Blackbirds

by Alex Hickey

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1.
River Road 02:42
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...
2.
Coming Home 03:13
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...
3.
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
4.
Doris' Song 04:52
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
5.
Blackbird 02:51
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
6.
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
7.
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
8.
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.”
9.
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
10.
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
11.
Jimmy Dean 02:57
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
12.
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.

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.

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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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