Love in the Time of War (a demo)

Here’s how the song “Love in the Time of War” came to be:

   Several years back, Melissa and I scoured Pennsylvania’s courthouses and graveyards looking for her ancestors. We visited the Pond Eddy Bridge, a two-span, one-lane steel structure crossing the Delaware River between the hamlet of Pond Eddy in Lumberland, New York, and Shohola Township, Penn.

    We were looking for Melissa’s great, great grandmother, Katherine Dunbar.

    Shohola once had a quarry, which furnished the bluestone for New York’s sidewalks during the later part of the 19th century.

    This time frame and the setting was the basis for our story/song.

    I picked the Civil War period to place our first lovers.

    To my surprise when I looked up the wars between the Civil War and the First World War, I discovered that we truly are a nation of warriors, as the U.S. military fought 38 wars during that time. Most were with the Indian tribes we systematically removed from their lands. Others were with our neighbors south – Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua. Still others were overseas (Philippines. Samoa, Brazil, China).

    This gave me the plot line: These wars, as most are, were fought by generations of working-class Americans.

    Once upon a time, it was assumed most young men and women didn’t consummate their love until they were properly married, and if the young man was going off to war, often marriages were hastily arranged so that the couple could have conjugal relations without scandalizing the families.

    Hence the title:  Love in the Time of War.

    The story and its tie to American history make this song the closest thing I’ve come to traditional folk.

    Full disclosure requires that I confess that this isn’t the song Melissa had in mind when she “commissioned” it, though she does allow that it’s a pretty good song. Also, it took forever for this story to reveal itself. Close to 10 years by my reckoning.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

 

Love in the Time of War

I work a quarry in Shohola
sun never shines that far down.
all day long I cut bluestone rock
bound for New York sidewalks.

some day I’m gonna take Katherine away,
we’ll cross that Pond Eddy Bridge
in the meantime I’ll fight for a cause
I don’t even know what it is.

(chorus):
Please marry me
I need your loving
Don’t know how much
longer i have.
You may be
a widow next month
but marry me now
for the time we have.

I told my father it was time to leave
and he said tell your momma
I told my mother I had to go
she said you’ll break Katherine’s heart

(chorus)

I’m back at work in Shohola
While Katherine raises our four children.
all day long I cut bluestone rock
Bound for New York sidewalks.

Now our eldest says he is ready
To marry and do his duty
No matter how much we beg him
I can almost hear him say:

(chorus)

He works the quarry in Shohola
sun never shines that far down…

 

Trying to Keep the Record Straight
(a demo)

I love to write story songs.

Seeing as mine are totally fiction, I get to imagine things outside my life: like murder and gambling and philanders and mesdames. (See Getaway Smile).

Here’s the latest, about a man lured into a night that changed his life — and not for the better.  

 

Trying to Keep the Record Straight

(Chorus):
I’m not bagging or complaining
I’m just trying to keep the record straight

Now let me say this, right from the get go
I didn’t kill her didn’t even know her well.
i just met her the night before
down at the Indigo Hotel.

She was drinking Harvey Wallbangers
I hadn’t seen that drink in a long time.
And she was sitting like she shouldn’t
and she just smile when I said evening ma’am.

She said you don’t have to be so clever
already enough of that round here.
Just stick with me, kid, they’ll call you Lucky
And we’ll just see what we’ll see.

(chorus)

About 2 am it got kinda weird
Guy shows up 3 sheets to the wind.
He said something, she slaped him hard
He pulled a gun and it’s the killing kind.

Cops came and dragged me away
I never saw him or her again
They kept me up 48 straight
Talking to every single man with a badge

(chorus)

I never saw a lawyer no not one
I never really had a pray
They say I killed ‘em, killed em both
I said I never killed her, I swear.

(chorus)

so let’s end this like we started
I didn’t kill her don’t care what they say
And you, sir, can believe me or not
You see that won’t change a thing.

It Ain’t Easy to Get to Heaven (a demo)

     In preparation for my someday trip to New Orleans, I’m reading “Empire of Sin: A story of sex, jazz, murder and the battle of Modern New Orleans.”

    It covers the years 1890 to 1920.
    Fascinating.
    The Rev. J. Chandler Gregg, one of the leading black ministers of the day, is quoted as saying: “It is no easy matter to go to heaven by way of New Orleans.”
    I wish more songs would fall in my lap like this one. This song was written about as fast as I could put down the book and grab my guitar.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

 
It Ain’t Easy to Get to Heaven

(Chorus):
It ain’t easy to get to heaven
if you got through New Orleans.
It ain’t easy to get to heaven
If you go through New Orleans
I may not get to heaven
Cause you know the flesh is weak

It ain’t easy to make a living
if you’re out on the street
It ain’t easy to make a living
if you’re out on the street
That’s why they built them fine houses
Down in New Orleans

They say those houses, in New Oreleans
are houses of ill repute
They say those houses, in New Oreleans
are houses of ill repute
I say that just depends
on your point of view

They say don’t drink, don’t do drugs
and whatever you do
stay way from them girls.
In other words don’t have no fun.
I say what they don’t know
won’t do ‘em no harm

Somebody’s Gotta Pay (a demo)

     The origin and title came directly from being knee deep in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and wondering who was going pay for all this mess. Not just clearing and cleaning and repairing our place, but the whole island.

     Then as I was writing it, it became something more than just about the storm. For you people of the Book, you might sense the Creation story, Eden, Noah and Job.

     Not too worry, though, this isn’t some sappy sentimental song of faith and happiness (have you noticed it really doesn’t work that way?), but rather a foreboding warning of those dark nights when you feel a very real abandonment.

     The search for Why is ongoing. Probably the most asked question in Heaven!

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

 

Somebody’s Gotta Pay

 

Chorus:
Somebody’s gotta pay
Somebody’s gotta pay
Somebody’s gotta pay
for all this mess
that’s been made.

 

The lights are out
A dark mind roams
Then there comes a howl
that sears your soul
It’s not for nothing
we must atone.

 

(chorus)

 

Well there was a woman
And there was a man
And they took a notion
to see for themselves
Now we all must pay
but they were led astray.

 

Well it did rain
But it was the wind
That drove the waves
Where they’d never been
And what was left was made
to start again.

 

(Bridge):
Now you can cry
About your fate
But it won’t change a thing
(cause someone must pay)
Cause it’s too late.

 

To believe in him
You need know
There’ll come a time
When he’ll just let go
Who would have prophesized
We’d be so easily sold.

 

(chorus)

It’s Always Monday (a demo)

This little ditty uses Monday as a metaphor for when life doesn’t seem to be working out just right. And in this case, all bad things seem to happen on Monday.

It also speaks to that particular day of the week that hardly anyone wants to see arrive. It’s just a bad day all around.

It’s the reason why “it’s never Sunday long enough,” is my favorite line, as it sums up so well almost everyone’s feelings.

 

It’s Always Monday

It’s always Monday when you’re coming down
It’s always Monday when the boss comes ‘round
It’s always Monday when you’re too tired to move
It’s always Monday when you’ve been acting a fool.
It’s always Monday when your car won’t start
It’s always Monday when things fall apart

It’s always Monday when you need to go fishing
And it’s always Monday when the clock stops ticking
It’s always Monday when you see the crack of dawn
It’s always Monday when you want to go home
It’s always Monday when she lays down the law
It’s always Monday when you need a back door

And Tuesday is Monday in disguise
And Wednesday is like thorn in your side
And Thursday like watching paint dry

It’s never Friday when you’re ready to run
Never Saturday when you need some sun
And it’s never Sunday long enough

Blood Red Moon (a demo)

This song came to me soon after my brother Frank died.

Though he hadn’t been in good health, his passing seemed as sudden as it was heartbreaking.

As the younger brother, so much of who I am came from him. Melissa commented that his eulogy, written and delivered by his friend Mark Blakey, could be read as mine when the time comes.

I have written before about how songs seem to be given to the songwriter. This was surely the case here.

It is a lamentation in the best tradition of the blues, evoking the red moon often associated with the end times in Christian literature.

Soon after writing this, we experienced a Red Moon or total lunar eclipse of a super moon (Sept. 28, 2015). It is also referred to in layman terms and religious circles as a Blood Moon. For my song, it became a Blood Red Moon.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

 Blood Red Moon

Oh mama, I don’t know how to pray
Oh mama, I don’t know how to pray
But it sure feels like
I ought to be down on my knees

Oh mama, you can’t hide your tears
Oh mama, you can’t hide your tears
Cause everybody knows,
your son’s done gone ahead

Oh mama, why’d he have to go
Oh mama why did he have to go
Lord, seems like
the good never grow old

(chorus)

Oh mama, what’s around the bend
Oh mama, what’s up around the bend
where the river flows
when the moon turns blood red
where the river flows
when the moon turns blood red