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The County Primaries

 

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1. The Beloved Country

I'm going to the country, where the wild breezes blow like whispers through the cottonwood groves. I'll be taking off my shoes where the ripplin' waters flow; beloved is the country I know.

Chorus: Where the names of the rivers run like music, and the names of the mountains roll like stones, and the name that I hear such a sweet voice calling is my own, is my own.

I'm going to the country, the harvest has begun, the golden fields are shining in the sun. The land of milk and honey is in the cow and the 'comb; beloved is the country, my home.

(Chorus)

There's thunder in the distance, there's a hunger on the wind, the storm clouds are gathering. They're going to spill the banks of heaven's joy upon the earth below; beloved is the country, I know.

(Chorus)

I'm going to the country on a feather and a prayer, and there's no freeway from here to there. I have heard the whispers on the early morning breeze: "Beloved is the country".

(Chorus)

2. I Will Take it With Me When I Go

There's a summer rain approaching from over in the west, it hangs out in the valley like a soft, silk dress. I can smell it like a perfume carried on the wind. How big is this world we're living in?

It was a silver summer midnight such a long time ago, I was lit up by that desert moon in New Mexico, and the fire in her eyes, and the freight train in my chest... lord, I can still taste that kiss!

Chorus: All this world will pass away I know, but I will take it with me when I go.

Five nickel strings and nice steady roll, a river from the fiddler tumbles and falls. It flows like whiskey, it sings like the skies; that's what I hear when I close my eyes.

Will you dance with me darling in a soft summer rain? Can I tell you my heart, can I give you my name? Can I lie down beside you inside your embrace and drink the wine of your sweet face?

(Chorus)

When I go like a sparrow, when I go like a kite, When I go like a last breath into the night, I'll carry all my treasures onto that angel train and I'll ride off into the approaching summer rain.

(Chorus)

3. Desert Wind

Desert wind, I'm blown away like a desert wind. Been to Zion and back again, wandering, sifting sand. High and dry, tossing caution to a thirsty sky. The bottle's empty now and so am I, capsized, bleary-eyed.

Chorus: I'm just too far down a Utah highway to ever gain control again, I'll just keep blowing like a desert wind.

Ceiling fan, I'm wired up like a ceiling fan, hot and bothered like a poker hand in the Promised Land, I'll be damned. Spins my head, the Book of Mormon by the motel bed, looking lonesome like it ain't been read. Go ahead...

(Chorus)

Mandolins, Spanish guitars inside my head. Let's skip the town and paint the desert red... Sunsets, silhouettes, thunderclouds... Such a sky for crying out loud. Hard tears on the barren ground, falling down, they just keep falling down.

(Chorus)

4. Ocean

There's an ocean in your eyes, deep and true and royal blue, a mariner's delight. The color sure becomes you, it's where I will abide. I will row my little boat across the ocean wide. I set my course towards your love. I feel the way the moon is pulling at you from above. When I take my leisure it's in the pleasures of my life upon the ocean of your love.

Oh my ocean...

On the horizons of your smile, I always like to linger there for a little while, swirling in the eddies, drifting with the tide, and when the warm breezes blow you take me for a ride. Upon the currents of your laugh, wild and free it buoys me upon my wayward craft. If I drown, you can take this for my epitaph: "He found his way to heaven on her laugh"

Oh my ocean...

There's an ocean in your eyes, and I have been swept away by the ocean's rise. Until my journey's over this will be my paradise, sailing on the ocean in your eyes.

Oh my ocean...
Oh my ocean...

5. I Wonder

Ships set sail, oceans swell. The planet spins like a wound-up carousel. Parrots talk, pirates plunder, and I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

The henhouse wakes, the garden glistens, the Aspens quake, the Quaker listens. The wind blows 'round, above and through and under. And I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

Money talks, good feet stumble, opportunity knocks, cookies crumble. How much cake does it take to feed the hunger? I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

Christmas comes, children light their candles. Empty tombs spew out their Advent Scandals. Love reigns, the skies thunder. And I wonder, I wonder, I wonder

6. When I Go Out at Night

When I go out at night, I don't mean to do no wrong. But the nightlife it just calls to me and I've got to go along. I slowly close the door, try not to wake my wife, they're all asleep and no one knows when I go out at night.

When I go out at night, it's a kind o' restlessness. Something still within me from those wilder days I guess. And she's waiting for me in the shadows past the back porch light... My old dog just runs around when I go out at night.

When I go out at night, I'm a dancing drunken fool. I'm wearing my old cowboy hat, I must look pretty cool, alone there in my backyard, no one to see the sight, just drinking up that midnight sky when I go out at night.

They say the night life ain't no good life for a home-lovin' man. But I guess that that just depends on where it is you stand.

When I go out at night and I stand beneath the stars, there ain't no jukebox playing and there ain't no broken hearts, but there's wood smoke on the wind tonight and that moon is such a sight all wrapped up in that midnight sky when I go out at night. Yeah there's wood smoke on the wind tonight and that moon is such a sight... Excuse me while I kiss the sky, when I go out at night.

7. The Slow Ones

I like the slow ones, the languid days of June. Walk out past the fence line on a lazy afternoon. The tall grass moves like water when the wind says something wild. I am a child, I am a child.

I like the slow ones, those sad old country songs. Steel guitars and midnight bars and someone done you wrong. There's just something about the harmony, something about the moon. I'm in tune, I'm in tune.

Chorus: I've been running at full throttle for so long! I'm gonna park my El Dorado out behind the barn, and sit there 'til the dawn, and watch the day become one of the slow ones.

I like the slow ones, yeah, those ones are the best. Curled up like two old love birds in our empty nest. You know me like a heartbeat, you warm me like a fire when I'm tired, and I'm so tired.

8. St. Valentine's Day

There's a braided old rope on the Cape of Good Hope, and a small wooden boat tied up tight. Joseph and Laura climbed down to the shore and eloped off into the night. They bore their devotion into a confluence of oceans, their faces showing no fear. Innocent as feathers they sailed off together. The weather looked rather unclear.

In the wild frozen north on an Icelandic fjord a courtship was sweetly begun when Stefanson's daughter jumped into the water with Olafur Vigfus' son. As the sky exploded in tulips and roses they burned like torches ablaze. Beneath the Borealis in a cozy ice palace they swore they'd love each other for always.

Chorus: Well, hey, it's St Valentine's Day. Who knows what a rose might suppose on Valentine's Day? Sometimes love gets carried away, but it's only St Valentine's Day.

Mildred and Bill drove up the hill in an old Coup de Ville in the rain. The tired engine sputtered, Bill quietly muttered "Aw, this old girl is showing her age. Hold on my dear! Soon we'll be there, the doctor will know what to say." But as they passed by the park she clutched her sweet heart, and softly and tenderly faded away.

9. Hands of Time

All the pretty girls are growing older. I don't know why they always want to call me "sir". Tattooed ponies prance across their shoulders. The years gallop past us in a blur.

All the old boys are down at the casino with the Rock and Roll Legends from a long time ago. The Mustangs, Corvettes and El Caminos are lined up like candy in a row.

Hold on tight to the tender hands of time, cuz buddy, it's an uphill climb.

When I told you I would love you forever, I did not know the distance -- does that mean I lied? But you held me close in my hour of darkness, and you loved me like Forever when I cried.

Hold on tight with your tender hands of time, cuz Darlin', it's an uphill climb.

When this tired world reaches some conclusion, and beauty falls like manna from skies so sublime, we will wonder how we suffered our illusions when we let go of the tender hands of time.

Hold on tight to the tender hands of time. Man, it's an uphill climb.

10. Northeast of Eden (Fallen Snow)

On the leeward side of wintertime, the world puts on her weary boots and wanders through the sad, sodden snow. No longer the girl in the wedding gown, from not too long ago.

Tethered to a memory, a picture postcard virgin world of freshly fallen snow, I stumble through the freezing rain to hunker down by my fire's glow.

Chorus: Northeast of Eden, where February doesn't want to go, hearts are growing heavy trying to bear the weight of fallen snow.

There's an old dodge in the ditch, and a dead horse down on Dunn Road -- the blood covers the snow. Welcome to the Wild West in the wintertime, please drive slow.

(Chorus)

Today I heard the news about your break up, and it caught me unaware, such a sad state of affairs, you never know... Seems like no one ever stays together any more.

11. Comfort

It's as if you've always known that it was coming, like an echo from the hour when you were born. Your mother spoke strange new words of comfort in answer to a question that you could not form.

There was a steady hand holding things together just when it seemed it all might come undone. When the shadow of your doubt stretched out before you, the light right behind you was the rising sun.

Chorus: All I'm saying is I hear the sound of thunder like a locomotive rolling through the rain. In the darkness of the night I often wonder if comfort is not too far away. Comfort is not too far away.

All the rocks that you've been throwing thru the windows of the old abandoned mansion on the hill, trying to raise the ghost behind the curtain, but you're not quite certain if he's real.

Throw one for the castles that have crumbled, throw one for the weight of the world. Do these prayers wind up in the dust amongst the floorboards, or are they are gathered up like a string of luminescent pearls?

(Chorus)

"Rise up, Lazarus my brother, and wipe away that dead look in your eyes! The morning light is dancing on the water, so rise and shine!"

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The County Primaries
Original cover artwork by Katherine Nelson

 

 

1. Move Away From the Light

The moon hangs low in the western sky
A little sliver of hope on the horizon line,
A little hazy from the wildfires.
It was a lightning strike a couple days ago
A few miles up the county road
Now it's burning fast out of control.

The windows glow from the TV sets
The kids around the internet
Little campfires unattended.
There's a gust of wind, a knock at the door
The Sheriff says you'd best be out by morning
Or it might be too late.

Move away from the light, move away from the light
Things are not as bright as they appear.
Move away from the light, move away from the light
Now's the time to move away from here.

Time was, it was the best of times,
You used to walk those woods in a state of wonder
While the whole world went whirling by.
But now it's up in the morning, a shot of caffeine,
You blow some smoke in front of a screen,
And let the dominoes deal with the reckoning.

Move away from the light

So where do you go, and what will you do?
And what are you going to take with you?
And how much can you stand to lose?
You grab your suitcase, some shirts and ties
A cardboard box of manila files
And some keepsakes that you never use.

And that sliver of moon slides into the smokey haze
Like a goodbye to the good old days
And you check your phone while the radio whines
Some crazy kind of John the Baptist line
About the coming fire.

Move away from the light, move away from the light
Things are not as bright as they appear.
Move away from the light, move away from the light
Now's the time
Now's the time
To move away from here.

2. On the Line

Cast your questions just a little farther
Hold a little tension in your line
The rainbows rise like whispers on the water
Rippling cross the shadows of the pines

Bending like a willow towards the morning
Out before the sun begins to shine
Suddenly it strikes without a warning
You know you've got some heaven on the line

On the line, sometimes it seems you find
You've got a little heaven on the line.

Being that it all begins with water
I'm leaving all these dusty roads behind
I don't know the stillness like I want to
I need a little heaven on the line.

On the line...

Jesus loved that Galilean Water
He walked up on it, he turned it into wine
Fishermen and hookers and curious onlookers
They knew they had some heaven on the line.

On the line...

3. Fallow

There's no harvest, and there's no yield
There's no profit in a fallow field,
Just hitchhiker seeds in the blowing dust
Weeds growing inside the tractor ruts
The good intentions are all used up
And I'm out standing in my field.

And I'm trying to make it rain
Trying to find my time again
I lost it somewhere in between
The shovel and the hill of beans
In the shadow of these big machines
I'm trying to make it rain.

Fallow, the fields are fallow
The roots stop shallow
The well runs deep
Down below the plow and the harrow
The bone and the marrow
Hallowed be...

There are bones beneath this soil
Down below the sweat and toil
And they just might up and dance I'm told
Walk real tall on streets of gold
Ain't no grave will ever hold
The soul beneath these bones.

So turn it over, lay it by
Cover it with winter rye
Time will ease the furrowed brow
While you fix the tines upon the plow
The time to hesitate is now
Just let it lie.

4. As Quiet as Grace

As quiet as Grace
As simple as silence
As gentle as water
As steady as rain
As crazy as loving
For as long as it takes
This world waits for something
As quiet as Grace.

Angel of mercy
Mother of praise
Sister of brothers
Who've squandered their ways
She don't say a word
As she washes your face
In Living Water
As quiet as Grace.

Look for her shadow
To fall 'cross your face
She'll be there waiting
You'll know the place
Down by the River
Where sins are erased
I've never seen nothing
As quiet as Grace.

5. The Last Days of Indian Summer

September left late this morning
With a half-hearted chilly breeze
It went shuffling southward on down the lane
Just killing time by degrees
And October comes on like a woman
Dressed in some old flannel gown
These last days of Indian summer
They sure like hanging around.

The leaves are all restless to let go
The winter wheat sprouts in the fields
The sunflowers quietly bow down their heads
And that blue sky just don't look real
The oak tree stands in her glory
She's the backyard homecoming queen
The last days of Indian summer
They don't always say what they mean.

Tamarack burns in the woodstove
It's keeping me warm while I wait
Seems like she was just starting school
Tonight's her very first date
Lord I know the passing of seasons
I hope she'll be coming home soon
These last days of Indian summer
Play some kind of bittersweet tune.
It's the last days of Indian Summer
And winter's coming on soon.

6. Medicine Bow

He came from Wyoming, he was a man of few words
He'd seen the last of the buffalo herds
Laramie Dan, yeah he moved kinda slow
Because of what happened in the Medicine Bow

He said the winter of 45, Lord it was hell
Four feet of snow turned to ice where it fell
And the Indians tell how the buffalo cried
Their legs all tore up, bloody and broke, and they died.

Four hundred carcasses lay there to rest
But the Indians say that when the storm passed:
Twenty huge buffalo, whiter than snow
Were heading up into the Medicine Bow.

I belong to the sky
The wind on the prairie it blows such a terrible cry
So I'm going high in the Medicine Bow when I die

Well the West opened up and the railroad came
Slashed up the belly of the Midwestern Plains
Cold iron rails and cold iron guns
Dead buffalo, and dead Indians

Now four million carcasses lay there to rest
Worn like a medal on the white man's chest.
Ain't nothing so awful in this world below
As the death song sung by the White Buffalo

I belong to the sky...

Laramie Dan says that not long ago
He was up high in the Medicine Bow
He found him a couple old buffalo skulls
Bigger than any that he'd ever known

And you may not believe it, but he swears that it's true
He slept there and dreamed 'neath a cold pale moon
Of a hole in the sky, and when he awoke
His legs were all tore up, and bloody and broke

I belong to the sky...

7. It Was You

While the cotton sleeves of New Years Eve, 1982
Wore their tattered hearts out on the frozen avenues
Another year departed like a drunk man in the mist
And the barmaid at the 219 was not the one I kissed
It was you, it was you
Long before I opened up my eyes I knew that it was you.

In the morning all the poets were lined up outside my door
Trying to have a word about this girl that I adored
I was in my notebook, trying not to be outdone, no one knows
Just how young a man is at twenty one but you
It was you, declining all my offers of the moon, it was you.

There were Miles and Miles of Texas in a crowded old saloon
I took you by the hand and I spun you 'round the room
Tied up in your French braids and tangled in your smile
I thought I knew the angles, but I guess it took awhile with you
It was you, and I was dizzy with the motion and the music and the moment with you

Boys are bound to wander from the comfort of the nest
From that awkward first encounter with a bottle or a breast
We tumble to the pavement just like marbles from a bag
And roll around like nothing, as we shoot and piss and brag
And it was you, it was you
Receding in the distance like a road sign in my mirror, that was you.

The swings were mostly empty, the slide was long and slow
I don't know why I picked a playground as the place to let you go
Just the ghostly grip of something from adolescent years
We stood there on the green grass fighting back the tears
And it was me, it was me
Striking my best tragic pose... but I suppose you knew that wasn't me.

Last night I dreamed about you, we were dancing close and slow
Just like that winter's night so many years ago
When I woke up the moon was in your salt & pepper hair
I guess I'm just the guy who's always had a prayer and it was you
Me and you
Long before I opened up my eyes I knew that it was you
And it is you
Half a life together and the kisses just get better with you.

8. The County Primaries

The Big Red Barn rose into view, right out of the upturned sod Like a cherry on top, or the world's biggest apple, Or the nose on the face of God And Scarlet O'Hara's probably waiting inside With a jug full of strawberry wine She'll blush when I kiss her on her big ruby lips And I'll show her one red hot time. The Big Yellow Bus on the side of the road in the hot June afternoon sun It broke down, overheated, like a big stick of butter It's a lemon and it just won't run. The pretty young teacher in the sunflower dress With her little chicks all in a row They stand there squirming in the dandelions Yellin', cuz they gotta go. Well the world turns nice and slow
Out ere at the end of a county road
And Mister, what you think you know
We heard it four years ago
Can't tell my left hand from my right
So I'm going back outside
These colors hold the light
A whole lot better than your black and white.

The Big Blue Sky is a cartoon sky and it's funny how it's in her eyes
When they laugh, when they cry, when I'm swimming inside 'em
Like a blueberry swimming in a pie.
If I stand on my head I might fall up to heaven
Lord, wouldn't that be a sight.
I think about this when I'm feeling kinda blue
And then I know everything's alright.

9. Upstairs

What with the wind and the cold,
Well, I just don't know, I can't find my car keys
And you don't like parties, and anyways,
You heard what the weatherman said
So honey let's stay home, and go upstairs instead.

The moon is abreast of the new fallen snow
The sky is a dress that is cut very low
The stereo sings to us soft and low
Let's go upstairs (let's go)

Newlyweds in an old picture
That hangs at the top of the stairs
Turn left down the hall
As the night softly falls
Time dissolves when sweet love calls...
For nine thousand days I've known your kisses
I got lucky when I met my missus
It must have been my farm-boy savoir fair.
So what do you say we go upstairs?

Your ears and your nose, your neck and those
ocean blue eyes up close when I kiss you
It's all so familiar and fine...

Who's that in that old picture
That hangs at the top of the stairs?
Turn left down the hall
As the night softly falls
And time dissolves when sweet love calls.

10. Courted by Canyons

Maybe the mountains are moved by the mornings
And brought to their knees every night
And inclined by the days to the high lonely places
Where they tremble with earthly delight.

Maybe the first men that moved to the mountains
And the canyons of New Mexico
Opened their eyes when they realized the size of the
Things that we'll just never know.

I've been courted by canyons, stricken by stones
I've heard them call out my name
In the tongues of old lovers dressed in fiery colors
Wet with the southwestern rain.

I was not fully grown when I set off alone
Through the valley of bones in the rain
Looking for God in the canyon beyond
I was cocksure that I knew the way.

The thunderheads grew and the desert winds blew
Through the sage and the juniper trees
And when the lightning bolt hit, I had to admit
That the journey begins on your knees.

I've been courted by canyons...

Whence comes the day, when it crumbles away
And the canyons lay down in the dirt?
And the rocks that have dwelled with things privately held
Split open and spill out their hearts?
v So baptize me now if the water allows me to
Marry myself to the mud
As the red water flows in the banks of arroyos
I'll know I've been washed by the blood.

I've been courted by canyons...

11. A Murder of Ravens

A murder of ravens waits in the wings
Folded like napkins, their black eyes are watching
The deer in the headlights, the screech of the brakes
The presence of prey, the absence of grace.
A murder of ravens, a roadside game
A murder that doesn't quite live up to it's name
They wait on the side, but they won't do the deed.
They're watching the wounded as they bleed.

A murder of ravens, a jury of peers
All of God's creatures are living in fear
Of the mind of the mob, the rule of the road
Of being picked clean down to the bones.

It's a game of survival without any rules
Scavengers starved for the stumbling of fools
They're only there to lighten your load
And leave the carcass by the side of the road

A murder of ravens slowly withdraws
Into the night with probable cause
It's a question that only nature reveals:
Are one man's misfortunes another man's meal?

12. Julian

The evening sings with swallow's wings The morning brings the rain
All things shall be well again
So says Julian

Those ancient, wise and weary eyes
That watched the world above
That walked the marbled midnight skies
And'd thirst for heaven's love.

Oh, oh oh
When will we ever know
All things shall be well

The heart believes in mysteries
The mind believes in none
The eyes that see, o blessed be!
The light outshines the sun!

Ten thousand tired fugitives
Lonesome, on the run
With no less days to find our ways
Than when we've first begun

Oh, oh oh...

I cannot see the angels' wings
No matter how I try
Julian, she takes her hand
And peels back the sky

Oh, oh oh
In a little while we will know
All things shall be well

 

All songs copyright (c) 2010 Kevin D. Brown