Bryan Cahall | A Gate City Songbag

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A Gate City Songbag

by Bryan Cahall

Ballads, ditties, and movement songs. Potent wordsmithing to humble tunes.
Genre: Folk: Political Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. A Light that Flickers
3:04 $0.99
2. Ain't Worth Much Today
6:50 $0.99
3. The Grifter
3:11 $0.99
4. A Swift Kick or a Grin
3:13 $0.99
5. Sad Songs
3:06 $0.99
6. Labor, Love, and Struggle
3:18 $0.99
7. On Account of My Name
3:51 $0.99
8. Come 'way, Sweet Maria
3:30 $0.99
9. Lindytown
6:25 $0.99
10. Lookin' Idly to the Sun
0:27 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Words and music by Bryan Cahall
Album photo by Biko Tushinde

"A Light that Flickers"

A light that flickers is a light that still burns on
A light that flickers is a light that still burns on
I'll take care of the spark but baby won't you lend
Your pretty little palm just to shield it from the wind?
And honey-baby, maybe this light'll be burnin' on

This crazy old world likes to beat me like a drum
This crazy old world likes to beat me like a drum
I feel mad, feel sad, then I feel alright
I'm fine today, but if you asked me last night
Honey-baby, I'da told you that I was a tickin' bomb

It makes me tingle just the way you look at me
It gives me shivers just the way you look at me
You're as bright as the sun and gentle as a dove
And I ain't ashamed to tell ya, you're my own true love
If you want my heart, then you can have it for free

But it makes me sad that you live so far away
It breaks my heart that you live so far away
If there's no other way, then baby you can trust
They can stow me with the baggage in the bottom of the bus
Where ever you are is a-which-a-where I wanna stay

Now, I got nothin' much to offer you but my little old songs
I got nothin' much to offer you but my little old songs
I was richer when I fell asleep than when I woke
And every single morning, I'm a little more broke
I ain't flyin' yet but baby, I'm a-holdin' on

Well, a light that flickers is a light that still burns on
Said, a light that flickers is a light that still burns on
I'll take care of the spark, but baby won't you lend
Your pretty little palm just to shield it from the wind?
And, honey-baby, maybe this light will be burnin' long

"Ain't Worth Much Today"

One morning as I was waking
Somewhere in this sorrowful land
My legs, they felt like porcelain.
And I rinsed my bleeding hands
The mirror asked me questions,
But I hadn't much to say
My dreams been buried in the night
They ain't worth much today

For long now, I been wanderin',
No place to call my home
But once I had some money,
And a house my very own
But a banker shook his head at me,
Said, "You may's well walk away,"
Said, "I seen you got your papers,
"But they ain't worth much today"

I had the finest paramour
With a girl who was wise and strong
I told her I'd always love her
And keep her well and warm
She said "Keep your promise to yourself
"And let be whatever may
"Everywhere I hear assurances
"But they ain't worth much today"

Way up in Grand Manhattan,
Along the northern line
They're high above ya laughin',
Lips stained with fine red wine
They took my fathers pension
And gambled it away
Now he bears the scars of laborin'
But they ain't worth much today

On the podium, the well-dressed men,
Tin bells of freedom ring
I pray I ain't the only one
Sees their limbs are tied to string
And the other end pulled by the ones who own
And who spin the lies they say
In my pocket there is a voter's card
But it ain't worth much today

My hour glass is broken,
Crushed up in some machine
I mourn my dyin' minutes,
For they don't belong to me
I asked the bossman, "Please dear sir,
"Won't you give a bit more pay?"
He said, "The line behind you is nine miles long,
"Boy, you ain't worth much today"

Heard tale from over the ocean
Of a saint, what was his name?
In the last recourse of peaceful men,
He set himself aflame
'neath the power and steel that rule this world,
Does a rebel still remain?
My prayers go to the pit with him
But are they worth much today?

I do not blame the lord above
For this piling mound of needs
But each day my mouth goes waterin'
And i lean toward evil deeds
I went to the Monseigneur
To confess I'd gone astray
So I have my faith and my clean soul
But are they worth much today?

In June, I wed my sweetheart by her mothers thirsty well
And soon a child was born to us
Her name, Hope Annabelle
Now like flowers I gather parables
And the songs from better days
And nightly pass them on to her
They're all that's worth much today

"The Grifter"

Well noon flared up like dragons breath
The Grifter packed his tent
He knew not where his dream had gone
And he cared not where they went
He scrubbed his breakfast dishes clean
With a fistful of sad
And stared at his reflection there
In the cast iron pan

Now, in the towns he chose his marks
And left their satchels light
But as of late he could not still
His trembling at their sight
Nausea twisted up his guts
And made his toes to curl
For in their eyes, of late, he'd see
The night of all the world

Now. a careless act of faith did lay
His confidence revealed
A partner coldly drew him out
For the bounty he would yield
The Grifter knew to hide himself
Within the wooded maze
But there, found himself still exposed
The forest had been razed

just then, their strode a pipe player
His head just like a skunk
Two hundred children trailed behind
Each one appearing drunk
The Grifter plead for reason
And the reply blew like a gale,
"Now you see the outcome sir,
"The path of all betrayal"

"A Swift Kick or a Grin"

Well, I was stuck out in a hot swamp with no answers
Hung-up, strung-out, steamin' like a fool
And when I tried to blame this saunterin' salamander
He said "Hey, don't look at me man, I know how to stay cool"

Oh, it's hard to say but it seems I been bad dreamin'
And just when you got here babe, I can't be sure
But I'm thankful that I did not wake up screamin'
Naw, I'd barely rubbed my eyes and there you were

Now I fear my deepest thoughts be met with violence
But with you, I'd be remiss to keep my silence

Well I asked the post man one Saturday evenin'
"Hey man, is this where you thought you would be at?"
He said, "Well it ain't no Norman Rockwell painting
"Naw, there is more color in this world than that"

Won't you help me find my way around the city
Won't you help me plot a course and see it through
And if I stumble, honey-baby, show no petty
Just a swift kick or a grin, either will do

Just a swift kick or a grin, either will do

"Sad Songs"

Play me a sad song, play me a sad song,
"Long as history lingers on,"
Said the wise one who kept the flame, "Son
"We shall sing these sad songs"

Oh they built walls around Atlantis
When the storm made landfall, they had to stay
But with memory, coastline receding
Ain't it just simpler to swim away?

I never knew him who drowned in waiting
For his fate, no blame can lie with me
So why do I plead to be forgiven
So many miles from the encroaching sea

I heard a story an old man told me
Slaves were dancing on auction blocks
Gives me reason to be searching
For something more than these sad songs

People rise up, empires falling
All that lives will come to decay
But the wind knows, can you feel it?
Something new blows in this way

Play me a sad song, play me a sad song
If you're asking, I don't know
But there's something bears repeating
We all share these sad songs
We all share these sad songs

Labor, Love, and Struggle

Well the hearts of men are falling
Troubled times are on their way
A depression is soon coming
At least that's what the masters say

We're going where there's no depression
To a land that's free from fear
We gonna labor, love, and struggle
Our home is heaven, we're gonna build it here

Now there are people who will tell you
That it's God's plan in the news
But I just won't believe that
I will say no, I will refuse


The work is long and painful
To make our spirits lift
But when we ache, we'll heal each other
And when we're tired, we'll sleep in shifts


Well, there just ain't know excuse
To wait around in your safe place
So if nothing else will move you
How 'bout a billion children's gaze?

(chorus 2x)

"On Account of My Name"

Mornin' coffee and the paper read
'nother lonely man did wind up dead from shame
On account of my name
On account of my name
On account of my name

Half a mile now from that cruel town
People there told me don't you come around again
On account of my name (3x)

Lost my heart to a wild romance
Lost my money in a game of chance, ain't they the same
On account of my name (3x)

Lot of meanness in the heart of a hungry man
Try to take it out on an old tin can, but in vain
On account of my name (3x)

Sure my papa was a decent man
And I don't mind if he ran for to break his chains
On account of his name (2x)
Or on account of my name
Knees to pray and my hands to fold
Please don't can't me down, dear lord, to flames
On account of my name (3x)

You thirsty people, you best look up
And be satisfied just to fill your cu with rain On account of your name (3x)

"Come 'way, Sweet Maria"

Well, the stars keep a lid on their secrets
And the fates hide away all their schemes
But sometimes I get to suspectin'
That they leave a trail right through our dreams
And I never thought myself superstitious
I believe in coincidence too
So i admit that its strange you should be here
When last night I was dreamin' of you

I know you got no cause to trust me
I never been a virtuous man
But I swear this time will be different
I'll be faithful as Long as I can
And I can't buy a ring quit as pretty
As the one that you wear on your hand
But our vows can be the promise of morning
And the equator can be our wedding band

I been through a season of changes
But I'm not gonna say that I've changed
And I'm not askin' for you to save me
But I surely won't stand in your way
Oh, come way with me sweet maria
To Montana or maybe somewhere
And if one day you love another
Well I reckon that would only be fair

Come 'way, come 'way, sweet Maria
Come away, run your sail up my mast
We can through our affairs to the ocean
Watch that jealous old shoreline roll past
Oh come 'way, come 'way , sweet Maria
Come away and make my bell ring (ohhhhhhh)
We can leave old fate on the horizon
We can chase more meaningful things


Come gather 'round if your houses are warm and you've a piece of good earth for to land on
Far be it from me to judge or to scorn your innocent young daughters and sons
But the tale should be told of a dead miners town and the ruin of a great blue ridge mountain
And what's left of a place along Route 26 that Jesus himself has abandoned

You won't find a soul in poor Lindytown, just the ashes of a funeral pyre
And bent picture frames and rod iron chairs and scrapbooks and blankets and tires
All 'neath the rubble of a majesty gone and the hot stench of old sulfer fires
And the ring of a dulcimer that lingers on, all the spoils of destroyers and liars

Well, the cruel Massey men came with notice in hand and the riches they shamelessly flaunted
And banishment papers, they nailed to the doors, and the refugees exiled and taunted
"Oh, can you sleep or kiss your children having left our homes empty and haunted?"
But the massey men grinned, "Don't you understand? It was never your houses we wanted"

The fumes and the blast must have shattered the glass and stained portraits of bloodlines and lovers
And the rough-handed people of poor Lindytown must have heard it like warshells and thunder
They were brutes who did pound a great mountain to dust and then left for to ravage another
Now the sun, she is veiled behind ashen clouds like the latern of some grieving mother

Dear Quinnie Richmond sleepwalks at dawn in a lonesomeness no one could fathom
She calls out to ghosts, mutters spells to herself but is no longer able to cast them
With her memories gone, all melted away, swallowed up by the deepest of chasms
Even the hymns she would sing to her kin to inspire, to warn and advise them

All the sound that remains in poor Lindytown is a howl through the birches at sundown
And the only rhythm left to dance to now are their limbs as the crash to the cold ground
And the poisonous water as it gargles and seeps through the cracks of a deadly black coal mound
And the deafening silence of twilight church, whose tenant is nowhere to be found

Ahh, take all your silver out to the sound where the ferryman will be a-rowin'
And all of your dead to that hallowed ground where they won't be a-tillin' or sowin'
And all of your queries to the devil or God for no one else can be a-knowin'
And all of your secrets to Lindytown where no one will ever be goin'



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