ABOUT THE SONGS

BLOOD RED MOON

Barbara Bergin – lead vocal, guitar
Jane Gillman – guitar, harmonica
Mark Viator – electric and acoustic slide guitars
David Carroll – bass

 

BLOOD RED MOON 
There’s a taste of metal in the air.
Blood on my hands, no one sees it there.
News says someone’s dead and something’s burning.
He played me a song I wished I learned.
CHORUS
Now I want a man who can give me all he can.

And I’m following his footsteps in the sand.
And when I find him, I’m gonna hold on with both hands.

Hole in my pocket, nothing ever stays.
I hear someone cussing, and someone prays.
He stayed with me till I wanted to be alone.
But I never took the time to learn his song.
CHORUS
Last night’s dinner burned, cold on the stove.
And I think of him whenever we’re alone.
Clouds at night, couldn’t see the blood red moon.
Sun come up, why don’t you leave my room?
CHORUS
Woke up to music rolling in my head.
Hotel room key underneath the bed.
Blood Red Moon gone. Pine trees burning down.
And I ain’t ever coming back to this old town.
I ain’t ever coming back to this old town.
CHORUS
And I’m following.
Yeah, I’m following.

I’ve already said a lot about Blood Red Moon, but there’s more to tell. I was just fooling around with the flat-picking licks to Cluck Old Hen (again…see Like Father Like Son), when they morphed into the tune that later evolved into this soulful song. While I do write some sad songs, I wouldn’t necessarily call this one sad. It’s more enigmatic than anything. Is she a bad person? What has she done? What will she do? Will her life be better or is she going down some path to hell? If you’ve read my novel, ENDINGS, you’ll know that I have no fear of letting my characters spiral…in every sense of the word. Take wings and fly little Blood Red Moon gal.

Oh, and yes, you can buy a copy of ENDINGS

 

Captain of the Robert E. Lee

Barbara Bergin – lead vocal
Rich Brotherton – guitar, mandolin
Chip Dolan – accordion
Merel Bregante – percussion, harmony vocal
David Carroll – bass

CAPTAIN OF THE ROBERT E. LEE
Woodpecker tapping on sycamore bark.
Weeping willow bends to the breeze.
Skipping flat rocks off the deep sandy shoals.
My yellow dog barked at the trees.
She went down the old tow path when the big whistle blew.
Heard the steam engines grinding their way.
Red silk floating off the sand bar at noon,
And the coal ash so thick on the wake.
CHORUS
My daddy was the Captain of the Robert E. Lee.

That was a secret my mama told me.
Go down to the banks of the Mississippi.
And wait for the passage of the Robert E. Lee.

They sent me to live with the sharecropper’s kin,
And they put me to toil in the fields.
My brother learned cards down in old New Orleans,
And my sister looked pretty in silk.
At night when the sweat dried so cold on my skin,
And the blisters still wept in my hands.
She sang me to sleep with a babe’s lullaby,
That came to me soft on the wind.
CHORUS
Like my mama and my sister before me,
I wear silk when the nightingale sings.
And I long for touch of my sweet mama’s hands,
And the promise the river might bring.
Now the sun is a pink line to the back of my neck,
And the moon is a snake on the sea.
I’ll go down the old tow path when the big whistle blows,
And wait for the sound of the wheel.
And wait for the sound of the wheel.
CHORUS
                                                          …the Robert E. Lee

As of this writing, most of my ballads are written from a male perspective. There are reasons for this, and now is as good a time to talk about them as any. Firstly, as an orthopedic surgeon, I have spent what is now, the majority of my life, in a vastly male-dominated occupation. There were a lot more guys in my pre-med course of study than gals. There was a 1:6 ratio of women to men in my medical school class, where I met my husband…one of those guys! And if I thought the world of medical school was dominated by men, nothing would compare to my residency and now my private practice. I am, as of this writing, the only female orthopedic surgeon in my group of 37 surgeons, physiatrists (of which one is a female), and rheumatologists. Over time, I would say that I have learned to look at the world through a masculine scope. I really do see many things their way…from their perspective. This might be good or bad, depending on your point of view, but it is what it is, and I’m not unhappy about it. So I can and will write songs from a man’s perspective.

And I hate to beat a dead horse, because I’ve already spoken of this in my About Blood Red Moon piece. The majority of songs were written by guys, especially when you look back on traditional bluegrass and folk songs. Bottom line. They wrote the songs. If women wanted to cover them, we had to either sing them from a male’s perspective, change the words around to the feminine angle when it fit, or not sing them at all! So, for a woman to sing a song from a male perspective is not uncommon. What’s really interesting, is that there are not very many songs written by a man, from a woman’s perspective. The only one that comes to my head off hand, is John Prine’s Angel from Montgomery, which is one of my favorite songs. The lyrics are compelling. Just for an exercise, I re-wrote those lyrics from a male perspective. Try it. It don’t work.

When I was a young man,
I had me a cowgirl.
She weren’t much to look at.
Just a free-rambling gal.

Okay, first of all, for some reason, it’s not so bad to be a guy who’s not much to look at. But there’s nothing lyrically romantic about a gal who’s not much to look at. Plain and simple, that’s our misogynistic world for you. And again, lyrically speaking, a free-rambling guy and a free-rambling gal are two different animals, and to an extent, even now…guys can more easily live a free-rambling life. Back then, it was the guys who left home at a young age to find their way, went into the Army or Navy, went to gamblin’ and bawdy houses. They fought with their fists and with guns. They took off looking for work: in the fields, the mines and oil rigs. On trains, and ships. On horseback. They more often lived a life of crime, and all too easily paid for it with their lives. Women were burdened by their physical inequality, their social inequality, and finally, with their fertility. In those days, if a woman was on her own, she couldn’t go work on a man o’ war. She couldn’t take off alone, on horseback. First group of rowdy men she ran into would soon overpower her to no good end. It was a world of insecurity and great danger for women. And there was nothing exciting about it. A woman’s objective was always to find a man to take care of her, in every sense of the word. And not totally unlike today, a good man was hard to find.

Now I will say, that while I’m sure I could write a few songs about a rotten, no-good man, who made my life miserable, and then dumped me, I can only do so much of that. It’s just not in me that much. I have one of those songs, but it didn’t make the cut on BLOOD RED MOON, not because it’s not one of my favorite songs. It just didn’t go. If I do a second CD, it will definitely make the cut. Watch for Cowgirl Golden Rule!

So here’s what might become of an adventurous woman, before modern times. That is, before birth control and real rule of law. She would get pregnant, by choice or not. If she didn’t have money or family, she could sew, make hats, or become a hooker, “get taken advantage of,” and then die in childbirth. Hell, women died in childbirth with regularity, even if they weren’t adventurous. Today, in the United States, complications related to childbirth remain the 6th most common cause of death in women 20-34. Imagine what it would have been like before anti-sepsis, anesthesia, C-sections, and peri-natal care. And especially before safe and effective birth control. We can be a lot more adventurous now, because we can easily control our reproductive potential…and there are more laws to protect us.

And that, my friends, is why I write many of my songs from a male perspective. I like to imagine a free-rambling world. Wish it had been possible for women back then. It just wasn’t.

But I wrote Captain of the Robert E. Lee from a female perspective, and you know that what plays out in this song, played out over and over in those times, and sadly…all too much these days as well. Women in many parts of the world, including the U.S., remain in a vulnerable state. The relatively few of us who can live freely, have control of our lives, and can ramble…are so very fortunate.

About the Robert E. Lee. I had this vision. A youth (boy or girl), skipping flat rocks in the slow moving waters of a sandy shoal on the side of the Mississippi. Just a peaceful, sultry afternoon in the late 1800s. Maybe it was Huckleberry Finn I saw in my mind’s eye. Old, over-sized, cut off pants, held up with a rope belt. A raggedy T-shirt, or whatever they wore back then. Remember, in those days, there wouldn’t have been a lot of ambient mechanical noise. The sound of crickets and bullfrogs predominated. And suddenly, somewhere far in the distance, a mechanical beating sound. Something unfamiliar, unless you had heard it before. The sound of a steamboat coming up the river. When it was far away, you could only hear the crisp thudding of the steam engines. But as it neared, you could hear the flapping of the paddle wheel, and the continuous splashing of water through the boards. Before you could see the ship on the water, you would perhaps see the thick, black cones of coal ash and steam billowing from the stacks above the tree line. Just try to imagine the sight of that ship rounding the bend! So powerful. And a vision into something different. A different life. Something better perhaps. Then as the ship passed, the ripples of the wake would lap against the shore, and the ash would hang in the air. Now, imagine two of those ships racing up the Mississippi. The Robert E. Lee was famous for having beaten the fastest steamboat on the river at the time; the Natchez. The Robert E. Lee made the trip from New Orleans to St. Louis from 1866 until 1882, when it caught fire, as did most steamboats of the time. I had all that in my mind when I wrote Captain.

Daughter’s Lament

Barbara Bergin – lead vocal
Rich Brotherton – guitar
David Carroll – bass
Merel Bregante – harmony vocals

Daughter’s Lament
Outside a five and dime in Chicago,
I met a fancy gamblin’ dude.
He wore a fine silk lace around his neck,
A silver buckle on his shoes.
Well he promised that he loved me,
And I sorely loved him back.
Till I saw him with the banker’s widow.
His fine lace round her hat.
CHORUS
Well my mama tried to warn me,

About them shiny penny boys.
They whisper you their lyin’ lies,                     
And they rob you of your coin.
And my daddy always told me,
Till his talkin’ days were through.
Just put your trust in a thick legged horse,
And keep ten dollars in your shoe.

 

Well I went down to Houston town,
Where I met a fine cow hand.
He had a big brimmed, brown, beaver hat,
A silver buckle on its band.
Well he told me that he loved me,
And I truly loved him back.
Till I saw him with a red dress gal,
Comin’ out of the sugar shack.
CHORUS

Outside the stockyards of Kansas City,
I paid nine dollars for a mare.
She had a fancy blaze, three white socks,
A coat of warm, shiny, copper red hair.
I bought a well-made leather seat.
And I threw it up on her big, strong back,
And we headed up to Albany.
CHORUS

 

This was a happy attempt to create a free-spirited woman of the past: one who tried to live the free-rambling life. And in the end, she high-tails it back to Albany, and maybe the security of family, or a faithful suitor waiting for her there. But how does a tender, young woman ride horseback all the way from the stockyards of Kansas City to Albany, New York. In my dreams, I hope she made it. And I hope she was infertile. 

I wrote the first two verses of Daughter’s Lament, and really liked where it was going. I thought about a third “relationship,” but then thought the better of it, so Daughter’s Lament only has three verses. I remembered the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Getting shafted by three dudes in the early 1900s, would have made my gal either stupid or a woman of loose morals. And in the end, she finally takes sound parental advice.

Did Rich Brotherton do a great job on this song, or what? I play this song using a Travis picking method, and I love to play it. But my nervous hands would not have made it through the recording sessions x 4. Rich nailed it, with an old-timey honky tonkish take. Goal: try to play it like Rich does. And Merel Bregante knew all the words! And he pinch hit the background vocals!

 

Let’s Get on Up!

Barbara Bergin – lead vocal
Rich Brotherton – guitar
Jane Gillman – dulcimer, harmonica, tambourine
Tanya Winch, Becca McCann – Harmony vocals
David Carroll – bass

LET’S GET ON UP!

When I was a little bitty baby,
My mama took me to the riverside.
There she washed me before the Father,
Made me ready, for the blessed bride.
CHORUS
Let’s get on up to the highest mountain.
Let’s get on up to the highest cloud.
Let’s get on up to the highest mountain.
Say the Word, and sing out loud.

 My mind is burdened with the earthly passions,
And now I’m ready for the Lord’s release.
My body’s toiled in the rocks and pastures,
And now I’m ready for the Father’s peace.
CHORUS
My daddy left me to find my mother.
They are no longer here by my side.
They’ve gone to live in the golden mansion.
They said they’d meet me in my own time.
CHORUS
Now if you think that he’s not with us,
Then I ask you, open your eyes.
And look not to the work of sinners.
Look instead to the morning sky.
CHORUS

This song’s evolution surprised the hell out of me. Now, I do play my guitar and sing some gospel tunes at horse show Cowboy Church, but I never thought about writing one. On my way to ride my horse, I was driving down the highway, when suddenly, without warning, I start singing, “Let’s get on up to the highest mountain.” I was like, “Whoa back! This is turning into a sweet little gospel tune!” I knew it was going to be old timey, with all the old timey references, like an immersion baptism, going to the mountain, and golden mansions. Plus, a sinner smack down! It doesn’t get any better than that. It feels like a summer tent revival.

 

Like Father Like Son

Barbara Bergin – lead vocals
Rich Brotherton – guitar
Darcie Deaville – mandolin
David Carroll – bass
Mandy Rowden – harmony vocals

LIKE FATHER LIKE SON
Grandad kept a bottle of corn,
Down in the cellar to the back of the barn.
Thought he had it hid from baby brother and me.
Took a switch to my leg from the hickory tree.
CHORUS
Corn, corn, little sip of corn,

In the back of the barn since the day I was born.                        
Corn, corn, little sip of corn.
There’s an old saying, like father like son.

Daddy kept a jug of the homemade stuff,
Down in the well on the old pine bluff.
Hanging up tobacco on a hot afternoon.
Just a little swig, so daddy never knew.
CHORUS
Left my home when the moon was high,
To fetch my girl and make her my bride.
Butterflies in her tummy.  Heart’s in my mouth.
Stop at the well and we’ll calm down.
CHORUS
I keep a little bottle of my favorite brew,
Hidden in a cubby ‘hind the chimney flue.
Noticed my son acting funny, like a clown.
Found that whiskey watered down.
CHORUS
There’s an old saying, like father like son.

I wanted to write another bluegrass tune, so I looked through the Central Texas Bluegrass Association’s compendium of songs for their picking circles, in order to seek and find a subject matter. And I found alcohol. Alcohol is good fodder for a bluegrass tune. I chose rotgut corn whiskey as my spirit du jour. And the rest was just another story. I slipped into my manly head, and made one up about a few generations of boozers.

Cluck Ol’ Hen (traditional)

Barbara Bergin – lead guitar
Rich Brotherton – guitar
Darcie Deaville – fiddle
Jane Gillman – banjo
David Carroll – bass

I really enjoy singing Cluck Ol’ Hen*, and took to memorizing a flat picking lead for it a long time ago. And then the chords just happened to work with Like Father Like Son. For some reason, I stuck that F chord on the end of Like Father Like Son. I like that sound, even though LFLS should finish with a G. But it doesn’t. And therefore, it goes with Cluck, and I got to play my one and only lead on BLOOD RED MOON. Now by the time everyone else chimes in, you can’t hear it, but it’s there! I enjoyed it so much, that I decided to finish the CD on that score! And even though I don’t sing the lyrics on my CD, I like them so much, I’ve added them here…

CLUCK OL’ HEN (…just for fun)
My old hen’s a mighty nice hen.
She lays eggs for the railroad men.
Sometimes one, sometimes two.
But that’s enough for the railroad crew.
CHORUS
Cluck ol’ hen, cluck and squall.
Ain’t laid an egg since way last fall.
Cluck ol’ hen, cluck and sing.
Ain’t laid an egg since way last spring.

My old hen, she might do.
She lays eggs and taters too.
Sometimes nine, sometimes ten.
But that’s enough for the railroad men.
CHORUS
My old hen, raised on a farm.
Now she’s in the new ground, diggin’ up corn.
First time she clucked, she clucked a lot.
Next time she clucks, she’s cluckin’ in the pot.
CHORUS
I got a little chicken with a wooden leg.
Best layin’ chicken that ever laid an egg.
Lays more eggs than any chicken in the barn.
Another little drink wouldn’t do me no harm.
CHORUS

 

Low Water Bridge

Barbara Bergin – lead vocal
Rich Brotherton – guitar
Jane Gillman – lead guitar, bell
T Jarrod Bonta – piano

 

LOW WATER BRIDGE
Low Water Bridge, at the fishin’ hole.
Meet down there when the water ran low.
Shufflin’ in the green moss, found a tadpole.
Low Water Bridge, at the fishin’ hole.

Low Water Bridge, first day outta school,
Cold beer floatin’ in the middle of a tube.
Roll up our jeans and take off our shoes.
Low Water Bridge, first day outta school.
CHORUS
As far as I remember, this creek never ran dry.

Green moss grows thick on the deeper side.
Spring time comes, white water runs cold.
Smooth as glass now the water runs slow.

Low Water Bridge for the very first time,
Kissed my love in the waning moon light.
He smiled at me, and I closed my eyes.
Low Water Bridge for the very first time.

Low Water Bridge, now the water runs slow.
Meetin’ my son, got our bamboo poles.
He’s coming from work, hope he gets to go.
Low Water Bridge, now the water runs slow.
CHORUS

Low Water Bridge, at the fishin’ hole.
Meet down there when the water ran low.
Shufflin’ in the green moss, found a tadpole.
Low Water Bridge, at the fishin’ hole.

This is one of my earlier songs, and in retrospect, I don’t know how I came up with that lovely tune. Gawd, I wish I could do that kind of thing over and over. But I’m thankful it came to me back then. I was finishing up my novel, ENDINGS, when a couple of song ideas came into the right side of my head, and I started challenging myself to come up with lyrics. I dictated Low Water Bridge while driving to San Antonio for a horse show. I made up my mind that I would write a new song that weekend, and I would pick the subject of the song on the way there.

Just as I left my neighborhood, I drove over one of the ubiquitous low water bridges that speckle this dry area, which is likely to flood with anything more than a splash of rain. Since the creeks are dry most of the time, I guess it’s not worth the expense of building real bridges, ergo the low water bridge.  And if that isn’t an image made for songwriting, I don’t know what is. I did finish the song that weekend in San Antone, riding at my favorite equestrian facility, the San Antonio Rose Palace. I love its old-school ambience, and while warming up my gelding, and walking in my friend, Farley French’s neighborhood, I got it done.

When I was a teenager, we didn’t have Google. We didn’t have mp3s. We didn’t even have tapes back then. Unless you wanted to go buy sheet music from a music store, there was no way to cover tunes unless you picked them out by ear or were taught how to play it by one of the local guitar heroes. Occasionally an artist put their lyrics on the back of the album cover or on the sleeve. Remember the paper sleeve which enveloped every album? I remember when I bought my first album, I thought the envelope was like a paper bag, meant to be thrown away. So probably the first dozen albums I bought had no paper sleeves. Finally someone told me they were there to protect the vinyl! Anyway, I spent many an hour, lying down in front of my little cardboard suitcase record player, lifting and replacing the crude stylus on my Disraeli Gears and Beatles records. I had to do this in order to write down the lyrics, as well as to learn the chords. Forget about the Beatles tunes. There were not many G, C and D chorded songs there, but many other artists played in those familiar chords, and then there was always the capo. But the point is, that I learned to play by ear. It was the only way. I learned a lot of songs, both correctly and incorrectly that way.

One song that comes to mind is Willing, as covered by Linda Ronstadt. It wasn’t until the advent of the Internet, did I learn the line was “From Tehachapi to Tonopah,” and not “I had to beat the snow and the fog!” Hey…the line I heard made sense, but I always felt that it wasn’t quite right, and that vinyl album was scratched to hell over that line. I always sang it just like that, and no one ever questioned it. Think about it. How could you even guess it was Tehachapi and Tonopah, unless you knew those places existed? If I had even thunk they existed, back then I would have had to look them up in the encyclopedia! And how could a person even know how to spell them if you couldn’t hear them on the vinyl after listening to it 47 times and deciding, “the hell with it. Today it’s had-to-beat-the-snow-and-the-fog?” Especially when it made sense in the context of the song. Now if I had heard, “I had some meat and toes from a hog,” that might have been different. Those lyrics were one of the first things I looked up on the Internet when it was invented.

I recorded a sketchy version of Low Water Bridge on my Dictaphone, came home and figured out the chords my old fashioned way. By ear. And I was so glad I had the little hand held tape, and didn’t have to squat down on the floor to move a stylus back and forth.

 

My Life’s Good (Cuz I Don’t Live in the City)

Barbara Bergin – lead vocal
Rich Brotherton – guitars
David Carroll – bass
Merel Bregante – percussion
Mandy Rowden – harmony vocals

MY LIFE’S GOOD (CUZ I DON’T LIVE IN THE CITY)

I got a job working downtown.
Don’t ask why, it’s the one I found.
Every day at six, forty-mile drive.
Turn on talk radio, keeps me alive.
Listening to stuff about politics ain’t pretty,
But my life’s good cuz I don’t live in the city.
Yeah, my life’s good cuz I don’t live in the city.

Saturday, Sunday I’m up at dawn,
Feeding cattle, dogs and horses, cleaning the barn.
Got a hay pasture in the back, needs a new fence.
Get those T-posts in the ground while I got a chance.
Back of my neck’s getting dirt and gritty,
But my life’s good cuz I don’t live in the city,
Yeah, my life’s good cuz I don’t live in the city.

Bridge
City living can be alright,

If you don’t mind traffic, noise and lights.
Feels like I’m driving with my eyes closed.
Then open ‘em up on the county road.
Repeat Bridge

Later on in the evening, sun’s going down.
Crickets coming out, they make an awesome sound.
A starlit night is an amazing thing.
Love to sit with you on out my old porch swing.
Monday morning’s comin’ on, man it’s just a pity,
But my life’s good cuz I don’t live in the city.
Yeah, my life’s good cuz I don’t live in the city.
…Cuz I don’t live in the city.
Cuz I don’t live in the city.

My very first song! I love it as much today as I did back then, and I can remember the awesome feeling of writing a song! I’ve said that songs just started popping into my head, and maybe after My Life’s Good (Cuz I Don’t Live in the City), they did, and I can’t recall the details, but I wanted to write a song. Maybe I had been plunking around with some tunes, but I walked into the operating room one morning and asked my crew to give me ideas for the name of a song. My surgical tech immediately yelled out, “My life’s good cuz I don’t live in the city!” She had just bought a home out in the country, and was so happy to get out of the city. I too, had country living in my soul. My husband and I have a ranch in Smithville, Texas, about an hour from Austin. It’s a lovely place, and it was real country living, especially back then, when Bastrop didn’t have a Home Depot and Super Wal-Mart. Nothing wrong with those stores. Trust me, when you live in the country, you need stuff, and having those stores about 30 minutes away can be a blessing. Back then, if something broke down at night or on the weekend, you begged and borrowed from neighbors, rigged something up, or did without. It’s different now, as are many things. But when Jenelle yelled out those words, I knew that would be the name of my song, and the rest of it is based 100% on my own country-living experiences.

 

Possum’s in the Corn

BB- lead vocal
Rich Brotherton – guitar
Cathy Fink – banjo
David Carroll – bass, harmony vocals
Darcie Deaville – harmony vocals

POSSUM’S IN THE CORN
Grandad left his place to mama,
And she passed it on to me.
Left a payin’ job at the Kay-Moor mines.
Took a third class to Abilene.
We left the wooded hills of Kentucky,
Headed for the sun baked Texas plains.
At the rusty barb wire fence we saw
Just what my Grandad gave.
CHORUS
Possum’s in the corn.
Mildew’s on the hay.
Taxman’s lot goin’ to the Lord.
And the boar hog’s gone today.
Possum’s in the corn.
Mildew’s on the hay.
Sun come up, rooster’s crowin’,
And I think I’m gonna stay.

With help from Grandad’s neighbors,
And borrowing on mama’s wedding band,
We finally got our food and water
From this God forsaken land.
Now the windmill needs new leathers,
And the branding iron’s hot.
When I go to pull a baby calf,
I’m dreaming of Gobbler’s Knob.
CHORUS

There’s times I think I’d rather be
Taking wages from the Kay Moor One.
A spring freeze or a flash flood,
And I’m betting on being done.
But when I look out at the rows of green,
And what the Lord and Grandad made,
Well I know I’ll stay in Texas
Till they lay me in the grave.
CHORUS

One time, I planned to sing Possum, and started out singing Like Father Like Son. They’re both based on traditional bluegrass songs, and I just forgot which song I was singing. I quickly noticed that the chords were not right, and said, “Oops, wrong corn song.” And I suddenly realized I have two corn songs! Different corns, but corny none the less. How did I get two corn songs? Well, no matter. Corn is a good subject about which to write a bluegrass song.

Possum, as everyone lovingly calls it, was my first bluegrass song. I did not listen to bluegrass growing up. I was a straight-up traditional rocker. I LOVED Led Zeppelin, and in fact saw them 3 times in concert. You can touch me if you want to. I saw Jimmie Hendrix, less than a year before his death. Steppenwolf, Santana, Jethro Tull, Mountain (and all the classic groups of guitar heroes). If I were given a wish, it would be to be a guitar hero when I was a teenager, and then to have become a rock star. Not a bluegrass or folk star. A rocker. But it was not to be. Somehow, I ended up an orthopedic surgeon. Many would say, I’m better off for it. But I got to the music as soon as I could. I grew up with folk songs too, and my ear gravitated to bluegrass after taking a bluegrass band class at Girl Guitar. I love to study history. I love old-timey things. And it just fit.

At the ranch, something’s always trying to get into the grain. We have to hole everything up like it’s Fort Knox. It’s a never-ending battle. And again, thinking about the typical subject matter of bluegrass songs, the first one I came up with was just a life of great challenge. Life was hard back then. You can really get a feel for it if you live in the country. Of course, it’s not the same now. We have PVC pipe and John Deere tractors, and dishwashers…and Super Walmart 30 minutes away. But when I’m at the ranch, I can better imagine what life might have been like back then.

This was the first song, where I got on the Internet to find some stuff. I decided I wanted to make my guy character a miner. In addition to corn, mining is also good fodder for bluegrass songs. Google: abandoned mining town. And there it was. Kay-Moor. You can’t understand it when I’m singing it, so it would just end up like my interpretation of Tehachapi and Tonopah (see Low Water Bridge). In 1970 you would have said, “I left a paying job where they pay more time,” instead of, “Left a paying job at the Kay Moor Mines.” You have the Internet, so who cares? Anyway, I had already written the song with Kentucky, and Kay Moor, West Virginia didn’t fit in. So, if you’re picky, you’ll have to assume that my little, courageous family passed through Kentucky on the way to Abilene, and thank goodness…because when you look at the map…as the crow flies, they most certainly would have.

The artists who contributed to this song, did a lovely job. Cathy Fink on the banjo. I didn’t get to meet her, but I wish I had been there for the recording. Of course David Carroll on bass…and vocals too. And Darcie Deaville. That had to come out of the blue. She was there to play her mandolin and fiddle on Like Father Like Son, and Oh, Darcie…how about laying down some background vocals on Possum while you’re here. Nailed it. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned call and repeat, to get us smiling. I love to play it live. It relaxes me, and the audience always gets a fat hoot out of it. Possum’s in the corn…Possum’s in the corn!  

And shucks, two corn songs are always better than one!

 

She Danced with the Young Prince of Wales

Barbara Bergin – lead vocal
Rich Brotherton – guitar, cittern
Beth Chrisman – fiddle
David Carroll – bass

SHE DANCED WITH THE YOUNG PRINCE OF WALES
When I was but a young lad of one score and three,
I went off to fight against Robert E. Lee.
We passed through a town on the way to Savannah,
And stopped for a night on the road from Atlanta.

There was a young maiden wore a faded silk gown.
Who lit a kind flame from her barn since torn down.
We sat by the fire, and she told us a tale,
Of how she had danced with the young Prince of Wales.
Of how she had danced with the young Prince of Wales.

She had none to help her but her old household man.
And he made us a stew pot of turnips and ham.
He played an old harp while we danced a quadrille.
And she showed how she danced with the young Prince of Wales.

Her hair was spun honey and her eyes were dove grey.
And I promised that I would go back there some day.
She smiled and she gave me a tiny gloved hand.
I made for her finger a woven straw band.

I lost more than my leg in Georgia that year.
And an old man’s eyes dim by time and by tears.
But memory of a bonnie lass never may fail.
And I dream of her dance with the young Prince of Wales.
And I dream of her dance with the young Prince of Wales.

When I was but a young lad of one score and three,
I went off to fight against Robert E. Lee.
I met a young maiden of whom I regale,
And she told how she danced with the young Prince of Wales.
And she told how she danced with the young Prince of Wales.

I wanted to write a Civil War song. And so I did. The Civil War lives deep in my heart, and I would say “for some reason,” except that for any American, it should live deep in our hearts for a multitude of reasons. It defines us every bit as much as the Revolutionary War. And the sentiment of the song, as well as the reality of it, came easily to my pen. Once you’ve heard it, you will know that this scenario must have been played out thousands of times during that period. Unrequited love and damaged lives. I strummed chord progression after chord progression, 4/4 time and 3/4 time, until something began to form, and then suddenly the words, “She danced with the young Prince of Wales,” materialized. I consider myself an Anglophile, so perhaps the royal family was on my mind. But if I hadn’t been able to work it into a Civil War song, dancing with the Prince of Wales was going to go somewhere. The bizarre thing was that, coincidentally, the young, single, playboy, Edward Albert, Prince of Wales came to visit America and Canada in 1860! He was the first member of the royal family to visit our fledgling country after the Revolutionary War. He toured Washington, D.C., and most certainly was lavishly entertained by high society. One could make the assumption, from my story, that my young maiden had probably been the daughter of a wealthy man, now her life in ruins. I’ve become quite attached to these two star-crossed lovers, as well as her “household man.” Writing their story, perhaps with a happily-ever-after ending (HEAE), is a goal of mine. By the way, in the literary world, a HEAE is a necessity in order to classify a novel as a “romance novel.” Prince of Wales as a story, certainly would not have been a romance novel.

 

Three Eggs in My Apron

Barbara Bergin – guitar, lead vocal
Jane Gillman – guitar, octave mandolin
Erica Braverman – concertina
David Carroll – bass

THREE EGGS IN MY APRON
Blue ribbon on my bonnet and to the manor born.
Bonnie felt upon his head, a gentleman adorned.
Wind and rain will pass my face and to another shore-O.
Blue ribbon on my bonnet and to the manor born.

One tooth pulled, another gold, the duchy I have won.
Poultice on, the gout is gone, the duke for me may come.
Green is on the hillside, but another year is gone-O.
One tooth pulled, and another gold, and the duchy I have won.

Four shoes on my piebald cob, and a princess I shall be.
A leather boot upon his foot, a prince shall come for me.
The road ahead is clear of mud and stone and misery-O.
Four shoes on my piebald cob, and a princess I shall be.

Bridge
Now I lay me down to sleep and pray a love is found.

Because I’ll stay with him until the day he goes to ground-O.

A band upon my finger and my husband he becomes.
Father give a dowry and to him I now belong.
I bear chickens, cow and goat, our life is now begun-O.
A band upon my finger and my husband he becomes.

Three eggs in my apron, and I shall be your queen.
Butter in the porridge pot, and you will be a king.
Bellies full, two cheers up, and we’re no longer lean-O.
Three eggs in my apron, and I shall be your queen.

I was thinking about writing a wedding jingle. It had to be old-timey, and it weren’t gonna be no love song. No siree Bob. Well, back in those days…and again, sorry to pound in the fact that women had it pretty poorly before modern times, but…it’s true. As a doctor, I always have to cover my you-know-what when I write things down, so right now, I’ll say for the record, that in many places, they still do. Clarifications always spoil the literary feel, don’t they?

Anyway, they had it bad. And if they and their family knew what was good for them, a young woman needed to get married. Simple fact. An unmarried woman was an unenviable situation to be in. Once having a daughter, to get her betrothed and married was every bit as much a goal as putting food on the table. I could go on and on about this. I’ll do it a little. How did being female get to be such an undesirable thing? Look, of course I can figure it out just as well as anyone, but it’s not really logical. We are the child bearers! We bring forth our species. We should be exalted in every sense of the word. And yet, look at what happens in a country like China, when people are forced to have only one child. They illegally abort and dispose of their female babies! Sure. Sure. It makes a little sense, doesn’t it? A boy can help take care of you and your household and your fields. And you don’t have to worry about getting him married off, because he never gets pregnant. But now look at the situation in China. They have 33 million more men than women! This is catastrophic. Could no one foresee this problem? Now they will need to import women to keep their societal structure intact and their young men happy! How does this happen? How has the place for women been so denigrated in this world? Well, I guess I certainly have digressed. 

Back to my wedding song. I stirred this tradition of a girl and her family trying to make a suitable match, into another traditional song subject, in which people pretend to make wealth from a poor existence. Remember songs like Lavender’s Blue: 


Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly,
Lavender’s green.
When I am King, dilly dilly,
You shall be queen.

And how about Jack Sprat, who could eat no fat, and his wife could eat no lean? So between the two of them, they licked the platter clean. There are scores of them in old, traditional songs from the British Isles. And in the end, two are stronger than one!

 

Warm Place

Barbara Bergin – lead vocal, guitar
T Jarrod Bonta – piano
David Carroll – bass
Merel Bregante – percussion
Tanya Winch, Becca McCann – Harmony vocals

WARM PLACE

The last time that I saw you, old felt hat and your long hair.
You told me something funny, burning leaves, fall in the air.
Now I’m trying to remember just exactly what you said.
I laughed more than I needed to, love crowded in my head.

CHORUS
From a warm place in my kitchen, sweet coffee in my hand.

From this warm place in my kitchen, I can dream about the choices I have made.

I was looking out a window from a warm place in my home.
Thinking about a thing you said from a public telephone.
I remember you put your last coin in, then you had to catch a plane.
I kept my unused ticket, now I won’t forget your name.

CHORUS

Chintzy papered upstairs room, lace curtains blowing wide.
Humid hours in the afternoon, making love and telling lies.
What happened next or any day, don’t care or can’t remember.
Beaded bracelets, hand-picked flowers, brand new promise even better.

CHORUS
I can dream about the choices I have made.

Another one of my early half-dozen. I started this one by just writing out some random sentences about long lost love. That’s always a good subject for a song, right? By and by, the randomness began to coalesce into something a little more like a story…of long lost love. It’s not anyone I know, but like Prince of Wales, it’s a story which has been played out a multitude of times. It speaks to all of us in some way. Don’t we all think of past loves from time to time, and wonder…

This was one of my finger-picking tunes, which just came to me in a moment, like a whisper. And as I’ve said before, I wish this would happen more often. I look back on it, and I have no earthly idea how my fingers veered from major/minor keys of the verse, to the bluesy sevenths in the chorus. I had no idea, other than to hear them, that they would work. I know. You’re like…she’s an orthopedic surgeon, and she can’t figure out why this works? And the answer to that would be, “NO!”

Whistlin’ Train

Barbara Bergin – lead vocal
Rich Brotherton – guitar
Jane Gillman – octave mandolin
David Carroll – bass, harmony vocals

WHISTLIN’ TRAIN
Left my home when I was ten.
Made my lot with the railroad men.
Daddy slapped me on my back,
Pointed down to the railroad track.
Momma handed me a cloth of lard,
Begged me not to go too far.
Her tender words were in my brain,
But the only thing I heard was a whistlin’ train.
Yeah, the only thing I heard was a whistlin’ train.

Went down where the hobos sleep.
Jumped a box down to New Orleans.
Stayed there for a year or so.
Stowed away out of Mexico.
Joined a fight on San Juan Hill.
Took some lead and near got killed.
Captain said I done my best,
But the sawbones said I need a rest.
His words were tugging in my brain,
But the only thing I heard was a whistlin’ train.
The only thing I heard was a whistlin’ train.

Fell in love in Tennessee.
Asked her if she’d marry me.
Kissed her lips and I made her mine.
Never knew she was the lying kind.
Caught her with a fancy man.
Killed them both with my bare hands.
Her lying words burned in my brain,
But the only thing I heard was a whistlin’ train.
Yeah, the only thing I heard was a whistlin’ train.

When the moon is thin and the wind is low,
I feel her loving way down below.
Trains go one after another.
Whispers of a long lost lover.
When the sun goes down and the stars are high,
I feel her cold hand on my thigh.
Her loving words are in my brain,
But the only thing I hear is a whistlin’ train.
Yeah, the only thing I hear is a whistlin’ train.

Put a bounty on my head.
Rangers caught me in Goliad.
Short time behind the jail house bars.
Momma begged me not to go too far.
Preacher’s standing at the hangman’s tree.
Says the word will set me free.
His prayers keep ringing in my brain,
But the only thing I hear is a whistlin’ train.
Yeah, the only thing I hear is a whistlin’ train.
It’s a whistlin’ train.

Okay, I love Whistlin’ Train, and so do some other people who aren’t related to me by blood, cuz I won a couple of awards for it from Austin Songwriters Group. It was one of the first songs I wrote, when I started writing songs again, after a decade of not writing songs, or almost anything for that matter. Once I got involved in Girl Guitar (as mentioned in many other writings, due to its being of utmost importance in my musical evolution), I even picked up where I left off in my second novel, THE WISH, which still isn’t finished, but will be someday. It’s a novel about football, which I do love…and all the material is up here…in my brain…for another day.

But Whistlin’ Train was another one of those songs that evolved out of a personal challenge and from tooling around with chords. Not sure which came first.  I was playing around on my guitar, and some chords came into place, and suddenly, I’m singing, “All I ever heard was a whistlin’ train.” It came so easily to me, that I thought surely someone else had sung those words, and they just wormed themselves into my brain. Google: All I heard was a whistling train. Crickets. Niente. Nada. Nothing. No doubt, there are lots of whistles and tons of trains. But no whistlin’ trains and no “All I ever heard was a whistlin’ train.” It’s mine now.

Jane came in with that octave mandolin, and David with his background vocals, and that song still makes me all emotional.

That character is almost real too. The story is based loosely on the diary of the father of one of my employees, Colleen Hutson. When her father was 10, he actually had to leave his home during the Depression, and went to the railroad tracks to live with the hobos, because his parents could no longer care for him. He then began a recorded journey, which took him back and forth across the country, riding trains, working at odd jobs, and living that free-rambling life I’ve spoken of before. I have a copy of his extensive,elegant diary, and am going to make it into a story someday.

Just on an historical note, and to put a picture to the time of the Great Depression, and for that matter, the Dust Bowl on top of it, the number of children in orphanages and foster care was higher than in any other time in American history. At it’s peak, there were 144,000 children in orphanages and 250,000 in foster care. And of course, that number didn’t include the children like Colleen’s dad, who simply went out on their own, and grew up fast or died! Just think of the number of us today, who are likely related in some way to these children.