Songs ofthe Table

Innova 684


NikosBrisco: vocals,gypsy guitar, Greek bouzouki, baglama, Cretan laouto, & bass

RuthMargraff: lyrics, vocals,accordion

RonRiley: guitar,tzouras, vocals

RamiEl-Aasser: darbukah,riq, frame drum, bells, ashiko, vocals


  1. White Tortoise Lute [2:46]
  2. Three Graces [3:53]
  3. Kill Me Standing  [3:29]
  4. Djelem (Romani/Gypsy intro) [1:42]
  5. Jasmin’s Veil   [3:25]
  6. Black Sheep Daughter [3:27]
  7. Book of Tea  [2:59]
  8. Lemon Blossoms  [4:36]
  9. Corcoduce  [2:29]
  10. 1000 Times - I’ve Seen Your Ghost [2:54]
  11. Crows & Angels [4:10]
  12. Rakija Waltz [2:40]                         

album time: 38:59


Produced, Engineered, Mixed& Mastered by Kevin Johnson at Prosonic Audio (Pagosa Springs, Colorado) Summer 2006. 

CD cover& portraits by J.R. Delia, back cover & inside jewel box by DavidLittle Smith


With special thanks to Dan Prall (Dallas & Istanbul), Wild Blooms(Austin, Texas), Carol Turner for time, talent, energy & expertise, BarbRiley, Cristian Amigo, Philip Blackburn & Innova Records, New Dramatists, EuroAmericaRecords, Elyse Singer/Hourglass Group (NYC), Fulbright Foundation (Greece), DahTeatar,  Max Manic’ & family, DraganRistic/Amala School & KAL (Serbia),Yiannis Bizas/Hotel Argo (Paros), Athens Centre, Aristotle University ofThessaloniki, University of Athens, ITI/Hellenic Centre (Greece), JR Delia& Jess Haynie, Joe’s Pub/New York Gypsy Festival, Montreal Guitar Trio,Xenofontas @ Melodia FM (Athens, Greece), the Kardasi, Lapata, Brisco & Margrafffamilies, Bob Ferrante, Joanne Jacobson, Roxana Cruz & David Little-Smith,Cheri Magid, Panos Venzelous, Bobby Jack Pack, Susan Schulman, NikosKazantzakis, Milorad Pavic, Townes Van Zandt, Markos Vamvakaris, SabanBajramovic, Les Tziganes Ivanovitch, Café Noir (Dallas, Texas),  Fred Cohen & Kate Duffy, Fred Ho,Dear friends at Steve Brown, Marcy Arlin, TCG, TWB, MTC, TMUNY, AEK Athens,Rakija, Magges (NYC), Raquy, Catalin O. Jurim, Liron Peled, Maria Hnaraki, Pearlat the overlook, Bill Hicks, the Dude, the Ba, Chris Crenshaw, Steve Taylor,Blue & Carrie, London Egg (NYC), the dervish Karem Hanine.  Nikos Brisco uses handmade acoustic instruments made byluthiers:  Dio Dinos, MauriceDupont, David Enesa, Nikos Rompogianakis, Tasos Theodorakis, AthanasiosMitrentsis, Karlos Tsakirian & Ioannis Alexandris. Lyrics deeplyinspired by wandering the streets, cafés and taverns of Sarajevo, Belgrade,Valjevo, Sibiu, Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Athens, Crete and Astoria,“Nayis-Tumenge sorro le volime Rroma anda lasho muzika! Yiassou Michales!!”












1.  WHITE TORTOISE LUTE (Margraff/Brisco)

Trampled puddlesof wine color

Are his shallowweary eyes

Sleep the sisterof his death

Born of poets,bred by thieves


Heholds no shadow

Only fingers tenand tail

For devilsriding devils

In the weltedtortoise shell


Ifwe leave behind

Ourlutes of lovely tortoise shell

We’ll walk oncemore as tortoises

Upon theBlackest Sea


Ifwe roar like bulls,

Theblood of heaven. Will flood the graves

Thatwe’ve forgotten… 

Inthe dead we can’t remember of before


Spreadlike dung across the darkness

Red the cobwebhooves of mourning

Blind withnight, the thunder crying


Triple-breastedbeast of hell

Wing of falconswiftly swelling

‘Til we standstill in the felling

Stain of angelsin the well


Wedon’t know and we won’t know

Sang the lutebeneath his hand

‘Til the devilscome by forest

And the riflesturn to brothers


Andthe widows dip their apples

In the table ofthe wine


2.  THREE GRACES (Margraff/Brisco)

In the hour ofthe doors…

Where we hadworn three peepholes

Pressing ourfaces for the three of us

Threegraces.   We longed forevening.

To nameeverything a name

From which itwould never shake free



In thebloodwings passing over

Tablesset with the ash of Crete

In the scatterof our fathers on the sea

That tore thetears across our cheeks


Ifhis hand had never broken

Where he brushedagainst the Pasha’s horse

Hot and wet, itsbosom heaving

From a crest ofAyia Sofia jewels

We know all theriddles of the streets…(Chorus)


Ifwe push against the graves

To bury one moreiron angel

Loose the snakesto swallow

Golden wings andflaming sword

Black with thepowder of the rebel

Where his rootswere cut…(Chorus)


Ifwe drag the last embrace

To fell anothershrieking widow

Wrestling Charosin the bloodwings

Black and wetupon the stones

It was the Pasha’shorse that called to Michales

…More than thecrested letter


3.  KILL ME STANDING (Margraff/Brisco)

Sometimes I diewhere I am standing

Look down at mysoul that cannot break me

Throw my limbsinto the river

 I take root and go… to… sleep…


Iwas a girl who cleaned the trains 

And wouldn’tdance

Thought I’dsomeday catch on fire 

Burn slow as I‘mburning


Sometimeswhen you follow me

I throw my hairinto the fountains

On my wingédhorse, across the smiting sun

Hearths andhomes are for the others


Iwill never dance… 

Unless I catchon fire…

Where I amflying… 

Look down as I’mburning


Sometimesthe mountains mock us 

Snap theminarets with me

Let the bloodrise higher than the horse’s belly

Take life andthen… go… free…


Iam a girl who cleans the trains

And I won’tdance 

If I ever catchon fire 

Burn you as I’mburning…(Repeat)


(Letme die in the air,

Letme die in the flame

Let me soar tothe heavens,

An arrow ofgrace)


4.  DJELEM – ROMANI/GYPSY INTRO (Bajramovic arr. Brisco/Riley)


5.   JASMIN’S VEIL (Margraff/Brisco)

Where is hercopper jar?

Where is thewoman at the well? It can't be Jasmin.

Without thatlittle black lamb at her feet

You’d be damn'd Romanijealous

Of Jasmin'sOttoman boutique


Jasmin'sveil is spinning slow

Across theburning windows

She sings a girlwith roses in her tears

Rolls her curseof bulls that lay there dying

Jasmin draws thedemons to the wine


Jasmin'sveil is lifting slow

With ghost violafingers

Silt is risingfrom the Dead Sea on its back

Red sky hangingflatter than a curtain

Jasmin calls theblack lambs to the Vine





Jasmin'slace is growing thick

Across theburned out windows. 

Ghosts stillflung across the marketplace

And blood stillrushing in the bookstore 

Flood thesegraves to keep us Byzantine





Jasmin'slace is growing thick

Across the blownout windows

Sabers rushingbirds torn in the air

Jasmin'splanting all the boots with roses

Jasmin's draggingslit lambs to the wine


Jasmin'sveil is growing thick

Across theburned out windows

Ghosts stillflung across the marketplace

And blood stillrushing in the bookstore 

Flood her graveto keep us Byzantine


6.     BLACK SHEEP DAUGHTER (Margraff/Brisco)

As if her Daddy'sblack lung

Choked down onher song

And called upbullfrogs in her throat

So she keptsighin’ there and clawin’

At the coversall night long

For some velvetshe could treasure

In her ribcageiron skillet

She'd keepstokin’ like a stovepipe

‘Til the crackof every dawn


Asif her Daddy's whiskey sour

Sunset wasstanding still

Against thetracks across the hills

Where the trainswould pressure down

On the faces ofthe pennies

And the fossilof a girl

Straining at thefeast of families

To keep theblackberries from her gown


Andshe would press so many four-leaf clovers

In the Biblesthat he later had to burn.

Andhe showed her how the sun could turn

And burst itsliquor open still and rise again,

How to lift herhair up from the dew

Of prehistoricpromises so green

With weepingwillows and fatted calves and feasting


Asif we never would see lava coming down

In rock hardfeathers all across the sky

Turn the yellowcake to smoke

And gold toliquor.  As if we'd always find him

Putting out thefleece again tonight

Waiting for his blacksheep daughter

To cross hismind…


AndDaddy I know I should've crossed your sepulcher

Wearin’ timbrelsevery time it thundered

I should'vepoured you somethin’ sweeter

Than the day farspent in the slate

I wanted my ownway then. But now my will is broken…

Can I pleasecome in? And stay in the extra room?



Asif the same old whiskey sour

Sunset wasstanding still

In the fossilprinted darkness

Pressin' intopeacock diamonds

In the rough...for you to believe


7.     BOOK OF TEA (Margraff/Brisco)

When heavenstruck its head

On the vaultedtwilight

Split the bluedome jade to stars

And the moon wasflung across the night


There‘rose a grace upon the sea

With horns anddragon-tail that spun

Dark rainbows inher cauldron

And she told mewhen she built the sky


Sheleft two crevices undone

Forthe rolling of lovers

For the rollingof hope

For the rollingof tea…. (Repeat)

8.  LEMON BLOSSOMS (Margraff/Brisco)

Is this theCrete / This is the Crete

My fatherwatered with his blood      


WasI born to crush the blossoms

Of these lemonsin the window

Was I born totoast the Pashas

And the taintedhenna hands


WasI born to seize the lions

By the loins ofrotting gallows

And cursing Christ…Andcurse Mohammad

As the dead sinkdown within a man


There’sno room in my house

For my swollensoul tonight

And there’s noroom in my Raki glass

To break it withmy knife


There’sno room on the lemon tree

To hang anotherbroken face

There’s no roomin the mountain sage

For all thedevils…Aman, Aman, Aman


Isthis the Crete / This is the Crete

My motherwatered with her tears   


WasI born to Samsons springing

From the wormsof milk abounding

To work thepestle, work the mortar

Work the scornof threshing floors


I’mnot a man to let the fly

Run up and downthe saber (Repeat)


There’sno room in my house

For my swollensoul tonight

And there’s noroom in my Raki glass

To crush it withmy knife


There’sno more room on the lemon tree

To hang anotherbroken face

There’s no roomin the mountain sage          

For all thedevils…Aman, Aman, Aman…


9.     CORCODUCE (Brisco) meaning “unripe plums” inRomanian



10.  1000 TIMES – I’VE SEEN YOURGHOST (Margraff/Brisco/Riley/El-Aasser)

Whatmadness!  How can it be!

What horror, ohwhat horror

This...astranger's voice                                 

A bell struckhard too many times

A bell withvoices in it...ringing

I was a smallboy / A baby's cry

A thousand timesI've seen your ghost

A thousand timesI've seen your ghost…(Repeat)


Whatmadness has befallen

Every generation/ Oh what madness!

For I am the sonwho yielded             

To the Rose Torment/ Oh my beloved!

I am the bedouinwho wanders         

In thewilderness afar / My love, my love!

From my beloved/ I have searched for you

In every marketplace/ Every vineyard

Every garden / Everygrave

A thousand timesI've seen your ghost

A thousand timesI've seen your ghost…(Repeat)


11.   CROWS & ANGELS (Brisco)

Oh woe is me howwill she ever respect me?

I’m just awayward bramble my law is my guitar

The only thing Isee is whatever is before me

One day I stoleinto her eyes, now I see nothing more


Ohwoe is me when I hear the road a-calling

When I feel theocean rolling its tide in my bones

She says she’llgo there with me but oh I have no money

She says itdoesn’t matter, she says our love is strong


WhatI failed to mention is my love’s a Gypsy princess

And when sheplays her accordion crows and angels sing in key

From the forestsof Romania they say her father slept with witches

That her motherdied in birth, speaking an ancient tongue


Ohwoe is me I’m just a wayward Christian

 Far from my little village where mymother prays for me


Ohwoe is me everywhere I go the birds paint her face with melody

Themoon lights my way back home

Here I amtonight in a field drinking wine

Living anancient riddle, singing an ancient rhyme


Intoher arms I find me running like a child

And between herlegs I find the songs that from youth once drove me wild

Andthe crows and the angels… have all been good to me

Six strings onmy guitar now six children call me father


12. RAKIJA WALTZ (Brisco)