Carryin' Home


The soldiers are coming back home
In a world we don’t understand
They’re wondering how they really left that place
And I wonder if they knew the man

Carryin’ home some pictures
A bible and a gun in his hand
Carryin’ home a body
And I wonder if they they knew the man

Sometimes it seems like
The world is crashing down
In times like this I think
We need all our fathers around

The soldiers are coming back home
In a world we don’t understand
Living and dying in a nightmare
And I wonder if they knew the man

Carryin’ home a memory
And I wonder if they knew the man

Copyright © 2008 Karl Ward

Release Info

  • Release: Carryin’ Home
  • Artist: Ninth Street Mission
  • Format: Digital
  • Date: November 30, 2008
  • Personnel:
    • Karl Ward: lead vocals
    • Adam Chimera: piano, mixing
    • Namrata Tripathi: harmony vocals

Writing notes

I wrote this song on the Juno-6 analog synth, sitting in my parents’ room at the family house in Georgia.

My friend Todd was in the Army stationed in Kosovo for a bit. When he came back from Kosovo, he was tasked with an honor guard detail, presenting flags to the families of soldiers who were killed in action. It’s unbelievably difficult work. He told me that he would practice what had to be said so he could get it right every time. He got out of the Army and went on to study mathematics. Frankly I think that should seem easy now (but math was always pretty easy for him anyway). I’m glad he made it back. I’m glad that so far everyone I know who joined the military has made it back.

Around the time that I wrote this song, there was a controversy over the photographs of flag-draped coffins of US soldiers killed in action in our misguided wars in the Middle East. My brother was in the Army at that time. I thought of my brother’s pictures and keepsakes, his friends, the stories he told about them and they undoubtedly told about him. In memory we all live a bit longer, maybe. When someone is taken away from you for something so senseless (Kenneth Koch called war “the sensation of being a body thrown against a wall”) it occurred to me that memory is the thing that you hold on to. I want these wars to end. In this song I tried to reach out to people in terms that I hope most Americans can agree about. But we can’t agree, or we don’t agree. We still send fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters to their deaths, in places that we have made into nightmares.

There’s a reference in here to the great Johnny Cash / U2 song “The Wanderer,” where Cash sings “I went out walking / With a Bible and a gun.” So American, such a great line. I didn’t quite borrow it–maybe that line belongs more to the people who were thrown against these walls with just a bible and a gun.

Recording notes

Adam and I sat down at the piano in Brooklyn and figured out the very uncomplicated chords I played on the piano in the original demo (here’s a secret: I’m a hack on the piano). He recorded the piano in one take, I recorded vocals, and Nami added harmony vocals a little later. We thought about adding more instruments but we decided to leave it spare.