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An Hour Before Daylight

by Rob Williams

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1.
My daddy was from Rocky Mount My momma from Conway They didn’t have a dollar between them That’s not exactly true They might have had a buck or two Either way they made off for Virginia That’s where I was born and raised Those halcyon days Growing up outside of Richmond On holidays we’d drive South I-95 And my parents they would stop at the state line (and I could hear them say) Oh, Carolina, why did we ever go away? Oh, Carolina, take me to the Old North State My daddy was a preacher Up ‘til I was born I guess the devil in me showed him to the door My momma, she taught history To the seventh grade Until history didn’t matter anymore (and I could hear her say) Oh, Carolina, why did I ever go away? Oh, Carolina, take me to the Old North State My parents they grew old About as old as they could be Neither was afraid of the dark They taught me to go see the world The world I did go see Now I would be like them if I knew where to start (and a voice in my head says) Oh, Carolina, why would you ever go away? Oh, Carolina, take me to that Old North State Oh, Carolina, the sun is gone the hour’s growing late Carry my old bones away and lay them in the Old North State
2.
She went off to the great Northwest With nothing but a wedding dress And what little might have been left of her virtue Nothing I could say or do Could prevent her from going through Marrying the S.O.B. what asked her . . . first I was left recounting days And wondering how things might have changed If only I’d have had the nerve to tell her How fate had made us meant to be My love for her and hers for me Like Victorian poetry unspoken I knew I had always loved her, I knew I had always loved her She called me on her wedding night A little drunk or little high And asked if I had anything to tell her I said you know you can’t be calling me now You took his name and you said those vows She told me in no uncertain terms then to hell with you And she said I never really loved you She told me I never really loved you She said I never really loved the way you wanted me to They settled down but not too well Their ever after went straight to hell Who cheated on who now it’s hard to tell and doesn’t matter She called and asked if I remembered her Said she’d like to go back to how things were And just before I threw that goddamned phone into the river I told her I don’t want to love you, I said I don’t want to love you I told her I don’t think I can love you the way you want me to
3.
Blue 03:46
Go find a jukebox and see what I quarter will do I don’t want to talk I just want to go back to blue Feeds me when I’m hungry and quenches my thirst Loves me when I’m lonely and thinks of me first Blue is the color of night When the red sun disappears from the sky Raven feathers shiny and black A touch of blue glistening down her back We don’t talk about heaven and we don’t talk about hell We’ve come to depend on one another so damn well So go to confession whatever gets you through You can count your blessings me I’m gonna count on blue Blue is the color of night When the red sun disappears from the sky Raven feathers shiny and black A touch of blue glistening down her back
4.
Broken 04:08
You come in here broken, cigarette lit You come in here more often than you’d care to admit Seeking spirits to heal you inside Then the arms of a good man to hold you tonight Because a good man wouldn’t break you Even if he thought he could A bouquet of flowers fresh in your mind A head full of Xanax oceans of time Will not begin to mend you inside Like the arms of the good man you hold out to find Because a good man wouldn’t break you Even if he thought he could But there’s no good man, there’s no good man There’s no good man in sight There’s only me here tonight Someone somewhere, someone sometime Must have wrecked your heart, messed with your mind Left all the pieces broken inside So you come to me broken weary and worn You come to me naked as the day you were born You come to me later than you’d like it to be Letting go of beliefs that you once believed Like a good man wouldn’t break you Even if he thought he could But there’s no good man, there’s no good man There’s no good man in sight There’s only me And I’m no good man
5.
The Butte Daily Miner front page for all to see From accidents and violent deaths this town’s exceptionally free Richard Olds was too young he didn’t leave anyone When died down in the mine they said the fault was his own Tibbett and Bray died the same day Through their own carelessness the tunnel timbers gave way That’s what the company said, how its report read Guess it doesn’t matter now ‘cause when you’re dead you’re dead The richest hill on the Earth Made the poorest men in the town Fight the copper man’s war Down in the cold Montana ground Fat Jack was found dead in his own bed Drank himself to death that’s what the sheriff and the coroner said Opium Jim who never made a friend Met his maker at the hands of other men McEvoy died one night from drinking lye Guess he had to die from something after working in the mine Chorus The place they call Big Butte on the Continental Divide Was the richest hill on Earth in 1885 Work was easy to find there were openings all the time Take a job maybe your last breath down in the Alice Mine Chorus
6.
Icarus dreamt if he could fly He’d get out of this place, see the world from the sky He would ask her to join him if she could dream too Thousands of places they could fly to He’d grown tired of his labyrinth days Year after year winding through the great maze Only to find himself starting again Where he’d started before and had always been Icarus knew one day man would fly He saw his escape and called out to the sky He said, “Waiting for centuries won’t for me do If man is to fly, well, then I’m a man too” He would ask her to join him if she could dream too The world would look different from a bird’s view The big things, the obstacles all would be small From high above not like big things at all She closed her eyes and saw evenings in Rome Bright sandy beaches, places far from home The Gardens, Colossus, a bright shining light She saw in her dreams but she could not see his flight So Icarus took off, he flew all alone Above sandy beaches and evenings in Rome Over gardens and statues, a lighthouse fire Flying alone he flew higher and higher Until Icarus flew too close to the sun Those who saw him fall say his dream was undone But there’s one simple truth they cannot undo It was not a dream the day Icarus flew
7.
Give me your tired and your poor I’ll open up the door Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free I’ll lift up my light Let it shine all through the night And be the hope I hope the world someday to be Yes, we’ll open up this land I know you’ll understand Your father’s father’s father before Needed a new home From the one he’d always known When the old one didn’t want him anymore He and the girl that he loved Saw mountain majesties above Worked the land from sea to shining sea Drove the highway ribbon wind Sang this land is yours and mine Fought the wars to keep the whole damn world free (Repeat Chorus) He worked until the work was done Up an hour before the sun His calloused hands knew no better way Told of a city on a hill Went and found it for himself Lived it, worked it, breathed it each and every day So if the light begins to fade Hearts become afraid Of the tempest tossed knocking at the door Keep your faith undeterred Lest these words become just words Be the light that shines to every distant shore (Repeat Chorus)
8.
Lucy, you’re lovely More than just bones Gathered from rest Beneath desert dust and stone Perhaps not the woman We thought you would be Lucy, you’re lovely That much I can see Why do we think after all that we’ve done You are any less human than what we’ve become You never once sought out Fortune or fame Those things don’t define you You’re more than your name While we search the heavens Our place in the stars Lucy, you’re lovely Just as you are Why do we think after all that we’ve done You are any less human than what we’ve become You travel the world now A world you never knew Lucy, you’re famous We envy you Gathered from rest Beneath desert dust and stone Lucy, you’re lovely More than just bones Why do we think after all that we’ve done You are any less human than what we’ve become Why after all that we put you through Do we claim to be any more human than you
9.
Ready or not here they come to find you You could hide well enough but then what good would that do? It’s just a game though maybe it means more Might be the way they remember you after you’re gone And it feels almost dreamlike Found by smiling faces, two faces at the same time Ready or not here they come they found you Took them a while but it’s worth the big smile they show I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud Give up your hiding place it’s no surprise you’ve been found And it feels almost dreamlike Found by smiling faces, two faces at the same time Their day feels so long Fading into nighttime then bedtime ready or not And it feels almost dreamlike Found by smiling faces, two faces at the same time
10.
Tapping my toes to the rhythm of the sunset Counting my blessings listening to the river flow When she told be ‘bout a place called over the horizon And said no matter how far you run you can never go I was down for the challenge so we loaded up the wagon Running on fumes and a busted old radio Trying to sing along to Chinese Translation Circling the want ads hoping we could pan for gold There were days we thought we may never Make it past these Great Smoky Mountains See the lights of Nashville, Tennessee Life sang to us and we sang along ‘til we run out of road We found a little luck across the Mississippi In the shadows of the horseheads along the Oklahoma plains Greeted by the golden California coastline Staring up at the moonlight of San Simeon on the hood of this Chevrolet Repeat Chorus Came across a preacher somewhere along the highway His work it was to try to save a soul He told me the story of Samson and Delilah And said, “Man, you better make a plan, she’s up to no good, ya know” I said, preacher, you may not believe this but I’ve already Been across the Great Smokey Mountains Seen the lights from sea to shining sea When life sang to me I sang along ‘til I run out of road
11.
Goodnight, Illinois Wish I could stay A lonesome star in the Western sky Wished upon fades away Tonight I make my way home Goodnight, Illinois I leave with you a dream There on your front porch ‘Neath the moonlight and silhouetted trees Hand in hand face to face And if I’m wrong I’ll be wrong one more time And dream of you, Illinois, goodnight Goodnight, Illinois Although the road We choose to walk down Is not the only one there is to know So many times I’ve been told But if that’s wrong We’ll be wrong one more time And I’ll dream with you, Illinois, goodnight So many ways I’ve been wrong So if I’m wrong Then I’ll be wrong one last time And I’ll dream of you, Illinois, goodnight

credits

released October 27, 2017

Recorded April 2017 at Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield ME
Produced by Jonathan Corey and Rob Williams
Cover photo by Vivian Wang

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