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Small Town van Gogh

There's a tendency for the media to speak far more about certain people after they pass away than when they were living. Someone dies and they are on every news station. They are on the cover of magazines and maybe a movie is made on their life. I was thinking about this and about people who deserve greater recognition for their work, and Stompin' Tom Connors came to mind. Although Stompin' Tom is a Canadian icon, it seems to me that his songs, which document Canadian stories and people, are not given enough support and appreciation. But if Tom were to pass away, a number of people in the media would be all over the story, including those who have rarely, or perhaps never played or promoted his music in the past. And that's really the point of this song: We shouldn't just talk about what we have when it's gone away.

 

TOM

 

Tom, I hear that you're gone

Left us when you passed away

Tom, you should hear them going on

You're one of our own they all say

 

Chorus:

And you're all over the radio

And there on the TV again

And someone did question, "Oh where had he been?"

Tom, I hear that you're gone

 

Tom, the ink near ran dry

When the headlines ran that you died

Tom, why is it always this way

Some see what they got when it's gone away?

 

Chorus

 

The alarm rings through my head

I wake to find you're not dead and gone

Tom, it's something what's going on

One thing I noticed today

 

I didn't hear you on the radio

And you're not on the TV screen

Or on the cover of a pop magazine

Tom, was here all along

 

 

 

"Send Monica Away" was the first song I wrote after releasing "A Story From a Small Gaspé Town" in 2004. "Monica" is a metaphor for any person or organization that only shows interest in people when they clearly have something to gain.

 

 SEND MONICA AWAY

 

The last thing you said is I'd amount to nothing

As you got in the cab that drove you away

Now I got me some money

And I guess I don't seem all that funny to you

'Cause now you want to come back home to stay

 

And my answering machine shows you're calling

And now you're knocking on my mansion door

I got one thing to say, send Monica away

 

I guess you didn't see it coming

I guess it threw you for a spin

The funny thing about money is

Like bees to honey they start coming and you

Tell me, where now have you been?

 

'Cause I ain't no machine, and I ain't calling

And now you're knocking on my mansion door

I got one thing to say, send Monica away

 

Remember when I was poor with nothing

Yeah, no one knows you when you're down

One thing I know about money is

And don't it seem kinda funny to you

How it can turn you all back around

 

Yeah I know this scene, and I ain't crawling

So please stop knocking on my mansion door

I got one thing to say, send Monica away

 

 

 

"If I Come Back" was one of the last songs written for this album (Winter 2007), and the only song recorded with drums and bass. It's about someone with an alcohol/drug problem who knows they won't change.

 

IF I COME BACK

 

If I come back baby, will you let me in?

When you know that I'll do what I done again

 

If I call you honey, will you answer that phone?

When you know that I'll just leave you alone

 

I'll run you ragged, I'll drag you down

If you try to hold me up, I'll stagger to the ground

 

If I come knockin', will you open that door?

When you know that I'll do what I done before

 

"My Hometown" is one of the singles to come from Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA"  album. Every now and then I'll stumble on a song that I can relate to. This is one of those songs.

 

"...They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks. Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to your hometown..."

 

 

 

"Over 100 Years" was written after William "Duke" Procter passed away in December 2005. Duke was one of the few remaining Canadian WWI veterans and I was struck by his story. He enlisted in the war at age 15 and was chosen to work in providing lumber for the war effort. Duke was never sent to the front line. As he has said, he was "lucky," but in interviews it was clear that he lived a long life with the memories of all those he trained with that did not return home. Duke died at the age of 106.   

 

OVER 100 YEARS

 

I've seen the world at war

I was there when the Great One roared

But somehow I made it back home

The others are gone, the others are gone

 

Chorus:

And I must have cried

Must have cried a million tears

'Cause I've been here

For over 100 years

 

We trained side by side

But I didn't see the front lines

And now I'm alive and it feels so wrong

'Cause the others are gone, they're all gone

 

Chorus

 

I look across this land

Where you lie, I still stand

And in my mind, it's chiselled in stone

The others are gone, they're all gone

 

Chorus

 

 

 

"Idalene" was written in a backstage room during a show in December 2006. There were a dozen or so people hanging around drinking, smoking, and chatting. There was a guitar in the room and I sat in the corner and wrote "Idalene."

 

IDALENE

 

Oh Idalene, oh Idalene, I want to let you know

How I've been, sweet Idalene, since you've been gone

 

I have tried, I have tried, and I just can't move on

Oh Idalene, sweet Idalene, since you've been gone

 

Lord knows, oh Lord knows, I want to let you go

Oh Idalene, sweet Idalene, since you've been gone

 

Oh Idalene, oh Idalene, won't you take my hand

And walk with me, sweet Idalene, and understand

 

And walk with me, sweet Idalene, I will make you understand

 

 

 

"No One Lives Here Anymore" was written in Winter 2005, around the same time I wrote "Small Town van Gogh." It's another song on small town life, this one about returning "home" years after leaving. Every time you go back, there is a little less… jobs, people, a little less of everything.

 

NO ONE LIVES HERE ANYMORE

 

The rooms are bare, the wallpaper torn

The hardwood stairs are faded and worn

The old front door is straight and strong

Just like the day I closed it behind me, years ago

 

Chorus:

When I followed my intuition

Never cried, when I left my home

And now I'm here, and no one lives here anymore

 

Some people say, us young folks should have stayed

And turned it around, before it all slipped away

Maybe I turned my back on this town

Or maybe it was this place that somehow let me down

 

Chorus

 

I sit alone, in an empty room

Nothing gonna change, 'round here, anytime soon

So I close behind me, the old front door

Just like the day, when I left here, years before

 

 

 

"Nowhere Town" is written from the perspective of a bartender in a small town. In some small rural towns, like the town I grew up in, jobs are few, and opportunities for change even fewer. That reality affects people, their thoughts and actions. It's probably the main reason that so many people have left my hometown. This was written sometime in the Summer of 2005. 

 

NOWHERE TOWN

 

I live in a nowhere town

I've seen 'em walk in, stagger and fall down

From this bar that I work in, in a nowhere town

 

It's 3 am, in a smoky little bar

You'll find me here, 'cause I ain't going far

Mixing drinks, for the drunks, in a smoky little bar

 

The band plays the same old songs

'Til someone forgets what they left at home

In the arms of a stranger plays the same old song

 

 

 

"At The Kitchen Table" is the kind of music that I associate with "house parties" where everyone gets together to sing and make music. I remember kitchen jams more so as a kid, and it now seems to be more of a rare thing in my home community in the Gaspé.

 

AT THE KITCHEN TABLE (instrumental)

 

 

 

"Small Town van Gogh" pays tribute to Gaspé (Bougainville) painter, Tennyson Johnson. I wrote the first verse in Winter 2005 after watching a segment on Tennyson that had aired years earlier on the CBC television series "On The Road Again." Then I called Tennyson up, told him about the song, and sang the first verse and chorus to him over the phone. He said that "Small Town van Gogh" was a "good title" because "van Gogh only got recognised after he died." We spoke a few more times -- about his life and art. We also talked about which paintings I could use in the CD graphics. When I mentioned "Mom's Fiddle" he said, "Oh, that's a nice one, the white rose represents death and the red rose represents life".

 

In the following weeks, I finished the song, and it was during this time that Tennyson was hospitalized while visiting Montreal where he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. On the day Tennyson was released from the Montreal Jewish General hospital, I met up with him and sang the completed "Small Town van Gogh" for the first time.

 

Tennyson returned to his home in Bougainville and on June 7, 2005, he passed away. Tennyson was as humble as he was talented. "Small Town van Gogh" is dedicated to him.

 

Tennyson Johnson

1928-2005

 

SMALL TOWN VAN GOGH

 

Times are hard, in this town

When you're poor and you're a painter

So with hands meant for more

He set it down and went to labour

 

Will they ever know

Of a small town van Gogh?

 

On diamond drills to clearing trees

He found a likeness, on the canvas

And some he'd give or throw away

He deemed them poor, and not worth saving

 

Will they ever know

Of a small town van Gogh?

 

Did you ever think about it?

He's right in your backyard

When you leave and feel all alone

He'll paint you home, paint us home

 

In years he'd stand, in a crowded room

A humble man, with humble beginnings

There on the walls, his work did hang

They gathered around,

and you could hear them saying

 

I know

This small town van Gogh

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A Small Gaspe Town

 

I was born in a small Gaspé town, and I went to small local school

And no one mingled with the “other”, It was us and them, you and me

 

As a child I had learned, ’round here, they don’t want us around

And the only thing thicker than tension, are the walls that lie between the towns

But I was born in a small Gaspé town

 

I’ve had people come up and tell me, when I spoke my native tongue

Don’t you know where you are?

Why don’t you go back, to where it is, you come from?

But I was born in a small Gaspé town

 

I remember sitting in front of the TV, watching the votes come in,

And it could have went either way, And my father said,

“We might have to pack up and move away.”

In the end, we were not one, but not separated…

 

From us and them, you and me. Us and them, you and me.

Je Me Souviens Aussi 

 

’Cause the graffiti on the underpasses, on the sides of buildings and bathroom stalls

Remind us how little we have grown, The slogan reads, “English go home”

And I was born in a small Gaspé town. I was born, in a small, English town

 

 

 

An Apology

 

He sang about living in small towns

How he was never one, to hang around

Songs of freedom, heartache and pain

Guns and guitars, the devil and trains

 

For all I’ve borrowed, but never meant to steal

To you, from me, an apology

 

He spoke of his heroes, and spoke against war

And questioned why we’re waging it for

To his government he said “you don’t represent me!”

When you sentence someone to the death penalty

 

For all I’ve borrowed, but never meant to steal

To you, from me, an apology

 

He could have been singing about my hometown

When he said there’s nothing to do and it can bring you down

He sang of freedom, heartache and pain

Gun and guitars, Jesus and trains

 

For all I’ve borrowed, but never meant to steal

To you, from me, an apology

 

 

 

Shut It Down

 

Cast out your nets boys, drag the bottom of the bay

Cast out your nets boys, drag the bottom of the bay

There’s plenty here to go around,

there ain’t no way they’re gonna shut it down

 

I’m tired of being poor, gonna mine, til the day I die

I’m tired of living poor, gonna mine, til the day I die

Salvation lies underground,

there ain’t no way they’re gonna shut it down

 

So cut em’ down, bring e’m on over, to the mill

So cut em’ down, bring e’m on over, to the mill

Straight up, from out of the ground,

there ain’t no way they’re gonna shut it down

 

And the old folks say, they have seen, better days

And the old folks say, they have seen, better days

And we’re all fools here, sittin’ around,

thinking they’re never gonna shut it down

 

 

 

The Road

 

This road, leads me to some other time

Some other place, somewhere out there I’ll find

Like a dusty trail, it ain’t paved with gold

Blinded and naive, down the road I go

 

I’m going Down the Road

 

This road, ain’t got no warning signs

No direction cues telling you what you’ll find

If I could get back all I had before

I still cash it all in for a slim chance at more

 

Somewhere Down the Road

 

There’s another way, I know

There’s another way, I know

There’s another way, I know

And it’s somewhere Down the Road, Somewhere Down the Road

 

Like a lost soul, From Doghouse Roses I roam

My High Lonesome takes me from my home

Ain’t no way it’s gonna bring me down

There’s got to be something beyond this hard luck town

 

Somewhere Down the Road

 

 

 

Downtown Dirty Train

 

On this downtown dirty train

Are these faces that I don’t know

Are they staring straight through me?

As I’m staring at the floor

And I wonder what they’d say

If I said, “hello there, what’s your name?”

On this downtown dirty train

On this downtown dirty train

 

There’s torn newspaper all around

From those who’ve passed on by

And no one sheds a tear

For the poor man there dying

Are we all desensitized?

Are we really all that vain?

It’s a funny place to find oneself

On a downtown dirty train

 

I guess I don’t belong here

But I don’t know where to go

And the place that I call home

Leaves me feeling all alone

Still I wonder what they’d say

If I said, “Hello there, what’s your name?”

On a downtown dirty train

On a downtown dirty train

 

 

 

Hear Me Call

 

Can you hear me? Cry out in pain boys

Lord, when I was broken, down and cold

I need someone, to help me stand tall

Before I break down, stumble and fall

 

There were times when, I had the strength to

Walk away from, all that holds me down

It’s like I’m under, a demon’s spell now

And I may never, find my way back home

 

Lord, hear me call

 

I did take your, name in vain Lord

When I was broken, down and cold

But now I’m praying, you hear me calling

To help me find my way back home

 

Lord, hear me call

 

 

 

Walking Shoes On

 

Been dragging around this place so long

Thinking about putting my walking shoes on

Anywhere but here, is where I’m goin’

With my walking shoes on

 

To this town where I once was drawn

I leave you now with walking shoes on

With destination still unknown

I’m leaving town, with walking shoes on

 

Been dragging my heels in the dirt too long

Thinking about putting my walking shoes on

And I kick up dust as I move along

And leave no trail with my walking shoes on

 

Anywhere but here, is where I’m goin’

With my walking shoes on

 

 

 

Feels Like Home

 

I'm getting out of here, I'm headin' home tomorrow

Gonna leave behind, This concrete and steel

You're the reason, I am returning

A small price to pay, 18 hours at the wheel

 

Take out my old guitar, And put it on the back porch

Put aside a tambourine, For someone to keep time

We'll stay up all night long , Singin' Drinkin' country songs

Get drunk on whisky, And homemade dandelion wine

 

Don't it feel like home

Boys this feels like home

 

Where's this promise land, Where's the fame and grandeur

The gray blocks out the sun, Never to be shown

Play you're part in a big machine, Lost in a maze you can't be seen

Cause there's too much of everything, And nothing to call your own

 

So we load up the back of the van, We're headin' on down the highway

In my rearview mirror, I see concrete and steel

I'm tired all I see is a haze, I'm burnt out torn and frayed

Lord, a small price to pay, 18 hours at the wheel...

 

Don't it feel like home

Boys this feels like home

 

 

 

The Wilbert Coffin Story

(Click HERE for more background info on the song)

 

My daddy seen him, with shackles on his hands

He was young but knew who it was, all the talk was of this man

And the stories grew, and some they knew more than they would say,

Three Yankees shot, down in Gaspe, some poor boy's gonna pay

 

Just a stoic man, with a few mining claims

When Altoona County cracked the whip, at him was laid the blame

You see, they got their man, but any man could have killed

Cause justice does leave holes that the innocent sometimes fill

 

And Coffin’s lawyer never called on anyone

In his defence, no one took the stand

And the prosecution claimed, “Find the thief, you’ll solve this crime”

But have you ever been in the wrong place at the wrong time?

 

Three years went by, and they sentenced him to hang

He swore “I ain’t the one” and his hangman felt the same

With seven unlucky chimes, and a single death flag raised

Wilbert Coffin was sent to an early grave

 

And then he said . . .

 

“Into thy hands Lord, I commend my soul”

“Into thy hands Lord, I commend my soul”

“Into thy hands Lord, I commend my soul”

“Lord, I, I commend my soul”

 

All Rights Reserved - Dale Boyle