Spirit House

by Marian McLaughlin

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Spirit House is a continuation of my musical partnership with double bassist and arranger Ethan Foote. Our work together represents an adventurous and original endeavor in the meeting of experimental folk-rock, chamber music, and lyrical vision. Using my classical guitar work and lyrics as a foundation to a song, Ethan adds a new dimension, conceiving instrumentation, texture, color, and other possibilities of sound.


released September 23, 2015

All songs written by Marian McLaughlin with arrangements by Ethan Foote

Recorded by Michael Okusami and Peter Fox
Produced by Ethan Foote, Michael Okusami, and Marian McLaughlin
Mixed by Michael Okusami
Mastered by Jeff Gruber

Marian McLaughlin - voice, nylon guitar, and electric guitar
Ethan Foote - double bass, bass guitar, twelve-string guitar, electric guitar, and auxillary percussion
Alan Kayanan - drums
Nick Montopoli - violin
Zach Matteson - violin
Karl Mitze - viola
Geoff Manyin - cello
Matt Hotez - trombone
Neil Brown - trumpet
Brian Falkowski - flute, saxophone, and clarinet
Michael Okusami - electric guitar and auxillary percussion



all rights reserved


Marian McLaughlin Washington, D.C.

For booking or any other questions or comments feel free to email me at marianfmcl@gmail.com

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Track Name: Even Magic Falters
Sea salts and kundalini
hope it’ll help me with my breathing.
Did you know that Harry Houdini
died in his sleep from internal bleeding?

Well, the Master of Escape
could not foresee his very last day
due to his own delay
he met his doom to our dismay.

Merlin, from Arthurian legend
told by the tongues
and the tales of the peasants
chose emotions first
and potions second
a choice he learnt from a horrid lesson

When the Lady of the Lake
entombed our wizard in a cave.
Lust she took, trust she did break
much to our wizard’s own mistake.

Gandalf the Grey strayed too soon
fighting with pride
on the bridge of Khazad-dûm.

Track Name: Your Bower
You lure me into your bower
yet I notice you cower
as my eyes do devour
all your hard-working hours.

Twigs bent like arcs and vectors
natural architecture.
Conscientious collector,
I’ll be your inspector.

Wistful for my affection,
whistling with pure intention.
Triplets in your inflection,
I listen, as you sing,
as you sing, as you sing,
sing for me.

I’m impressed by your generous gesture,
you’ve expressed interest far beyond measure.
By request, I’ll take this token,
your song and your structure’s whimsically woven.
And it’s won me over,
it’s won me over. It’s won me over,
it’s won me over. It’s won me over,
it’s won me over.

You’ve rendered a splendorous thing.
Your tremolo turns me to trembles.
What treasure to hear you sing.
Track Name: Kapunkah
Eating mangoes by the mangroves
we dipped our toes into the Andaman sea.
There was so much for both of us to see
but we were rendered lazy by the heat.
Like a water buffalo
lying in a puddle of repose.

Onward to our bungalows
we noticed that below our bed
there was a black and red spider.
She made her web and built her nest,
but I didn’t really mind her.
For she was not dangerous,
she’s just our neighbor.
She’s not poisonous,
just an acquaintance.
But remember that King Cobra does exist
on this island.

So when you’re walking through the brush
and hear something you do not trust
do the cobra step, do the cobra step
do the cobra step, do the cobra step.
High foot, high knees,
thank you for not biting me.
That’s the cobra step.

Eating mangoes by the main road,
with sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves.
They sold them just for 20 Baht a piece,
so I bought three, a filling snack,
a little feast.
And with 20 Baht I got a coconut
cracked the top and drank it all right up
with a straw on the beach
high applause I was pleased.

And every house in the south
had a rambunctious kitten
or an anxious chicken,
and every porch in the north
sported an orange chow.

And the most beautiful sound
amongst all sounds that I heard
more enthralling than the calling
from the local birds
more curious than the yells
that rose from the vendors
in the crowds.
Was the sound of the cows’ bells
‘round their necks
as their heads were bending
as they bowed
to graze on the maze of grass along
the path in the back of where we stayed
five minutes away from the cave.
Track Name: Ocean
Sailors at bay in the harbor today,
but later we'll trek deeper waters.
To pause is such grace,
but our anchors will raise,
and the currents will tug us out farther.

But if I were a river, if I were a lake,
if I were a pond, well, perhaps I would make
a habitat that I could solely contain,
no need for control; just to self-sustain.

But the maritime bounties
Astound me each day.
The ocean is potent,
I'm obliged to stay.

A glacier which glides at a gradual pace,
carves cirques and moraines
and abandons all haste.
If I were a glacier,
of rock and of ice,
my stillness I'd savor,
how it would suffice.

But the maritime rhythms will always remain.
No need for division, I know my terrain.

If I were a channel, a canal or a strait,
They'd travel my waters,
they'd pass through my gates.

But the maritime boundaries
wrap 'round me the same,
the ocean's my docent,
my guide...my domain.

So I'll bow at my bow
with each nod and each turn.
I'll stay strict and firm
at the rear of my stern.

For I am of ocean
which I cannot feign.
To change my devotion
would go against grain.
Track Name: Calm Canary of the Arctic Sea
A celebration!
For a cetacean
Calm canary of the Arctic Sea
has learnt to speak,
through imitation!

Let us rejoice,
a sentient thing
has mimicked the voice
of a human being.
Calm canary of the Arctic Sea
front and center of a media frenzy.

The age-old question
that leaves us restless
and constantly, and constantly,
and constantly guessing.
And pushed man to endlessly seek
for consciousness that’s beyond our reach
Is, do you reckon?
Is there life on Mars,
or beyond the stars
in this galaxy of ours?
Well it breaks my heart,
well it breaks my heart,
well it breaks my heart.

Well it breaks my heart into a thousand pieces
the way we treat countless species
on this planet that we call Earth
our home, our Earth.
By birth our rights have wiped out
more than we will ever know.
Well a simple start
well a simple start,
well a simple start
is the archetypical dodo
dodo, dodo, don’t go,
don’t go, don’t go.

May all who’ve passed
and are deceased
may you rest in peace,
and in our memories.

And before the disaster does increase
May we remember that we as well our beasts.
We are beasts.

before extinction or extermination
of any more creation.
Calm canary of the Arctic Sea,
interpreter ‘tween the creature world
and humanity.
Calm canary of the Arctic Sea,
speak once more, I implore.
Calm canary of the Arctic Sea,
what on Earth have we done to thee?
Track Name: Fourth Son
Cardinals in the garden
startled when I spotted them
nestling with the starlings,
those speckled, restless darlings.

Old world seed-eating songbird.
Are you somber in slumber?
Are you stronger in numbers?
Are you starving with hunger?

The tanagers are managing
to prove themselves as scavengers
but the old oak tree.
They're opening up
all of the acorn seeds,
stealing them in high quantity.
From the sterling silver-colored squirrels,
with their shaded earl-grey bushy tails.

All the tanagers,
all the tanagers,
all the tanagers...
those brightly colored chested males...

So go forth,
fourth son.
You were not the chosen one.

Go forth,
fourth son.
You were not the chosen one.

By birth, there was before you
the first, the second, and third.
No place in the estate,
no duty in the church.

No work, no worth, no work,
no work, no worth, no work.

No title to inherit,
no bounty, child, no merit.
But take your coat of arms and bear it.

Marlet stuck against a star-lit sky
never settles...
well, his prize is to quest
for the rest...of...his...life…
Track Name: Alexander
Standing on a jetty
admiring waves and eddies
that’s when I lost track of Alexander.
Well it always seemed to be
that he was on an Odyssey,
full of curiosity
how that child would meander.

I tried to keep a watchful eye
but he would always stray.
I should of been more diligent
more vigilant that day.
They say a mother, she knows best,
but I was never sure.
I always second-guessed myself
even when I felt the first stir
from Alexander.

That day it was as if the sea
has cast some kind of spell.
It called you in, much to my chagrin.
I wish that I had been fast enough
to catch you as you fell.
Well, then I’d have a different kind of story to tell
about Alexander.

I was frantically panicking
I couldn’t absorb this.
And all the moments that went by
were making me nervous.
Is there anything that I could possibly do
that could summon him back
to the surface?

A cormorant, the only witness to my shock,
it’s head thrown back, as if it laughed
as if it mocked me from its rock.
And if the cormorant could speak
well, it would preach through soiled beak,
“True life shall not be regained.”

And all the hours that went by
they seemed to lose purpose.
But I held up my vigil,
I stayed there until
my son was summoned
back to the surface.

And there you were,
in the sand, Alexander.
Covered in sea-foam and brine.
And there you were,
in the sand, Alexander.
So I ran down to the shoreline
to reclaim what was mine.

And I carried you back
and I drew you a bath
and I lathered you lovingly
with lavender.
Then I wrapped your body in linen.
Track Name: Will-o-the-wisp
Mysterious will-o-the-wisp,
ethereal spirit appearing.
What possible sense could be made of this
figure in the clearing?

Past the wisteria, and the hyacinth,
I saw the phenomenon of the will-o-the-wisp.

In the mire
growing tired and getting lost.
My feet trip over the peat,
and I slip by the creek
on rocks covered in moss.
While collecting kindle
my sight begins to dwindle
I wish I gave this fire more forethought…
I need a light, I need a light,
I need a light, I need a light,
to guide me…
I need a light, I need a light,
I need a light, I need a light,
to provide me…
with heat for the night…

As if it sensed my despair,
a glowing orb came to view.
I approached with caution and care
Not knowing what it would do.

I'm entranced
by this phantom.
Like a candle
in a lantern.
I watched it dance
and I watched it burn.
I watched it dance
and I watched it burn.

Foolish fire,
will you make a fool out of me?
Curious why you hold
that smoldering spark…
Are you a demon,
or are you a lark?
Should I engage
in this game with your flame?
Or will you do me harm?

I watched it dance
and I watched it burn.
I watched it dance
and I watched it burn.
I watched it dance
and I watched it burn.
Then I took my own turn.

Foolish fire,
will you make a fool out of me?
Curious why you hold
that smoldering spark…
Are you a beacon,
or are you a mark?
No, you are misleading me
Farther and deeper…
down into the dark.
Track Name: Legend of the Neighborhood
He was a legend of the neighborhood
always walking his black dog around,
and when I’d see him with his headphones on
I’d call out “Aaron Brown!
Aaron Brown, what’s going down?”

Oh that boy be a walking
but he’d stop and start talking
to anyone who came around.
In his camo jacket
his music was a racket
his headphones blared with sound.
And in summer and spring
he never thought such a thing
of shoes he walked barefoot through town.
Oh, that was our Aaron,
that was our Aaron,
that was our Aaron Brown.

And you’d be in luck
if you saw his blue truck
barreling right down the road.
‘Cause he’s smile and wave
and he most likely gave
stranded walkers a fun ride home.
With his foot on the pedal
he blasted country or metal
with him it would always change.
And in his overalls
with a slight southern drawl
he was anything but strange,
‘Cause he was our Aaron,
he was our Aaron Brown,
he was the silliest guy
you could ever be around.
Track Name: Paint-chipped Windowsill
I sat by the paint-chipped windowsill
silently watching winter slowly spill.
Dispersing, worsening
washed out by whiteness and wind.
Having just woken up
I wondered when did it begin?

Why am I inside
locked away and warm?
Where do deer and mourning doves go
to weather off the storm?
Where do squirrels go to bury their souls
when trees are stripped and bare?
Why am I inside
instead of being out there?

The need for shelter
as we skelter
to warm up our shivering skeletons.
And will this weather
get better?
I'm sure there will be a day
when it will be warm again.
So I sat by the paint-chipped windowsill.
Silently watching winter slowly spill.