Blackbirds

by Alex Hickey

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about

This album is full of songs about returning to rural life - some rollicking, some poignant. From a song about car trouble with no cellphone service to a haunting duet about doomed love, this record will embed itself in your heart and mind.

Alex's full, rich and authentic voice is backed up by a stellar band of east coast musicians:
Jude Pelley on guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, bass whistle, etc
Alan Jeffries on banjo
Jordi Comstock on drums
Jay Crocker on bass

More info about Alex and her music at www.alexsings.ca

Cover art credit: Lynn Misner www.powerhouseart.ca
Cover art photo credit: S.A. Ernst

credits

released September 18, 2012

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Some rights reserved. Please refer to individual track pages for license info.

about

Alex Hickey West Dublin, Nova Scotia

Alex Hickey is a Nova Scotian songwriter whose songs walk a delicate line between cynicism and a passionate love for the world. Clever and poignant, funny, heartbreaking and punch-to-the-guts honest, every CD or live performance should come with a packet of tissues. ... more

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Track Name: River Road
My granddad fished out in this bay
My mother packed fish in the plant
Now all that’s gone
And what remains are widow walks fresh painted by
come-from-aways

And the sky is the same
The same changeable blue and clouds
Same golden sun
Shining red at day break or when day is done
Each day I drive the river road to town
And work glued to my desk and screen
And wonder if this work will stay
While all around me I see jobs evaporate

Each night I drive the river road
My heart in my mouth
Just like Granddad said he always felt when he sailed south

My brother phones from Edmonton
And tells me life is passing me by
“If you stay there you’ll never meet an eligible guy
You’re getting older
And what will happen then,
If you’ve no kids? No man?”

But I fell in love, when I was just a girl
With waves that foam and curl
And throw themselves
Onto the sand
Holding nothing back they hurl themselves upon the mercy of this land
And I am the same...
Track Name: Coming Home
Well, I’m drivin’ down from Peterborough and damn! you know the weekend was fun
And I’m coming to that point where the 115 rolls into the 401
And the choice lies clear before me
Turn right to where I’m livin’
Or turn left and just keep drivin’ ’til I hit the ocean

And how I long to sing
With the salt air in my lungs
And hear those church bells ring
Ring out “Here she comes”
Cause I’m coming
I’m coming home

And will you come out to meet me with your open arms and your great big heart?
In case there’s trouble on the road and I am burnt out and falling apart

And the rental place will be pissed when we drop the car in Antigonish
Call work and phone in sick of the city

How I long to sing...
Track Name: Can't Be Rich (On Shattered Land)
My man can’t find work
No matter where he looks
We’re on the dole
We’re busted flat
We thought of growing some
weed back in the woods
But we don’t want our kids
mixed up in that

It was borrow now and foreclose later
We’re up to our keisters in alligators
Don’t know what we can do
It’s gonna take a miracle to pull us through

Then this fellow came up to our door
Offerin’ money to mine out back
He said, “You’ll be gettin’ paid for nothin’, folks
If you’ll just sign here and let us frack.”

So we can be rich
On shattered land
Or poor on land that’s whole
Yeah, that’s the choice they’re offerin’
Hey, Mister
You put a bounty on our souls

Our kids are learning to do without
There’s more to life than clothes and toys
And yeah, we’d love to give them everything
But this is the devil’s choice

I say it sounds too good to be true
And I ask the man
“What’s the risk of cancer?”
He says, “You can have your money up front.”
And, you know, that ain’t no kind of answer

’Cause if it’s money now and tumours later
Shove your hydraulic fracturator
Don’t want your poisons in our well
Hey, Mister
You can go to hell

I guess I’m goin’ back to school
Study Tourism Management
And my man’s plantin’ a Victory Garden
Washin’ the dishes and mindin’ the kids
‘Cause it’s borrow now but pay back later
We love this land and won’t betray her
There’s always something we can do
Hard work is gonna have to be what pulls us through

’Cause you can’t be rich
On shattered land
Or poor on land that’s whole
That’s no choice they’re offerin’
Hey, Mister
Can’t put a bounty on our souls
Track Name: Doris' Song
To be all you can in your time and your place
Is to give all you have of your knowledge and grace
And each one you guide as they go on their way
Will carry you forward into a new day

Each loop and each line has a story to tell
Of a labour of love and a life lived well
We might see ocean or seaweed or shell
But there’s so much more to this story

Of a woman who knew that her art was her life
And carved out the time as a mother and wife
Each Wednesday she took to do what her muse asked
And brought forth the visions with which she’d be tasked

When she turned to teach every student inspired
Every spark coaxed into bright fire
A whole group of artists with something to say
With heart and with purpose each in her own way

If I had three lifetimes
I’d give them to you
‘Cause I want to see all the work you would do
And you’d want to see how the colours would glow
If every idea had time to grow
Track Name: Blackbird
Elm tree and columbine—Blackbird
Mary, will you be mine?—Blackbird
You are my heart’s delight—Blackbird
How if we fly tonight?—Blackbird
Blackbird, blackbird, blackbird

No, I’ll not fly with you—Blackbird
Though I am longing to—Blackbird
My heart’s no longer wild—Blackbird
Now that I bear his child—Blackbird

When you see them on the wing
They shall bear my offering
Hearts unmoved, heads too wise
Empty talons, glittering eyes
Blackbird, blackbird, blackbird

I tapped the window pane—Blackbird
I called her name again—Blackbird
I pounded on the door—Blackbird
My heart pounding more—Blackbird

I turned and I flew up the hill
Body burning, heart struck still
No one there to hear me cry
But the blackbirds in the sky
Blackbird, blackbird, blackbird
Track Name: Moonshine and Mischief
There’s arsenic in the wells
There’s moonshine in the stills
And it feels like the hills are closing in
On the slow, slow poisons in my veins.

I’ve known whiskey and warnings all of my life
And my momma told me never become the wife
Of moonshine and mischief
like Jimmy McGee.
But I was just 17 when he first courted me
And he seemed so strong and
so certain and free
Oh, moonshine and mischief
will you marry me?

I’ve known whiskey and women all of my life
And that pretty girl shot through my heart like a knife
I promised moonbeams on the hillside if she’d be my wife
And her momma’s against me
I know that it’s true
That her brothers and sisters and friends warned her too
Said, “That Jimmy’s all moonshine and mischief.
He’s bad news.”

I married in haste; I’m repentin’ at an easy pace
And I catch people pitying me
’Cause it’s all moonshine and mischief for young Mrs. McGee
I believe he still loves me but it keeps me up nights
He can’t say no to whiskey or women or fights
Yeah, he’s always got moonshine and mischief
In his sights

Well, I made a promise
I never can keep
Sometimes I sit up nights
watch my pretty wife sleep
While moonshine and mischief keep calling to me
I wish I was stronger but I’m not and I know
That they will keep calling and I’ll get up and go
Ah, moonshine and mischief are killing me slow
Track Name: 11 Kinds of Itchy
It’s been three days since I had a shower
Or even splashed hot water on my face
I got skeeter bites and black fly bites and
Horse fly bites and spider bites
I got bruises that are healin’ and a peelin’ sunburn too
I’m 11 kinds of itchy
And the worst itch is the one I have for you

You are something else
Beautiful and brilliant and dark
Oh! you play like Etheridge and you sing like a lark
And when you look into my eyes I fall like the morning dew
I’m 11 kinds of itchy
And the worst itch is the one I have for you

Just the far side of my shoulder blade
There’s a bite that I can’t scratch
Though I’ve twisted and I’ve tangled myself up in knots
Only you can get it
only you can set it right
But you’re 400 miles away
And oh yeah, you’re not mine tonight

You just keep stringing me along
You say you want me
But then you’re gone
I can’t keep on tearing in two
But I can’t stop longing for you-oo

Accepting that you’re out of reach
Is something I don’t think that I can do
I’d do anything, except wait for you
I’d climb a mountain, swim a river, but I can’t do the time
I’m 11 kinds of itchy, have mercy, oh! be mine
Track Name: LaHave River Ferry
We missed the ferry by minutes
And I said “I can’t wait.
There’s a dark beach down the road
And it’s calling out our names
There’s a sleeping bag in the back
And I long to feel your hands
Hold me while you kiss me and
We lose my glasses in the sand.”
Yeah, we lost my glasses in the sand

And this fever that’s between us, oh! I hope it lasts forever
Cause I long to have your lightning eyes and all your stormy weather
Sitting with me in the car in another 40 years
And we’ll be running late and you will say, “My dear—

Oh! we missed the ferry by minutes” and you’ll say,
“I can’t wait. There’s a dark beach just down the road
And it’s calling out our names
There’s a sleeping bag in the back
And my blood is all a-roar”
And we will catch the next ferry
Yeah we will catch the next ferry
Maybe we’ll catch the next ferry
And go home and kiss some more
Go home and kiss some more

We missed the ferry by minutes
And we said “We can’t wait.
There’s a dark beach down the road
And it’s calling out our names.”
Track Name: Cellphone Service
Oh! there ain’t no cellphone service on this road
No, there ain’t no cellphone service on this road
There ain’t no cellphone service and I’m feelin’ mighty nervous
Because there ain’t no cellphone service on this road

Well, I set out a-drivin’ all alone
I got things to do and places to go
Goin’ up to Antigonish, gonna hear some sweet music
Even though there ain’t no...

Gee, it sure is pretty on this road
With the wildflowers blue and pink and gold
Trees and rocks and little lakes
there is no better road to take
Even though there ain’t no....

I’m keeping a close eye upon the road
For deer and squirrels and porcupines and crows
Cause if I swerve off in the ditch that would be an awful glitch
Because there ain’t no...

What happened next
I don’t exactly know
But suddenly my muffler started to go
First I heard it shake and rattle then I heard it lose the battle
And damn, there ain’t no...

And I see a truck parked just a little way ahead
And whaddaya know, it belongs to my buddies Frank and Ed
I know that they’ll give me a ride but damn! there’s nobody inside
And have I mentioned there’s no...

Then Frank and Ed come walking out of the trees
I guess I look confused ’cause they both smile at me
Wave their cellphones in the air and say “There’s a signal on the hill up there
And had you noticed there’s no...”

I’m stuck in my independent ways
I say “That’s great, I’ll just climb up the hill and call CAA”
And they say, “Darlin’, what’s your trouble? Bet we can fix it on the double
And you don’t need no...”

So they jerry-rigged it and followed me into town
Just to make sure I got there safe and sound
At the g’rage they helped without delay and sent me on my merry way
And all without no cellphone...

I think back just 20 years ago
There were hardly cellphones anywhere, least of all on this road
And I’m reminded to depend on family, neighbours and on friends
We don’t need no cellphone...

Oh, there ain’t no cellphone service on this road...
But there’s NO NEED TO BE NERVOUS
Just because there ain’t no cellphone service on this road
Track Name: My Knees Are Pushing 40, But My Heart's Just 17
Oh! my knees are pushing 40
but my heart’s just 17
As I look across the table at your dimple and your smile
And I wonder how I’ll fathom
the depth of your
[blue/green/brown] eyes
And I feel just like a kid again
So scared and so alive

I never thought my armoured heart would feel this way again
It’s been broken and has healed so many times
And I thought all the scar tissue would keep me safely numb
But lookin’ in your eyes I see
That that would be a crime

I thought I had it all sussed out
That I could not be surprised
That love is just for fools and suckers too
But my cynicism fades away
I’m naked in your gaze
And I realize
I haven’t got a clue

So though I feel I’m at a loss for what to say to you
And haunted by unhappy years behind
Well, I look at you and realize that all I have to do
Is stay right here
’Cause everything is fine
Track Name: Jimmy Dean
Tried to find the birthplace of Jimmy Dean
Not because it meant that much to you or me
But the guidebook said we were passing close
What the hell we’re almost at the birthplace of Jimmy Dean

Stopped into a little town— no Jimmy Dean
As a matter of fact
not a lot of anything
Just a-boarded up buildings
Not a soul to be seen
We’ll have to look a little harder for Jimmy Dean

Oooohhh, Jimmy Dean
When did all of this decay set in?
Looks like there’s no one left to begin again
In memory of Jimmy Dean

At the Gas City museum we stopped to ask the way
“Oh” they said, “it’s easy, just go back the way you came
At the Wesleyan Church hang a left and then go straight
And you will see his homestead and you will see his grave.”

We looked at one another and we shrugged and looked away
Guess we’ve had enough Jimmy Dean for one day
The road is callin’
What’s ahead might be bleak
But there’s no turning back for Jimmy Dean
Track Name: The Minnie Pearl
When I was young, I was full of ambition
I worked and I saved very hard
For the day when I’d have me own boat built
Down to Rhuland’s shipyard

How I slaved, how I sweated and laboured
How frankly, I busted my ass
And finally I had enough put away
That my dreams of a boat came to pass

Fellas, I can’t tell you how proud I felt
When we first slipped the ropes from her bow
If only I’d seen the future, boys
If I had known then, all I know now

But I gathered the town at the harbour
On the day when we launched Minnie Pearl
And in view of the whole town she foundered
And I lost my beautiful girl

Yes, we scarcely were out of the harbour
When my sweet Minnie Pearl did go down
There was nothin’ I could do to save her
Just lucky that I did not drown

Fellas, I can’t tell you how beat I felt
To know that my dreams were in dust
To know that Minnie lay on the sea floor
Succumbing to the currents and rust

Billy and Jim helped me raise her
Not proud now, but full of chagrin
And a couple of months of hard labour
We were ready to launch her again

And fellas, I can’t tell you how tough I felt
On the day when we next set to sea
Fate tried to best me but I had held firm
Or was it just not meant to be?

For a half a day out on the water
She lurched and she tilted and sank
We scarce made the dorey and rowed back to shore
And we sat in the bar and we drank

And I swore an oath I would raise her
No matter the effort or time
If it took my last breath or if it broke my heart
And if I had to spend my last dime

And indeed, it took longer to raise her
And it took everything that I had
To keep the oath that I’d made in the bar
For better, for worse, for good or for bad

And fellas, I can’t tell you just what I felt
When keeping my oath was in reach
But I didn’t feel proud­—or ambitious—or young
When we hauled Minnie on to the beach

I guess you could call me vindicated
Though broke, you could say I felt rich
When I doused Minnie Pearl with gasoline
And fellas, I burned the bitch.