hill, Alison Krieger, Tara Endicott, Doug Frank, John Linton, the Klings. Michael Ceci, the BG’s, Shawn Teague, Don Rearden, Christine Byl & Gabe Travis, Liz Bradfield, & Bradley Wakefield

&, of course – always – Sam & Matt & Anya

Last year, from different corners of the globe, Will Davies & Marisa Beltramini helped seed, grow, and root this project in the good, mystifying ground of Dreams. These songs are for them, with deep, swollen and mildly bruised Gratitude. All the love, folks.


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Jonathan J. Bower Anchorage, Alaska

On the release of his 2012 EP, But So Beautiful, The Anchorage Press wrote, “[This is] masterful storytelling. These songs weave beautiful, forlorn tales in a matter of minutes, but with a defiant note of hope.” The songs on 2018's Light Years album play like postcards & snapshots written during an endless road trip around Alaska - or along every other dreamy, scenic stretch of highway anywhere... ... more

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Track Name: Tough

Up in smoke, says Sugar
And don’t you think we shoulda
pulled an act together
well by now

Took the lumps, hit all our bumps
Stained the walls with thick thumps
Pound for pound all that the law will allow

But you’re so good at being the someone
every one loves
so tell me baby
why you gotta be so tough

Cigarettes standin’ in for prayers
A few beers ease an evening’s fears
But I save the finest wine for a day’s more time
Inside your eyes

Got this boat, it’s jammed in my throat
Stuck there, won’t float
If I choke up this whale of tears
Maybe that baby would set sail


And I’m sorry to take up your time
Move along, baby, move along, never mind
Nothing’s wrong, nothing’s wrong
Everything’s fine
Everything's fine


Your letter arrived today
Read it through
What to say?
Thought you were where you want to be
Your fortuneteller told you to leave
I’m fine
Doin’ my time
Grab some moments as they wander by
Wasting wages on creature comforts
As day bleeds into night


© 2010, rafflemyheart music
Track Name: Rodin's Hands
Rodin’s Hands

So, it all went down just like Mama planned
The clouds split apart and Jesus came back
Separated –
The goats and the lambs
The sheep from the rams
The bottles from cans

Stop the press
Grab a rest
Meet the ex
Run the kids over to the zoo
Take the test
Do your best
Make a guess
Baby what did you hope to do?

I would have to confess
It’s a beautiful mess
And though I’m kind of impressed
I think I’d settle for less

Big Brother’s belly’s hangin’ over his pants
But he can’t keep from envying the dervish his dance
Still he’d like to pretend
That a network of friends
Is a means to the end


Isaac just sucker-punched Abraham
That’s some poetic justice on the day of the damned
Daddy don’t understand
There’s a salvation plan
Written on Rodin’s hands


…I would have to confess
It’s a beautiful mess
And though I’m kind of impressed
I think I’d settle for less

©2011, rafflemyheart music
Track Name: Cargo City
Cargo City

He has a Jersey Jones
He visits each weekend
Hops in the Olds
And crosses Walt Whitman
He don’t dig on the Old City women
With their shiny boys and painted on pants

She’s a flushed waitress
A high-haired Twinkie
Her feet are flamed
Until he walks through the door
Jukebox plays their favorite hair-band ballads
He’s a fistful of quarters hitting the floor

And late nights down in Cargo City
Just off of South I-95
They watch the airplanes leaving and landing
Laying out on the hood of his car

She saves her tips for a shack in Wyoming
A woodstove under a blanket of stars
He’s easy to please when he’s not in the city
They spilled their dreams on the hood of his car

Late nights down in Cargo City
Just off South I-95
They watch the airplanes leaving and landing
Late last night that junker’s battery died

Soon they’ll flee the hazy summers
Clouds of paste the city hides behind
The hamster wheel, the cobweb of highways
Any day now, they’re gonna fly
They’re gonna fly

She’s his Jersey Jones
His high haired Twinkie
He’s a fistful of dollars
Won’t get far
Waving goodbye to the sideways city
Driving into the Western sun

The Western sun...

©2002, rafflemyheart music
Track Name: The Victim Well
The Victim Well

She really loves me
After I’ve had enough
And I cry “Baby –
Why’re you so tough?”
She laughs, says, “You no angel,
Speak for yourself
Quit playin’ the victim
But you do it so well.”

The fruits hang heavy
On her secret tree
But her guard dog’s burned my name
Into his shiny blue teeth

She leaves me strawberry tops
And rose hip seeds
Fireweed cotton
And gold birch leaves

The sky goes blue to blood
To black and waves of green
The full moon’s nowhere, mama
And her hound dog’s in my dreams

Her fruits hang heavy
On a secret tree
But the dog’s breakin’ down
And he’s too tight on his chain


Our Christian says “Hell,”
The hipster sighs, “Well,”
And my baby says, “Boy,
You play victim so well.”

© 2011, rafflemyheart music
Track Name: The Book of Failures
Book of Failures

I got soft
I got soft
And then every signal crossed
But still was not lost
Only very tossed

So jilted
But we stayed open
God baby how’d we get so broken
And how’s Love take in an ocean
Without choking?

An epic book of failures
Where the heroes become villains
(Last: Where the children slay the villains)
Tragic, but so beautifully
Avoiding signs and portents

Played hero, went zero
And clutched you as I went down
Set that village on fire
As I raced from town

Now I spend my nights
Under starlight
But baby at what vain price
Love dead on the vine –
Your child’s father’s crime


You called this an escape
But I said it’s just a landscape
A well enough wide space
To contain a heartbreak

I got soft
I got soft
And then every signal crossed
But still was not lost
Only very tossed

...where the children slay the villains...

...tragic but so beautiful...

© 2011, rafflemyheart music
Track Name: Still

Raven dances on the wind
A murmur passes through the leaves
There’s an acid-washed landscape
And still no sign of rain
And in the clamor of our voices
Rests a silent in between
Where I find I still believe in you

Though the word from on high
Comes down all scribbles, Greek, and graphs
And I’ve tried to ignore it
You insist until I laugh
Until I cry and beg for mercy
The likes of which I never knew
And find I still believe in you

Yeah, there’s your wearisome perfection
And your crude expectations
And words all jagged glass
And then your timeworn creations
And all the ways I get it wrong
Before you offer me a clue
And find I still believe in you

And there’s no way of telling why I do
And there’s no way of telling how I do
I’ve kept your dirty secrets
And scorn the chosen few
And scandalize the silence in all truth

You already have the rivers
And they’ll always trump my songs
As I fumble for the words to frame
The way I’ve always longed
For you to receive me
Like the lover I never knew
Saying “Boy, I still believe in you”

I hear you’ll receive me
Like the lover I never knew
Saying, “Boy, I still believe in you”

© 2010 rafflemyheart music

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