Earthly Pursuits

by Harley String Band

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1.
Come all ye hale and hearties gather ‘round and listen to me For a bit of your time, and a piece of your ear I’ll tell you a tale of the sea Yes, I’ll sing you a song of the sea Our journey begins on no dinghy, nor dock But a chopper in Bayou LaFourche You’re barely awake when you look down and take Your last look over the marsh In the wake of Columbus, Cortez, and Magellan We plow the seas for gold But the treasure we seek is black and it’s thick And it’s three hundred million years old Yes, the treasure we seek is black and it’s rich And its ten thousand feet below A speck on the curved horizon, on the deepwater waves she awaits A whispered prayer for your family As you circle your vessel of fate As you hover in over your fate Our platform is like no fair schooner nor ship That ever set sail or was rowed For it’s pinned in one place and it moves not a trace As the oceans wash over the globe A mosquito of steel, with no rudder or keel It pierces the sea floor below And drinks from a vein, the fossil remains From half an aeon ago It drinks from a vein, the life blood contained ‘neath the Gulf of Mexico The earth may yield her treasure But it doesn’t come easy or free She’ll fight you inch, by inch on land And by fathoms ‘neath the sea By fathoms ‘neath the sea So “swing that wrench” the driller says “You roughnecks move too slow” “And stack that pipe you roustabouts” “And haul that chain down below”. It’s a hole so deep, to look down it would suck the Black right out of your eyes If the plug doesn’t hold, the gas could explode And blow us all over the skies And the more that we drill, and the more that we pump, The higher the waters rise So gather we now, to bow our heads by the shore of the vast unknown As eleven men pilot their funeral barge Into a world beyond, gone to a world beyond We chew on the smoke from the flaming pyre We scrape the tar from our boots Then return to our toys and cars and planes and other earthly pursuits For its marshes to marshes and coast to coast And the crude on the waves as they roil For the harbors, and bays, and beaches And the beauty that we spoil God bless us all, each and everyone And anoint us with oil
2.
Come Hendersons and Heinrichs, MacAllens and O’Malleys We’re living off the fat of the land Our progress won’t be hindered by no mountains or valleys for it’s flat as your mama’s frying pan I like this country fine, I like it mighty good the wind pumps all the water and the cow chops all the wood people try to tell you it’s been dry up till now but the rain follows the plow The Great American Desert it soon will be defeated I heard the Agriculture man say the soil is the one thing that cannot be depleted and the climate grows wetter by the day Don’t listen to the Indians, they’re a superstitious lot don’t listen to the cowboys, they’re a bunch of drunken sots We’re next year people living in the here and now and the rain follows the plow Just use your common sense (the lord shall provide) the end of innocence (the lord shall provide) locusts plague and pestilence (the lord shall provide) and the lord shall provide and the rain follows the plow and the rain… The railroad pushes west, you can ride it for free sending smoke and steam up to the sky The nesters break the soil, plant their crops and trees and the clouds roll in by and by Fortune favors folks that roll up their sleeves next thing you know we’ll bringing in the sheaves it’s our destiny to take all that nature will allow and the rain follows the plow Looks like it might could rain Sure enough feels like rain I’d swear I can smell the rain and the lord shall provide and the rain follows the plow and the rain follows the plow
3.
You don’t need the moon no more You don’t need the sun You don’t need your lying heart Your lying days are done Two of us walked out last night Returning only one You don’t need your lying heart Your lying days are gone Moonlight in the garden Crimson on the snow I’ll hide away your lying heart No one will ever know You don’t need your fancy clothes You won’t see the dawn You don’t need your walking shoes Your walking days are gone Two of us walked out last night Returning only one You don’t need your walking shoes Your walking days are done Moonlight in the garden Crimson on the snow I’ll hide away your walking shoes No one will ever know I don’t need your love no more Now that you are gone I don’t need a broken heart Heavy as a stone Two of us walked out last night Returning only one I don’t need a broken heart My broken days are gone Moonlight in the garden Crimson on the snow I’ll hide away my broken heart No one will ever know
4.
The sun – beats me up in the morning without warning – of the dawning of another day – that’s on its way But by noon – clouds come calling rain starts falling – the sky takes on a whole new attitude – and a different mood And then the twilight draws her curtains and then another day is through and it feels just like the last one cause I’m still missing you Too soon our time was over It seemed like we had only begun you can depend upon tomorrow but, you can’t count on the sun The moon – she shines at night like a big headlight – to blind my sight – And hit me in the eye – and warn the sky With her stars, she flies – but soon they hide in a swirling tide – of clouds both black and gray until they can’t stay And then the dawn she paints her canvas but the morning rain obscures the view and subdues the awakening colors while I’m still missing you. Too soon it was all over It seemed like we had only begun You can depend upon tomorrow But, you can’t count on the sun
5.
03:22
You say that we were lovers in the sixteenth century A landed lord in England was I then And you a lovely maiden of nobility and grace Your reputation sullied in the end You say the day I left you, that you wore pink satin shoes Intently fixed upon them as I fled And you a lovely maiden of nobility and grace Standing there – wishing you were dead When will you wear your satin shoes? When will you wear your lace? And will you love me once again When we leave this place? You become a lover with each rising of the moon But you become a stranger at its wane And you’ve become a prisoner to the passage of this place Not knowing what to do to ease the pain Well, I can’t see the vision in the stillness of the night And I can’t hear the quiet of the day But I can feel a passion and a love I can’t erase This I know with you I’ll always stay
6.
04:15
The folder with foreclosure papers, leaned on my front door Marked “X” beside the line, where I should sign them A car pulled from the driveway, as his right foot pressed the floor In the fields beyond, the seeds were simply dying I pulled aside the curtain, where I’d hidden just before From the sheriff, and the doorbell, and his knocking Standing in my childhood place, where all the kids were born Through the window, the light outside was darkening My grandfather’s father’s farm has fallen down to me He was a man of different times and possibilities Now drought and debt conspire against the family legacy They’re trying to sweep me up, and out of Kansas I see my father’s picture there, as he looked before the war My eyes are wet, the images are blurring My boy he’s got those dimples too, just like his grandpa wore Through the window, the trees outside are stirring It’s not like bad times, never happened here before The Dust Bowl, is blowing through my blood line But the bank account is empty now, and there ain’t nothing more I pray for hope, and then some kind of sign My grandfather’s father’s farm has fallen down to me He was a man of different times and possibilities Now drought and debt conspire against the family legacy They’re trying to sweep me up, and out of Kansas We wish for love. . . We wish for family. . . Wish on the stars above. . . to let us be. . . Just let us be. . . It’s an evening without shadows, and somehow nature knows There’s a tension in the sky in the beginning A cold wind from up north sideswipes a warm one from below It twists and curls the air, and sets it spinning A haunting dance of dust devils, they circle to and fro Some disappear like ghostly apparitions Whirlpools coalesce above and violently let go To kiss the ground in frantic demolition From Canada, to Mexico, and the alleys in between Tornados of different drafts and their conspiracies My family farm is blown away; I’m a memory on the breeze They finally sweep me up, and out of Kansas Bless Mexico and Canada, and the alleys in between Tornados of different drafts and their conspiracies The family farm is in the wind, floating on the breeze They’ve finally swept us up and out of Kansas Yeah, they’ve finally swept us up and out of Kansas
7.
8.
I sailed a ship to Swansea To see my native land, And walk the roads my father walked Before my life is done My children’s mother stayed behind Asleep in holy ground As I walked there, I thought of her Amid the fields of stone Standing stones and misty mountains Ancient legends fill the land Who were the ones so long ago Who reared these standing stones A feeling drew me from the path And there a ring of stone They beaconed like familiar friends Upon returning home. And now my love of distance years With all the lives we’ve Come dance with me in this fair land Amid the fields of stone Did we dance with ancient Druids Did we worship ancient suns And now my love, will you dance with me Here amid the fields of stone In time these stones will wear away And crumble into sand In time these mountains will be gone And sea will cover land But still our lives will circle on In one unending round So do not wait, come dance with me Amid the fields of stone
9.
Your lamp is flickering low boy On the eve of the Paddington Fair So breathe in deep of the dampening air Mark well your shadow’s unsteady dance Upon the cold stone wall And the smoke as it rises and falls Oh you’re the talk of the town boy The toast of the Paddington Fair Though many will offer a heartfelt prayer In spite of the mercies that you’ve been shown They’ve finally done you in boy Your wickedness and your sin You’ll don your fine white hat and coat On the morning of Paddington Fair From Newgate out through Hanover Square As bricklayers beggars and ladies fair Will toss you fruit and flowers To mock your final hour Atop the hill in Tyburn Green In the middle of Paddington Fair The hideous wooden three-legged mare A rickety ladder and ten thousand necks But a necklace just for one All shining in the sun A hush will come over the crowd boy Throughout the Paddington Fair To hear what repentance you may declare As if your words and your miserable sobs Could save you from their scorn For you’ll wear no crown of thorns So nod to the ladies and gentlemen In the stands of the Paddington Fair They paid well to watch as you dance on air To see how you jerk and soil yourself And you offer up your tongue As your tender neck is wrung Will you hear your dear old mother boy O’er the crowd at the Paddington Fair She’ll weep o’er your corpse and stroke your hair She’ll fight with the Royal Surgeon’s men Who’d strip you from your hide To see what lies inside Your lamp is flickering low boy On the eve of the Paddington Fair
10.
There’s a full moon rising over Half Moon Bay You always swear you’re coming back to stay But the plane leaves tomorrow And you know you’ll be on board There’s still something missing from that master plan Hatched in a hammock here in Roatan Blown in with the breezes But you’re leaving with the tide So fare thee well, Sweet Caribbean This is the last time I’m leaving you behind And here’s to you, senoritas Look for me by moonrise – Half moon moonrise Your first love down here was the Yucatan And then lying in that warm Puerto Rican sand Had you ready to pack up And you nearly cut the cord But you’ll dream of the rhythms of Montego Bay While scraping the windshield in your cold driveway The frost and the freezes, the risk and the reward Now the sun is rising over Half Moon Bay The driver knows you’re coming back to stay He smiles in the mirror yeah he’s heard it all before But you still have work left on that master plan Caught between money and the moonlit sand The rent and the runway The breakers and the shore
11.
03:30
Down a drunken alleyway High above Lake Atitlán Mayan priests sit on Pepsi crates And offer smokes to Maximón Candles light the concrete walls Flower petals and paper cups Where Maximón sits silently A tourist curiosity Such a hard way for a God to fall Save a cigarette for Maximón The Church has left him out there on his own He’s still attended by a faithful few Seems even saints need sinners too Fallen women and their customers And all who cannot cast a stone Climb the rocks and cross the lake To offer gifts for Maximón A gambler may deal an ace A dealer may drop a dime As Maximón waits patiently For a Pall Mall or a few quetzales A thousand years across his wooden face All ye less than perfect ones Whatever path you walk upon Set aside a sin or two And name it for Saint Maximón An evil deed that’s left undone A bottle with a few sips left For Maximon’s proud effigy To serve an outlaw deity You don’t know where redemption might come from Even saints need sinners too Even Gods need sinners too
12.
02:54
When your road grows weary And the darkness drives away the sun Just remember this little thing At the dawn another day will begin When for love you’re searching For a love that never fades away Just remember this little thing At the dawn another day will begin You don’t know where you’re going You don’t know where you’ve been You know you feel so bad today But at dawn another day will begin When your friends desert you And you find you’re finally at an end Just remember this little thing At the dawn another day will begin When all faith escapes you And an inner light has died within Just remember this little thing At the dawn another day will begin When your road grows weary Another day will begin
13.
Carry me back to North Virginny The roads are all full so I never shall roam Might pass the time if I had any Carry me back to my home How fondly I recall our starter mansion Way back when Ashburn was out on the edge Four car garage to park all six cars in Salvadorans toiling in the hedge Had to move out across the state line To find a little space Now we drive three hours each morning To join the human race Once there were trees in North Virginny But the chain saws they buzzed till I thought I’d go deaf Maples, and pines, and oaks are so pretty We still have six of them left Pardon our dust while we envision A vibrant downtown scene I’m going to find that country road Soon as this damn light turns green! I-66 B4 HOV - 267 to IAD AOL you so Y2K - LOL VRE 495 to 7-11 - WTOP MS-13 in SUVs - What’s the BFD?

about

What’s on the new Harley String Band album?

Two ecological disasters
One murder ballad
One public hanging
One ode to a Mayan god
No love songs. (Well, one, sort of)
…and One Hollies cover

Ah, but we’ve only scratched the surface of “Earthly Pursuits”. If you’re getting the picture that this is not a typical string band, you are correct. The Harley String Band is a trio of bold singer-songwriters who just happen to favor banjo, mandolin, and bouzouki in support of their adventurous songscapes.

The featured track, “Deepwater Requiem” presents the Gulf of Mexico drilling disaster as an epic poem, focusing on the workers who paid the ultimate price. A Great American Song Contest finalist, the song begins as a sea shanty and then gathers an intensity befitting a movie soundtrack. File this ambitious cut next to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

To put some pins in the genre map, aside from the occasional nod to Trad and Appalachia, you’ll find HSB primarily in the Americana singer-songwriter bucket. (Think Townes van Zandt, Gordon Lightfoot, Gillian Welch). Their penchant for minor key narrative suggests the influence of Celtic troubadours such as Al Stewart and Richard Thompson. The British invasion is clearly audible in their song structures, vocal arrangements, and in the album’s only golden chestnut: the Hollies’ “Look Through Any Window.” Sonically, the bass-and-drum-free arrangement evokes ‘60s Folk Revival.

credits

released April 1, 2015

Jim Johnson: Guitar, Banjo, Vocals
Jim Clark: Irish Bouzouki, Guitar, Vocals
Steve Coffee: Mandolin, Guitar, Vocals
Produced by the Harley String Band, 2015 Recorded and mixed at Cue Studios, except Maximón, recorded by Gary Jaffe and mixed by Eric Waters. Mastered by Mike Monseur at Bias Studios. All songs self-published. All rights reserved. Lyrics and more at www.harleystringband.com. Maximón illustration by Rodney Parsons. Cover photo by Bead Whore’s friend. Other photos by Steve Coffee. The band would like to thank the Songwriters Association of Washington, The Folk Club of Reston-Herndon, Ron Goad, Sean Russell, Ken Schubert, Eric Waters, Gary Jaffe, and the Cofradia of Santiago de Atitlàn. Steve would like to thank his womenfolk. Finally, thanks and appreciation to the songwriters who have inspired us over the years.

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Harley String Band Fairfax, Virginia

The Harley String Band is a trio of bold singer-songwriters who just happen to favor banjo, mandolin, and bouzouki in support of their adventurous songscapes. Jim, Jim, and Steve are old enough to remember when folk music was considered important and relevant, and they work to meet that expectation. ... more

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