What I Been Working For

The musical inspiration for this song is the old-time tune “Sail Away Ladies”, also called “Sally Ann”. Here’s the performance that got me thinking about that.

 

My dad was always short of luck
Never had much growing up
F-100 pickup truck was all we could afford
I started work and never stopped
Climbed the ladder, reached the top
Loaded up my credit card as part of my reward

     I worked real hard to get this far
     Money, house, big fine car
     But no one stays up late enough to meet me at the door
     I wish that I could slow it down
     Take it easy, turn around
     Learn to do without the things that I been working for

My obligations grew and grew
Wife and kids, house and school
The lifestyle we’re accustomed to ain’t easy to maintain
Nights and weekends office bound
Work myself into the ground
I’d like to stop but every month the bills come due again
   
I think my daddy had it right
No sense working day and night
Just to buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need anyway
That pickup took us everywhere
Had food to eat, clothes to wear
Always had enough to share with folks who couldn’t pay

I Heard it in a Song

This is my current favorite. For months I had the fragment “I never lived the kind of life I like to sing about,” but didn’t know what to do with it. I woke up about a week ago with most of the rest of it.

I never worked a farm or been down in the hole
Never rode the rails or heard a lonesome whistle blow
Things are different now, those times are long gone
But I know what life was like back then cause I heard it in a song

     I heard it in a song, and it means so much to me
     The old songs can touch my heart and set my spirit free
     When they sing about the old days, I start to hum along
     I know life was good back then cause I heard it in a song

They worked real hard ‘til the day came to an end
Spent evenings on the porch with family and friends
Went to church on Sunday, they all knew right from wrong
I know all these things are true cause I heard it in a song

I never lived the kind of life I like to sing about
I spend my days behind the wheel on this delivery route
But the radio is playing and my heart is beating strong
I dream about the good life cause I heard it in a song

I Should Not Have Turned and Walked Away

This is by far the darkest song I’ve written. I think it turned out well, but I don’t know yet whether it will stay in the repertoire. The melody was based on the Old School Baptist song “When Sorrows Encompass Me Round”, but has drifted quite far from it.

I should not have turned and walked away
When they blamed my friend instead of me
We both knew the trouble our little joke could bring
But I didn’t want them thinking I could do such a thing
So I turned and walked away

     I should not have turned and walked away
     I should not have turned and walked away
     But to do the right thing would have cost me my pride
     So I turned and walked away

I should not have turned and walked away
When I saw the coach hurt that little boy
The both of them knew that I’d seen what he’d done
But it would have cut short the career I’d just begun
So I turned and walked away

     I should not have turned and walked away
     I should not have turned and walked away
     But to do the right thing might would cost me my dreams
     So I turned and walked away

I should not have turned and walked away
When I saw the truck hit that little girl
She might not have died if I’d taken the time
But when you save a life you put your own life on the line
So I turned and walked away

     I should not have turned and walked away
     I should not have turned and walked away
     But to do the right thing would have cost me my life
     So I turned and walked away

Have Mercy on the Working Man

This song is more calculated than most of those I’ve written. The structure is deliberately strange. I don’t know if it will end up working. I’ve spent way more time than usual tweaking the words, and am still not especially happy with the words. This is the first song I’ve written with Chris; he provided the melody.

I went to see the doctor for the pain in my chest
Temperature rising, feeling distressed
Tossing and turning, can’t find my rest

Doc said I’d be glad to set you straight
But your last few payments have been a little late
If you can’t pay cash, you’ll just have to wait

     Have mercy on the working man, trying to find a way
     To live his life the best he can and work another day

I know my payments have fallen behind
But times are tough, my income has declined
Please have mercy, ease my worried mind

Doc said I’m sorry, nothing I can do
If you were busted, Uncle Sam would see you through
But while you’re still working, the bills come to you

     Have mercy on the working man, trying to find a way
     To live his life the best he can and work another day

Treadmill I’m walking stretches on and on
Too rich for assistance, too poor to get along
But things will get better once my money is gone

     Have mercy on the working man, trying to find a way
     To live his life the best he can and work another day

Get Back in Line

This song was inspired musically by the Flatt & Scruggs song “Get in Line Brother”, lyrically by the old Kinks song “Get Back in the Line”. It’s mostly an excuse for Chris to show off his Scruggs-style guitar playing.

Work within the system, learn to get along
That’s the best way to righten the wrongs
Don’t start fussing that it ain’t good enough
If you keep on making noise things may start to get rough

     Get back in line, my brother, get back in line
     Stick with the duties that you’ve been assigned
     If you want to make a difference, learn to lead from behind
     Get back in line, my brother, get back in line

Patience is a virtue, not a disgrace
Slow and steady will win us the race
Stand near the back when the bosses come around
It’s the nail that sticks up that gets hammered down

Things today are looking mighty bleak
But like it says in the Bible, blessed are the meek
Learn to get along for all that you’re worth
If you don’t rock the boat, you’ll inherit the earth

Six White Horses

This was inspired by songs called “Six White Horses” by both Bill Monroe and Gillian Welch. But I only stole the idea of six white horses, plus the “coming after me” from Welch. The melody is basically “Mystery Train” as heard by the Ridgewood Boys.

Six white horses met the train today
Took up their burden and slowly rode away
Six white horses driving down the road
Heads bowed down by the weight of the load

Six white horses pulling up the hill
Townspeople watching, silent and still
Six white horses coming two by two
Still can’t believe what we asked him to do

Six white horses coming round the bend
Laid down his life for the love of his friends
Six white horses stopping at my door
To bring home the boy who’d gone off to war

Six white horses coming after me
Today the Lord is gonna set me free

Save the Roses

My attempt at a country song.

Once I wanted to climb to the top of the heap
Wanted praise for the things I had done
But now all I want is a good night’s sleep
Save the roses for when I’m dead and gone

     Save the roses for when I am gone
     Don’t need praise for the things I have done
     Just looking for a friend who’ll stand by me to the end
     Save the roses for when I’m dead and gone

I piled up a fortune to see me to the end
Then all my plans came undone
Now nothing’s more precious than the love of a friend
Save the roses for when I’m dead and gone

I wanted people to look up to me
To think that I was the one
But fame has a price, while the good life is free
Save the roses for when I’m dead and gone