My story with Bill

Folk music is not to be enjoyed, but to be endured” — Bill Morrissey

It all started with a brilliant mistake. The year must be 1994, 1995. At the time I was managing Elliott Murphy’s mailing list and website out of Paris, and as such, Elliott (who was, you know, one of the “new Dylans” along with Bruce and Steve Forbert…) called me “Parispal”, his correspondent in the City of Lights. Traffic on that burgeoning fanlist (you may remember what the Internet was like “back in the day”) was passionate albeit limited in volume, and you could easily get in touch with other members. One day, a guy named Ron Mura sent a message about a possible song of Elliott’s that was covered by a guy named Bill Morrissey. I had never heard the name before, as I was pretty much focused on Elliott’s music, and big names such as Springsteen, Tom Waits, Tim Buckley or Jackson Browne. I had not delved into the fathomless realm of “singer-songwriters” yet, and had never heard of Guy Clark, Dave Alvin, Townes van Zandt, David Olney, Eric Taylor or Greg Brown. Since, Lyle Lovett’s Step Inside This House and Tom Russell’s The Long Way Around have opened many doors.

Before I could ask Elliott and get an answer, I was checking Bill Morrissey’s records at the FNAC Montparnasse records store, and found most of Bill’s records there (this sounds pretty unbelievable today, but I’ll tell you the truth: if you could not find a single Amy Winehouse record in Paris the day after she died, this is just as true of Bill Morrissey’s… Now I’ve said it!). Among the several CDs available on that day, I picked one named Standing Eight, and here comes my brilliant mistake: that record includes a song named “Summer Night” and so I thought, that was Elliott Murphy’s song! The only difference is that Elliott’s song is “Summer House” (from his 1977 album Just a Story from America)! Never mind, the magic worked immediately and I soon became the next member of Bill Morrissey’s “Birches” list on Yahoo!.

I soon grabbed copies of Bill’s records, and started really liking his dark voice and songs, although sometimes puzzled by the frequent use of horns! I’ve never been great at getting into the lyrics and their meanings, so don’t expect and essay on that subject from me!.

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Of course, when I started my own folk series at La Pomme d’Eve, a 13th century vaulted cellar owned by George, a guy of South-African and Greek descent, Bill was on the top of my list. But it wasn’t until early 2005 that Ellen Karas and I could work something out. Bill flew in from Boston in April, flanked with his tour-manager Annie Provenzano. Bill and Annie spent a week in the studio apartment off Place d’Italie that my wife and I were using as an office at the time. Bill told me later that on the plane descending on Paris, he had asked Annie: “What do we know of this guy? Maybe he’s just an asshole!”. Anyway, the four of us hit it off immediately. But when Bill opened his guitar case in the studio apartment, he noticed the neck was damaged. So I had to find a luthier in town and Alain Queguiner, one of the very best luthiers in Paris, fixed the guitar in no time, the day before the show. Bill later said his Epiphone never sounded so well after Alain had touched it.

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Bill loved this one-room apartment on the first floor of 22, Rue Paulin Mery, a quiet pedestrian street, and I think he was feeling like a true Parisian there. Later, he told many people he could return to Paris anytime, that he could use an apartment there. The name of that street is important as I guess all of Bill’s wit and quick intelligence resides in the comment he did when seeing the “Rue Paulin Mery” plate: “Oh-oh, you know this is the ultimate folksingers street in Paris?” We all looked at him, quite puzzled. “Sure, you’ve never heard of Peter Paulin Mery?” I’m just laughing as I’m typing this… By the way, that’s where he wrote “Grave of Baudelaire” on April 16, 2005, upon returning from the Montparnasse cemetery. He has told the story many times on stage.

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Before we knew it, Bill had given me and my wife new names, and from then on, we’d be Hank and Jolene! In France, Bill insisted that he’d be Monsieur Guillaume and Annie became Letitia.

Bill’s show was magic, the audience very respectful and responsive. I was on Cloud 9. The next day, we drove to Brussels for a show I had booked in a club named Toogenblik, in the suburbs of Brussels, a four-hour drive from Paris. A couple of blocks from my place, we stopped at a traffic light and Bill saw a woman opening the trunk of her car. Was it some kind of blues double-entendre that he saw in that woman doing something quite common? I don’t know but from then on, every time he’d see a good looking woman he would never fail to ask “oh-oh, do you think her trunk is open?”! Needless to say every time I stop at this traffic light, I look and check but it looks like women are keeping their trunks shut these days…

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The Brussels’s show went very well, some guys even drove from Germany to attend. After the gig, Bill played some songs in his bedroom, and I can remember him singing Tim Buckley’s “Once I Was”. Before Bill and Annie would fly home via London and Ireland, a trip that would provide him with many stories for his next shows, my wife and I decided we’d visit Tamworth, New Hampshire in July. We spent ten wonderful days in New Hampshire, staying in Annie’s house in the woods (“If you guys see bears, just make sure you don’t find yourselves between the mother and her cubs”, Annie warned!). For that trip I had three wishes, and as good fairies, Bill and Annie fulfilled the three of them.

Wish #1 was going to Lowell, on Jack Kerouac’s grave and possibly meet Bob Martin. We drove down to Lowell, had lunch with Dave Perry of the Lowell Sun, author of liner notes for the Grammy-nominated Jack Kerouac boxset. While at Dave’s house, Bill said, “Hey, how does it feel to be in the same room as two Grammy nominated artists!”. Then Dave called Bob Martin who drove us to the Edson cemetery. Of course, chances are pretty high that you run into someone who had “a coupla drinks” with Jack Kerouac, and sure enough, we did. Pictures were taken of Bill, Bob and me over Jack’s grave, exactly where Dylan and Ginsberg were seating 30 years earlier. Upon returning home to Tamworth, my wife asked why we had driven 6 hours to visit Kerouac’s grave and Bill answered in a smile, “You know Jolene, I *flew* to Paris to pay a visit to Baudelaire’s!”. By the way, if you haven’t yet, do yourself a favour and check out Bob Martin’s album The River Turns The Wheel. Bill and Cormac — not the writer — McCarthy both back up Bob on his song “Stella”.

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Wish #2 was meeting Charlie Hunter in Bellows Falls. Charlie once was Bill’s manager and Elliott Murphy’s agent before Elliott moved to Europe. Charlie was a very big help in my musical education, sending me several albums over the years, opening my mind to great talents who now are my daily cure. For example, I owe him the discovery of Richard Shindell, Dar Willams and Fred Eaglesmith, whom I would also later present to the Paris folk audience. We had a drink at Oona’s on our way to the Green River Festival in 2005, which takes me to my third wish.

Wish #3 was going to Signature Sounds’ Green River Festival in Greenfield, Mass. The program was great and many songwriters who played that day later graced the small stage of La Pomme d’Eve: Kris Delmhorst, Jeffrey Foucault, Peter Mulvey, Tracy Grammer and Jim Henry, Anais Mitchell… Thanks to Jim Olsen of Signature Sounds, we had backstage passes, and I could meet Buddy Miller and Steve Earle. How could I be closer to paradise? My only regret is that I did not buy a painting from Charlie Hunter.

When you’re in Tamworth, New Hampshire, and want to go shopping, you drive up to North Conway, where they have big outlets and no taxes. As I was choosing my second pair of boots, Bill received a phone call. He went out of the shop and when he returned, he was jumping all over the place! The person at the other end of the line was ex-Blasters Dave Alvin, calling to say he would be able to play on his forthcoming — and unfortunately last — album, Come Running. Bill was just wild and I wouldn’t be surprised that the waitress still remembers this crazy guy with a Tamworth cap and a pencil in his breast pocket! Bill and Dave go back to California in the late 70’s. Check out Dave’s version of “Inside” on YouTube.

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Hanging out with Bill and Annie for ten days was a treat. Bill always had wonderful stories to tell about music, any kind of music and blues, jazz, folk and rock musicians, and writers (his rather obscure email moniker was “Yorrike”, the ship in B. Traven’s book The Death Ship, and he was very proud that Holden Caulfield’s just as obscure middle name was… Morrissey!). I fondly remember a party organized at Annie’s house with Bill’s local band including Peter Heimlich, Shana Aisenberg (Fka Seth Austin) and Beverly Woods. Bill played “Holden’s Blues” and “Dangerous Way” , probably for the first time that night. I have posted a video of that evening on my YouTube channel for everybody’s viewing pleasure (on the same clip, right after the party, make sure you watch the lobsters race with Bill commenting!).

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Bill returned to La Pomme d’Eve a year later. He was scheduled to play the evening after Geoff Muldaur. Geoff has kindly invited on stage for a cool version of John Hurt’s “C-H-I-C-K-E-N”, but I have the idea Bill was annoyed to see Muldaur’s show was sold out, and not his. I may be wrong but my feeling is that Bill suffered from a lack of a wider recognition. I don’t think he liked it when you mentioned Guy Clark or Townes van Zandt’s writing skills. He’d prefer that you mention Woody Guthrie, John Hurt or Count Basie. Actually I have found out that folksingers don’t listen much to their peers’ music. They find the inspiration in other arts, or other forms of music, rather than with competitors. Anyway, you should have seen a smiling Bill start his second Paris show saying “Nice to be home” before starting “Dangerous Way”. He was “home” indeed: he had his apartment in town, knew the bartender from a year ago, and had signed several records before the show. I guess the souvenir of Muldaur’s sold-out gig the previous night was gone, and the company of Canadian singer-songwriter Lynn Miles as opening guest also certainly helped. Bill used my Taylor guitar that night, a guitar signed all over by David Olney, Jack Williams, Dan Bern, Mark Erelli, Peter Case, and many more. At one point, he told the audience, “The people who signed this guitar are not Herve’s friends. No, these are just people he owes money to!”.

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Bill was also happy because he was in love. Sharon was originally from Oklahoma and I thought Bill had made up a Woody Guthrie story around Sharon, but here is what she wrote to me: “My grandmother’s family settled on a farm in Okemah, OK where Woody was born and lived until he was 17. My grandmother lived her whole life, died, and is buried in Okemah, along with many of my other relatives. My mother was born and raised on a farm in Okemah. My grandmother knew Woody and his family (though not close) and recalled Woody being labeled a communist in later years in Okemah who would not acknowledge him until after his death. When Bill played my house concert (which I believe may have been a first for him), we stayed up all night talking. (I had no idea he could be such a talker.) He mentioned Woody, and I told him about my family’s connection to Woody and Okemah. His eyes got as big as saucers; this was clearly huge to him. As well as we were getting along without the Woody discussion, I think my connection to Okemah is what hooked him, although he always said it was because I “get the joke.”

I remember one day, Sharon told me laughing how she had been watching Bill taking a nap and dreaming aloud about the Louvre museum, trying to pronounce it in every possible way in his sleep!

“You might as well give up I’m gonna make my move
We can honeymoon in Paris, hang out at the Louvre”

“Bill Morrissey Falls In Love At First Sight”, Bill Morrissey (1984)

2007 was the year Come Running was released — with Dave Alvin on electric guitar as promised — and I’m proud that my wife and I are on the thank-you list on the booklet. We were frequently in touch over the phone at the time and fortunately enough, international telephone rates started to decrease tremendously!

In 2010, 14 years after it was published in the US, Edson was published in France by Zanzibar and translated by Luc Baranger. Since 1996 I had been on and off looking for a translator and publisher for Bill’s novel. I’m a patient guy and patience always pays off. I guess North Korea or Congo would have been great but a French edition really meant the world to Bill. I think it is the only edition in a foreign language so far. The French publisher went bankrupt before he could publish Imaginary Runner, but a translation exists so who knows, it may surface one of these days… Talking about Edson, Bill told me he did not know the Lowell cemetery was called “Edson” until we went there with Bob Martin. On that occasion, he also explained the origin of the name. He had noticed that a letter is sometimes missing in proper names in New England. For example he said, you can find the Phenix Building in Concord, New Hampshire, with no “o”. So when he saw the name “Edison” on a poster, he just thought he could remove the “i”, and that’s where he got the name “Edson”. Bill once promised he’d take me to an “Edson tour” in Newmarket…

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Bill spent a week again in Paris in January 2010, this time with Ellen, to promote the French Edson. He played two gigs, one at the Cine Jean Vigo and another, for the third time, at La Pomme d’Eve. Bill was “home again”, but just out of rehab. He seemed rather tired and I can’t say he was at the top of the game on that occasion.

I never spoke to Bill again after I dropped him at CDG airport, and that still pisses me off to the day. When I checked on Facebook on July 23, 2011 before hitting the road for two weeks in Burgundy, and saw Peter Keane was asking me to call him asap, I knew something bad was going on. Bill had been found dead in a motel room in Dalton, Georgia, just like it could have happened to a character in one of his songs. Who said “folk music was not be enjoyed” again?

The doctor said as the ambulance drove away
He died in his sleep there was no pain

“John Haber”, Standing Eight (1989)

So long Monsieur Guillaume, it’s been wicked good to know you, and I hope I wasn’t too much of an asshole…

Herve “Hank” Oudet, Paris, July 14, 2014

Note 2017, meet our new dog, Edson 😉

Edson

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« Songs of Bill Morrissey », the complete songbook

SongsofBillMorrissey_frontcover

Download the complete « Songs of Bill Morrissey » songbook

 Table of Contents

Foreword by David Hanners

A poem by Greg Brown

Songs by alphabetical order

Songs by album

  1. Bill Morrissey (1984)
  2. North (1986)
  3. Standing Eight (1989)
  4. Bill Morrissey (re-recording for CD of original album, 1991)
  5. Inside (1992)
  6. Friend Of Mine (with Greg Brown) (1993)
  7. Night Train (1993)
  8. You’ll Never Get To Heaven (1996)
  9. Songs Of Mississippi John Hurt (1999)
  10. Something I Saw Or Thought I Saw (2001)
  11. Bill Morrissey: The Essential Collection

with complete liner notes (2004)

  1. Come Running (2007)
  2. Bonus tracks

All songs © by Bill Morrissey, except otherwise noted. Published by Dry Fly Music/BMI, administered by Bug Music. Lyrics printed with permission

Compiled by Hervé Oudet, February 14, 2013

“It was a miracle to my young eyes on St. Valentine’s Day”

 

Thanks to Ellen Karas, Annie Provenzano, Peter Keane, Diane Juster, Ron Mura, David Evpak, Connie Fredericks & Herb Van Dam, Knut Andre & Jan Kristoffer Dale and Ramcey Rodriguez. Special thanks to Greg Brown and David Hanners

Hervé’s very special thanks go to Bill’s mother, Mrs. Marion Morrissey,
and his brother, Thomas Morrissey

bill-morrissey.tumblr.com

www.turnandspin.com

www.billmorrissey.net

 ***

Foreword by David Hanners

Back to top

***

These are Bill Morrissey’s songs, but he gave them to us. When you read them all in one volume, you can’t help but feel the weight of quality. We all had our reasons for liking Bill’s music, but the thing that got our attention and kept it was the fact he was a damn good storyteller.

We hang on to these stories because they are our own. Bill wrote and sang about everyday people mired in the good and the bad and the mundane, the small heroics and small failures of everyday life. His characters reflect our own strengths and shortcomings, and that is why Bill’s writing speaks to us and why we always wanted more.

It is great to see these songs compiled in one place. Bill’s songs are important, and we can read them and be reminded, page after page, just what Bill’s music means to us — and, we hope, what it will mean to new generations of fans. His songs are about life, so they should live on.

David Hanners, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, was born and raised in Casey, Ill., and now lives in St. Paul, Minn. www.davidhanners.com

***

A poem by Greg Brown

Bill
_____

Pain down in him rang like a church bell,
sang like a little river, flowing on & on,
rolled like a  loop in a well cast flyline.
All still here but Bill is gone.

Sang like barbwire hit with a walking stick,
sang like midnight talking to the dawn,
sang like an old man though he never was one.
All still here but Bill is gone.

Wrote songs like the dirt & granite he came from,
songs like mill town boards, rough sawn,
songs built to last through years of hard weather.
In them he lives, & will never be

Greg Brown, Iowa City, 02/08/2013

***

Songs by alphabetical order

Back to album list

  1. 23rd Street
  2. A Problem With Logic
  3. Ain’t Life A Brook (Ferron)
  4. Amnesia (Bill Morrissey & Nick Klaus)
  5. As Long As The Sun
  6. Ashes, Grain And Sand
  7. Avalon Blues (Mississippi John Hurt)
  8. Baby, Please Don’t Go (Trad.)
  9. Barstow
  10. Beulah Land (Mississippi John Hurt)
  11. Big Leg Blues (Mississippi John Hurt)
  12. Big Leg Ida
  13. Birches
  14. Blues In The Morning
  15. Boston Eyes
  16. Broken Waltz Time
  17. Buddy Bolden’s Blues
  18. By The Grave Of Baudelaire
  19. Canal Street
  20. Car And Driver
  21. Casey, Illinois
  22. Chameleon Blues
  23. Closed-Down Mill
  24. Coffee Blues (Mississippi John Hurt)
  25. Cold, Cold Night
  26. Dangerous Way
  27. Darlin’ Lisa
  28. Death Letter
  29. Different Currency
  30. Duncan And Brady (Trad.)
  31. Ellen’s Tune
  32. Everybody Warned Me
  33. Fifty
  34. First Shot Missed Him (Mississippi John Hurt)
  35. Fishing A Stream I Once Fished As A Kid
  36. Fishing With Bill (Greg Brown)
  37. Fix Your Hair The Way You Used To
  38. Funky Butt (Mississippi John Hurt)
  39. Gambler’s Blues
  40. Girls Of Santa Fe
  41. Good Morning, Miss Carrie (Mississippi John Hurt)
  42. Grizzly Bear
  43. Handsome Molly
  44. Hang Me, Oh Hang Me (trad.)
  45. Harry’s Last Call
  46. He Drinks Alone
  47. He Was A Friend Of Mine (trad.)
  48. He’s Not From Kansas City
  49. Hey, Honey, Right Away (Mississippi John Hurt)
  50. Hills Of Tuscany
  51. Holden’s Blues
  52. Hot Times In The Old Town (Mississippi John Hurt)
  53. I Ain’t Walking
  54. I Was A Fool
  55. Ice Fishing
  56. If You Don’t Want Me (Mississippi John Hurt)
  57. I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (H. Williams & F. Rose)
  58. I’m Satisfied (Mississippi John Hurt)
  59. Inside
  60. It’s Dangerous Out There
  61. Joe Turner Blues (Mississippi John Hurt)
  62. John Haber
  63. Johnny’s Tune
  64. Judgment Day
  65. Just Before We Lost The War
  66. Just Today
  67. Last Day Of The Last Furlough
  68. Letter From Heaven
  69. Little Bit Of Whiskey
  70. Little Red Rooster (Willie Dixon)
  71. Live Free Or Die (Bill Morrissey & Trigger Cook)
  72. Long Gone
  73. Louis Collins (Mississippi John Hurt)
  74. Love Arrives
  75. Love Song/New York, 1982
  76. Man From Out Of Town
  77. Marigold Hall (Bill Morrissey & Cormac McCarthy)
  78. Married For Money
  79. Married Man (Bill Morrissey & Cormac McCarthy)
  80. Memphis, Tennessee (Chuck Berry)
  81. Mobile
  82. Monday Morning Blues (Mississippi John Hurt)
  83. Morrissey Falls In Love At First Sight
  84. Motels And Planes
  85. Moving Day
  86. My Baby And Me
  87. My Old Town
  88. New Walking Blues
  89. Night Shift
  90. Night Train
  91. North
  92. Off-White
  93. Oil Money
  94. Pantherville
  95. Party At The U.N.
  96. Pay Day (Mississippi John Hurt)
  97. Picnic
  98. Rite Of Spring
  99. Robert Johnson
  100. Rosie
  101. Run You Through The Mill
  102. Sandy
  103. Shake That Thing (Mississippi John Hurt)
  104. She Moved Through The Fair
  105. She’s That Kind Of Mystery
  106. She’s Your Baby Now
  107. Sister Jo
  108. Small Town On The River
  109. Snow Outside The Mill
  110. So Many Things
  111. Valentine’s Day
  112. Summer Night
  113. Summer Wages (Ian Tyson)
  114. Summer’s Jumped All Over Me
  115. Texas Blues
  116. The Driver’s Song
  117. The Packard Company
  118. The Road (Danny O’Keefe)
  119. The Trailer Park
  120. These Cold Fingers
  121. Thirty Years
  122. Time To Go Home
  123. Tom Dula (Frank Profitt)
  124. Traveling By Cab
  125. Turn And Spin
  126. Up On The C.P. Line
  127. Victory At Sea
  128. Waiting For The Rain
  129. Walk Down These Streets
  130. When Summer’s Ended
  131. Will You Be My Rose?
  132. Winter Laundry
  133. Winter Song
  134. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Jagger & Richards)
  135. You’ll Never Get To Heaven

***

Songs by album

Back to album list 

Bill Morrissey 

  1. Barstow 14
  2. Small Town On The River 15
  3. Darlin’ Lisa 16
  4. Oil Money 17
  5. Morrissey Falls In Love At First Sight 18
  6. Texas Blues 19
  7. My Baby And Me 21
  8. The Packard Company 22
  9. A Problem With Logic 23
  10. Run You Through The Mill 24
  11. Grizzly Bear 25
  12. Rosie 26
  1. Live Free Or Die (Bill Morrissey & Trigger Cook) 27
  2. Little Bit Of Whiskey 28
  3. Amnesia (Bill Morrissey & Nick Klaus) 29

North

  1. Pantherville 31
  2. It’s Dangerous Out There 32
  3. Night Shift 33
  4. Married Man (Bill Morrissey & Cormac McCarthy) 34
  5. Ice Fishing 35
  6. My Old Town 36
  7. North 37
  8. She Moved Through The Fair 38
  9. He Drinks Alone 39
  10. Snow Outside The Mill 40
  11. Fishing A Stream I Once Fished As A Kid 41

Standing Eight 

  1. Handsome Molly 43
  2. Love Song/New York, 1982 44
  3. Party At The U.N. 45
  4. Last Day Of The Last Furlough 46
  5. Motels And Planes 47
  6. Up On The C.P. Line 48
  7. Summer Night 49
  8. She’s That Kind Of Mystery 50
  9. Girls Of Santa Fe 51
  10. The Driver’s Song 52
  11. Car And Driver 53
  12. John Haber 54
  13. She’s Your Baby Now 55
  14. These Cold Fingers 56

Inside

  1. Inside 58
  2. Everybody Warned Me 59
  3. Off-White 60
  4. Gambler’s Blues 61
  5. Long Gone 62
  6. Man From Out Of Town 63
  7. Rite Of Spring 64
  8. Robert Johnson 65
  9. Hang Me, Oh Hang Me (trad.) 66
  10. Chameleon Blues 67
  11. Sister Jo 68
  12. Casey, Illinois 69

Friend Of Mine 

  1. Ain’t Life A Brook (Ferron) 71
  2. Little Red Rooster (Willie Dixon) 73
  3. He Was A Friend Of Mine (trad.) 74
  4. Memphis, Tennessee (Chuck Berry) 75
  5. The Road (Danny O’Keefe) 76
  6. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Jagger / Richards) 77
  7. Duncan And Brady 78
  8. Tom Dula (Frank Profitt) 79
  9. Summer Wages (Ian Tyson) 80
  10. I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (H. Williams & F. Rose) 81
  11. Fishing With Bill (Greg Brown) 82
  12. Baby, Please Don’t Go 84

Night Train

  1. Night Train 86
  2. Sandy 87
  3. Birches 88
  4. Cold, Cold Night 91
  5. Letter From Heaven 92
  6. Ellen’s Tune 93
  7. So Many Things 94
  8. Love Arrives 95
  9. Blues In The Morning 96
  10. Broken Waltz Time 97
  11. Walk Down These Streets 98
  12. Time to Go Home 99

 

You’ll Never Get To Heaven 

  1. When Summer’s Ended       101
  2. You’ll Never Get to Heaven 102
  3. Married For Money 103
  4. As Long As The Sun 104
  5. Ashes, Grain And Sand 105
  6. Winter Laundry 106
  7. Waiting For The Rain 107
  8. Different Currency 108
  9. Hills Of Tuscany 109
  10. Closed-Down Mill 110
  11. Turn And Spin 111
  12. Big Leg Ida 112

 

Songs Of Mississippi John Hurt 

  1. If You Don’t Want Me 114
  2. Avalon Blues 115
  3. Shake That Thing 116
  4. Louis Collins 117
  5. First Shot Missed Him 118
  6. Big Leg Blues 119
  7. Hey, Honey, Right Away 120
  8. Joe Turner Blues 121
  9. I’m Satisfied 122
  10. Beulah Land 123
  11. Funky Butt 124
  12. Coffee Blues 125
  13. Monday Morning Blues 126
  14. Good Morning, Miss Carrie 127
  15. Hot Times In The Old Town 128

 

Something I Saw Or Thought I Saw 

  1. 23rd Street 130
  2. Harry’s Last Call 131
  3. Just Before We Lost The War 132
  4. Winter Song 133
  5. Moving Day 134
  6. Buddy Bolden’s Blues 135
  7. Valentine’s Day 136
  8. Traveling By Cab 137
  9. Fix Your Hair The Way You Used To 138
  10. Judgment Day 139
  11. Mobile 140
  12. Will You Be My Rose? 141

 

 Bill Morrissey: The Essential Collection

Liner Notes      143

  1. Fifty 146
  2. Just Today 147
  3. Boston Eyes 148

 

Come Running 

  1. I Ain’t Walking 151
  2. Thirty Years 152
  3. Dangerous Way 153
  4. Holden’s Blues 154
  5. He’s Not From Kansas City 155
  6. Summer’s Jumped All Over Me 156
  7. By The Grave Of Baudelaire 157
  8. Canal Street 159
  9. I Was A Fool 160
  10. Death Letter 161
  11. Victory At Sea 161
  12. New Walking Blues 163
  13. Johnny’s Tune 164

 

Bonus

  1. Little Bit Of Whiskey       28
  2. Live Free Or Die (Bill Morrissey & Trigger Cook)                                 27
  3. Amnesia (Bill Morrissey & Nick Klaus) 28
  4. Marigold Hall (Bill Morrissey & Cormac McCarthy) 166
  5. Picnic 167
  6. The Trailer Park 168
  7. Pay Day (Mississippi John Hurt) 169

 

BILL MORRISSEY (1984) Re-recording for CD of original album, 2/27/1991

Back to album list

 © Ren Norton                                 

  1. Barstow
  2. Small Town On The River
  3. Darlin’ Lisa
  4. Oil Money
  5. Morrissey Falls In Love At First Sight
  6. Texas Blues
  7. My Baby And Me
  8. The Packard Company
  9. A Problem With Logic
  10. Run You Through The Mill
  11. Grizzly Bear
  12. Rosie

 

Extra songs, recorded on 2/27/91

  1. Little Bit Of Whiskey
  2. Live Free Or Die (Bill Morrissey & Trigger Cook)
  3. Amnesia (Bill Morrissey & Nick Klaus)
  1. Barstow

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

Here comes Parks and he’s found another bottle

He tips it up like a trumpet, he takes a drink and passes it on

And every man around the fire takes a chorus on the bottle

It ain’t much, it ain’t good but it’ll get us through till dawn

Don’t the freight yard sound like a drunk in a metal shop

I can’t believe it gets this cold in Barstow

And I can’t believe I pissed my twenties away

If you take me back this time

Baby, I promise you… I’ll stay

 

Parks takes another drink and starts to sing off key

There’s not a man around the fire big enough to shut him up

And in the cold morn he’s singing, « Hey Okie, tell Arkie

Texas found a job in Californ »

And everybody around the fire cracks up

And then Parks hands me the bottle He says, « I’m gone to Tucson

Hole up all winter at the Sally if I can

I don’t mind the prayin’ and I don’t mind sayin’

I can listen forever to that Sally brass ban »

And then Parks starts laughing hard but he doesn’t make a sound

He grabs the bottle back and kills the last of the wine

In the fire glow I can see his eyes and they shine like brake lights

And I am just glad that I cannot see mine


  1. Small Town On The River

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They used to come to town from the naval base

Looking for a stiff drink and a pretty face

Hang around the whorehouses all night long

Some were drifters and some were bums

Some just waited for the war to come

Out behind the factory with a bottle and a factory girl

 

In that small town on the river

Just a small town on the river

 

That December war broke out

Many a woman lost her man

Some wrote from overseas, some didn’t

And their women didn’t understand

And the whores left for the harbor towns

Where the business was still good

And the factory girls put in double shifts

Worked as much as they could

 

Well, some came men came home aces

And some were carried home

All of them were heroes

No man was left alone

Some took jobs, some went to school

Some found they’d fathered kids

Well, most men tried but could not forget

And some wound up on the skids

 

Forty years later the town remains the same

One mill burnt down, another one was built

The paychecks now come from a different name

And at the Eagles and the Legion Hall

No-one seems to age

With the same jokes told and the TV on

The paper open to the sports page

 

And I was talking to the bartender last night at the PAC

A navy man from World War Two

Sharp dresser, though he didn’t have to be

And over a double bourbon

He said ‘”I’ll tell you man to man

The town died forty years ago, son

Get out while you can

It’s that small town on the river

Nothing but a small town on the river


  1. Darlin’ Lisa

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Well I’ve got a house way up North

I’ve got yards and fences

I’ve got a wife who sings

Like thirteen drunken Joseph Spences

Oh, my little darlin’ Lisa

Round and round and round we go

 

We can climb right up that beanstalk

Slide back down and chop the trunk

Go on home, turn on the TV

Watch the Waltons and get drunk

Hey, my little darlin’ Lisa

Oh, my darlin’ Lisa-O

Hey, my little darlin’ Lisa

Fe fi fun fo

 

I loved her many years ago

I truly love her now

If I were the captain and she were my boat

I would love her stern to bow

Hey, my little darlin’ Lisa

Oh, my darlin’ Lisa-O

Hey, my little darlin’ Lisa

Yo ho ho

 

I’ve got a twenty gauge and a Hawken gun

I’ve got a Barlow and a Bowie knife

The smartest thing I’ve ever done

Was to ask that girl to be my wide

Hey, my little darlin’ Lisa

Oh, my darlin’ Lisa-O

Hey, my little darlin’ Lisa

Round and round and round we go

 

 

  1. Oil Money

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I’m sitting in a bar on Morgan City

In the state of Louisian’

Just been made a captain of a cargo boat

I worked my way up from deckhand

 

They take me for a native here

I’ve heard my speech turn soft and slow

But it’s just been five years since I came down from New Hampshire

To earn my living on the Gulf of Mexico

 

Oil money can lure a man away from home

And I was one of many, boys, to set off on my own

Oil money, a million jobs in the oil trade

A million dollars waiting to be made

 

I’ve got friends here who just came down from the pipeline

I know college boys who work as roustabouts

Well the hours are long but they say you can’t beat the pay

And that’s what it’s all about

 

So tonight you’ll find me drinking

I’ll celebrate my promotion then go home

I’ve got a pocket full of change I don’t know what to do with

I’ve got one eye on the bottle and one eye on the payphone

 

Hello operator, information for New Hampshire

No town special, anyone will do

There’s nobody back there left for me to talk with

I just want to hear the operator talk the way I used to

 

  1. Morrissey Falls In Love At First Sight

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Well, my heart skipped a beat when you walked into the room

And in five seconds I was thinking bride and groom

I was thinking bride and groom, thinking man and wife

Never fell in love so fast in all of my life

 

I know you’ll like my friends and you’ve got to meet my parents

My dad is pretty funny and my mum looks like Betty White

I’ve got to have another drink to figure out

A way to introduce myself to you tonight

 

I’m lousy on the first night, better by the third

I was raised Catholic, in case you hadn’t heard

But I ain’t the type of man who lives on dreams and wishes

Or walks around the house breaking bread and blessing fishes

 

If I sent a dozen roses just out of habit

Would you press those flowers in a copy of Babbitt

I need another drink, I need a cigarette

I ain’t giving up, I’m gonna get you yet

 

I’ll give you the rights to my ten best songs

If you want to talk, I can talk till dawn

Right there I need a word that rhymes with urn

I guess your name is the first thing I ought to learn

 

I hope you’re a Democrat, I hope you like the Red Sox

Hope you like Bourbon with a splash of water on the rocks

Bourbon with a splash is the only drink I make

But baby I can learn, there’s a course I can take

 

You might as well give up I’m gonna make my move

We can honeymoon in Paris, hang out at the Louvre

We can winter in the city, summer up in Maine

And all of this will happen

As soon as I learn your name

 

  1. Texas Blues

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Never been so lonesome, never been so blue

It’s midnight on the highway, I’m coming back for you

Stuck in Ozona, Texas, out on Highway 10

I’m gone to Arizona to win you back again

 

Last time I saw you, your voice was cold as ice

And you spoke of some old lover like a lonesome paradise

Time, like a sailor on his way back to the sea,

It trips and stumbles, rarely passes gracefully

 

I’m standing on the highway and the only light I see

Is just the cold and heartless moon shining down on me

Never been so lonesome, never been so blue

It’s midnight on the highway, I’m coming back for you

 

  1. My Baby And Me

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My baby and me know a good day when we see it

Mid-November, so long fall

Well as warm days go, this is last call

 

My baby and me we’re going out for one last fling

One last howl before the winter snow

Socks us in till spring

 

Baby’s wearing make-up

She’s got Chanel No. 5

She’s put on a dress with a little fill

I’ve got a jacket and a tie

I’ve splashed on some Hoppe’s No. 9

I guess you could say I was dressed to kill

 

We’re going out tonight

We’re gonna hit the bars in town

We’re gonna mingle with the flatlanders

And buy them all a round

 

Well summer’s over, autumn’s gone

Winter’s here, turn the page

I’m gonna trade my Hawken .50

For a lightweight gauge

 

I’m going out tonight

And get as drunk as can be

And let my baby drive home

Cause she drinks moderately

 

Tonight is our last chance

Top go and blow off steam

Cause once the snow hits around here

All you can do is dream and dream

And dream and dream

 

 

 

  1. The Packard Company

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I don’t want to hear your ideas

I finally like it here

Every man’s got his job to do

Every man drinks his own beer

 

And I’m not too far from foreman

If I get it that’s okay

I could buy my wife her own TV

With a foreman’s raise in pay

 

I had two weeks off in August

We went to Washington D.C.

My wife, she’s got a brother down there

And there were some things I always wanted to see

 

We took a Greyhound back to Ashland

I watched the turnpike all the way

And as we left New York behind

I had no words to say

 

My wife nodded off so soon

Slept all the way to the Mass line

Well, everything’s okay I told myself

Everything is fine

 

And if it hadn’t been for whiskey

I never would have made it through our first years

But every man breaks down with time

And now those whiskeys, they’re just week end beers

 

No I don’t want to hear your ideas

I finally like it here

Every man’s got his job to do

Every man drinks his own beer

 

And I’ve got the sun in the morning

I get the cold every night

If I had to do it all again

I’d have been born in flight

 

 

  1. A Problem With Logic

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When you left I got so upset

I walked around in circles

And smoked a lot of cigarettes

I did all the things ex-lovers do

 

You were good for a laugh

I wonder who did it right and who done wrong

Ah, you know I was half-planning to leave you too

 

Though I always did love you

I can’t say I always will

Oh but if you want to try it again

If you do, you know, maybe I will too

 

I’ve got your picture in my wallet

That portrait of a child

I keep it with my money

It’ll stay there for a while

 

And I can make it on my own

There’s no trouble there

I’m a little worried about you, though

But you don’t seem to care

 

Where’d you get this new guy

I wish I knew what he said

That swept you right off your feet

And set you down in his bed

 

Well I remember how you said in the middle of the night

We could never make it work

We’re too much alike

Well I thought and thought*and wondered if that’s true

 

Well, if we’re so much alike

Then it must be true

That you still want me

Just as much as I want you

 

 

  1. Run You Through The Mill

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Oh, honey, I get tanked just soaked up in the spirits

I get rowdy, I get clumsy

I get as trite as jazz lyrics

And I stay drunk all the time

I stay drunk all the time

 

Well, I’m a walking twelve bar blues with a lover I can’t lose

I’d run you through the mill, honey

Just to prove my point

That you’d never last till day

You’d never see the night

 

And soon someone will climb your stairway like it is a golden braid

He’ll be sober, he’ll be working

Just a one man masquerade

And you’ll have him till you die

You’ll have him till he dies

 

‘Cause when the rain starts to falling and I can’t get out of its way

Honey, can you take it like a trooper

On that very lonely day

It’s happened once before

It’s happened twice before

 

Oh, honey, I get tanked just soaked up in the spirits

I get rowdy, I get clumsy

I get as trite as jazz lyrics

And I stay drunk all the time

I stay drunk all the time

 

 

  1. Grizzly Bear

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Let me tell you about this girl I met just the other night

She’d spent so much time in the mirror boys

She couldn’t tell left from right

And I knew she came from money

By the way she ought me drinks

But I’ll be damned if I ever understand

Just how a rich girl thinks

 

And she wants me to call her Monday

Could be a blessing, maybe a curse

She wants to fly us both to the Bay of Fundy

Just to watch the tide reverse

She wants me to meet her girlfriends

One named Pookie one named Clair

But I just wanted to take her home

And dance the grizzly bear

 

Well I’d never seen a girl with so many names written on her clothes

I’d never seen a girl so pretty with a dollar up her nose

I said let’s have one more drink and go home

It’s getting late but she shook her head and said

She wanted to dance till we dehydrate

 

Now I could tell by how she high-stepped she’d learn to dance uptown

Where I come from we just kinda like to get drunk

And slam bodies all around

I guess I might’ve embarrassed her

Before she could work up a sweat

She picked up her purse and picked up the tab

And ran away to her Corvette

 

 

 

  1. Rosie

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Rosie, the rain don’t stop and the window’s steamed

I’ve two weeks off in port

My nights are spent like a sailor’s dream

 

Rosie, you don’t sound right on the phone

And from the tone of your voice

I know you’re not alone

Well, you’re talking fast

I don’t know why

You tell me that you found some new guy

Rosie, yesterday

 

Ah, you know you must be crazy just to talk this way

Yeah, you know you must be crazy just to talk this way

 

Well I’m drinking

The rain don’t stop this time of year

It’s three bucks for a shot of Jack

Two bucks for a beer

And they tell me this place is the last frontier

The jukebox plays a country tune

Soon I’ll be out of here

Well I smoke, I drink, I’m shooting pool

I walk around to town like a drunken fool

Rosie, wait for me

 

Now tell me that you want me coming home

I left to make some cash for us

I didn’t want to leave you alone

Rosie, all I do is think of you, trust me darling Rosie

I’ll be back before the month is through

Well, you say that you’re in love with him and it’s over now

But I won’t give in, Rosie

 

 

  1. Live Free Or Die

(Bill Morrissey & Trigger Cook)

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Well, I’m doin’ ten to twenty in the frozen granite state

And every day I go to work to stamp out license plates

Every day I got to work and every night I cry

‘Cause every license plate I make tells me to Live Free or Die

 

Live Free or Die, oh Lord, tell me why can’t they say “Seat Belts Fastened”

Or “Oklahoma is Okay,” “Vacationland” sounds mighty great

I wouldn’t mind stampin’ out the Garden State

It’s enough to make me cry, Live Free or Die

 

Well, I didn’t mean to shoot that man, why the gun just went off in my hand

I caught him with my wife and it cost that man his life

I’d just got home from the factory and that man was sittin’ where I’m supposed to be

Now he’s up there in the sky and I’m stuck with Live Free or Die

 

Live Free or Die, oh Lord, tell me why, can’t they say “Seat Belts Fastened”

Or “Oklahoma is Okay,” “Vacationland” sounds mighty great

I wouldn’t mind stampin’ out the Garden State

It’s enough to make me cry, Live Free or Die

 

So let this be a lesson to all you married men out there

That patience is a virtue, so make your plans with care

So if you catch your wife with another man, it’s best to hold off as long as you can

Then shoot him in another state where they got a different license plate

 


  1. Little Bit Of Whiskey

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Little bit of whiskey, in a little cup of tea

Just to take the chill out of poor frozen me

 

Shovel the sidewalk, and the driveway then,

Snow keeps falling, start all over again

 

I’ve got my shovel, I’ve got my glove

Oh, I’ve got trouble with my true love

 

Snow keeps falling, been falling all day

Weather report says there’s more coming our way

 

Me and the missus, been fighting again

I won’t talk and she won’t listen

 

Now they say true love, is a game for fools

And every time I play, she keeps changing the rules

 

I want to go inside, I want to warm up

and drink a little whiskey from a little tea cup

 

 

 

 

  1. Amnesia

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I got amnesia this morning, I got hit on the head

And I woke up today in a hospital bed

 

I can’t remember my name, but one thing is clear

I must have insurance or they’d not keep me here

So maybe I’m rich, maybe in debt a lot

If they come to collect, I’ll just say I forgot

 

Are my friends all hip? Do they play tenor sax?

Or belt their pants at their armpits and wear plastic pen-packs?

Do I have honest work, or lead a life of crime?

Please shoot me dead if I’m a lawyer or a mime

 

Now what is my religion? I hope I’m a Buddhist

I could be a Hindu, a Catholic or a nudist

What if I’m born-again or in some weirdo sect?

I know I’m not Jewish, I looked down and I checked

 

 

 

NORTH (1986)

Back to album list)

 

© Susan Wilson

 

  1. Pantherville
  2. It’s Dangerous Out There
  3. Night Shift
  4. Married Man (Bill Morrissey & Cormac McCarthy)
  5. Ice Fishing
  6. My Old Town
  7. North
  8. She Moved Through The Fair
  9. He Drinks Alone
  10. Snow Outside The Mill
  11. Fishing a Stream I Once Fished As A Kid

 

 

  1. Pantherville

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When it snows in Pantherville the road just disappears

When it snows in Pantherville the road just disappears

You can watch it fade like daylight till there’s no way out of here

 

And when it snows like this the state man don’t come around

When it snows like this the state man don’t come around

Well, I wake up a happy man when the snow is falling down

 

Ah, put down those dishes, daughter, and sit down over here

Take a look out by the skidder, we got dogs a-running deer

 

Well those dogs that run that deer will kill him just for fun

Those dogs will run that deer and kill him just for fun

Now the state man say that he won’t rest till I’m up in Thomaston

 

Ah put down those dishes, daughter, and come watch these clouds above

Sit here right beside me girl tell me who you love


 

  1. 2. It’s Dangerous Out There

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There are Russians in the front yard

There are Martians on the ceiling

There’s a cape buffalo on the patio

And you ask me how I’m feeling

 

There’s a sniper by the swing set

The hallway has been mined

Then here you come with a great big smile

Singing “Rise and shine”

 

Well, there’s nothing you can say that will get me up today

Nothing you have ever said that can drive me from this bed

You can call me lazy, crazy, call me stupid I don’t care

I ain’t getting up, it’s dangerous out there

 

There’s a hunter from New Jersey

In my kitchen drinking beer

There’s a Texan out my window

With a chain saw and a leer

 

I could take a walk around the block

To shake me from this slumber

But there are students drivers out today

And one has got my number

 

There’s a pounding on my front door

It’s enough to make me scream

Well it’s two girl scouts, one Jehovah’s Witness

And a whole S.W.A.T team

 

So listen to me darling

Please hear these words I say

It’s too scary here in February, dear

Set the snooze alarm for May

 

 

 

  1. Night Shift

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The bar was packed on a Tuesday night

The Bruins were on TV

Everybody in the place was tight

Make no exception for me

I’ve been drinking to my traveling days

I should’ve been at work long ago

But tonight I ain’t coming in

Tonight I just can’t go

 

I should be making shoes on the night shift

But I can’t drive in through the snow drifts

That’s what I told them at the factory

I wonder how the boys on the night shift ever got along without me

 

The guys I work with are lifers here

They talk shotguns and TV

They can call me names in French or English and do it frequently

And their wives, they don’t smile much but their hearts are made of gold

They run their families but make it look like they do what they are told

 

So bartender pour me another shot and back it with a beer

Tonight I’m thanking heaven

I can still get out of here

Because for a while I thought I could settle down

Then I called my own bluff

Well, the road get longer as I get older

But I still got the stuff

 

 

 

  1. Married Man

(Bill Morrissey & Cormac McCarthy)

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I got married and settled down

I use a smaller brush now to paint the town

I still drink my whiskey I just water it down

No more showing up in night court

One day late and two dollars short

I still play the dogs but just for sport

 

A married man, a married man

Some women think they can turn a bum into a saint

Well look out mama, now here I come

You’ve got the same old bum with a new coat of paint

 

I’m in love this time I swear it’s true

I meant both words when I said « I do »

And I liked it when she said it too

I ain’t no sow’s ear, I ain’t no silk purse

I spend my days at home writing idiot verse

Still my wife knows she could have done much worse

 

There’s two names printed on the checks

There’s Bud in the ‘fridge instead of Beck’s

And I ain’t seen any side effects

I got married and settled down

I use a smaller brush to paint the town

I still drink my whiskey I just water it down

I water it down


 

  1. Ice Fishing

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The snow lay up against the curb

Finally beaten by the sun

Across the street the noon whistle blows

Calling back everyone

 

They came out from the luncheonettes

Taverns and pharmacies

Crossed the wet street back to work

Coats unbuttoned, talking easily

 

And there ain’t much to millwork

The days just go on and on

And there ain’t much to leavin’ home

Till you finally cut the cord and know that you’re gone

 

And there ain’t much to ice fishing

Till you’re gone a day or more

And the hole you’ve cut freezes over

And it’s like you’ve never been there before

 

  1. My Old Town

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What’s happening to my old town

They went and knocked half the buildings down

They built them backup from the ground

While I was gone away

 

Now there’s knick-knack shops and restaurants

In the place of my old haunts

Everything a man could want

At least that’s what they say

 

I hit my old bars on the pier

Where I’ve been drunk year after year

And find I can’t afford the price of beer

Unless I drink at home

 

The street lights and the cops abound

I’ve never seen so many cops in town

Protection now when the sun goes down

That was only us before

 

What’s happening to my old town

They went and knocked half the buildings down

They built them backup from the ground

While I was gone away

 


 

  1. North

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Mama always said me and the old man were two of a kind

And now, just like he once did

I work these woods north of the C.P. line

 

Mama gets upset when I call her;

She’s living home alone

And I guess the old man’s voice and mine

Always sounded the same over the telephone

 

Papa’s been gone six years now

He got to choose the how and when and where he’d die

I think about him after work sometimes

Once I’ve passed the halfway point on a fifth of rye

Papa told me once a man must work if he’s going to take care of his

And you’ve got to work the big woods when that’s the only work there is

 

But the big woods will just use you up

Drain your strength and soul, and ask for more

Until you find yourself a broken man pushing forty who just can’t do the job no more

 

Tonight in this bar I caught myself holding a cigarette the same strange way he did

So I raised my glass and I drank a round to the old man

And the old man’s kid

 

I believe I was the last one to see the old man alive

He lost his job at forty-one, took himself out at forty-five

 

I saw him walking down the tote road with his twelve-gauge pump and a pint of rye

And it just wasn’t in me to stop him

Good-bye, Papa, good-bye.

 

  1. She Moved Through The Fair

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She moved through the fair

Her cotton dress was new

She looked like a queen

She moved through the fair

Slowly and alone

She wanted to be seen

 

She moved through the fair

Down along the midway

The paper lights were hung

She moved through the fair

Twenty two years old

I’d never seen her look so young

 

She stops and waits

She stands just beyond the light

And if heaven calls, she knows she’ll go

And if not she’ll be all right

 

She moved through the fair

Her green eyes darted like the wind

She moved through the fair

As if it were some place

She’s never seen again

 

She moved through the fair

Her cotton dress was new

She looked like a queen

 


  1. He Drinks Alone

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I’ve got a little shop on the waterfront

I open every spring

And I cater to the tourist crowd

They’ll buy up everything

In the bar next door there’s a string band

They play those old Nantucket songs

Put a grown man to sleep

Christ, they’re 99 verses long

 

When I was young, I went to sea

When I was young, fishing was the life for me

 

From the back door of the bar next door

I can look out on the bay

And watch the trawlers coming in

I watch for my son’s boat that way

One by one they tie up

The same story’s always told

Between the quota and the foreign fleet

There’s no way to fill the hold

 

I was 39 years old

When I quit my life at sea

That was the only thing

My wife ever asked of me

And back then the North Atlantic

Could bring a man a decent wage

Well, I’ve tried to tell my son that

But you can’t talk to those his age

 

I’ve got a little shop on the waterfront

Keeps me in smokes and gin

I keep a place in my business open

For when my son wants to come in

 

  1. Snow Outside The Mill

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When I was a young man I traveled around

I worked every hard bar in every hard town

For the whiskey, the draught beer, the porter and stout

I sang everywhere until I sang myself out

 

And now I’m getting older but it don’t bother me

When I can’t hit the high notes I just drop the key

And sometimes when I sing now the words escape me

 

I drifted back North, took a job at the mill

I did not plan on staying but now it looks like I will

Got a room near the mill where the rents are still cheap

Got a job in the card room I can do in my sleep

 

Well I met a girl in the weave room one day

She promised to love me if I promised to stay

I made her my wife one day that same spring

Now she turns up the TV when I start to sing

 

So I sit and look the card room window

As the snow starts to fall and the wind starts to blow

Well, I’ve seen better days, I’ve seen worse ones too

I’ve had better jobs but this one will do


  1. Fishing A Stream I Once Fished As A Kid

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Were it not for rainbow trout

I would have to fish for bass

Were it not for the seasons changes

I would never see time pass

And were there not a chance for whiskey

I could make do with a beer

I wish I’d have known when I left home

Every road just led back here

 

Oh, I’ve pumped gas and I’ve picked apples

I’ve dispatched for an ambulance

I’ve even worked on the ocean

But that was when I had no sense

And in every town I did believe

There was no job I could not leave

Some I quit when I got tired

On some I admit I was fired

 

Now I’m standing thigh deep in this trout stream

The air is still the sun is low

Day is almost over now

I can see myself here years ago

And I dream I am nine again

When it seems like Summer never ends

Hear the crickets sing, hear the peepers call

See the full moon shine like a whiffle ball

 

 

STANDING EIGHT (1989)

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© Tobey

  1. Handsome Molly
  2. Love Song/New York, 1982
  3. Party At The U.N.
  4. Last Day of the Last Furlough
  5. Motels And Planes
  6. Up On The C.P. Line
  7. Summer Night
  8. She’s That Kind Of Mystery
  9. Girls Of Santa Fe
  10. The Driver’s Song
  11. Car And Driver
  12. John Haber
  13. She’s Your Baby Now
  14. These Cold Fingers

 


  1. Handsome Molly

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I park my cab on Water Street, I’m waiting for a fare

Watch the young girls in their first heels

Step like colts across the square

 

Fire on the ocean, thunder on the sea

I think of Handsome Molly, wherever she may be

 

Now, I’m either in this cab or bar, never in the choir

Sometimes howlin’ and amazed like the wind hung up on barbed wire

 

Fire on the ocean, thunder on the sea

I think of Handsome Molly, and what she promised me

 

Well, it’s pretty doe-eyed Molly could see so well at night

It was a hard trade she made just to see it black and white

 

Now the word’s gone down this north coast and its « Boy you best take care

Cut yourself with a knife, find all the salt that’s in the air »

 

Fire on the ocean, thunder on the sea

I think of Handsome Molly, who cried so easily

 

Now the soldiers down on Water Street, they eye the little girls

And the little girls of Water Street will take them ’round the world

 

Fire on the ocean, thunder on the sea

I think of Handsome Molly, wherever she may be

 


  1. Love Song/New York, 1982

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I remember her frightened eyes and her mouth so quick to mock

Listening late at night, surprised by her soft Midwestern talk

In the corner of the cafe, as dark as an eclipse

Well she tried to smile, but her cheek lines put parentheses around her lips

 

Walk down Grand Street, the wind would blow us round and round

And all her talk was incomplete, so I just listened to the sound

She could never see my heart, back then it was a blur

Oh, but it’s true, I was the handsomest man in New York

When I walked down the street with her

 

Ah na na na na, na na na

Ah na na na na, na na na

 

We were walking, sort of dancing, up on the rooftop real slow

Quietly waiting to get stung by Lester Young over that tiny radio

There were so many men in her eyes, I knew she never could be mine

But everyone must die alone, and that’s just how some men will always walk the line

 

Ah na na na na, na na na

Ah na na na na, na na na

 

It was out at the newsstand, the corner of MacDougal and West Third

She took back her hand and said goodbye, to this day I pretend I never heard

Let the years roll away, let the seasons disappear

And if I seem to be okay I’m just thinking of the time I held her near


  1. Party At The U.N.

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I went to a party at the U.N.

It was the weirdest place I’ve ever been

I’m gonna tell you who was there

I’m gonna tell you even if you don’t care

 

There were Haitians on vacation, and Frenchmen with henchmen

Brits eating grits and Celts eating smelts

There was a couple of Reds reading books by Trotsky

And coeds in stretch-pants who swore they did not ski

And everybody had a pretty good time

 

Well there were Peruvian beauties neglecting their duties

And Danes eating Danish, singing the blues

Israelis with ukuleles formed a dance band

And Watusis got up and danced the American

And everybody had a pretty good time

 

So if you go down to the U.N., be prepared to make a lot of new friends

It’s such a happy community, everyone’s got diplomatic immunity

 

You’ll meet Incas and Aztecs out passing bad checks

And big Czechs with no necks talking nothing but sex

Wanna make a hit with that pretty Estonian

Bring that platter of cheese and bologna

And everyone will have a pretty good time

 


  1. Last Day Of The Last Furlough

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In the late afternoon the sky and a calm sea join

And fade into the dirty silver of an old coin

It’s so still it could be morning but for the heat held in the sand

 

We have the beach to ourselves now

The brown eyed girl, the empty man

And she wants to make love, I want to drink

Drinking is what I do best

 

She rolls on to her side

Reaches cross the blanket for my cigarettes

She asks me if I’ve called my wife?

I tell her « No, not yet »

And she says « You can’t stall forever, you’ve got to make that call sometime »

But I just don’t want to hear a stranger’s voice on that end of the line

 

And she wants to make love, I want to drink

Drinking is what I do best

 

Back at the motel, she takes a shower

I watch the last rounds of a fight

I pick up the phone and call the restaurant

Dinner for two, someplace new tonight

I try to picture my wife with her new love, but I just can’t get it right

And I just want to do something, I do well tonight


  1. Motels And Planes

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Here I am once again back in this bar

Home for the shooting and the falling stars

It’s a good place to start, it’s a hard place to end

I’m just passing through here tonight old friend

 

So tell me what’s new, where is your guitar?

Never thought you’d be working that side of the bar

Hey pour me a tall one, pour one for you

You know I don’t drink as much as they think I do

 

These days, my time it seems is spent in motels and planes

But these were once my dreams, I’ve got no right to complain

 

It’s been quite a year, yes I’ve had me a ball

I’ve sung from the stage of Carnegie Hall

I’ve stayed on the road for months upon months

And found me an agent who was famous once

 

I pay this agent for his advice

And all that he tells me is play safe and nice

You’ve got motels and planes, not couches and Fords

And they’ll pay through the nose for the same old three chords

 

These days my time it seems is spent in motels and planes

But these were once my dreams, I’ve got no right to complain

 

Who is that woman who walked in the door

You heard me and my wife ain’t together no more

I don’t know what happened or what I did wrong

But you know me I’ll get it into a song

 

The road it gets lonesome, there’s no turning back

You do meet the women, that’s just a fact

Carry on laughing and drinking and such

And though I always did look, I never did touch

 

These days my time it seems is spent in motels and planes

But these were once my dreams, I’ve got no right to complain


  1. Up On The CP Line

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I live up on the C.P. Line, everybody knows

Where the women smell of turpentine and that’s the way it goes

Where the working runs from hard to worse, summer, spring and fall

For when Great Northern holds the purse, you get no pay at all

 

Well it’s hard times up on the line, hard times

Hard times up on the C.P. Line

 

I took a wife named « Daisy » many years ago

Daisy went woods crazy on the very last spring snow

Now she walks around without her clothes, she yodels through the day

I’d take to the doctor, but I like her thataway

 

I got a .308 that’ll drive a tack, listen to me sing

I spend my days in a timber-shack waiting for the spring

When I see the lights of Jackson, shining to the south

I can almost feel the whiskey, rolling ’round my mouth

 

Well it’s hard times up on the line, hard times

Hard times up on the C.P. Line

 

Yeah, way up on the C.P. Line, Canadian Pacific

The women tell me I look fine and their taste is terrific

So drink a little whiskey, boys, drink a little beer

You can find your hard times anywhere, so we just stay right here

 


  1. Summer Night

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You’ve travelled the river, from end to end

Never found a true love, anywhere you’ve been

Never broke a heart that wouldn’t mend

On such a lovely summer night

 

Hands in your pockets as the band begins

Stand by the window, a touch of locust in the wind

This might be just one more town you’ll say you been in

On such a lovely summer night

 

You take your chances when you start to roam

Waitin’ on the slow dances, then you ask to walk her home

And if she says, « Please stay, » you’ll say « I might »

It’s such a lovely summer night

 

You hold her close, yeah, look her in the eye

You make her laugh, then sing that one song to make her cry

And maybe this is that time where there’s no goodbye

On such a lovely summer night

 

 

 


  1. She’s That Kind Of Mystery

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You can look into her eyes and live forever

She’s as restless as the sea

She’s as calm as a summer dawn

She’s that kind of mystery

 

And you can write the song that wins her heart

A song will take you half the way

For you know, from the start

You’ll never write the song to make her stay

 

Love comes, in the sound of a dream in the whisper of a prayer

And the promise in a sigh

Love comes from the corner of a smile, but it isn’t meant for you

She’ll only stay awhile

 

And she will fall asleep within your arms

And you will know the fear our love endures

For in the night, she’ll pledge her heart

But she cannot give what is not hers

 

You can look into her eyes and live forever

She’s as restless as the sea

She’s as calm as a summer dawn

She’s that kind of mystery

 

 


  1. Girls Of Santa Fe

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Do the girls of Santa Fe stroll around the town?

Do they stop to pray when the evening sun goes down?

Do the girls of Terre Haute dream of Malibu?

Do they stay at home to keep the dreams alive and true?

 

Where are your dreams tonight? Where are your dreams tonight?

Did you smile once for me as your dreams faded from sight?

 

Do the girls of Ketchikan promise to be true?

When it comes down man-to-man, are you captain, are you crew?

Do the girls of Titusville hear the jets go by?

Do they remember still just how they said goodbye?

 

And do the angels up above, ask in a voice so clear

is there any room for love once the heart is filled with fear?

Where are your dreams tonight? Where are your dreams tonight?

Did you smile once for me as your dreams faded from sight?

 

 

 

  1. The Driver’s Song

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I’ve got my lunch packed, I’ve got the darkness of a new moon

My truck is gassed tonight, I’ll be leaving soon

Up the highway north, all across the state line

I love the feeling of this brand new truck of mine

 

I turn off the highway, and on to the back roads

The houses are set back and the lights disappear

I feel like the only man in this world

Everybody goes to sleep so early up here

 

I stop my truck in the middle of the road

The same stop each time on this familiar route

I open the side valve then climb back to the cab

And I drive these woods till that big tank empties out

 

I love these back roads of New Hampshire

They twist and wind like a rolling sea

I feel like a captain who knows no fear

Everybody goes to sleep so early up here

 

  1. Car And Driver

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I’ve got a Mercedes Benz with MD plates I have no trouble finding dates

I’ve got a 1980 Subaru, one more semester then I’m through

A Slant-6 Dodge is no big thrill but it’s a car no atom bomb can kill

I make a lot of dough in a high-tech job, yeah sure you bet I drive a turbo Saab

 

I’ll bet you a ten, even a fiver, you find the car and I’ll find the driver

It really ain’t no big deal to know who’s inside that automobile

 

Well I’ve just airbrushed my Econo-line, « A friend of the devil is a Friend of Mine »

I’ve got a 1962 Biscayne it won’t start if it looks like rain

A four wheel drive with extra chrome I keep it on the paved roads close to home

Cadillac the size of an Amtrak train when I drive I take two lanes

 

Now my Honda civic is a real go-getter, I look great in it in my crew neck sweater

And my BMW draws applause, I am not bound by traffic laws

I got a Ranger truck, I’m for import quotas, I won’t park next to no Toyotas

My Volvo wagon will seat six, it’ll run on diesel or trail mix

 

I’ll bet you a ten, even a fiver, you find the car and I’ll find the driver

It really ain’t no big deal to know who’s inside that automobile

Yes, who’s inside that automobile

 

  1. John Haber

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John Haber died in the fire up above the IGA

All the other tenants made it out to safety

Back from work at seven he had some drinks and went to bed

The fireman said they found dead sometime after 9:30

 

The doctor said as the ambulance drove away

He died in his sleep there was no pain

The fire chief said they found him in bed

It was the smoke that killed him, not the flames

 

John Haber and I worked together in the card room

We used to share cigarettes by the open window on the sly

Stick your head into the fresh air, take a drag and watch the river

Sometimes that river moves so slow you couldn’t see it passing by

 

And it was just two weeks ago John and I we were out drinking

Both of us sitting flush with plenty overtime on our checks

And just before he started slurring he said,

“I don’t know how it happened, but it seems what I want

Has drifted so far from what I now expect”

 

 


  1. She’s Your Baby Now

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You’re the one who stole my baby, you took her with such ease

Now I feel just like Atlas saying, « So long Hercules »

 

She’s your baby now

She’s your baby now

I wouldn’t try to steal her back even if I knew how

She’s your baby now

 

If she needs a drink buy that girl a beer

If she starts talking mink, don’t you drag her over here

 

She’s your baby now

She’s your baby now

You know I’m not too blue, there’s nothing I can do

She’s your baby now

 

If she needs a dollar, you know just what to do

If she needs attention just take that girl to the zoo

 

She’s your baby now

She’s your baby now

She’ll be true to you till she finds someone new

She’s your baby now

 

Take her for a walk, it’s such a beautiful night

Take her down by the dock, hold her tight

Or she just might slip out on you tonight


  1. These Cold Fingers

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Gina left town with the first snow of the year

He drove her to the airport in his Ford

And he tried to propose as he ordered one more beer

But the P.A. drowned his words, and it was time for her to board

 

So he walked her to the gate, he took his hat off as he kissed her

He needed one more drink to take the chill out of his soul

He said a quick good-bye then spent two hours in the bar

Finally paid his tab and kept a dollar for the toll

 

Everything slips through these cold fingers

Like trying to hold water, trying to hold sand

Close your eyes and make a wish and listen to the singer

One more round bartender; pour a double if you can

 

It’s 4 o’clock and the sun’s gone down the drain

It’s still late winter, but they say it’s early spring

Lewis reads the gas-pumps, Rossi counts the oils

But me, I’m done so punch the clock and « See you in the morning »

 

There’s nothing back at home that ain’t gone greasy from the stove

I never laughed so hard as when that old typewriter broke

Think I’ll stop along the River Road for a half-pint and some beer

When everything would be okay if those old dreams would disappear

 

The dog can’t move no more, surprised he made it till the spring

His pain won’t go away and the pills don’t do a thing

You’ve known that old hound longer than you’ve known any of your friends

And no matter how you let him down, he’ll always take you back again

 

So it’s one tall glass of whiskey, one last drink for old-times sake

The dog just lays in bed and watches every move you make

Wrap him in his blanket, hold him once more close to you

Lead him out behind the barn with a borrowed .22

 

 


 

INSIDE (1992)

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© Susan Wilson

 

 

  1. Inside
  2. Everybody Warned Me
  3. Off-White
  4. Gambler’s Blues
  5. Long Gone
  6. Man From Out Of Town
  7. Rite of Spring
  8. Robert Johnson
  9. Hang Me, Oh Hang Me (trad.)
  10. Chameleon Blues
  11. Sister Jo
  12. Casey, Illinois


  1. Inside

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This ain’t Hollywood it never really gets that good

Call it love if you think you should, there’s no need to explain

 

Tonight it’s just you and me, a furnished room, black and white TV

The late movie runs till three, then it’s just you and me again

 

There’s no work, just a lot of talk, I quit drinking, now I watch the clock

I count the minutes in the dark, till the sun crawls up again

 

And you won’t leave soon, because I know

You’re just like me with no place to go

And there’s a love still here no, nothing’s died

It just got hurt and buried deep inside

 

No, this ain’t Hollywood, it ain’t Venice or Malibu

And it’s not the life I promised you, when we set off years ago

 

You’re waiting tables from one to nine, I fill out forms and stand in line

There’s no work, just a waste of time, and every day’s the same

 

You’re home later each night I see, I fix dinner while you talk to me

And then we wait for the late movie to take us away again

 

No, this ain’t Hollywood, it never really gets that good

Call it love if you think you should, there’s no need to explain

 


  1. Everybody Warned Me

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Well I can’t turn around and I can’t turn back

When the snows come down here in Cadillac

And it’s so many miles up to Marquette

And the night is coming but it hasn’t fallen yet

I know you need me but you just forget

I wish you loved me I wish you did

Everybody warned me, « Look out, kid »

 

Watch the waitress lean against the Frigidaire

The only past I’ve got is written down somewhere

She argues with the cook and I agree

I’m just sitting at the counter dreaming of Italy

And counting all the friends who claim they don’t know me

Nothing lasts though I wish it did

Everybody warned me, « Look out, kid »

 

In the railroad flats they talk in tongues

And nobody breathes till his song is sung

You can look around but there’s nothing here to steal

Take a look in the mirror and tell me how I feel

Coughing up blood in a Motel 6

Thinking this time it’s for real

I wish you knew me like the desk clerk did

When he tried to warn me, « Look out, kid »

 

This morning got stolen by the paper boy as the wind blew in from Illinois

I just stayed in bed and waited for the chamber maid

Thinking maybe I could talk her into a trade

My job for hers as long as we both get paid

I wish you heard me I wish you did

When she tried to warn me, « Look out, kid”

 

In the rolling snow each town’s the same

And I get called by a hundred names

And I ain’t seen you since I can’t remember when

But I’ve got a French postcard and a German pen

Finally send you all the words to « You Win Again »

So you can sing it just like Hank did

Hey, sign right here and look out, kid


  1. Off-White

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We’ll invite our families and some of our friends

And maybe they’ll even throw rice

And we’ll have us a party, then get out of town

And not listen to any advice

 

We both feel so new, and this time we know

We’ll never have any regrets

We’ll hire us a band that won’t play « Proud Mary »

No matter how late it gets

 

Yes, we’ll hire us a band this time around

That plays nothing but our requests

Just me in my suit while I waltz you around

And you in your off-white dress

 

We both were married, we both were young

We both have made our mistakes

We know how it feels both when love is real

And when a heart truly breaks

 

So take care of the food and I’ll find us that band

And together, we’ll rent us a hall

Maybe you weren’t my first the way I wasn’t yours

But the last love is the sweetest of all

 

Yes, we’ll hire us a band this time around

That plays nothing but our requests

Just me in my suit while I waltz you around

And you, in your off-white dress

 


  1. Gambler’s Blues

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The Jack of Diamonds slipped between two tens

He said, « Hide me, boys, till the season ends

I’ve been sharecropping for the Ace, King, Queen

And toward the end the game turned mean

The one game in town in town and I’m bound to lose

And I just can’t shake these gambler’s blues

 

Miss Downtown got her hair all wet

She got caught by the storm now she’s so upset

She dries herself by the kitchen sink

As she quietly counts up everyone’s drinks

And she can’t control what she can’t refuse

This one last shelter from the gambler’s blues

 

Ah, the gambler’s blues coming ‘round the curve

Leave you with nothing but your broken nerve

You listen to the fire as you shovel in the coal

Stick your head out the window, see the drive wheels roll

 

St. Louis knows that he can’t survive

With a broken horn and a Rico 5

Still he walks this bar with his head held high

And he honks and hollers till the well runs dry

And the Jack of Diamonds had to give him the news

There ain’t no good notes in the gambler’s blues

 

Then smoke fills the room ‘cause the wood’s too green

That’s what you get when you buy from the Ace, King, Queen

And there’s not much light and there’s not much heat

But you learn to like how it smells so sweet

And when you count your change here, you count by twos

But you’ll never buy off these gambler’s blues

 

Jack of Diamond jumps out from the tens

He says, « We’ll never know how this story ends

But you can tell old Bill when he gets home

That the Ace, King, Queen took Miss Downtown Home

Left him nothing but her old tattoos

And a roadmap of these gambler’s blues

 


  1. Long Gone

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I’ve been long gone

From the stage to the highway to the night grille

And everywhere I went time just stood still

And in every town it all went down the same

 

I’ve been long gone

And in every dream was the dream that you’d still want me

In every motel room your brown eyes would just haunt me

And in every town I called out your name

 

I’ve been long gone

Set loose again to chase another payday

Knowing if I could just hold you I’d be okay

Tell me once again that you’re still mine

 

There was nothing on the highway, there was nothing but the wind

And I couldn’t look ahead; I could just see where I’ve been

From Hartford down to Tampa, Duluth to Malibu

I ran every trick, 1 told any lie just to get on home to you

 

I’ve been long gone

Now I’m standing in the doorway of your front hall

Ain’t this better than a letter or a phone call?

Tell me once again that you’re still mine

 

I’ve been long gone

Unpack my bags and throw away the suitcase

Let me know it’s true, let me just touch your face

Tell me you still love me one more time

 

I’ve been long gone

And true love always comes as a surprise

Can you see your reflection in my eyes

Tell me you still love me one more time

 

I’ve been long gone

And those nights alone were almost too much to bear

Throw your arms around me and just keep them there

Tell me you still love me one more time


  1. Man From Out Of Town

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The house burned down on a stormy night and they never did find out why

I just stood alone beneath the silver maple trying to keep my cigarettes dry

Waiting for the firemen, I couldn’t save a thing

And deep inside my home above the roar of the flame

I swore I heard the telephone ring

The rain let up and we worked till dawn, just me and the firemen

And when they cut the power and the lines went dead, I never got called again

The house was gone by the break of dawn, the air was cold and grey

I just set off down the road alone, but it’s always gone that way

 

So young, so long ago I thought I heard that train

Calling out my name, at least it sounded like my name

Just a boy with no direction, I left my home behind

And the sky changed color once I crossed that town line

My good friends did the best they could to hold me down with them

But I took one look and I packed my bags and I slipped around the bend

The lessons came from left and right, the first night out I found

The laws were not meant to protect the man from out of town

 

There was a cold street on the sea coast I once tried to call home

Where the church steeples rose up above the town like broken bones

Drinking whiskey with the Catholic priest one night in the rectory hall

He just shook his head and said, « You never know when Jesus calls »

Then his eyes got wide and he looked around but he just could not explain

It was like he heard the sound of Jesus laugh the way I heard that train

 

Now the years and the faces blur, still I can remember some

There were women washing windows, there were salesgirls chewing gum

There were curses in the shapes of old men kneeling in the pews

There are things in this life a man just does not get to choose

So, finally I found a home in a tiny mountain town

Just a simple place to keep me dry when the rain came pouring down

A place to sleep, the rent was cheap, brick walls and a new slate roof

The landlord said, « You’ll be safe here, this house is fireproof »

 


  1. Rite Of Spring

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I’ve got a girl, she’s a beautiful girl

She puts my heart on pins and needles

She may be a little young for me

But she can still name all four Beatles

 

All four Beatles and the Dave Clark Five

This tired heart feels so alive

I love that girl and it ain’t no jive

All four Beatles and the Dave Clark Five

 

She’s as wild as William Cody

We took a trip out to Minnesotie

Then she called up Hinckley and told him I kissed Jodie

She’s got her own kind of way of having fun

 

There is a love that always swings

And you gotta get lucky or you’ll never know

And when I’m in love I can do anything

I’ll play “The Rite of Spring” on a frailed banjo

 

I’ve been a Holy Roller and the King of Spain

I’ve been in jail but I can’t explain

I’ve been around the world and back again

And I called her name everywhere I’ve been

 

Well, then one day the seeds got sown

I went and broke my ramblin’ bone

Now she’s mine and she’s mine alone

Think I’ll strum this tune ‘til the cows come home


  1. Robert Johnson

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In the year of ‘36, in the town of San Antone

A young man in a hotel room stares down a microphone

He sang each song once, and sang it once again

And each song come from a hole inside where a soul once had been

 

Those records made the jukes all throughout the southland

Pretty women wondered, was he charmed or was he damned?

Look over his shoulder, was there something there he feared?

Turn your back for just one second, the man disappeared

 

Word came through St. Louis, up to Chicago

All the way to New York City, where the blues just come and go

Someone took his picture once and an angel stopped and cried

In his eyes, it was there to see: he’d crossed the other side

 

In a bar on a warm spring night, was a man come through the door

He had a bottle with a broken label, Robert seen his face before

He said, « This is my very best; drink it down, drink it slow

‘Cause when I call your name again, you just pack up and go »

 

Was it some kind of trick, or did he jump the price?

Or did he find a way in Hell to sell his own soul twice?

‘Cause there’s a cry in the wind tonight and only one man makes that sound

Baby, grab your hat and coat, Robert Johnson’s back in town

 


  1. Hang Me, Oh Hang Me

(trad., arranged by Bill Morrissey and Greg Brown)

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Hang me, oh hang me, and I’ll be dead and gone

Hang me, oh hang me, and I’ll be dead and gone

I wouldn’t mind the hanging, just the laying in the grave so long

I’ve been all around the world

 

I’ve been all around Cape Girardeau and parts of Arkansas

All around Cape Girardeau, parts of Arkansas

Got so goddamn hungry I could hide behind a straw

I’ve been all around the world

 

I went up on the mountain and there I made my stand

Went up on the mountain, there I made my stand

With a rifle on my shoulder and a dagger in my hand

I’ve been all around the world

 

Put the rope around my neck, hang me up so high

Put the rope around my neck, hang me up so high

Last thing I heard him say, “It won’t be long now ‘til you die”

I’ve been all around the world

 

Hang me, oh hang me, and I’ll be dead and gone

Hang me, oh hang me, and I’ll be dead and gone

I wouldn’t mind the hanging, just the laying in the grave so long

I’ve been all around the world


  1. Chameleon Blues

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Hey, pretty baby, I see you’re changing once again

I love the way it happens every time with every new boyfriend

One day you’re with a cowboy and you’ve got the Stetson on your head

Next day you’re with a downtown boy and you’re all dressed up in red

 

When you dated the police chief, I know you packed a gun

When you dated the archbishop, I know what you done

There was the scuba diver and you looked so great in fins

And that time with the explorer, you could’ve passed for Gunga Din

 

There once was a time, it caught me by surprise

I was looking in your direction and you were making eyes

But there’s one thing baby, and it’s a natural fact

We’ve both heard me sing and the world just does not need two of that

 

Yes, this new boy you’ve been seeing, I’ve known him for so long

And I love the way you say he’ll never do you wrong

Now you walk like him, slouch like him, talk like him; it’s true

Ah, tell me, pretty baby: do you cheat on yourself, too?

 

So long, pretty baby, I’ll see you down the line

Wonderful to see you, yes, the pleasure’s always mine

There’s just one thing you’ve got to promise me you’ll do

You’ve got to have me over when you fall in love with someone just like you

 

 


  1. Sister Jo

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Well, there she goes

Sister Jo walks down the avenue

With her tiny, well-armed retinue

And she sees everyone here but she wants you

 

I suppose

You can run and hide awhile

But they’ll catch you and put you up on trial

Or you can just give up and go down in grand style

 

Watch her hands

They can give away the sun

They’ll turn you into anyone

Then she’ll laugh and say she’s only just begun

 

The night will call you down the hall

To a room where you’re just left to guess

And you’ll hear your name after all

But the night’s too hot, nothing rests

As she asks you to watch her undress

 

Sister Jo

Will ask you what her smile reveals

As she watches the shark play with the seals

Then she’ll tell you the rewards for one who steals

 

Sister Jo

She counts on kings to shape her life

She’s working hard to find you the right wife

And she’s always so quiet like a knife

 

Sister Jo

Will draw you pictures of your sins

Then send you off to work the cotton gins

And tell you this is where your world begins

 

Sister Jo

Created you from nothing, we all know

And she’s tracked you all the way from Statesboro

And you’ll escape into nothing if you go


  1. Casey, Illinois

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Feels like this motel might explode

I just can’t sleep well on the road

The snow, it piles outside my door

And I just can’t call you late at night anymore

 

I set off young to make my name

Now I’m not young in a young man’s game

Could’ve had some wins if I’d kept score

And I just can’t call you late at night anymore

 

Through the years each mile just added to the distance

Between us two

And somewhere on some road I crossed that line, I moved too far

And now there’s nothing I can do

 

The river forks and the highway bends

The stories fade but they never end

I speak your name and I walk the floor

I just can’t call you late at night anymore

 

We all do things we don’t believe

Yes, it was me who chose to leave

Still don’t know why or know what for

I just can’t call you late at night anymore

 

After midnight I have found

The hours slow and the clocks break down

Nothing moves like it did before

And I just can’t call you late at night anymore

 

 

 

FRIEND OF MINE (WITH GREG BROWN) (1993)

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© Susan Wilson

 

  1. Ain’t Life A Brook (Ferron)
  2. Little Red Rooster (Willie Dixon)
  3. He Was A Friend Of Mine (trad.)
  4. Memphis, Tennessee (Chuck Berry)
  5. The Road (Danny O’Keefe)
  6. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Mick Jagger & Keith Richards)
  7. Duncan And Brady
  8. Tom Dula (Frank Profitt)
  9. Summer Wages (Ian Tyson)
  10. I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (H. Williams & F. Rose)
  11. Fishing With Bill (Greg Brown)
  12. Baby, Please Don’t Go

 

 


  1. Ain’t Life a Brook (Ferron)

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© Ferron Ⓟ Nemesis Publishing

 

I watch you reading a book

I get to thinking our love’s a polished stone

You give me a long drawn look

I know pretty soon you’re gonna leave our home

And of course I mind, especially when I’m thinking from my heart

But life don’t clickety-clack, down a straight-line track

It comes together and it comes apart, you say you hope I’m not the kind

To make you feel obliged to go ticking through your time

With a pained look in your eyes

You give me the furniture

Well divide the photographs

Go out to dinner one more time

Have ourselves a bottle of wine

And a couple of laughs

 

When first you left I stayed so sad I wouldn’t sleep I know love’s a gift

I thought yours was mine

And something that I could keep

Now I realize time is not the only compromise

A bird in the hand could be an all-night stand

Between a blazing fire and a pocket of skies

So I hope I’m not the kind

To make you feel obliged

To go ticking through your time

With a pained look in your eyes

I covered the furniture

I framed the photographs

Went out to dinner one more time

Had myself a bottle of wine

And a couple of laughs

Just the other day

I got your letter in the mail

I’m happy for you

It’s been so long

You’ve been wanting

A cabin and a backwoods trail

And I think that’s great

Me I seem to find myself in school

It’s all okay

I just want to say

I’m so relieved

We didn’t do it cruel

But ain’t life a brook

Just when I get to

Feeling like a polished stone

I get me a long drawn look

It’s kind of a drag

To find yourself alone

And sometimes I mind

Especially when I’m

Waiting on your heart

But life don’t clickety-clack

Down a straight-line track

It comes together

And it comes apart

‘Cause I know you’re not the kind

To make me feel obliged

To go ticking through my time

With a pained look in my eyes

I sold the furniture

I put away the photographs

Went out to dinner one last time

Had myself a bottle of wine

And a couple of laughs

For wasn’t it fine

 

 


  1. Little Red Rooster (Willie Dixon)

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Ⓟ Hoochie Coochie Music, BMI

 

I have a little red rooster, too lazy to crow for day

I have a little red rooster, too lazy to crow for day

Keep everything in the barnyard, upset in every way

 

Oh the dogs begin to bark

And the hound begin to howl

Oh the dogs begin to bark, hound begin to howl

Ooh watch out strange kind people

Cause little red rooster is on the prowl

 

If you see my little red rooster, please drag him home

If you see my little red rooster, please drag him home

There ain’t no peace in the barnyard

Since the little red rooster been gone

 

 

© Annie Provenzano


  1. He Was A Friend Of Mine

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Trad. Arr. By G. Brown & B. Morrissey/Greg Brown Music, ASCAP & Dry Fly Music, BMI, adm. By Bug Music

 

He was a friend of mine

He was a friend of mine

Every time I think about him now

Lord I just can’t keep from cryin’

‘Cause he was a friend of mine

 

He died on the road

He died on the road

He never had enough money

To pay his room or board

And he was a friend of mine

 

I stole away and cried

I stole away and cried

‘Cause I never had too much money

And I never been quite satisfied

And he was a friend of mine

 

He never done no wrong

He never done no wrong

A thousand miles from home

And he never harmed no one

And he was a friend of mine

 

He was a friend of mine

He was a friend of mine

Every time I hear his name

Lord I just can’t keep from cryin’

‘Cause he was a friend of mine

 

  1. Memphis Tennessee (Chuck Berry)

(www.chuckberry.com)

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B-Side of “Back in the USA” (Chess Records 1959)

 

 

 

 

 

© Susan Wilson


  1. The Road (Danny O’Keefe)

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www.dannyokeefe.com

 

 

O’Keefe (Signpost Records/Atlantic 1972)

 

 


  1. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Jagger/Richards)

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www.rollingstones.com/release/let-it-bleed/

 

 

Let It Bleed (Decca Records 1969)

 

 


  1. Duncan & Brady (Trad.)

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Trad. Arr. By G. Brown & B. Morrissey/Greg Brown Music, ASCAP & Dry Fly Music, BMI, adm. By Bug Music

 

Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle little star

Up comes Brady in a ‘lectric car

Got a mean look all ’round his eye

Gonna shoot somebody jus’ to see them die

 

Duncan, Duncan was tending the bar

In walked Brady with a shining star

And Brady says, « Duncan you are under arrest

And Duncan shot a hole in Brady’s breast

 

Brady, Brady carried a .45

Said it would shoot half a mile

Duncan had a .44

That what laid Mr. Brady so low

 

Brady fell down on the barroom floor

« Please, Mr. Duncan, don’t shoot me no more”

Women all cryin’ ain’t it a shame

Shot King Brady, goin’ shoot him again

 

« Brady, Brady, Brady, you know you done wrong

Walkin’ in the room when the game was goin’ on

Knockin’ down windows, breakin’ down the door

Now you lyin’ dead on the barroom floor

 

Women all heard that Brady was dead

Goes back home and they dresses in red

Come a snifflin’ and a sighin’ down the street

In their big Mother Hubbards and their stockin’ feet


  1. Tom Dula (Frank Profitt)

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Additional lyrics by Bill Morrissey/ Dry Fly Music, adm. By Bug Music

 

Hand me down my banjo, I’ll pick it on my knee

This time tomorrow, it won’t be no use to me

 

I met her on the mountain and she swore she’d be my wife

T’was on that mountain, there I took her life

 

Hanging down your head Tom Dula, hang down your head and cry

You killed poor Laurie Foster, poor boy you’re bound to die

 

All the pretty girls in Memphis, just waiting there on me

If it hadn’t been for Grayson, I’d a-been in Tennessee

 

Hang your head, Tom Dula, hang your head and cry

You killed poor Laurie Foster, poor boy you’re bound to die

 

The tree being oak, boys, the rope being strong

This time tomorrow, reckon I’ll be gone

 

Hang down your head Tom Dula, hang down your head and cry

Hang down your head Tom Dula, poor boy you’re bound to die

 

Hand me down my banjo, I’ll pick it on my knee

If you’d have heard her laughing, you’d a-done the same as me

 

Hang down your head Tom Dula, hang down your head and cry

You killed poor Laurie Foster, poor boy you’re bound to die

 

  1. Summer Wages (Ian Tyson)

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www.iantyson.com

 

Ian & Sylvia (Columbia 1971)

 

Ian Tyson, Cowboyography (Vanguard 1986)


  1. I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (Hank Williams & F. Rose)

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(Milene/Opryland Inc. — Intersong USA, Inc. ASCAP)

 

Now you’re lookin’ at a man that’s gettin’ kinda mad

I had lots of luck but it’s all been bad

No matter how I struggle and strive

I’ll never get out of this world alive

 

My fishin’ pole’s broke, the creek is full of sand

My woman run away with another man

No matter how I struggle and strive

I’ll never get out of this world alive

 

A distant uncle passed away and left me quite a batch

And I was livin’ high until that fatal day

A lawyer proved I wasn’t born

I was only hatched

 

Ev’rything’s agin’ me and it’s got me down

If I jumped in the river I would prob’ly drown

No matter how I struggle and strive

I’ll never get out of this world alive

 

These shabby shoes I’m wearin’ all the time

Are full of holes and nails

And brother if I stepped on a worn out dime

I bet a nickel I could tell you if it was heads or tails

 

I’m not gonna worry wrinkles in my brow

‘Cause nothin’s ever gonna be alright no how

No matter how I struggle and strive

I’ll never get out of this world alive

 

  1. Fishin’ With Bill (Greg Brown)

(Greg Brown Music/Printed with permission)

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Man what a winter

Sorrow wide and deep

Is it just the media industry or the whole country

That is turning into sheep?

I wanna go to a good place

With a friend of mine

Cast our souls out in the river

And watch the whole deal shine

Some little crick in Massachusetts, just over the hill

Oh I, I’m goin’ fishin’ with Bill

 

Well, Bill, I bet he is a good fly caster

He grew up on these eastern brooks

Me, I grew up on the midwestern cricks

Casting crappie flies for chubs and such

But in my young imagination

I watched a Number 20 Coachman settle down

Sitting by the stove in that little library

Reading Roderick L. Haig-Brown

I never did fish in Vancouver I probably never will

I don’t care I’m goin’ fishin’ with Bill

 

Well, it’s a long and noble tradition

Catching trout on the fly

When you’re done, with the setting of the sun

Gonna drink a little bourbon if you’re dry

See some folks out on the river

Cool, scientific and clean

They look like everything just kinda stuck to them

The last time they walked through ol’ L. L. Bean

My friend, Dave, says the good fishermen are the ones who have fun and we will

Oh I, I’m goin’ fishin’ with Bill

 

Sittin’ in a bar in Brattleboro

Thinkin’ about one of his songs

The rain was pourin’ down, and I was pourin’ it down

And all I could do was hum along

We’ve talked about goin’ fishin’ so often

At some party when the gig was done

Well, life slips by like a little dry fly

Sliding down a deep slick run

So let us stand steady like an old mill

Oh I, I’m goin’ fishin’ with Bill

 

Maybe Handsome Molly will pass by

As we cast away the hours

Somewhere on a river somewhere far away

From stupid people in positions of power

Someday when we ain’t folk singers

Flyin’ through the friendly skies

We won’t be waiting for the big break

Or anything except the evening rise

On some spring creek in Wisconsin or maybe the Batten Kill

Oh I, I’m goin’ fishin’ with Bill

I’m goin’ fishin’ with Bill…um um um

I’m goin’ fishin’ with Bill…yes, I am

I’m goin’ fishin’ with Bill

 

G: Y’know, Bill?

B: Wha? Wha?

G: I think if we just tried a little, some kinda little streamer right

Over there; go ahead and cast over…

B: What d’ya got – a blasting cap?

G: See that clump of grass over there…

B: A Number 12 blasting cap…

G: … on the other side over there?

B: Yeah, yeah I see that

G: I have a feelin’ there’s about a 5 1/2 pound rainbow under one of them…

B: Ah, 6…

G: …just waitin’ for someone to come along…and catch…

B: I’ll catch the fish

G: We need to catch just one trout here, Bill…just one…

B: What? Ya hungry?

G: …’cause I’m hungry, I don’t know about you…

B: Well, I’ll catch the fish

G: I know we’re both catch and release guys. I know we believe in that

But if we caught just one trout, we could eat it, couldn’t we, so we could

Sustain ourselves and the beautiful spirit of the trout would become part of

Us….and I’m hungry

B: Ah, ah…

G: Well, I’m not complainin’ ’bout gettin’ lost today

B: We, we weren’t lost, Greg, ah…

G: We’ve seen a lot of parts of Massachusetts I’ve never seen before; it’s

Not that, it’s…

B: …the map was broken

G: …it’s late and we need to catch one trout and put…

B: …ok, ok, alright, I’ll…

G: …it on the grill if it’s OK

B: Alright

 

Goin’ fishin’ with Bill

Goin’ fishin’ with Bill


  1. Baby, Please Don’t Go (Trad.)

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Baby, please don’t go baby, please don’t go

Baby, please don’t go down to New Orleans

You know I love you so baby please don’t go

 

Baby, your mind done gone well, your mind done gone

Well, your mind done gone left the county farm

You had the shackles on baby, please don’t go

 

Before I be your dog before I be your dog

Before I be your dog to get you way down here

I make you walk alone baby, please don’t go

Hey

 

Baby, please don’t go baby, please don’t go

Baby, please don’t go down to New Orleans

You know I love you so baby, please don’t go

 

Before I be your dog before I be your dog

Before I be your dog git you way down here

Make you walk alone baby, please don’t go

 

Know how I feel right now

My baby leavin’, on that midnight train

And I’m cryin’

 

Baby, please don’t go oh, baby please don’t go

Baby, please don’t go down to New Orleans

You know I love you so baby, please don’t go

Let’s go

 

Before I be your dog before I be your dog

Before I be your dog to git you way down here

I make you walk alone baby, please don’t go, yeah

 


 

NIGHT TRAIN (1993)

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© Tim Carter

 

  1. Night Train
  2. Sandy
  3. Birches
  4. Cold, Cold Night
  5. Letter From Heaven
  6. Ellen’s Tune
  7. So Many Things
  8. Love Arrives
  9. Blues In The Morning
  10. Broken Waltz Time
  11. Walk Down These Streets
  12. Time To Go Home

 


  1. Night Train

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I’ve been hanging around this station

Long enough to know where the brakeman disappears when the whistle blows

And who’s gonna make it out all right when the final night train shows

Ah, babe, it’s true, I’ve seen a lot of women here waiting just like you

 

Hear the fireman start singing the same time every day

The same song about his life and his well planned getaway

And it’s a shame to hear such a pretty voice with not one thing to say

Ah, babe, it’s true, you would have loved him back in time if he’d only sung for you

 

Moonlight in the water tower always shines so cold

In the shadow of the pay phone the saints are getting bold

And it don’t matter to them now if it’s real or just fool’s gold

Ah, babe, it’s true, I heard all the saints tonight talking only of you

 

Listen deep into the night, girl Can you hear the whistle blow?

Looks like you’re gonna make it out all right but there’s one thing you must know:

The only ones who can help you now are the ones who must stay here when you go

Ah babe, it’s true, I’ve seen a lot of women here smiling just like you

 

And there are some saints still in hiding by the river in the reeds

And they’re turning down every train that don’t feel the right speed

Sing them this song when you pass by; it’ll be your last good deed

Ah babe, it’s true, the saints are down every line waiting just for you

 


  1. Sandy

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Sandy’s going back to church

She’s all the talk among her friends

Her world got too hard, too cruel

She’s going to be a little girl again

 

Welcome her with open arms

When troubles just refuse to leave

Let the stained glass keep her from harm

It’s not time to think but to believe

 

Now all the questions come with answers

And all the wishes can come true

There is such a comfort in the music

And knowing just what to do

 

I can tell by just one look

She wants me to come along

But the priest and I read the same book

And one of us must’ve got it wrong

 

Yes, once I knew that church so well

And I followed it like a shooting star

And I can take a drink or go to church

And no one hates me in a bar

 

Sandy’s kneels down by the candles

She says a prayer for a lost friend

Sandy’s going back to church

She’s going to be a little girl again


  1. Birches

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They sat at each end of the couch and watched as the fire burned down

So quiet on this winter’s night, not a house-light on for miles around

Then he said, « I think I’ll fill the stove, it’s getting time for bed »

She looked up, « I think I’ll have some wine

How ’bout you? » she asked, and he declined

 

« Warren, » she said, « Maybe just for tonight, let’s fill the stove with birches

And watch as the fire burns bright

How long has it been? It’s been quite a while

Pour yourself half a glass and stay with me a little while »

 

And Warren, he shook his head as if she’d made some kind of joke

« Birches? On a winter night? No, we’ll fill the stove with oak

Oak will burn as long and hot as a July afternoon

Birch will burn itself out by the rising of the moon

 

And you hate a cold house same as me. Am I right or not? »

« All right, all right that’s true, » she said « It was just a thought »

Then she said, « Warren, you do look tired. Maybe you should go up to bed

I’ll take care of the wood tonight. » « Oak, » he told her. « Oak, » she said

 

She listened to his footsteps as he climbed up the stairs

Then she pulled a sweater on her and set her wine glass on a chair

She walked down cellar to the woodbox. It was cold as an ice chest

Then climbed back up with four logs, each as white as a wedding dress

 

And she filled the stove and poured the wine, then she sat down on the floor

She curled her legs beneath her, as the fire sprang to life once more

And it filled the room with its hungry light, and it cracked as it drew air

And the shadows danced a jittery waltz like no one else was there

 

She stood up in the heat, and she twirled around the room

And the shadows, they saw nothing but a young girl on her honeymoon

And she knew the time, it would be short soon the fire would start to fade

She thought of heat, she thought of time. She called it an even trade

 

 




  1. Cold, Cold Night

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She comes out of nowhere with nowhere to go

And it’s like you were waiting but you just didn’t, just didn’t know

She might look away but she’ll never treat you unkind

On a cold, cold night when the stars refuse to shine

 

Her voice is a prayer and it hides in the wind

’til the wind just forgets her and that’s where all of her stories begin

She was not sent to guide you as that long road unwinds

On a cold, cold night when the stars refuse to shine

 

A maple branch clicks up above you

The mailbox leans in the snow

The light on her face from the grocery behind you

Tells you she’s one you can never let go

 

Her eyes tell a secret you never can share

And it seems in a minute she has always been, always been there

It happens so quickly, nothing can go wrong this time

On a cold, cold night when the stars refuse to shine

 


  1. Letter From Heaven

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Mama Cass has dropped some weight and Charlie Parker’s clean

Django’s fingers have both gone straight

And they’ve got driving lessons for James Dean

Jimi’s playing faster, sometimes we jam all day

And old Abe Lincoln is a happy boy ’cause he finally got to see the end of the play

 

It’s a great life here in heaven

It’s better than the Bible said

It’s a great life here in heaven

It’s a great life when you’re dead

 

Ah, there ain’t no egos anywhere and no one talks show biz

And Gabriel, he’s got a great big smile He’s taking lessons from Miles and Diz

Bing Crosby’s on the green in one and he’s singing when he putts

And Elvis really likes to visit earth just to drive you people nuts

 

And me, I couldn’t be happier, the service here is fine

They’ve got dinner ready at half-past nine

And I’m going steady with Patsy Cline

And just last night in a bar room

I bought Robert Johnson a beer

Yeah, I know, everybody’s always surprised to find him here

 

 

 


  1. Ellen’s Tune

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Well, I drink for ballast and I sing for fun,

And I love my baby when her hair’s undone

And I love the way she call my name

Hey, I love the way she calls my name, crying hey, hey!

No one’s ever called me quite the same

 

Got a yellow house on a northern shore

And my baby comes around about half-past four

And I love the way she knocks upon my door

Hey, I love the way she knocks upon my door, crying hey, hey

No one’s ever knocked like that before

 

Nothing up my sleeves, no bag of tricks

Glad she goes for lyrics, not guitar licks

And I love the way she calls my name

Hey, I love the way she calls my name, crying hey hey

No one’s ever called me quite the same

 


  1. So Many Things

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Sleep came unexpectedly the way it sometimes does

And when I heard a voice beside me, I knew who it was

As I turned to face the streetlight, I saw you beckoning

Oh, I dreamed of you last night but I dream of so many things

 

The years just kept on moving pushing onward like the light

Of a star long since imploded and disappeared into the night

Like that gentle melody, to you I used to sing

Oh. I dreamed of you last night, but I dream of so many things

 

All the night the shades were drawn the sky was on the run

I waited for you until dawn, but the dawn wouldn’t come

« This dream will just repeat itself, » you said so casually

And then you never saw me smiling when you turned your back on me

 

The moon revolves around the earth, the earth around the sun

Not long ago they did believe that’s not how it was done

Were we really all that close? Was it like winter into spring?

Oh, I dreamed of you last night, but I dream of so many things

 

I woke up in a motel but I could not name the town

Seems I never get to anyplace before the sun goes down

And I tried hard to get back to sleep to see what it would bring

Oh, I dreamed of you last night, but I dream of so many things

 


  1. Love Arrives

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Love arrives in a big white Cadillac

Love slips in through a screen door in the back

It don’t matter what you do

Ah, when love comes to call on you

It’s a big world and you’re just passing through

 

Love arrives with tickets to the ball

Love stands with his hat in his hands in your own front hall

You’re not alone, it’s true

When love made a fool of you

It’s a big world and you’re just passing through

 

Baby, now, you can’t stop it, you can’t shake it

You can’t top it, and you can’t fake it

It cannot be sold or bought

And it’s coming after you now, ready or not

 

Love arrives with confidence and style

Love comes in slapping the dust off all the miles

So don’t be sad and blue

Ah, tonight it’s just me and you

In a big world and we’re just passing through

 

Love arrives in a big white Cadillac

Love slips in through a screen door in the back

It don’t matter what you do

When love comes to call on you

It’s a big world and you’re just passing through

It’s a big world and we’re just passing through

 

 

Bill Morrissey’s songs touch my soul and ring true for me. His characters possess a bitter-sweet, life goes on quality. They seem to be saying “This is life — it wasn’t better yesterday and there probably won’t be any panacea tomorrow.” There is no truth but the truth we know.

            It’s what I understand as the human condition, and Bill portrays it with the insight and craft of a truly great writer” — David Johansen

 

  1. Blues In The Morning

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Blues in the morning and the summer rain

Falls on my porch roof soft as champagne

Scarecrow hides in a row of corn

It must’ve been raining the day I was born

 

A change in the weather just come this way

Sit on this back porch, hope it rains all day

Water drips down where the screen is torn

It must’ve been raining the day I was born

 

I can’t stop the rain from falling

I won’t even try

Let it all come down, there’s no use stalling

I just never seen it rain from such a lonesome sky

 

Church bells ring down in the town

Church choir singing, such a fat and holy sound

I think I hear an angel with a golden horn

It must’ve been raining the day I was born

 

Well, she left a pair of shoes out on the lawn

I’ll let them dry out and someday send them on

The tops are still shiny but the soles are worn

It must’ve been raining the day I was born

 


  1. Broken Waltz Time

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You can sing anything that you want

The evening is so far from through

And I’ve been learning this old labor tune

While we all waited for you

 

The new fiddler, he comes from Montreal

He won’t talk ’cause he only speaks French

And before you sit down let me take his drink

Off of your piano bench

 

Everyone’s tuned up and ready to play

There’s no one that you’ve still got to meet

So you count it off, ’cause we love the way

No one here can follow that beat

 

Will you still meet me tonight

Out by the highway sign?

Or will you just play your regrets once again

In your crazy broken waltz time?

 

Your hair, it swirls like a fire in the snow

Your hands dance over the keys

And I can hear the soft voice of that piano

Saying, “Yes baby, yes baby, please”

 

Your eyes follow mine as I play my guitar

I find myself lost for a rhyme

To remember the way we made love that day

In nearly three-quarter time

 

The fiddler watches you wondering when

You’re gonna slow down or speed up

Finally, he just shuts his eyes again

He turns around once and gives up

 

But me, I’ve been coming here for much too long

To fall out the first time it don’t work

It may take awhile to catch up with your style

So you just give the rhythm a jerk

 

Because you and I, we’ve been playing for years

Don’t you ever wonder why that is?

But even the fiddler, he understands

So watch out, the next chorus is his


  1. Walk Down These Streets

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I can walk down these streets tonight and not feel a thing

Ah, the ghosts of this town can scream, I won’t hear a thing

I can walk past your house and watch the wind blow across your lawn

And all the house lights are up, ah, but baby the soul is gone

I can walk down these streets tonight and not feel a thing

 

I can stop on that wooden bridge and wait for the train

Just to blow through this town one more time with its sad refrain

You can hear it blow through the still air of a town come to its end

And every whistle reminds this town someone else is gone again

I can walk down these streets and not feel a thing

 

Well, you stood on the curb in your robe and you cursed my name

I was already packed and alone so I took the blame

As I begged you one last time to come along

You cursed me again as you said you knew how the years would prove me wrong

But I can walk down these streets tonight and not feel a thing

 

Now, I don’t need to see you, I’ve seen our old friends

Still watching the traffic go by from the 5 and 10

No, they never got out, never knew there was some place to go

Ah, but they scattered like trout at first sign of my shadow

And I can walk down these streets tonight and not feel a thing

 

I don’t belong here but you know I never did

Even though I pledged my love to you once back when I was a kid

And for years this town and you haunted me down to the bone

But I can walk these streets tonight and it never felt so good to be alone

I can walk down these streets tonight and not feel a thing

 


  1. Time To Go Home

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Well, she looked so small, she looked so frail

It was like the world forgot her as she stood outside the jail

They sit and stare, they rarely speak

She comes to see him the same time every week

And never wants to leave, but she knows she must

Then the Yellow Cab comes right on time

And scoops her up like a speck of dust

 

When it’s time to go home

It’s time to go home

Where the night stay too long

In a world that’s just gone wrong

It’s time to go home

 

How did one summer become 19 years?

The Alaskan winters took their toll and then they made it clear

The gillnets and seiners, the salmon and crab

The dull-eyed girls of Ketchikan that took all that I had

I could sell the boat, cash the whole thing down

And move back to the 48, just tell stories back in that small town

 

Well, your t-shirt’s clean, like your dungarees

And in two days you will be on your way overseas

Sit on the bed with a warm six-pack

Ah, it’s not like how they said

But it’s too late now to take it back

So you make some calls, but no one’s home

You nurse your beers and spend the long night by the telephone

 

 

 

YOU’LL NEVER GET TO HEAVEN (1996)

(Back to album list)

 

© Marion Ettlinger

 

  1. When Summer’s Ended
  2. You’ll Never Get To Heaven
  3. Married For Money
  4. As Long As The Sun
  5. Ashes, Grain And Sand
  6. Winter Laundry
  7. Waiting For The Rain
  8. Different Currency
  9. Hills Of Tuscany
  10. Closed-Down Mill
  11. Turn And Spin
  12. Big Leg Ida

 

 


  1. When Summer’s Ended

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She comes to see you when the summer’s ended

The scent of apples fills the air

She wants to know if your heart has mended

And if it has, then can you take her there?

 

Her dress is a willow in a spring breeze

Her eyes are too young to chase yours

And you know you’ll never see just what she sees

And anything she sees will soon be hers

 

’cause she knows love goes only to return in a new heart

And this time I’m sure she knows that heart is inside her

 

She tells you how this dream has found her and all past loves fade as she speaks

She talks and time surrounds her it might be hours, it might be days, it might be weeks

 

She still has the summer deep in her heart

While you’re left with autumn in your soul

And what love brings together it can pull apart

And what love believes in can never grow old

 

She comes to see you when the summer’s ended

The scent of apples fills the air

She wants to know if your heart has mended

And if it has, then can you take her there?

 


  1. You’ll Never Get To Heaven

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You’ll never get to heaven if you don’t stop talking

And it’s just a waste of time when there’s no one there

It’s just a little fever, don’t you worry

It’ll keep you warm in the cool night air

 

You’ll never get to heaven if that dog keeps howling

And it’s not at a man or a cat or the moon

Save your breath and just keep walking

The sun’ll be rising sometime soon

 

All your friends are down, or long gone out of town

You were the only one crazy enough to stay

Except for maybe me and that howling dog makes three

What you want to go to heaven for anyway?

 

You’ll never get to heaven if you don’t stop drinking

And it’s a little too late to make that list

This time of night, nobody’s laughing

And it gets so quiet, you can hear a kiss

 

You’ll never get to heaven till the season’s over

And nothing but the husk and the hull remain

When that fever breaks, you will get colder

Till you’re the same temperature as the rain


  1. Married For Money

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Everyone told her he was too much older but there was nothing in that town to hold her

Nothing but a trailer, nothing but a mill

If she’d have listened to them she’d be there still

But now she’s out of the shadow of that mill’s smoke stack

She married for money and she never looked back

 

She won’t answer the phone when her friends try to call

She wonders if they ever were her friends at all

All they ever told her was, you’re just like us

You don’t drive to work, you only ride the bus

But now the world looks so pretty from her Cadillac

She married for money and she never looked back

 

Married for money, she ain’t the first

She ain’t the blessed and she ain’t the cursed

Tell me, honey what would you say

If the very same chance came your way?

 

Gold always shines and loves always fades

And it don’t matter much when you pull down the shades

Thinking of her trailer that the wind blew through

While she’s lying in bed with a job to do

She pulls one more cigarette out from her pack

She married for money and she never looked back

 

It’s not like she couldn’t see where her life was heading

Or didn’t know what she was giving up or getting

A choice gets made and something then occurs

Still it hurts a little less when that choice is yours

You don’t complain if your train stays on the track

She married for money and she never looked back

 

 

  1. As Long As The Sun

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Home from the road to a house on a lake

Thinking you’d be home That was my mistake

Away from the stage Away from the crowd

How could an empty house sound so awful loud?

 

As long as the sun gonna rise in the east

Trouble’s gonna come when you expect it least

As long as the sun dries the morning dew

I’ll be waiting here I’ll be missing you

 

Get up at dawn and I launch my boat

I drift around the lake and I read your note

It says you could not stay It says it very plain

And I looked and looked but there was no tear stain

 

I drift all day till I can’t drift no more

So I put that boat up on the shore

I walk inside and don’t know what to do

But now I think I know something you know too

 

 

© Marion Ettlinger

 

 

  1. Ashes, Grain And Sand

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Tonight the streets are filled with drifters with eyes that fall on you like rain

Looking for someone to tell them what went wrong

When not a soul in this town will explain

 

When I last saw your Sleeping Beauty

She was all decked out and dressed to lose

She could only speak to me of the way we used to be

Yeah, I know her well and she’s just slow blues

 

You can take your gamble to the freight yard

You can draw more cards and call my bluff

You can watch the sun go down and take out half this town

But night here never falls early enough

 

When your Sleeping Beauty calls, you must remember

Her love is tattered but it’s true

And all the words you hear are only said to draw you near

And I’ve heard every word before you

 

Feel that wind blow across the prairie

It carries ashes and grain and sand

Those winds blow in from states you’ve never been

Everything here comes in second hand

 

Where nothing hurts and nothing’s promised

And no one stays out of the rain

The drifters pass through here at this time every year

Just like a long drawn-out refrain

 

  1. Winter Laundry

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A salt wind blows in from the north

She can almost feel the spray

And the waves are pounding anything that might get in their way

There are no secrets on this island from the church down to the cove

She has sweet breads waiting for him

She has coffee on the stove

 

She walks back from the mailbox and pushes in the kitchen door

The snow and wind follow her in like they still want something more

She hides the mail in a cupboard turns on the clock radio

She wants to rush, but there is no need

There’s too much time to go

 

She spends an hour in the shower

She puts on her favorite dress

She fixes her hair and make-up until her age becomes a guess

He stops by twice a week for her, stays a while, then he goes

She can’t expect much more than that, not when the island knows

 

And when she sees his wife downtown

She knows their eyes will never meet

She buys her groceries without a word and does not linger on the street

 

She speaks to no one now

Her intentions plainly known

She rather be damned for eternity than spend one more week alone

The wind howls across the yard

The bedroom’s cold and dry

 

He twirls her long hair around his finger before he says good bye

He wraps his scarf around his neck slips a wool hat on his head

As he closes the door behind him

She gets up and strips the bed

 

She is hanging out the laundry and she hopes it does not freeze

Two bed sheets dance around her in the angry winter breeze

And now the sheets wave up to the sky like giant flags of truce

As the winter wind keeps blowing in she prays nothing pulls loose

 

 


  1. Waiting For The Rain

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In the middle of the summer in the middle of the day

They hear storm clouds rumble as they’re headed their way

There was work to do that they both forgot

It was like the world’s never been anything but hot

If he could find the words for her he could explain

But they just sit on the front porch waiting for the rain

 

It gets dark and quiet and it turns so still

She drinks and drinks but can’t get her fill

She sets the water glass down on her thighs

And just stares at it with her crazy eyes

As the bottom of the glass makes a tiny, round stain

It’s just a hot day in the country and they’re waiting for the rain

 

The temperature rises and it will not fall

And she’s so still she’s not there at all

He leaves the porch for just one minute

Comes back and his hand’s got a .410 in it

She smiles at him as he looks out on the plain

But there’s nothing to shoot, he’s just waiting for the rain

 

Nothing left to do nothing left to save

When the brown grass crumbles there ain’t nobody brave

All things come to the patient man

But when they come too late nobody understands

And now the heat just wraps around him like a chain

He breaks the shotgun open as they’re waiting for the rain

 

Then the wind returns as the sky goes black

She can feel the muscles in her jaw go slack

The wind blows so warm into her face

Ain’t no reason now to ever leave this place

She thinks it’s only heat it is not pain

As the lightning strikes the reaper they’re just waiting for the rain

 

Smoke in the distance the color of the clouds

Thunder overhead breaks wild and loud

Fire from the reaper runs through the drought

The sky starts the fire let the sky out it out

He slips two shells in the gun and calls her name

And it’s all about to happen they’re just waiting for the rain

 

  1. Different Currency

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She took off her apron and joined him in the booth

This wasn’t any time in her life to be held back the truth

He picked up his napkin, wiped it across his mouth

And she’d have done just about anything that night, to get that ride down south

 

He told his name and then she made up one

That didn’t match her name tag and never realized what she’d done

He said “it’s two days to Atlanta if I push it hard each day”

She said “I don’t have much money”

He said “you won’t have to pay”

 

And she knew strangers don’t do favors

And nothing comes for free

You’ve got to pay for everything

It’s just with a different currency

 

He asked “How soon can you leave?”

She said “I don’t have much to pack”

He said “I’ll meet you in my Chevrolet

I’m parked around the back”

 

Well the sidewalk was still glassy from the afternoon’s ice storm

And it took her a second to shed her waitress uniform

She left it on the floor, packed her jewelry and some clothes

Always leave some things behind no matter where she goes

There was the car just like he said shining in the light

And she could see his silhouette behind the wheel

And everything looked all right

 

There’s only so much snow and cold you can take, so many strangers’ eyes

Til you have to get yourself back home and fill your family full of lies

He wasn’t much to look at but she didn’t really care

She was pretty sure his car was good enough to get her all the way down there

She leaned back in her seat just another bird on the wing

He said “you know this ride’s a tradeoff”

She said yeah “Isn’t everything”

 

  1. Hills Of Tuscany

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The sun, it speaks no English in the valley of the Lord

There is music in the distance but you cannot place the chord

Were you all that surprised when they mistook you for me

We still laugh about it in these hills of Tuscany

 

They searched for you in New York but I’d heard you slipped away

When you crossed the border this time did you think they’d let you stay?

The sun has made us crazy here

The wine has turned us mean

We drink all day in this cafe till the air takes on a sheen

 

All your love, all your lies

They can track me on and on

You can knock on any door here and I’ll always have just gone

 

Your letters came this morning

The waiter brought all three

I thanked him in a whisper as he handed them to me

I did not have to read a word to know just where you’ll be

Somewhere in my footsteps outside of Tuscany

 

These gentlemen I drink with remember you quite well

And the way you held your rosary in that monastery cell

You thought you had disguised yourself when you knelt down to pray

But as you made the sign of the cross you gave yourself away

 

Yes, I know that we will meet again when I tire of this chase

But it will be me to surprise you when I chose the time and place

And though I’ve heard you’ve changed your name and even changed your face

I’ll know you by your hollow eyes and the cold of your embrace

 

 

 

  1. Closed Down Mill

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There’s a blues band on stage playing our song

I should’ve known by that there was something going wrong

You can’t get a drink unless it comes from the waiter

But the waiter got a dance he calls the alligator

I try to love you but you won’t stand still

I can’t get no grinding at a closed down mill

 

I want to take you out cruising, want to sing till you swoon

But my car and my guitar are both out of tune

If they torched this bar and a couple other joints

It’d raise the IQ in this town by twenty seven points

I want to love you but you won’t stand still

I can’t get no grinding at a closed down mill

 

Take a look at the bouncer, his body’s all bent

He ain’t drawn a sober breath since Jimmy Carter was the president

He’s talking to some girls into a double twist

How do we always end up in a bar like this?

I need to love you but you won’t stand still

I can’t get no grinding at a closed down mill

 

Perpetual motion must be going around

Now that summer has come to this hot beach town

Let’s get out in the sun, eat an ice cream cone

Won’t have any fun til I get you alone

I’ve got to love you but you won’t stand still

I can’t get no grinding at a closed down mill

 

So, listen here, darling, I ain’t too proud to beg

Let’s drink us a drink, let’s shake us a leg

Tell me you love me, let me hear that sound

Cause I’m sticking with you until you settle down

I was born to love you but you won’t stand still

I can’t get no grinding at a closed down mill

 

 

 

  1. Turn And Spin

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The sun drops behind the mountain as the night comes rushing in

It’s like supper’s almost ready and Mama’s calling her children

The moon has come up on us, see it shine without a ring

Do you think if I’d been honest it would have changed a thing?

Come closer, little darling, and I’ll sing you this song

This world will spin without us, we never did belong

 

I spent twenty years in prison ’cause I did not have a name

And by the time they let me go everyone was called the same

Well, I walked out as a scarecrow with a brand new suit of clothes

Now it seems everywhere I go the ball and chain still shows

Come closer, little darling, I’m longing for your touch

It’s better for us here now where they don’t expect so much

 

There’s an orchard on this mountain where the whitetail come to feed

And the apples grow on every tree, how many do we need?

The cabin is not far from here if I remember right

Can you fill your satchel with enough to get us through the night?

 

I’ve traveled all my life by foot and car and train

And of all the things I learned there’s only two I can explain

And that is heaven is the place the holy seeker goes

And hell is just a face with two eyes that cannot close

Come closer little darling There’s autumn in the wind

And I’ll sing you anything tonight if you will turn and spin

 

There are people on this mountain with their faces pale and drawn

And they’ll know I have returned by our chimney smoke at dawn

And if they ask you anything of where we both have been

Tell them I’ve been around the world but now I’m back again

Come closer, little darling and let’s not talk of sin

There’s a moon without a ring tonight

Turn and spin, turn and spin

 

  1. Big Leg Ida

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Trouble’s coming with a round-back mandolin

Trouble’s coming with a round-back mandolin

The streetlights are shot out so I can’t tell where she’s been

Trouble’s coming with a round-back mandolin

 

Big Leg Ida could not do without

Big Leg Ida could not do without

Now she’s on the chain gang singing with her teeth poked out

Big Leg Ida could not do without

 

No, you can’t get more when there ain’t no more around

No, you can’t get more when there ain’t no more around

Pack it up while you still can baby, move to higher ground

You can’t get more when there ain’t no more around

 

Big Leg Ida call me on the phone

Big Leg Ida call me on the phone

She put down the receiver and picked up her valve trombone

Big Leg Ida call me on the phone

 

I say T-R-O-U-B-L-E

I say T-R-O-U-B-L-E

That’s how I spell « Ida » and that’s how she spells me

It’s just T-R-O-U-B-L-E

 

So give me jug band music and a pint of Tennessee

Jug band music and a pint of Tennessee

Trouble’s brought her mandolin; well, that gets her in for free

Give me jug band music and a pint of Tennessee

 

 

 

SONGS OF MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT (1999)

(Back to album list)

 

© Judith Broggi

 

 

  1. If You Don’t Want Me
  2. Avalon Blues
  3. Shake That Thing
  4. Louis Collins
  5. First Shot Missed Him
  6. Big Leg Blues
  7. Hey, Honey, Right Away
  8. Joe Turner Blues
  9. I’m Satisfied
  10. Beulah Land
  11. Funky Butt
  12. Coffee Blues
  13. Monday Morning Blues
  14. Good Morning, Miss Carrie
  15. Hot Times In The Old Town

 


  1. If You Don’t Want Me

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

If you don’t want me, baby, got to have me anyhow,

If you don’t want me, baby, got to have me anyhow

If you don’t want me, baby

 

It was late one night when everything was still,

Well, me and my baby eased out on the hill

Me and my baby

 

I tried my best to do my father’s will,

I tried my best to do my father’s will

I tried my best

 

You don’t want me, baby, got to have me anyhow,

You don’t want me, baby, got to have me anyhow

You don’t want me, baby

 

The sun goes down, ain’t this a lonesome place?

The sun goes down, ain’t this a lonesome place?

It’s so lonesome here, I can’t see in my baby’s face

 

You don’t want me baby, baby, got to have me anyhow,

You don’t want me, baby, got to have me anyhow

You don’t want me, baby

 


  1. Avalon Blues

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

 

New York this mornin’, just about half-past nine

New York this mornin’, just about half-past nine

 

Avalon is my hometown, always on my mind

Avalon is my hometown, always on my mind

Pretty mama’s in Avalon, they want me there all the time

 

When I left Avalon, throwin’ kisses and wavin’ at me

When I left Avalon, throwin’ kisses and wavin’ at me

When I left Avalon, throwin’ kisses and wavin’ at me

 

Hate to tell you mama but have got to know

Hate to tell you pretty mama

I’m leavin’ Avalon, and I ain’t coming back no more

 

There’s one thing I can’t understand

There’s one thing I just can’t understand

Pretty mamas in Avalon, they just want one man

 

Avalon is my hometown, always on my mind

Avalon is my hometown, always on my mind

Pretty mama’s in Avalon, they want me there all the time

 


  1. Shake That Thing

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(Traditional, arr. John Hurt)

 

I bought my babe a diamond ring

Came right back home, caught her shakin’ that thing

 

Baby shake that thing

Won’t you shake that thing

I’m getting’ sink and tired of telling’ you to shake that thing

 

One two three four five six

Baby don’t you leave me in this fix

Won’t you shake that thing

Baby shake that thing

I’m getting’ sink and tired of telling’ you to shake that thing

 

Well I got something’ called a wobbly whip

I got that elegant movement in my hip

Baby shake that thing

Won’t you shake that thing

I’m getting’ sick and tired of telling’ you to shake that thing

 

I bought my babe a diamond ring

Came right back home, caught her shakin’ that thing

 


  1. Louis Collins

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

Mrs. Collins weeped, Mrs. Collins moaned

To see her son Louis leavin’ home

The angels laid him away

 

The angels laid him away

They laid him six feet under the clay

The angels laid him away

 

Oh Bob shot once and Louis shot two

Shot poor Collins, shot him through and through

The angels laid him away

 

Oh kind friends, oh ain’t it hard?

To see poor Louis in a new graveyard

The angels laid him away

 

The angels laid him away

They laid him six feet under the clay

The angels laid him away

 

Oh, when they heard that Louis was dead

All the women, they dressed in red

The angels laid him away

 

The angels laid him away

They laid him six feet under the clay

The angels laid him away

 

Mrs. Collins weeped, Mrs. Collins moaned

To see her son Louis leavin’ home

The angels laid him away

 

The angels laid him away,

They laid him six feet under the clay

The angels laid him away

 

 


  1. First Shot Missed Him

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

The first shot missed him, a mile away

The last shot got him, so they say

Oh, the last shot got him

Oh, the last shot got him

 

She cooked good biscuits, so they say

Oh, she cooked good biscuits, so they say

She cooked good biscuits, so they say

She cooked good biscuits

 

Oh, She got good business, so they say

She got good business, so they say

She got good business

Oh, she got good business

 

I wanna trade with you, so they say

I wanna trade with you, so they say

Well, wanna trade with you

 

Oh you got good business, so they say

You got good business, so they say

You got good business

Oh, you got good business

 


  1. Big Leg Blues

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

Raise up, baby, get your big leg offa mine

Raise up, baby, get your big leg offa mine

They’re so heavy, make a good man change his mind

 

I asked you, baby, to come and hold my head

I ask you, baby, to come and hold my head

But you sent me word that you’d rather see me dead

 

I’m goin’, goin’, your cryin’ won’t make me stay

I’m goin’, goin’, cryin’ won’t make me stay

More you cry, the further just drive me away

 

Some crave high yellow, I like black and brown

Some crave high yellow, I like black and brown

Black won’t quit you, brown won’t lay you down

 

It was late at midnight and the moon shine bright like day

It was late at midnight and moon shine bright like day

I seen your faror goin’ up the right of way

 

 


  1. Hey Honey, Right Away

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

Hey, hey, honey right away

Hey, honey right away

Right away, baby right away

Hey, honey right away

 

You told me, you’d marry

Honey, right away

Right away, baby right away

Hey, honey, right away

 

I want to go to the courthouse

Get our license read

Hey, baby, right away

 

Hey hey honey right away, baby right away

 

 

Mississippi John Hurt

 


  1. Joe Turner

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

Joe Turner he’s the man I do despise

Joe Turner he’s the man I do despise

He goes around wives

Tryin’ to takes men’s wives

 

Joe Turner, I drove him from my door

Joe Turner, I drove him from my door

Hope to God that he don’t come back no more

 

Policeman you better not let him around

Policeman you better not let him around

If you do, I’m sure gonna shoot him down

 

Joe Turner he’s the man I do despise

Joe Turner he’s the man I do despise

Goes around wives tryin’ to takes men’s wives

 

I left Joe Turner standing in the door

I left Joe Turner standing in the door

He may steal my good girl for all I know

 

Joe Turner, I drove him from my door

Joe Turner, I drove him from my door

But he may steal my good girl for all I know

 

 


  1. I’m Satisfied

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(John Hurt/Olwen Music, BMI)

 

I’m satisfied, tickled, too, old enough to marry you

I’m satisfied, it’s going to bring you back

I’m satisfied, tickled, too, old enough to marry you

I’m satisfied, it’s going to bring you back

 

First in the country, then in town, I’m a total old shaker from my navel on down

I’m satisfied, it’s going to bring you back

I’m satisfied, tickled, too, old enough to marry you

I’m satisfied, it’s going to bring you back

 

I pull my dress to my knees, I give my total all to who please

I’m satisfied, it’s going to bring you back

I’m satisfied, tickled, too, old enough to marry you

I’m satisfied, it’s going to bring you back

 

I’m satisfied, tickled, too

Old enough to marry you

I’m satisfied, it’s going to bring you back

I’m satisfied, tickled, too

Old enough to marry you

I’m satisfied, it’s going to bring you back

 


  1. Beulah Land

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(Traditional)

 

I got a mother in Beulah Land outshine the sun

I got a mother in Beulah Land outshine the sun

I got a mother in Beulah Land outshine the sun

Way beyond the sky

 

Oh come on and go over to Beulah Land outshine the sun

Come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun

Come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun

Way beyond the sky

 

I got a father in Beulah Land outshine the sun

I got a father in Beulah Land outshine the sun

I got a father in Beulah Land outshine the sun

Way beyond the sky

 

I got a sister in Beulah Land outshine the sun

I got a sister in Beulah Land outshine the sun

I got a sister in Beulah Land outshine the sun

Way beyond the sky

 

Come and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun

Come and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun

Come and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun

Way beyond the sky

 

 

  1. Funky Butt

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

I thought I heard somebody say

Funky Butt, Funky Butt, take it away

Cause I don’t like it no how

 

You see that gal with the red dress on

She got funky butt stinky butt sure as you’re born

Well I don’t like it no how

 

I thought I heard somebody shout

Open the window let the foul smell out

Cause I don’t like it no how

 

 

 

 

Japanese release

 

  1. Coffee Blues

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

I’ve got to go to Memphis, from there to Leland

I wanna see my baby ’bout a lovin’ spoonful , my lovin’ spoonful

Well, I’m just got to have my lovin’ spoonful

 

Good mornin’, baby, how you do this mornin’?

Well, please, ma’am, just a lovin’ spoon, just a lovin’ spoonful

 

Well, the preacher in the pulpit, jumpin’ up and down

He laid his bible down for his lovin’ spoonful

 

Well you can bring whiskey, you can bring me tea

None satisfies me ma’am like my lovin’ spoonful

I just got to have my lovin’ spoonful

 

My baby packed her suitcase and she went away

I couldn’t let her stay for my lovin’, my lovin’ spoonful

 

 

  1. Monday Morning Blues

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

Monday morning blues

Monday morning blues searched all through my soul

 

I got the blues so bad

I got the blues so bad

I got the blues so bad, it hurts my tongue to talk

 

Blues in my feet

Blues in my feet

Blues in my feet, hurt my feet to walk

 

I’ve been layin’ in jail, yea, I’ve been layin’ in jail

I’ve been layin’ in jail six long weeks today

 

And tomorrow morning

Tomorrow morning well tomorrow’s gonna be my trial day

 

Well you can ask the judge

Ask the judge, oh babe

You can ask the judge what might be my fine

 

Get a pick and a shovel

Get a pick and a shovel

Get a pick and a shovel, let’s go down in the mine

 

Mister change a dollar

Mister change a dollar

Mister change a dollar

Give me a lucky dime

 


  1. Good Morning Miss Carrie

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(John Hurt/Wynwood Music Co. Inc., BMI)

 

Good morning Carrie

Good morning Carrie

 

I heard you’re gonna marry

I heard you’re gonna marry

 

Oh Carrie I love you

Oh Carrie I love you

 

Oh Carrie was a minder

Yea Carrie was a minder

But a mighty good grinder

Yea a mighty good grinder

 

Good morning Carrie

Good morning Carrie

 

Good morning Carrie

Good morning Carrie

I heard you’re gonna marry

I heard you’re gonna marry

 


  1. Hot Times In The Old Town Tonight

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(Traditional)

 

There’s hot times in the old town, downtown tonight

Hot times in the old town tonight

There’s hot times in the old town, downtown tonight

Hot times in the old town tonight

 

Oh, come and go with me down to old town tonight

It’s hot times in the old town tonight

Yes, come and go with me down to old town tonight

It’s hot times in the old town tonight

 

Rubber tired buggy, rubber tired hack

I’m going down to bring my baby back

It’s hot times in the old town, downtown tonight

Hot times in old town tonight

 

Well I’m goin’ down Laredo with my axe in my hand

I’m going down there looking for that man

There’s hot times in the old town, down town tonight

Hot times in old town tonight

 

Yes rubber tired buggy, rubber tired hack

Going down to bring my baby back

There’s hot times in the old town, down town tonight

Hot times in the old town tonight

 


 

SOMETHING I SAW OR THOUGHT I SAW (2001)

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© Tonee Harbert

 

  1. 23rd Street
  2. Harry’s Last Call
  3. Just Before We Lost The War
  4. Winter Song
  5. Moving Day
  6. Buddy Bolden’s Blues
  7. Valentine’s Day
  8. Traveling By Cab
  9. Fix Your Hair The Way You Used To
  10. Judgment Day
  11. Mobile
  12. Will You Be My Rose?

 

 

1. 23rd Street

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This moonlight in New York will not go awayI sit in this hotel and tonight I’m just too drunk to prayShe said that she’d always love me but that she might not always stay Have a seatHave a seatAnd we can look at the world through this window on 23rd Street I came a long way to see her one more timeThere was a subway to take me uptownThere was an address she gave me last Christmas where she said she could always be foundI listened as she said she loved meI’ll always remember that sound If you look closely down to the sidewalk you can see yourself as a ghostWe would walk ’round the block with no reason to talkBack then we were younger than mostIt’s a love that you never will seeHey, buddy, I don’t mean to boast Well, there’s some folks bring love to a hotel and some just bring their own quiet endMy story is not one hard to tell and I just want to tell it againShe said that she’d always love meAll I need is to find her again

  1. Harry’s Last Call

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« Harry called while you were out, » she saidHe asked, « Was he drunk? »She said, « No, but he’d been drinkingI could tell «  »What’d he want this time? » »He wants to talk to you, » she said »All I know is he’s somewhere in Nebraska, hole up in some motel » He handed her the groceries and opened up a beerHe slapped the cold off his sleeve and said, « I’m glad I wasn’t here » »But he’s your best friend, » she saidHe took a drink and said, « He was »She said, « He’s calling back, you know »And he told her, « He always does » Old friends blown away by the windNever to return again till they round that final bendOld friends driving through the rainFrom Sacramento to Fort Wayne just like we all did then « So, what’re you gonna tell now when he calls back again? »He just shrugged and said »I’m not gonna say a thing » »But it’s Harry, » she told him »Yeah, » he said. « It’s Harry once againAnd Harry only calls when he’s drunk or when he needs something » « But you bummed the world togetherIt was always just you two »Yeah, we were young and we had some times till the day that I met youAnd he just kept on moving once I made my choice to stayAnd now he’s still out on the road, but it’s like he never goes away » When the kitchen phone rang once more, he threw his arms around her waist »Let me go, » she said. « It’s HarryIf I want to get the phone I will »But he just pulled her tighter and he didn’t say a thingAnd he held her until the ringing stopped and all the house was still
3. Just Before We Lost The War(Back to album tracklistBack to album list) The July wind blew from the mountain and threw a chill on the lake shoreThe whitecaps danced around us like they never have beforeThere ain’t no room in this little townNo one to settle up the scoreSo we must live with what we both put down just before we lost the war My love for you has gone unspokenStill you knew the words I’d sayYet we stand here with both hearts broken on this windy summer dayI can’t find relief in the lies I told but they came right from my coreI still believe one of us ran cold just before we lost the war I used to think that time was plenty and time was all I knewBut it gets cut short for so manyIt could be me; it could be youThere ain’t no wind that can blow the truth back to where it stood beforeAnd I couldn’t change it in a cold phone booth just before we lost the war So say goodbye and fare-thee-wellTell everyone I’m doing fineFor as far as I can tellI’m just ten years down the lineWhat we give we can’t get back and we always ask for moreWe could not retreat; we could not attack just before we lost the war

  1. Winter Song

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list) Smoke ’em if you got ’emYou’re not too far from the bottom and it’s still so early in the dayShe told me what she taught ’emWe’re just halfway into autumnBut when winter comes, it’s here to stay The snow falls pretty and it covers up the groundAnd it hides what will not go awayDown in the city she buys clothes by the poundJust to fool me into thinking her way Come sing a winter tune a winter tune so gayIt’s too bad the check had to come so soon and I hear it’s your turn to pay Well, her eyes were blue and her eyes were greenAnd you never knew which ones you’d seeThey would stare through a film of cosmolineAnd they were always trained right on me She said he went insane in a Ford Fairlane parked beside a stand of hemlock treesThey were safe out of the rain when he finally made his claimAnd he didn’t ask and didn’t say please There weren’t nobody on that mountain road when you slide off deep into the snowNow the night is getting cold and has a very good hold with no reason to ever let goYour own Mother Earth wants to call you home and protect you from all harmShe’s so lonely in the night and if you only held her tight there’ll be no need for alarm You never travel steerage when you’re in a Boston marriageNo matter what the people may sayYou found yourself a loverDrag her underneath the cover and show her where the hound dogs bay An after dinner cigarette another shot of anisetteAdjust the seat in the FairlaneYou gave them what they want in the finest restaurantAnd you didn’t cry or didn’t name names

  1. Moving Day

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list) Lock the door and say goodbyeThere’s new folks moving inLeave the key in the mailbox now and kiss me once againKiss me for the ones who say all love comes to an endThough we never let it go that way we start alone again Our years they ran in circlesIt was a long and stormy rideNo pot of gold for the happy groomNo brass ring for the brideNothing but the two of us and the promises we madeLove disappeared in a summer wind so soft she could’ve stayed Two stars hanging in the sky behind a drifting cloudAnd when two hearts must say goodbye love cannot be proudLove cannot take sides or take a stand or answer whySometimes two hearts must fall away no matter how they try Moving day is over nowThis house is just a shellSay goodbye to the sights and sounds we came to know so wellYour car is loaded to the roofIt’s just the same as mineThere’s no room for the dreams we hadI guess they stay behind

  1. Buddy Bolden’s Blues

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I’ve been to Germany, I’ve been to SpainWalked down Beale Street and turned up MainWhen I put her on that last mail train there was nothing left to lose I listened to the engine whineAnd when she set off this one last time she didn’t leave a single thing behindJust like Buddy Bolden’s Blues There’s nothing uptown, no money downBuy the high-tension whiskey just to pass aroundFaces in the window, but I’m standing on the ground and I’m down to twos and fews The rhythm section is one seat shortAnd you can’t get on board without your passportYou knew she took so you’d come up shortJust one more gig you must refuse In this town you can’t let down your guardThe boys play trumpet, but they blow too hardIn the final hand you get no wild card just the Buddy Bolden bluesThe morning sun on a brown suitcaseAnd soon you too will have to leave this placeJust one more gone without a trace singing Buddy Bolden’s blues Her eyes were closed when she said goodbyeShe couldn’t see me and she didn’t tryStill she kissed me and I don’t know why but she was never one to leaves clues Trains come to town only to leaveThe band plays loud to let the mourners grieveThe heart stays hidden in a rolled up sleeveEmpty pockets pay no dues The sun don’t rise in a greasy skyThe rails may call, but the roads just sighBelieve I’ll give New Orleans one more try with a spit shine on my walking shoes Stand on the corner, trying to catch a breakBut good luck these days is too hard to fakeAnd there’s nothing left of her but what talk we makeJust like Buddy Bolden’s blues
7. St. Valentine’s Day

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The church was cold and darkness at the early morning MassTill the sun brought its own colors to the figures in the stained glassAnd they shown from a light that came from so far awayIt was a miracle to my young eyes on St. Valentine’s Day The streets, they were bog iron, the air was cruel and thinI could wrap my scarf around my neck but something always found its way inLike I wrap myself around you now when there’s nothing left to sayAnd I hold you like the miracle of St. Valentine’s Day Just to hold you before the sunrise when the world is just a darkened heartAnd that heart is full of lies’Cause I told you it ain’t ever gonna go awayThis miracle I feel in your arms on St. Valentine’s Day Walk me out on the frozen lakePut an end to all my fearsI can stand here if you can tooI can stand right here for yearsWith your arms around me like it was always meant to be this wayWhen the miracle comes back one last time on St. Valentine’s Day

  1. Traveling By Cab

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He was too old for that bar but it was the only one aroundAnd he needed a beerSo that’s where he was foundHe took an empty stool amid the jocks and punksHe could take them all to school when it came to being drunks Miles from home againHe was overdrawn on luckHoping that tomorrow they’d find that part for his truckSo he drank a beer, then two as a rock band hit the stageWhen all he wanted to do was have a drink with folks his age Then the beer it turned to whiskey, the barmaid ran a tabYou can hit freefall until last call when you’re traveling by cab There were young girls in the mirror with no trouble on their mindsAs the picture became clearer he stared ahead just to look behindThen the band kicked off their first setThey wore their guitars wellThere was anger, light and speed, every whistle, every bell They had smoke bombs, they had lasersThe singer banged his tambourineBut it’s hard to play the music when you’re a pinball machineThen the drummer took a lighter and set fire to his sticksAs the barmaid squealed with laughter and said, « That’s one of my favorite tricks » As the whiskey took the driver’s seat he touched his wedding ringHe kept thinking of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. KingThen the band it took a break and it was possible to talkAs the barmaid poured a free one she said, « Don’t they really rock? » At first he had no words so he drank his whiskey downThen he slid off his barstool and stood on shaky groundHe said, « That ain’t rock’n’rollThat’s just Vaudeville plugging in »And she looked up and said »Ain’t that the way it’s always been? » The beer will turn to whiskey, the barmaid runs a tabThe years spin by in a free fall, till you’re traveling by cab
9. Fix Your Hair The Way You Used To

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Fix your hair the way you used toPull it back and let me knowThat you’re the same girl I met on that warm night back in TupeloThere ain’t no wind in this townThere’s no one around that we might knowFix your hair the way you used to one last time before you go Well, dreams come running up so fast and they always leave so slowI feel from present down to past with youHow it happened I don’t knowI’m not pleading or complainingI’m just wondering if you’re leaving friend or foeFix your hair the way you used to one last time before you go Hey, we had us a ride but all rides come to an endAnd I never question why or say becauseAnd you can say goodbye and I’ll say once againJust let me see my world the way it was I’ve called down to the front desk and they’ve held a cab for youAnd I’ve just got this last requestIt’s such an easy thing to doI just want to see the girl who once gave me her heart and let it showFix your hair the way you used to one last time before you go

  1. Judgment Day

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list) I was born just out of town and I never could get inSo I turned to traveling ’round where the nights fade and the days beginThey called me a hobo but I never took that nameAnd they called me a pilgrim but I was not to blameAs I wandered through the tall pines and the clayTrying to put a hurry-up on Judgment Day They jailed me in St. Louis ’cause I was easy preyAnd everyone was happy to go home early that dayTill it was just me and my cellmate staring eye to eyeAnd then he started laughing, saying »Let me guess, you’re not the guy »He offered me a cigaretteAs I reached he pulled awaySaying, « You never get a last request until it’s Judgment Day » Her eyes they were flawed diamondsShe said, « That’s the price of fameWhere all the girls are beautifulAll the women look the sameAnd all the men come courting me because I’m the final oneAnd they give their names so quietly just like you might’ve doneAnd names are just the final thing a man must give awayAnd you’ll pass yours on so willingly when it comes Judgment Day » Well, I heard her sing a melody from a window in the jailAnd I knew the day I broke out she’d cover up my trailExpecting nothing more than the name I tried to tossStaring into my heart with the eyes of St. John of the CrossWondering if I’d return again but it don’t work out that wayOnce you’ve turned your back and the rope goes slack around Judgment Day It was long out on the Great Plains with nowhere left to goThe road was full of nothing and the sky was full of snowI’ve seen this road before in the sun and rain and windBut I don’t need it anymoreLet that be my only sinFor whatever the next motel costsI’ll be glad to payAnd I’ll hide out till I hear that song that calls me Judgment Day

  1. Mobile

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The road was the color of the road and the sky was the color of the skyAnd the heat was the breath of your kiss when you waited far too long to sighYour stories were just stories, your love not even thatThough you knew of my past glories when I could win a heart when I tipped my hatYour beauty was just beauty though many men were sparedAnd like the others you saw through meBut I always came prepared There were drops of white on a southern dawn that made the cotton look so realBut there was nothing upon nothing on that long road to Mobile You held me close on your back porch but I’ve been held beforeWhere rich girls knew what silence was and what a kiss was forYou promised me undying love as the sun broke through the treesYou promised me the stars above as you fell to your kneesWell, a promise is a promise when you cannot fake the lieWhen you give your heart in the morning light there’s no Sunday goodbye But the world always begins anew when the summer church bells pealAnd there was nothing upon nothing on that long road to Mobile Jesus lived and Jesus died and it was just to make you sweetAnd they nailed him down and Mary cried »All love is incomplete »Still I believe the soldier who gambled big that dayWho traded clothes for a crown of thorns to guide him on his way »A crown of thorns, » his wife scoffed »That’s all you’ve brought todayYou’ve just returned with a crown of thorns and you call it a day’s pay? » A crown is just a crown and a deal is just a dealAnd there was nothing upon nothing on that long road to Mobile Alabama turns it back when the air’s too thick to breatheAnd there was no air in that shotgun shack when I knew I should leaveI’ll leave alone the way I came as the maid undoes your staysI had a race I thought was run but now I see it goes two waysA destination holds no gold it’s all in the journeySo leaving and returning nowIt’s all the same to me When the sun burns every seed you plantYou cannot sell the yieldAnd there was nothing upon nothing on that long road to Mobile

  1. Will You Be My Rose?

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list) Will you be my rose?Will you take my hand?Will you keep me there when it’s time for me to make a stand? Will you be my rose in the morning trueWhen the nighttime fails and the world begins anew? Will you be my rose when I’m gone awayIn the sweet repose at the end of the day? When I’m all alone and a cold wind blowsWill you see my face?Will you be my rose? A rose in the snow so fresh and cleanA rose that’s the brightest redI have ever seenA rose that can show me when all goes wrongYou found a place for me a place I belong I’ve search my whole life to find you from sunrise to sunriseI never gave up, I always knew somedayI’d look right up into your eyes Will you be my rose?Will you hear my song?When I ask forever will you touch my cheek, will you come along? To another townTo another dayWill you be my rose down the lost highway?

 


BILL MORRISSEY: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION (2004)

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© Christian Clayton

 

  1. Barstow
  2. Inside
  3. Robert Johnson
  4. Fifty*
  5. These Cold Fingers
  6. Ice Fishing
  7. Just Before We Lost The War
  8. Avalon Blues
  9. Letter From Heaven
  10. Handsome Molly
  11. Different Currency
  12. Cold, Cold Night
  13. Small Town On The River
  14. You’ll Never Get To Heaven
  15. Birches
  16. Long Gone
  17. 23rd Street
  18. Joe Turner Blues
  19. Just Today*
  20. Boston Eyes*

 

Liner notes, by Scott Alarik

“I think everybody agrees he’s one of the best ever to do it in our genre, one of the best songwriters we’ve ever had.”

–Ellis Paul

 

“I always liked him, thought he was the real thing.”

–Suzanne Vega

 

“Hearts hold secrets and hearts hold lies/ Hearts always hold one more surprise”

–Bill Morrissey

From “Boston Eyes,” 2003

 

There is something odd about the idea of an “Essential Bill Morrissey” collection. Being essential has always been his best punch, after all; every song chiseled and chiseled and chiseled with such care you’d think it was the only song he was ever planning to write.

“He’s not a casual artist,” says fellow New England songwriter Ellis Paul. “He was the closest thing to Van Gogh that was in the neighborhood. He was that into it, that tortured by it, obviously somebody who took songwriting that seriously – it was not just sort of an expensive hobby.”

Odd or not, there are remarkable things to glean from this best-of collection, things the old boy is still teaching us about how closely craft and art must dance together, about the value of knowing one’s tools and, most essentially, that the difference between timeless and temporal is often just a matter of telling the truth.

“First of all,” Suzanne Vega says of Morrissey’s songwriting, “the craft is there. He knows how to write a song, how to make it rhyme, make it catchy, how to write a chorus – and to put it all together so it sings.

“Beyond that, there’s the world he writes about. His characters are blue-collar, small-town people, well-drawn and always believable so you feel like you know them. His women characters are as believable as his male characters, so it’s not always first-person, ‘let-me-tell-you-this-about-my-life.’ I mean, you’re right there with him; you feel like you’ve been there. He’s a songwriter who’s got an eye like a fiction writer.”

Indeed, the praise he’s received over his 20-year national career is unlike that of nearly any other folk songwriter. He has been compared as often to Raymond Carver as to Woody Guthrie. The Boston Phoenix praised his “reporter’s eye for details,” and Rolling Stone sounded like the Utne Reader when it raved about his “absolute economy and focused fire.”

It’s easy to see why here. His images are so vivid and useful to the song, they often come on like countermelodies. He describes midnight freight yards that sound “like a drunk in a metalshop.” He wistfully watches “young girls in their first heels step like colts across the square.” When he describes a winter night where “A maple branch clicks above you/The mailbox leans in the snow,” you know it is not the still-cheery days of early winter, but dead January or February, long after the snow has stopped smiling.

Especially since Morrissey’s quiet little ballad of a novel, Edson, was published in 1996, his admirers are as likely to be novelists as songwriters.

If book editors can be superstars, Gary Fisketjon, who edited Edson, surely qualifies. He has worked with Cormac McCarthy, Tom McGuane, and Jay McInerney, and knows for certain that novelists Richard Russo, Richard Ford, Greg Barron, Andre Dubus, Steve Yarborough, and Robert Olmstead are fans of Morrissey’s lean balladry.

Asked why so many good fiction writers appreciate Morrissey’s music, Fisketjon says, “He’s telling good stories from very effective points of view, which is the main thing for any writer. Whenever any kind of writing works, it’s not that one part particularly stands out as opposed to the separate parts. There’s a lot of good songs in which some parts will be much better than others; that’s not a problem Bill has. His songs are strong and of a piece.”

Few modern folk songwriters can boast as impressive a repertoire as Morrissey unrolls here; and perhaps none can boast such constancy of voice and vision, both artistically and stylistically. Someone unfamiliar with the New Hampshire writer could easily conclude this is a single album, recorded over weeks rather than decades. It is astonishing testimony to the difference between writing a bunch of songs and creating a body of work.

In the early ’80s, along with producer Darleen Wilson and the late Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, Morrissey designed a template for recording lyric-driven modern folk music that was so widely imitated better-known songwriters often got the credit for inventing it. One simple instrumental statement is used, but so intelligently the results feel much more fat and embellishing than they really are.

Cunningham’s repeating fiddle lines on “Inside” and “Handsome Molly” are each so carefully considered they feel not only like organic pieces of the melody, but of the lyric. And listen to Vega’s beautifully disheveled harmony on “Inside,” how exquisitely it suits the drab, frayed lives in the song. On “Handsome Molly,” her harmony is such a delayed whisper it feels more like the memory of a harmony, a haunting underscore to Morrissey’s lonesome, defeated reflections.

But Fisketjon is right. The meat on Morrissey’s table are the stories he tells, and how honestly he tells them. It might be tempting to say there are no second acts in his songs, but it’s more accurate to say there are only second acts. We are usually brought into the story after the hammer has come down on these decidedly unremarkable lives. We learn little about how his characters got into the mess they’re in, and how – or if – they’re going to get out. The fateful choices or cold winds of circumstance have already done their damage; we are asked only to contemplate the wreckage and feel what it’s like to be trapped in lives like that.

He does not sing of heroes; at best, they are survivors. Often, he defies us to like them. In “Barstow,” his character whines, “If you take me back this time/Baby, I promise you I’ll stay,” stripping any sympathy we might feel from the preceding line, “I can’t believe I pissed my 20s away.”

“I quit drinking; now I watch the clock,” he sings in “Inside.” There are no fairytale endings, no tidy tying-up of the loose ends that flog his characters so painfully and heedlessly. Redemption, if it is glimpsed at all, comes through quiet acceptance of life’s shortcomings and minor blessings.

This may not sound like an artist endeared for his high, good humor, but Morrissey is a perennially popular live performer because his best counter-punch is a sage, undistilled, and deliciously tart wit.

“You get a lot of good songwriters on the scene, but not all of them can perform as well as Bill does,” says Vega. “I still remember him on stage telling us that he was trying to get the spark back in his marriage, so he’d bought a crotchless down vest from L.L. Bean. It was just hysterical. Most people want to be taken really seriously, so they’re very intense and sincere. He’s all those things, too, but it’s so refreshing to find that wit beyond it.”

It is crucial to understanding how Morrissey views his career that he began it in the mid-70s, when folk was as close to dead in the water as it ever got. To his generation of songwriters, the idea of going into folk music with venal ambitions was laughable. As another ’70s circuit-rider, Utah Phillips, says, “The only way to wind up with a million bucks in folk music is to start out with two.”

That bracing highball of radical devotion to noncommercial art and cynicism about the bleak rewards it offers left Morrissey with a hard-leather charisma and confident command of the stage. He trimmed his first sails at brawling working-class bars that hired folk musicians only because they were cheaper – and more expendable – than bands; dives like the Chit-Chat Lounge in Haverhill, where success was measured by getting home with a little money and all your teeth.

Before headlining in front of thousands at the vaunted Philadelphia Folk Festival, he was asked if he was nervous. “No,” he answered quietly. “They’re probably not armed.”

If there was a moment when Morrissey officially became a star, it was 1985, at the newly revived Newport Folk Festival. Up till his set, every act had meekly ignored the incongruity of the many yachts eavesdropping in the harbor. But Morrissey is made of crisper stuff: “Look at all those yachts out there,” he snarled, and they all proudly tooted their shiny little horns. “All that money, and they’re too f—ing cheap to buy a ticket to a folk festival.” The little horns fell silent, the audience flew to its feet and cheered and cheered. Morrissey had arrived.

Flashes of that humor are glimpsed here. In his bratty dream of heaven, Elvis Presley reveals he “likes to visit Earth just to drive you people nuts.” In the new “Fifty,” he shows proper surprise at being both 50 and alive, but his greatest glee is that he now can never be drafted.

It is the whole package Morrissey presents of a songwriter’s job that most profoundly influences young artists following the trails he helped blaze. He generously revealed exactly how much he stole from his primary influence in the Grammy-nominated treasure, The Songs of Mississippi John Hurt. Its loving, gracious heart merely focused public attention on what his musical compadres always knew about him. Though fiercely ambitious, he just as fiercely sees folk music as a community, not a track meet. He relishes the role of mentor, considering it both a duty and pleasure to pass along what was passed along to him.

“Bill was really willing to teach me stuff,” says Ellis Paul, who claims Morrissey as a seminal influence. “He’s not somebody who feels like he’s guarding trade secrets. He loves what he does, really loves the process of writing and loves talking about it. He’s willing to listen carefully and tell it like it is.”

That last sentence is a fair summary of Morrissey’s whole approach to art, career, and life. Every song he’s written, every verse from every song, and every line from every verse, could rightly be called “The Essential Bill Morrissey.” But if this collection encourages a reappraisal of his work – as it should – his stock will rise considerably. The old boy still has some good punches left in him.

 

Scott Alarik

Cambridge, Massachusetts

February, 2004

Compilation produced by Scott Billington, Bill Morrissey, Ellen Karas and Marian Leighton-Levy.


  1. Fifty

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

I turned fifty on an autumn day

The grass was brown and the sky was gray

But I never felt so strong

I turned fifty

So, come on world, bring it on

 

I can’t round the bases like I could

But I’m still in the game, so knock on wood

I get the jump on the pitch and I catch one more

I turned fifty

I quit keeping score

 

Hey you kids, this ain’t no jive

But I’ve seen the Beatles perform live

My new guitar is all hand crafted

I turned fifty

Best of all, I can’t get drafted

 

I don’t get carded in a bar

I own my house and I own my car

I can’t believe I made it this far

I turned fifty

And I still wish upon a star

 

Once life was a race and I had to run it

Now I know what not to do because I’ve done it

Well there’s too much anger and too much crap

I turned fifty

I think I’ll take a nap

 

Sometimes I think about the days back then

But there’s no return to the way back then

I loved them all but those days are gone

I turned fifty

So, come on world, bring it on


  1. Just Today

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Stand on the corner

Wonder where all the years went

Waiting for the light to change on a life ill spent

Oh, but the sun’s still gold and the sky’s still blue

And just today, just today, just today, just today

I was thinking of you

 

I tried to write a song but I could not sing your name

I tried to right a wrong but it was always me to blame

But the memory and the dream stay true

And just today, just today, just today, just today

I was thinking of you

 

I couldn’t hold on and I could not let go

I couldn’t stay long here in the land of snow

But there was a time when I tried to see it through

And just today, just today, just today, just today

I was thinking of you

 

You burst like lightning and just as quickly disappeared

But I remember the night

When our two hearts touched as the storm clouds cleared

You were holding my hand as I said a prayer for you

And just today, just today, just today, just today

I was thinking of you


  1. Boston Eyes

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Your Boston eyes, they look right through me and take me so far away

Your Boston eyes, they hold a secret I can understand, but I cannot say

 

And I would walk around the world for you

I would walk around the world for you

Just to lie you down ‘neath the summer skies

Just to wake and see your Boston eyes

 

Autumn comes and leaves get scattered

Then they are just blown away

Years roll by and nothing matters

You rise each morn and face the day

 

And I would walk around the world for you

I would walk around the world for you

Just to lie you down ‘neath the summer skies

Just to wake and see your Boston eyes

 

Hearts hold secrets and hearts tell lies

Hearts always hide one more surprise

I lost your heart in the northern light

And just came around to claim it back tonight

 

Your Boston eyes they shine a history

Of little girl playing on the street

Your Boston eyes, they are a melody

I can sing just once and not repeat

 

And I would walk around the world for you

I would walk around the world for you

Just to lie you down ‘neath the summer skies

Just to wake and see your Boston eyes


 

COME RUNNING (2007)

(Back to album list)

 

© Annie Provenzano

 

 

  1. I Ain’t Walking
  2. Thirty Years
  3. Dangerous Way
  4. Holden’s Blues
  5. He’s Not From Kansas City
  6. Summer’s Jumped All Over Me
  7. By The Grave Of Baudelaire
  8. Canal Street
  9. I Was A Fool
  10. Death Letter
  11. Victory At Sea
  12. New Walking Blues
  13. Johnny’s Tune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. I Ain’t Walking

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Don’t hold on my coattails, baby

My heart won’t budge

I ain’t got time to do the nudge

 

I ain’t walking

I’m a-flying down the line

I’m going back to Priceford

Just to see that gal of mine

 

Ain’t no Mickey’s Monkey singing « Um Um Um Um »

Major Lance calling but I ain’t gonna come

 

Well, my baby called and said I’ve been away much too long

I said I know every single word to that song

Long on the highway, but my road days are done

They’ve opened up the speedway and I’m second to none

 

I put wings on my Mustang

Got the radio on

Cops don’t look twice

Cause I’m already gone

 

“Just spent two days in the studio with Dave Alvin. Oh my God, that man can play. This was one of my smart moves” (March 12, 2006)

 

© Annie Provenzano

 

  1. Thirty Years

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

Two in the morning and the bus is late

Gotta get some sleep, gotta gig to make

It’s fourteen hours to the next town

But I’ve got a bottle in my bag and I learned to sleep while sitting down

 

Thirty years going down by degrees

Thirty years of thank you and please

Till all you get is the smokers’ cough and the alcohol disease

Little children, sing this song

 

She said she’d meet me, but she never showed

And now it’s just me and another stretch of road

It’s true, nothing comes free and you pay for all your crimes

Once you give you heart away one too many times

 

You’ve gotta keep moving so you don’t fall down

You’ve got to sing your song, you’ve got to buy the round

It all starts as just a dream of traveling and shows

Till you get out on the road and find all the exits closed

 

 

  1. Dangerous Way

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

I missed the last train back to St. Paul

Returned to my hotel just in time to miss your call

I found a game and came out on a deuce and trey

And I just got lucky in a dangerous way

 

Well, you came to me when the moon was full

and I could not figure out what you were trying to pull

It was not my name you wanted just a place to stay

And sometimes you get lucky in a dangerous way

 

Danger on the river, danger on the shore

If you didn’t want the action, what’d you come here for

Little girl, was it a surprise to finally find the danger in your momma’s eyes?

 

It might’ve been a crime of honor

No one around could say

It might’ve been just a mistake. Things will happen that way

Both men agreed it must be settled at the break of day

Then they drank a round together in a dangerous way

 

Ah, the duel was set for dawn, but the sun it never rose

And it felt like such a waste to get dressed in mourning clothes

Still I saw one man smiling as they led him away

I guess he knew you can get lucky in a dangerous way

 

Down here love is waiting; it just up to you to chose it

And the leaves they don’t change color; they just give it up or lose it

And me, I never needed love until the break of day

That’s when it gets exciting in a dangerous way

 

But you can get homesick in Paradise and the treasure it brings forth

These rivers all run south when you’re trying to get north

And these visions dance around you but they never come to stay

And even Jesus, he can smile in a dangerous way

 

We lay in bed in the winter afternoon

The birds flew overhead, I knew spring would be here soon

I was thinking of a dual I saw that never came to play

Thinking seasons can change in a dangerous way

 

And nothing changed at all in St. Paul in the time I was gone

I was whistling a little tune I learned from Spider John

You asked me if I loved you but I had no words to say

So I just kept whistling in a dangerous way

 

  1. Holden’s Blues

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

A man goes for a lonesome walk when he’s got a heavy load

Just to find there’s too much talk and far too little road

 

One step forward, one step back from daylight into dark

It doesn’t matter which bird sings the nightingale or lark

 

When this world set sail I had my passage booked

Now I can say I found true love, but I can say I looked

 

The carnival it comes to town

The midway lights all burn

How could I keep from spinning ’round

A pretty girl everywhere you turn

 

But summer days pack and move down south just to make room for the fall

They come running through the wheat and rye and you cannot catch them all

 

Around the world and back again I’ve seen the best and worst

Where madness was a blessed thing and mercy was a curse

 

So dig my grave with a silver spade

Make this song my epitaph

And just make sure the digger, he gets paid

And I get the last laugh

 

 

  1. He’s Not From Kansas City

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

He comes a-knocking right upon your door

Got to keep moving to the straight 4/4

He’s wearing shoes they don’t make no more

Don’t need to read the music cause he knows the score

Pick up his horn, the people say

« He’s not from Kansas City; he just blows that way »

 

Look at the women that he come here with

That man can get a dozen just by flatting a fifth

You can have a party till the band begins

And you can’t have a band till the tenor man grins

Pick up his horn, the people say

« He’s not from Kansas City; he just blows that way »

 

So hand me my Selmer, Elmer

Soak me a reed

I’ve got to join the band

This ain’t no time to impede

The tenor plays high for the « K.C. Moan »

But I’ve got the bass covered with my baritone

 

He’s jumping on the highway leaves the notes all bent

This party’s going my way

No more worries about the rent

 

This ain’t no night for trouble

So trouble never comes

We’ve got the police on the trumpet and the landlord on the drums

Pick up his horn, the people say

He’s not from Kansas City; he just blows that way

 

 

  1. Summer’s Jumped All Over Me

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

Winter comes, autumn goes

and summer just keeps laughing

Where the spring is hiding nobody knows

Summer’s jumped all over me

 

I cast my line to a cagey trout

When you fall in love this time of year, there ain’t no room for doubt

My season has arrived

Help me stretch it out

Summer’s jumped all over me

 

A sleeping dog, a singing bird

I wrote this song that you haven’t heard

But I’ll sing it if you only give the word

Summer’s jumped all over me

 

I’ve got no money but I’ve got no chains

I’m on a runaway horse and I throwed away the reins

If I’m going down tonight, I’m going down in flames

Summer’s jumped all over me

 

Hold the phone.

Wait a minute

Hear that mill wheel hum and, baby, I ain’t in it

No, I’m at the wheel of chance

Won’t you help me spin it

Summer’s jumped all over me

 

I don’t mind the winter; I don’t know the fall

I didn’t even notice if spring every showed at all

It’s just the beat of your heart, that all I call recall

Summer’s jumped all over me

 

 

  1. By The Grave Of Baudelaire

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

The rain it broke but would not leave

The clouds hung too low in the air

I walked the lane of Montparnasse

Found a pen by the grave of Baudelaire

 

I walked home and I wondered

How each day alone can feel the same

I took out the pen I stole

And the first word I wrote was your name

 

But I had no letter in me and

I had no words to spare

Without a thought I reached out

And remembered again you’re not there

 

But I don’t need words tonight

Or dreams that can’t come true

Tonight I need your loving eyes

I need to sing this song for you

 

The sun will rise tomorrow

And Paris, it will shine

The bells will ring at Notre Dame

And I’ll write your name one more time

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Canal Street

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Well, if you’re down on Canal Street you can hear the whistle blow

And if you’re down on Canal Street you’ve got nowhere to go

Nobody comes down here without a string of alibis

Except that Hoopi Shoopi girl with Springfield in her eyes

 

Down here the sun sets earlier than anywhere in town

And the red bricks from the woolen mill just draw the cold up from the ground

Well, it’s always winter here; summer’s just a word you memorize

While you watch that Hoopi Shoopi girl with Springfield in her eyes

 

She’s got a laugh like a memory

She’s got a smile like a bruise

And it’s not like she would talk to me

It’s not like she would refuse

And the office girls scream angrily

She’s only the disguise of a Hoopi Shoopi girl with Springfield in her eyes

 

I’ve seen her play accordion at the early morning Mass

And no one can say where she has been or how long on this street she might last

Still she walks with asylum underneath these darkened skies

Just a Hoopi Shoopi girl with Springfield in her eyes

 

So I’ll punch out as the snow falls

Let the seconds shift begin

And I’ll go back to my four walls

Lie down and take my rest again

And when the fever comes upon me

It’s never a surprise to see that Hoopi Shoopi girl with Springfield in her eyes

 

 

 

  1. I Was A Fool

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

I was a fool to think you’d look my way

I was a fool to think I’d hear you say

 

I want you, I need you

I’ll love you for all time

I was a fool to think you could be mine

 

Love don’t come down like falling rain

It slips around

It whispers in vain

 

I can’t stop my heart around you

And I know this dream cannot come true

Still I can’t turn away

So a fool I’ll stay

 

The heart is strong, still it can’t chose

The love you win, the love you must refuse

 

 

  1. Death Letter

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

She came from Knoxville in a party dress

Stepped off the bus, well you know the rest

Me, I was thinking I had nothing to lose

Till she started singing the « Death Letter Blues »

 

She tried to fall in love but not with me

She tried a trick or two she brought from Tennessee (sp?)

I was just looking for sleep but I was refused

As she kept me up all night with the « Death Letter Blues »

 

It was like Son House calling my name from the grave

Saying neither your heart nor your soul can ever be saved

 

Weren’t not rhyme nor reason, no sugar or spice

There was a call to arms and I answered twice

She held too tightly just to give me the news

There’s another kind of evil in the « Death Letter Blues »

 

Did I love her? My heart can never say

Love knows the answer; love don’t give it away

 

Her name it was Pearline, but only to me

Everyone called her Miss Destiny

You spend your life dreaming, you’re gonna wind up confused

And never know the rhythm of the « Death Letter Blues »

 

 

 

  1. Victory At Sea

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

He had a couple stories about the war

But that was all, like it was gone and didn’t matter anymore

The years he gave up to the navy were visited on him not on me

 

A couple souvenirs of what he’d done

A Chinese doll, a silk flag on the rising sun

That was all he ever let me see till we watched Victory at Sea

 

He’d pour a ginger ale in a highball glass

before Sunday dinner and after Sunday Mass

We’d watch it all on a black and white TV

The show called Victory at Sea

 

A ship of heroes without names

Another Zero down to the sea in flames

I saw him smile at the Higgins’ boat and the LST

As we watched Victory at Sea

 

I thought it was just a TV show

But he’d watch each week as if to see some face that he might know

As if each week someone brought in one more home movie

The show called Victory at Sea

 

These days I’ll find it now and then

And I’ll watch a while just to feel the way it was back then

It took so long to learn he saw things I’ll never see

He saw victory at sea

 

 

 

  1. New Walking Blues

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

I went walking down that long road as the rain began to fall

I kept knocking on that big door but no one seemed to know my name at all

 

I’ve seen the sun come rising as I tried to take my rest

Well, it shone like a word heard only in a dream only said in jest

 

Where’re you gonna run to in a world so cold?

Your heart keeps beating on while it’s being bought and sold

Where’re you gonna run to in a world on fire?

When your search for pure love leads to the end of desire

 

Come to me softly, whisper my name

Take me to the place where the day and night are talked of as the same

 

I cannot ford this river till the water starts to clear

The love that I once knew is only hiding now

It did not disappear

 

Rain kept a-falling, no shelter could I find

I kept knocking on that big door but no one seemed to pay me any mind

 

 

 

  1. Johnny’s Tune

(Back to album tracklistBack to album list)

 

Born to the traveling life

That is what we do

We use the whiskey and the wit and the luck to pull us through

 

You look up to the gray sky and tell yourself it’s blue

You look for the familiar when you have to face the new

 

And these days the sun don’t rise as much as it goes down

And things look a little different now that Johnny has left town

 

The air get still before the snow

The street lights stand in place

And just once more I’d like to feel a warm wind in my face

Before the winter settles in and this town gets locked away

I want to break this quiet I want to hear the fiddle play

 

Tonight I’ll song my songs for you

Stand up here alone

And then I’ll make my way back to some motel I’ll call home

And wind down just a little bit with my guitar in that room

But every night I still hear the harmony to every tune

 

With Johnny Cunningham             © Ellen Karas

 

 

Bonus tracks

(Back to album list)

 

  1. Little Bit Of Whiskey
  2. Live Free Or Die (Bill Morrissey & Trigger Cook)
  3. Amnesia (Bill Morrissey & Nick Klaus)
  4. Marigold Hall (Bill Morrissey & Cormac McCarthy)
  5. Picnic
  6. The Trailer Park
  7. Pay Day (Mississippi John Hurt)

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Marigold Hall

(Cormac McCarthy & Bill Morrissey)

Picture Gallery Blues (1996)

(Back to Bonus tracksBack to album list)

 

Tonight we’ll go dancing at the Marigold Hall

It’s mostly a good time, there’s rarely a brawl

Tonight we’ll go dancing at the Marigold Hall

Dancing and dancing till we hit the wall

 

Aunt Sue is so sweet, she’s so big and round

She floats like a feather from her ankles on down

Her husband likes dancing but she likes it more

She drags him around like she’s sweeping the floor

 

Young Reverend Henry sits by the band

His hat in his lap and his heart in his hand

He watches the school nurse dance around with the mayor

And with every twirl he whispers a prayer

 

I always see her when she comes through the door

We used to be lovers, but not anymore

I loved her kisses, they gave me a wrench

They taste like wine, they were so cheap and French

 

There in the corner a figure appears

He’s put on some weight and gone gray with the years

He jokes with his friends as he sings with the band

Nobody says much it’s just Elvis again

 

Now, the wrestling coach slips a five to the combo

They play « Purple Haze » as a lysergic mambo

He knots his shirt round his waist, sticks a rose in his ear

Does an interpretive dance with a bottle of beer

 

The chief of police, now, there’s a man with a plan

Sits by the punch bowl away from the band

He spikes the punch as he sits there alone

Then he pops all the drunks as they try to sneak home

 

Tonight we’ll go dancing at the Marigold Hall

It’s mostly a good time, there’s rarely a brawl

Tonight we’ll go dancing at the Marigold Hall

Dancing and dancing till we hit the wall

 

  1. Picnic

The Silverwolf Homeless Project (1995) Silverwolf / SWCD-1002

(Back to Bonus tracks — (Back to album list)

 

Mama brought a blanket and the picnic basket

And she led us kids out on the grass

She brought Coca-Colas and cold fried chicken

If you wanted anything you just had to ask

 

The sun was shining on me and my brothers

We couldn’t have felt better if we tried

I remember Mama’s words as we broke the bread and fed the birds

Everything tastes a little bit better when you eat outside

 

San Francisco, in eighty two

Me and my bride sat out on the patio

The waiter brought a white wine for the newlyweds

Who couldn’t dream of a better place to go

 

A gentle breeze blew as she moved close

She kissed me on the lips and I replied

I guess my Mama was right when she told me one night

Everything tastes a little bit better when you eat outside

 

It was the summer in Maine, in ninety one

I’d just been laid-off, but the neighbors never knew

I cooked them up the swordfish, the steaks and the chicken

Just about anything you could barbecue

 

That was just a week before my wife packed her things

And took the kids back to her folks in Telluride

But, man, you know those steaks were good, that night back in ninety one

Everything tastes a little bit better when you eat outside

 

Well that’s my story, it ain’t a long one

Every bum on this street has got one to tell

Now it’s just you and me waiting for this restaurant to close

And man, I’ve come to know this dumpster well

 

Yeah, it’s starting to rain now and you better stay low

Because these cops’ll get ya’ if they catch you on the slide

It’s like camping out but really, there’s just no place else to go

Everything tastes a little bit better when you eat outside

You’ll see, everything tastes a little bit better when you eat outside

  1. The Trailer Park

B-side of “Live Free or Die” single (1977)

Shoot the Cat Records / STC 001

(Back to Bonus tracks — (Back to album list)

 

Well you say you love me

Oh honey what am I supposed to do

We both know sometimes you need someone

Just to say I love you too

 

And you speak so softly

Everything turns at your command

Well I can’t stand to face your firing line

And take the loss time after time

Don’t try to play me now with someone else’s hand

 

And don’t the nights pass so slowly

You sit in your chair across the room

With your ladies magazines

Me I’m wrapped up in the TV on my second pint of beer

 

Now you get up without me

Turn off the lights without a word as you go to bed

You can’t see me I’m just as tired my eyes are just as red

 

So here’s one drink now for romance

And maybe one more for the young men who never take the chance

And maybe just one more for those barroom girls

Who know how to dance so right

Get the old men buying them drinks while their young men stay out of sight

Oh they keep their young men out of sight

 


  1. Pay Day

(Mississippi John Hurt)

Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt

(Back to Bonus tracksBack to album list)

 

Yeah, I did all I can do, and I can’t get along with you

I’m gonna take you to your mama, pay day

Pay day, pay day

 

Well, the rabbit in a log, I ain’t got no rabbit dog

And I hate to see that rabbit get away

Get away

 

Baby, did all I can do, and I can’t get along with you

I’m gonna take you to your mama, pay day

 

Just about a week ago,

I’m gonna keep my skillet greasy if I can

If I can, if I can

 

Well, the hounds is on my track, and the knapsack on my back

I’m gonna make it to my shanty ‘fore day

‘Fore day, ‘fore day

 

Baby, I did all I could do, an’ I can’t along with you

I’m gonna take you to your mama, pay day

 

 

 

 

© Ramcey Rodriguez