Christian Burial

by M Iafrate & The Priesthood

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For over two decades, West Virginia songwriter Michael Iafrate has carefully developed his unique voice among regional artists, alongside and subsequent to his notable work as a member of some of the state’s most creative independent music acts such as The Minus Tide, COBRA, and Killed At Camp. His song-explorations are often enriched by his training as a theologian—asking more questions than providing answers, commingling the worlds of flesh and spirit, and holding received images and traditions up to the light in respect, playfulness, and negation.

Whether performed solo or with a full band, Iafrate’s songs reveal shifting shades of meaning and flexibility and offer the incense of devotion to such influences as Jason Molina, Will Oldham, Neil Young, classic R.E.M., Elliott Smith, Gillian Welch, Townes Van Zandt, Doug Paisley, and Elephant Micah. He has performed on stage with acts like Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co., Bonnie "Prince" Billy, The Anomoanon, Papa M, Brightblack Morning Light, and Matt Pond PA.

Following M Iafrate & The Priesthood’s 2005 full-length "O Happy Marriage" (his first with a full band), Iafrate released the 2011 solo EP "No Matter How Deep the Darkness, He Descends Deeper Still" and a number of singles and other tracks as he pursued the slow work of two new albums. On his latest full-length, "Christian Burial," Iafrate’s tried-and-true soft-spoken and contemplative tones are enhanced by the harder and more textured arrangements of his reassembled backing band, the Priesthood—Clint Sutton, Dallas Campbell, David Klug, and Sean Decker. Also on board are several special guests, kindred musical spirits called upon to flesh out more layered and complex arrangements—Josh Taylor on organ and piano, William Matheny on pedal steel guitar, Nate Musser on violins and upright bass, and backing vocalists Sarah Sigmon, Haley Slagle, and Hazel Iafrate.

A second full-length album, "Nonsubstantiation" (which was recorded largely alongside "Christian Burial"), will be released within a year’s time under Iafrate’s own name. Each record presents Iafrate’s introspective "theo-folk" through thoughtful and dignified arrangements and will solidify Iafrate’s place, in the words of one of the state’s most seasoned music veterans, as "West Virginia’s most esteemed hyper theologian."

"[Iafrate's] brand of roots music can do anything."
—Ghettoblaster Magazine

"West Virginia’s most esteemed hyper theologian."
—J Marinelli

"One of West Virginia’s most important musical players."
—Soft Rock Renegade

"[Iafrate’s songwriting] is a hypnotic testament to the complexity of life, love and religion, but even more so, it’s a testament to what a little well-crafted songwriting can do."
—Couches on Fire

"Deep, echoey, wooden tones, accompanied by some of the most intelligent lyrics about politics, love, and faith I’ve heard since Johnny Cash’s heyday."
—Couches on Fire


released May 26, 2017

Michael John Iafrate: vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, 12-string electric guitar, clawhammer banjo. Clint Sutton: electric guitars, backing vocals, drums on track 9. Dallas Campbell: electric bass. Sean Decker: backing vocals, 2nd electric guitar solo on track 1. David Klug: drums, percussion. Josh Taylor: organ, piano on track 3. William Matheny: pedal steel guitar on tracks 2, 3, and 7. Nate Musser: upright bass on tracks 4 and 9, violins on track 9. Haley Slagle: backing vocal on track 3. Sarah Sigmon: backing vocal on track 9. Hazel Iafrate: backing vocal on tracks 2 and 9, spoken word on track 9.

All songs written by Michael John Iafrate. Recorded in the nooks and crannies of 2011-2017 by David Klug at David Klug Studio in Pittsburgh, PA, except keyboard tracks, recorded by Josh Taylor in Wheeling, WV. Mixed and mastered by David Klug. Spoken word in “A Fall Headlong” excerpted from The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall. Design by Liz Pavlovic. Cover concept by Michael Iafrate. Front cover photo by Karri Roberts. Interior photo by Jocelyn Carlson. Door photo by Michael Iafrate.

Thank you very much. Special thanks to Hazel Iafrate, Jocelyn Carlson, Dave Klug, Clint Sutton, Dallas Campbell, Sean Decker, Josh Taylor, William Matheny, Nate Musser, Sarah Sigmon, Haley Slagle, Mark Poole, Bob Heyer, Liz Pavlovic, Karri Roberts, Brian Spragg, Andrew and Patricia Croft, Tom Breiding, Tom Beaudoin, the Bridge+Tunnel Collective, Towngate Theatre, Angie Iafrate, Janet Iafrate, Andrew Iafrate, Shawn Iafrate, Janice Iafrate, Michael L. Iafrate, Luca Iafrate, all friends and family living and passed.

Wheeling, West Virginia

© 2017 Michael John Iafrate. All wrongs reconciled.




Modesty Songs Wheeling, West Virginia

Modesty Songs is a little, tiny, modest record label based in Wheeling, West Virginia. We focus primarily on limited edition 7" singles on lathe cut vinyl plus extremely unlimited digital editions of said singles. Other formats and project lengths as necessary. ... more

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Track Name: Black and Gold
It’s in my blood, it’s in my bone—black and gold. It’s in my soul, it’s in my bowl—black and gold. I can’t get down, I’m getting too old—black and gold. And Hero Brown, he always skips town for black and gold. You’re gonna have to find another man. I can’t believe that you did he! If you’d half a mind a single plan, I’d sell you on condition of that awful pedigree. It’s in my blood, it’s in my bone—black and gold. It’s in my soul, it’s in my bowl—black and gold. I can’t get down, I hate this town of black and gold. And Hero Brown, he always skips town for black and gold. Well, I’m not dead, but I am barely breathing. O, I'm not dead, and I will rise again. O, I'm not dead, though you can't see or hear me. O, I'm not dead, not dead.
Track Name: Get Behind Me
Wrote a nasty note when last we spoke and laid my saintly skin on a blanket of snow. So carefully grown, so carefully smoked, the river was high the last time I was home. When you talk, when you scream, when you’re screaming about me, your eyes are wide, but they won’t see. You’ll incline your ear, but you won’t hear. O God, get behind me! When last we spoke, the chain got caught in the spokes, and now I’m sitting in the back yard calling you out. The corpus fell to the floor, you held the cross as a sword, and now you’re deaf to history’s irrelevant howl.
Track Name: My Body Will Speak to You
In your lovely bed or in the street, my body will speak to you. In between the lines, in between the sheets, my body will speak to you. My body will speak to you despite what my words will do. The tangible traces the true. My body will speak to you. My body will speak to you what thoughts would not dare pursue. The tangible touches the true. My body will speak to you. In the lofty pulpit or sacristy, my body will speak to you. And whether tender or nastily, my body will speak to you. This is my body. This is my blood.
Track Name: Come and Die
There are jobs that are hard not to get and jobs that hard to withstand and jobs that are hard to withdraw from and jobs where you’re working for the man. Dog and horse have gone and sealed my fate, but you are with me in that awful grave. And we shall sup within my empty tomb, for the water is both death and mother for you. My vegetables came early round this year. T’was the presence of that not-so-holy ghost. So fix yourself a plate of what you like before the bile of death spurts up from my throat. A little less than God is what we are. That’s something that the animals can’t cry. And as your hands break open through the soil, you’re calling out to men to come and die.
Track Name: God O God
Maybe the fire will rain down tonight. The flocks would all run and take cover, breathing and panting, their lungs full of stones they picked up and hurled at each other. Then the things that we’re chasing will appear to our eyes as emptiness dressed up in grandeur. And the longer we’re empty, the drama we thrive on will wash away as clean as the sand. And that’s why the papers are spotless, and that’s why there’s little to see. We don’t need a drink to forget all our worries. We’re doing just fine with TV. Maybe the fire will rain down tonight. The flocks would all run and take cover. And maybe the fire is making us scared for Maria our virginite mother. God, O God, won’t you make me an athlete, and make yourself manifest daily? And give me the courage to make up in song for what I know in my heart that I’m lacking.
Track Name: Holy Poly Child
Miriam, you made my bed shake from your energy and weight. And in that time, that time so wild, we didst conceive a holy poly child. But last night I had a frightening dream of a bypass, surpassing human seed. What, then, will this child be, that the angel of the Lord should come to me? And all God wants of us is a bloody bite of time. You will raise the kids when I’m gone in my house, in my yard and home. And when our youngest one is thirty years old, he’ll be making bread, bread out of his bones. They’ll pin him up on beams of steel and remember him within the wine and meal. He’ll reveal to us, reveal and show, that because of us the masses will come and go. On a little blue cloth a little white girl brings a savior into this world.
Track Name: Horse Birth
For bathing my baby, head to toe, in a bucket of glass. For making me take it, as you know, in my past. Perfect I know I am not, but my freedom is now worth a shot. Horses are free, and horses are gold, but when the horse is a man, his face is a hole. And I’ll have you suffer like the man you knew nothing about and find my redemption hanging there on that tree of life. No need to disrupt the decay with parts of his corpse in the cane. Remind, remind this clouded mind why baby and I would not leave you behind. This sound rebounds all through these hills, that icy white scream of this beast that I’ve killed. I once was told to forgive is divine, but my god has died seven times seventy times. Besides, I know it’s nature’s law, for our lives are red both in tooth and in claw.
Track Name: No Home
When she turned one, we were free of deceit. When she turned two, you shook the dust from your feet. I need an advocate, a worldly paraclete. See, you take from my hands when you call, call, call. When half is gone, the other’s all alone. It’s a daily taste of what you steal, but only say the word and I shall be healed. Well, I made a break at your request, and now every day is a day of rest. But I can’t decide which I like best. When night falls, I wait for the call, but it don’t make no home. What you steal, what you stole is home.
Track Name: A Fall Headlong
Heaven’s light, but the waste is coming. So talk softly, but talk openly. The wait is right, but it will come soon. Master, will you need me completely? Master, will you need me completely to talk freely and talk frequently? The time has come, but our heads are down. We brushed them all with little songs. A delicate fall, a fall headlong. We brushed them all with pretty songs. A delicate fall, a fall headlong. Heaven’s light, but the waste is coming. So talk softly but talk frequently. The time has come. Will our heads remain down? Our brains opened!