Ben Bedford

American Songwriter

The Complete Lyrics

All songs written by Ben Bedford unless otherwise noted. Songs are in alphabetical order by the first word in the title (including 'the').



Amelia
Harbor Grace, Newfoundland the ground was wet and soft/ were you a tad bit nervous did you have your fingers crossed/ hoping for a miracle of science or of god/ to put your little airplane in the sky/ the air's a place for men they said, those acrobats of war/ and after all Lucky Lindy did it all before/ go back to your mama go home and be a wife/ 'cause we all know that girls aren't meant to fly/ Amelia open up that throttle, get above those trees/ the Icebergs looming sharp and white/ with a big combustion engine and a fool's head full of dreams/ you'll cut across the blue Atlantic sky/ what's it like to sit alone in solitary dark/ with your friend the/ rumbling engine and dome of northern stars/ did you laugh a little as you did what they said that you could not/ all while watched by 100 million eyes/ at 9 A.M. on New York time was luck the one you thanked/ or was it trust in progress as the night behind you sank/ hours up on Lindy's time you caught the eastern glow/ and the coast of Ireland came into sight/ Chorus/ 14 hours and 56 minutes in the clouds/ from the time that you pushed off to the second you touched down/ a thermos of tomato soup to warm against the chill/ and a little faith can go a long long way/ Chorus

Annabelle #2
By the time I got to Flagstaff I was running low on fuel/ I was 90 miles from Phoenix; I was 90 miles from you/ my hands and face are dirty from the smoke and dusty road/ and recollection chases whether I drive fast or slow/ didn't seem so far away when we were rolling down that road/ but the miles that stand between us they only stand to grow/ and I know I can't persuade you I know those days are gone/ but still I'd like to see you before I'm traveling on/ I'm smiling while I'm crying/ the desert stretches on to you/ and I'm dreaming that you fell back into my arms/ what else can I do/ I won't be staying long 4 or 5 days maybe less/ you can take me out to dinner to the place you like the best/ we can gaze across the table and you can tell me about your life/ the man you fell in love with and how you're now his wife/ Chorus/ But if you find you need me or you're feeling sad/ you can call me on the phone and talk of good times that we had/ and I'm sure your kids are pretty and one day they'll understand/ the vest expanse of heartache and how love slipped through my hands/ Chorus

As Long as Your Eyes are Blue (words adapted from a poem by Banjo Patterson)
Will you love me when my hair is gray/ when my cheeks have lost their hue/ when the glow of youth has passed away/ will your love of old prove true/ for looks may change and the heart may range/ with love no longer fond/ will you love with truth in the years of youth/ and away to years beyond/ I love you for your locks of brown/ and the glow of cheek that lies/ but I love you most for your kindly heart/ that I see in your blue eyes/ for the eyes are signs of the soul within/ of a heart that's leal and true/ and my own sweetheart, I'll love you still/ as long as your eyes are blue/ for the eyes are signs of the soul within/ of a heart that's leal and true/ and my own sweetheart, I'll love you still/ as long as your eyes are blue/ as long as your eyes are blue/ as long as your eyes are blue

Black as Coal
Another bar/ pack up the car/ the neon is a-smilin' on my feet/ all the world is hard wood and smoke/ and I need to find a place where I can sleep/ I miss the fields where the corn grows up so high/ and our little house is settled 'neath a clear unbridled sky/ one day, real soon, I'll be home again/ where the dirt is black as coal and our laughter never ends/ another night/ another drink/ I couldn't drown my sorrows with the sea/ I'm trying hard with all my heart/ but there are things that I will never be/ no matter where, from St. Louis clear to Rome/ I miss the white oak's falling leaves and the colors of my home/ one day, real soon, I'll be home again/ where the dirt is black as coal and our laughter never ends

Blood on Missouri
Feel the shock to the marrow/ as your head hits the ground/ see the sky through the shields and the smoke/ while the wand crushes down/ and the night falls hard like it's been knocked out/ blood on Missouri/ blood on Missouri/ blood on Missouri/ oh say can you see/ by the dawn's early light/ rough hands on machine gun stands/ rolled down main street last night/ Chorus/ pull your hand from the harrow/ loose your finger fro the plough/ the seeds we've sown for 400 years/ are seeds of sorrow anyhow

Cahokia
Cahokia, what secrets do you keep?/ with your bones buried deep in the hills/ Cahokia, the river runs its course/ Mississippi's swollen force is never still/ for a thousand years you've heard the crack of ice and snow splitting ash and oak/ standing vigilant at midnight o'er the Mississippi beneath your starry cloak/ Cahokia, where cries once rent the air/ but your markets and your squares are silent now/ Cahokia, where did all your lovers go/ your kingly priests and poets with no sound/ for a thousand years you've seen the sun stretch its streaming head across the sky/ now surrounded by the fields of the pale as the highway passes by/ for a thousand years you've seen the sun stretch its streaming head across the sky/ now surrounded by the fields of the pale as the highway passes by/ Cahokia, what secrets do you keep/ with your bones buried deep in the hills/ Cahokia, the river runs its course/ Mississippi's swollen force is never still

Cloudless
A fallen angel sings the sweetest song/ a fallen angel sings the sweetest song/ it dances 'cross the sand in the saffron light of dawn/ and this desert 's made of bleachin' bone and sin/ this desert's made of bleachin' bone and sin/ there's a voice out in the wilderness swept away by the wind/ forty days and nights out on the mountainside/ not a single drop of mercy from the cloudless sky/ not a solitary rock of shelter for to rest my weary bones/ forty days of watching buzzards cross the sky/ forty nights of listening to my momma cry/ oh momma, how much longer do I have to be alone?/ my mother prays and my father's bent with age/ my mother prays and my father's bent with age/ why wage a phantom war, why climb a hill I know will cause them pain/ but this desert sun is burning in my soul/ this desert sun is burning in my soul/ what I'm searching for I might never find I know/ there'll be no angels from the heaven with their ivory wings/ no bowing to shadow on the open plains/ no bread to cure this hunger, lost out in a land of dust and stone/ forty days of watching buzzards cross the sky/ and the image of my momma when I said goodbye/ oh momma, how much longer do I have to be alone?/ a fallen angel sings the sweetest song/ a fallen angel sings the sweetest song/ it dances 'cross the sand in the saffron light of dawn

Crimson Daydreams
It is a cold black night/ I come across the corn/ I shine my high beam lights/ upon her red back door/ there ain't no moon about/ there ain't no stars to cry/ now it's dark as hell tonight/ I take my trousers off/ I have not slept in days/ I wheeze now when I cough/ my imagination plays/ 'cause that's not dirt on my hands/ and my collar's tight/ and now it's dark as hell tonight/ I hear the birds/ they're singing from the pine trees/ calling for my lover and the dawn/ and I fear the fields/ and the color of my daydreams/ the very deepest crimson every one/ I rummage through the room/ I lie upon the bed/ I sit up in a swoon/ and think of words she said/ I'll take a shower cold/ almost clean and light/ now it's dark as hell tonight/ I take down picture frames/ I look at photographs/ she isn't quite the same/ her laugh lines made a path/ unto her smiling eyes/ they caught such brilliant light/ now it's dark as hell tonight/ Chorus/ there's little I can say/ and less that I can do/ I'll sit around and wait/ emptiness fills the room/ I know the moon is gone/ I touched her skin so white/ now it's dark as hell tonight/ my sinewed arms are sore/ my muscled back does ache/ I might go swin 'til dawn/ down there in Scarlet Lake/ there's some mercy there/ and I hear the pain is slight/ now it's dark as hell tonight

Dark Highway
There's a light out on the highway tonight, shines with a silver mist/ and though the dark has persuaded the night, there's some spots it missed/ one's inside my head and the other's on the road where the headlights hit/ and I'm driving as far as I can get on the dark highway/ Patty Griffin on the radio all the way back home and I bet I listened to those songs eighty times or more/ from the road that I have blown to the road that's not yet known/ how far is too far gone on the dark highway/ I'm I'm so tired that it's not fair but the interstate it does not care/ it crisses and it crosses this great plain/ it's never weary it's only worn, it does not cry, it was not born/ and it's about to drive this poor young man insane/ if I could only get back tonight where the weather's nice/ I could curl up in bad next to you instead of this muddy ice/ that keeps clinging to my tires 'neath the Kansas power wires/ you're all that I desire on the dark highway/ Chorus

Empty Sky
She plucked the apple from the tree, she bit into the flesh/ she heard no angel cry, how'd it all come down to this?/ and like a woman she turned, out of the darkness/ she went home to her man, sleeping on the couch/ she carved into the crimson fruit and put a piece into his mouth/ and there was laughing and there was sighing, out of the darkness/ and the trees did sing with the wind from the blue ice north/ as the sun went down, they passed that apple back and forth/ no serpent's grin reflected in those hazel eyes/ just a lover's kiss and the empty sky/ so they walked off hand in hand, cut throuh the razor wire/ blazed a newborn path through a world forged in fire/ like lovers they turned, out of the darkness/ for forty days and nights they searched for sacred ground/ a bungalow all their own on a cute side street in town/ living that American dream, out of the darkness/ chorus/ no serpent's grin reflected in those hazel eyes/ just a lover's kiss and the empty sky

Fallen
As the final breath of Autumn comes stealin' cross the fields, you'll be headed back along the Sangamon/ the last vestiges of summer have fallen from my hands/ you always said what's gone is gone/ but who's to say what's right and who's to say what's wrong/ I loved you from the very minute go/
and just because it's another kind of love doesn't mean it isn't so/
I watched you from the shoreline as your flatboat shoved away, your hat was pulled down above your eyes/ it hid the scar upon your forehead as you raised your hand to wave/ your beard as black as midnight's cloudless sky/ I moved back up the bank, my boots upon the sand/ it feels like the world will never care/ but a heart that's torn apart is a heart that's torn apart/ and never easily repaired/ my body is my body, my soul is my soul, no need to find a place to lay the blame/ as our calloused hands entwined along those Mississippi shoals/ who's to say that love should bear some kind of shame/ I guess we always knew that time could never wait/ and stolen time is time that flies with wings/ you're a shadow of a ghost now in my waking hours/ but never all that far in my dreams/ as the final breath of Autumn comes stealin' cross the fields, you'll be headed back along the Sangamon/ the last vestiges of summer have fallen from my hands/ you always said what's gone is gone

Fire in His Bones
Charley can sure play that guitar/ he plays to boozers, lovers and fiends/ with that blaze in his blood and that brown Delta mud/ and that guitar out on his knee/ from Cleveland to Bolton to Grafton/ New York to Memphis and back/ along past the graves of princes and slaves/ descended from red, white and black/ Charley's in north Mississippi/ and god's left his children alone/ mercy alive, it's one, four and five/ and a fire way down in his bones/ a fire way down in his bones/ down a dirt road you can hear him stompin'/ he's screamin' and hollerin' the blues/ with a mean sable moan, that scar round his throat/ shines like railroad steel on the moon/ tell Willie to pass o'er the whiskey/ Four Roses and breaking the bread/ here's to Jesus and you, me and the blues/ and knowin' we'll never be dead Charley's in north Mississippi/ and the stars are spinnin' around/ the sweat and the smoke, the sex and cologne/ this juke joint is shakin' the town/ this juke joint is shakin' the town/ Charley can sure play that guitar/ he plays boozers, lovers and fiends/ with that blaze in his blood and that brown
delta mud/ and that guitar out on his knee

Fisher's Hill
Up on Fisher's Hill where the wind blows hard/ I caught a glimpse of hell and some mortar shards/ I screamed for you to come down to my side/ there was blood on my uniform and blood in my eyes/ It hit me in the left all up and down my side/ and it pulled me low like an ocean tide/ and in the spring of my days on that September night/ the surgeon sawed off my arm by the lantern light/ Oh Emily I loved you still/ when I left my wedding ring up on Fisher's Hill/ Them Union boys, they're sure hard to stop/ there's always fifteen more for each one you drop/ but that day they drove us back and now I'm glad they did/ 'cause I'm going home to Jerusalem/ Chorus/ You can kiss my lips, you can touch my chest/ you can wrap yourself around all the rest/ but way up north where the sparrow sings/ 'neath Virginia dirt is my wedding ring/ Chorus

Goodbye Jack
You've been too long out to sea or in the great north weather/ with your right hand on a writing pen and a bottle in the other/ steam power will not bring you back nor intentions of the best/ 'cause your body broke in two when your spirit stood the test/ hard living on the Frisco Bay, it ain't no way to go/ when there's scoundrels on the briny deep and the hills are full of gold/ some say you were an S.O.B. Or hard to get along/ but even still I figured you were worth at least a poor man's song/ goodbye Jack, welcome home, the angels sing a lullaby you've been too long alone/ here's the place you won't go dry/ it's somewhere 'tween the Milky Way and the South Pacific Sky/ goodbye Jack/ Your soul transcended snow banks and blizzard's icy brink/ as your body stumbled down the street to taverns for a drink/ if I listen hard enough I nearly always hear it/ as animal brutality contends with human spirit/ Chorus/ As the miners panned for gold you lived your life too fast/ slowly stilling vital signs of things not meant to last/ but you poured it out on page with your uncommon wit/ from the mountains capped with silver down to streets of grime and grit/ Chorus/ your love of life was forfeit when you tried to build that fire/ down from Dawson to the sea with the men of Forty Mile/ and a daughter of Aurora's waiting at the rainbow's end/ she's calling at the wild with the league of the old men/ Chorus

Guinevere is Sleeping
Guinevere is sleeping across the ocean wide/ and I'm headed there tomorrow upon the morning tide/ in my boots of burnished leather cracking at the seams/ upon the North Atlantic like each night in my dreams/ her hair in wisps and billows cascades to her waist/ it's the color of the field corn in latter autumn days/ and it smells of white oak burning and haunts me to the core/ and I swear I see her standing 'neath the lintel of our door/ Guinevere is calling in every waking sound/ from the sky down to the breathing darkness deep beneath the ground/ Guinevere I love you, as I look into the sky/ the stars diminish silently and fall out of the sky/ Guinevere sleep soundly until I do return/ the interceding hours I would gladly burn/ to stand beneath your window in the slicing prairie wind/ Guinevere sleep soundly 'til I do return again/ Guinevere sleep soundly 'til I do return again

Harley Albright (by Ben and Kari Bedford)
Got a room but I stay downtown/ take my place among the lost and found/ pat my coat for a cigarette/ I sit and I smoke all day/ watch the folks as they go their way/ rest my hand between my belly and my chest/ that tattoo with her name on my arm/ well I think, it's a good luck charm/ Rita well you were a hell of a dame/ me and her we almost wed/ but I left when I lost my legs/ wasn't her, it was me, I werern't the same/ It's a dance down the line/ someone leads and someone pines/ but I've got means to ease the pain/ it is what it is and I won't complain/ old Phyllis with weathered hands/ pushes me in her sparkly pants/ buys me smokes and says the winter can wait/ she's in the same shape as me/ roams downtown, some say crazily/ got one son living somewhere out of state/ Chorus/ If I can't stand this old August heat/ with the bums south of Adams street/ me and Phyllis might go north if we can/ got a friend from my army days/ says that we can come and stay/ might just die a freewheelin' man/ It's a dance down the line/ someone leaves and someone dies/ but I've got love to ease the pain/ it is what it is and I won't complain/ got a room but I stay downtown

High and Low
There's nothing in the sky but the clouds/ nothing in the sky but the clouds/ floating over this old town/ there's nothing in the sky but the clouds/ there's nothing in the branches but the breeze/ there's nothing in the branches but the breeze/ no voice is calling, follow me/ there's nothing in the branches but the breeze/ let the wind blow where it will/ there's no emptiness to fill/ you've been searching high and low/ for any kind of sign, any kind of sign/ you've been searching high and low/ for any kind of sign, any kind of sign/ but you're not searching anymore/ there's nothing in the river but the blue/ nothing in the river but the blue/ to want a thing with all your heart doesn't make it true/ there's nothing in the river but the blue/ nothing in the river but the blue/ Chorus/ there's nothing in the dark for you to fear/ nothing in the dark for you to fear/ the dark it has no memory of tears/ there's nothing in the dark for you to fear/ nothing in the dark for you to fear/ nothing in the dark for you to fear

John the Baptist
From the sun his face was flecked with sweat/ red stain on the back of his neck/ howlin' out beneath the sky/ you don't have to be afraid to die/ river water's cool and clean/ burns sin off like gasoline/ never mind your tooth for tooth/ from a madman truth is still the truth/ You've been warned, you won't get far/ life's crooked as a scimitar/ cut the cord there ain't no doubt/ there's one way in and one way out/ down through time it's been foretold/ from tongues as hot as burnished coal/ a harbinger of hair and bone/ wailing in the wild alone/ want to see what's up above?/ then pledge your heart to the hanging judge/ but don't wait around 'cause time rolls fast/ the present is just the recent past/ chorus/ the devil skulks 'round every bend/ and a broken soul you cannot mend/ not 'til you raise repentant hands/ and a thorn-tree in the garden stands/ from the sun his face was flecked with sweat/ red stain on the back of his neck/ howlin' out beneath the sky/ you don't have to be afraid to die/ you don't have to be afraid to die

Land of the Shadows (by Ben and Kari Bedford)
Emmett flashed her a smile from across the room/ like a sulfur match in the growing gloom/ against his smooth brown skin they were shining white/ in the land of the shadows, dark and light/ he winked and he whistled and stepped into/ the glaring glint of the afternoon/ his 14 years of wrong and right/ in the land of the shadows, dark and light/ just a northern boy, didn't mean a thing/ only seen Mississippi in magazines/ gonna tear his momma's heart apart/ in the land of the shadows, light and dark/ with his cousins down that dusty road/ he didn't think on it, how could he know/ they was just teenage boys seeking girls and fights/ in the land of the shadows, dark and light/ his granddad stood in his white night gown/ in the rough hewn door without a sound/ it was two white boys he wouldn't give no fight/ in the land of the shadows, dark and light/ Chorus/ across the threshold, their plan in gear/ they smelled like cigarettes, dry leaves and fear/ with a 45 Colt and the right of might/ in the land of the shadows, dark and light/ pulled by 4 strong arms from sleep/ where he prayed to the lord his soul to keep/ to that half ton Chevy on a starry night/ in the Land of the Shadows, dark and light/ Chorus/ the river runs muddy in the summer time/ they dredged a rusty wheel from an old turbine/ it didn't look like nobody in the morning bright/ in the land of the shadows, dark and light/ Emmett flashed her a smile from across the room/ like a sulfur match in the growing gloom/ against his smooth brown skin they were shining white/ in the land of the shadows, dark and light/ in the land of the shadows, dark and light/ in the land of the shadows

Letters from the Earth
I tried to call you when I passed through Omaha/ I've been roughing it on and off since Fall/ well, some crossings sure were hard/ but we've made it fine thus far/ It'd be mercy to hear you on the line/ the cities of the plains all look the same/ it's no use for me to even learn their names/ they rise and then they fall/ like some forgotten song/ we never really cared for at the time/ I see a wreck ahead with no place to swerve/ I fee like Lucifer in Letters from the Earth/ you know I don't behave, when I 'm not ok/ I'm not ok anymore alright/ alright alright/ above Iowa a storm had gathered low/ I lit a cigarette and braced up for the snow/ with all the world in white/ a shroud of fallen light/ it's hard to tell what is and in not real/ the river ice glowed blue below the ridge/ I got out of the car and stood out on the bridge/ I took a photograph for you/ while humming “Rex's Blues”/ we both love that melancholy tune/ Chorus

Lincoln's Man
Riding down to Chancellorsville on a horse with eyes of blue/ giving up my daily bread to see what I can do/ my bayonet is sharpened up, my musket barrel's clean/ I'm scared to death but trying to look formidable and mean/ I left my home in Charlottesville to join the AOP/ against the will of my old man and most the family/ they don the gray and sing the tune of merry dixieland/ I wear the badge of honor lost and traitor on my hand/ there are things that I do and don't believe/ you better bet that I still have some tricks shoved up my sleeve/ with a lover's note, a mother's prayer, and a father's curse/ but I'm Lincoln's man, I'm Lincoln's man for better or for worse/ Jackson he's a man of god my father said aloud/ he speaks of Christ and family like a wall of stone so proud/ points his saber at the blue as his beard in wind does wave/ saying let our brothers pluck the speck when their plank is drawn away/ the men been down since Fredricksburg and Burnside's been replaced/ we're at each other's throats all day with blood and time to waste/ bruised my hand and lost a tooth at dinner yesterday/ on some young Boston private making fun of southern ways/ Chorus/ Hooker's down from Washington, he's been whoring with the rest/ he'll take the reins of the command of what he calls the best/ reorganized and confident, he brags 'bout what it takes/ to lead this army clad in blue of gentlemen and rakes/ we crossed the Rappahannock and pursuing Jackson close/ like fools we fortified our lines along the river road/ but momentum boys is not a thing that's easily regained/ Jasckson and his men escaped and they'll turn to fight again/ Chorus/ Hooker in his confidence has dug his heels in tight/ says reinforcements are sure to come in the middle of the night/ they'll turn their tails and retreat along the quickest Richmond line/ there'll be plenty of time for women, gambling and wine/ but they didn't flee, those troops of Lee, they stood their ground and glared/ half our size and half our guns, they didn't have a prayer/ and I wondered was my brother there below the glowing sky/ as Jackson like an iron fist drove into our right side/ where's my mother is she safe was pounding in my head/ will she find my unmarked grave among this swirling sea of red/ as the fusiliers with mortar shot divorce the eyes from light/ the devil's out there pickin' bones along the timberline/ There are things I do and don't believe/ as the musket balls rip through my coat and drop me to my knees/ no noble death to drown in blood of brothers in the dirt/ but I swore to god I was Lincoln's man for better or for worse/ I'm Lincoln's man, I'm Lincoln's man for better or for worse

Long Blue Hills
Lay your pretty head/ gold is tumbling down/ leave all words unsaid/ I'll be around/ down the long blue hills/ with all our lives unwound/ down the long blue hills/ I'll be around/ lay your pretty head/ gold is tumbling down/ leave all words unsaid/ I'll be around

Migrant Mother
Left your home in southern California/ with your lover and a sack of corn/ your children huddled in that Hudson car/ six of them are in the back/ the youngest one is on your lap/ he's at your breast before you get too far/ across the desert high plateau/ the sun it shines, the wind it blows/ and L.A.'s just another town you see along the road/ migrant mother hold on to your children/ love them and kiss them, protect and forgive them/ 'cause your road is rougher still, but under that canvas tarp/ your heart is a stunning jewel, and you are a work of art/ By Hoovervilles with bums and tramps/ mobile villages and camps/ where workers lost their hope but not their pride/ by the citrus groves and and brush/ cold vegetables don't make much lunch/ but you've gotten to the point where you don't mind/ but the children do not understand/ their dirty tears fall in the sand/ you run your fingers through their hair and do the best you can/ Chorus/ In Nipomo you stop and pose/ for a photograph in your ragged clothes/ while your lover patches up a tire leak/ the older kids have turned away/ your wearied look and your worried way/ your eyes avoid the lens as if to speak/ I'll work until my back is bent/ my skin is scorched and my youth is spent/ but will it ever be enough, will we ever win/ Chorus

Mother Jones on the Line
Ain't gonna swing that pick no more/ ain't gonna swing that pick no more/ ain't gonna ride the coal car down to hell's back door/ ain't gonna swing that pick no more/ ain't gonna buy from the company store/ Ain't gonna buy from the company store/ I've seen the company's heart exposed/ it's made of coal and iron ore/ ain't gonna buy from the company store/ Let the scabs break the strike/ Jesus knows I'd like to see 'em try/ I live or die by number 9/ get Mother Jones on the line/ My brother died when the roof caved in/ My brother died when the roof caved in/ the company didn't even raise a stone over him/ my brother died when the roof caved in/ my wife she cries when I come home late/ my wife she cries when I come home late/ she swears to god she sees me meet my brother's fate/ my wife she cries when I come home late/ Chorus/ ain't gonna swing that pick no more/ ain't gonna swing that pick no more/ ain't gonna ride the coal car down to hell's back door/ ain't gonna swing that pick no more/ until we get what we deserve/ until we get what we deserve/ I've had enough of crooked promises and forked tongue words/ until we get what we deserve/ ain't gonna swing that pick no more

One Night at a Time
Put on the tea and bring me a beer/ put down that Atwood and come over here/ I won't remain warm by myself/ so far from you is bad for my health/ Clear off the kitchen and turn on the stove/ look out the window/ it's starting to snow/ Illinois weather isn't that strange/ it's always changing and staying the same/ one night at time, with you, is all I need/ one night at a time, with you, is all I need/ one night at a time, with you, that's all I need/ Things ain't so tough, they're just what they are/ tomorrow I'll scrape the ice off your car/ the radio's silent but listen real low/ to the rumbling of trucks on Old Jacksonville Road/ Chorus

PrairyErth
I ask of you no silver, no favor to extend/ I dance the sun around my shoulder, my confidant the wind/ my home I keep, I am no traveler, send my tidings with the crow/ I shall not toil upon the mountain but the earth and grass below/ the hills are hard come November, they smile upon no man/ a bluestem sea cut by rivers, a heart of crumbling sand/ I sleep on flint, dome of Eden, with the sword ablaze above/ and I wake at dawn with the heathen, plover and the dove/ I hold the hawk, I hold coyote, the brown and rusted rail/ the bleached concrete and highway roaring, I'll cover with the gales/ I'll cover with the gales

Scioto
I stare at the sun and I hear the sound/ Scioto rolling on through/ in the town they all slave, new houses they frame every year/ at the edge of the town, the church bell rings out/ but Wilderland pulls like the moon/ why listen to god, his silence is all that you hear/ Scioto, you're calling me away/ Scioto, you're calling me away/ the spine of the hills, black veins of the soil/ the wind through the Sycamore leaves/ there's paradise here on the limestone back of the land/ but sorcerer calls are all they can hear/ they'd rather quote fables and plead/ knee deep in the river, "The Old Rugged Cross" on the strand/ Chorus/ Scioto I hear your voice o'er the stones/ as the she wolf sings to the stars/ the word that I need is written all over the land/ the Shawnee they knew how to pick up their homes/ and leave but the trace of a scar/ by the clearings of timber I see that fall is at hand/ Chorus

The Ballad of Harlington Wood (by Ben Bedford and Chas Williams)
We crossed the reservation line a little after noon/ a coyote along the ridge was loping out of view/ we parked the Chevy on the gravel, that's as far as it'll go/ we'll walk the rest to Wounded Knee, about a mile or so/ I hope my words are heard and do not turn to rust/ I hope a Midwest county judge's son is someone they can trust/ but I don't know why they would after all that's come and gone/ between these people of the plains and far off Washington/ around the central lodge, four horsemen standing guard/ the Marshals and the FBI are watching from their cars/ the children are inside and the dancers are all gone/ automatic rifles replace the holy songs/ a red-tailed hawk screams above us in the sky/ the escorts of the Movement walk on every side/ with their plaits of Raven hair and their searching Raven eyes/ silent are the hills, unquiet is my mind/ what did we expect but for these bitter seeds to spring/ and now they have with light brown rifle stocks and dull blued magazines/ the Pine Ridge Sky is gray as they lead me into town/ past shadows of the dancing ghosts upon the crimson ground/ chorus/ no wire in my jacket, no pistol in my shoe/ just the written terms from Washington on letterhead of blue/their aviator glasses catch the cold Dakota sun/ there's hope upon my lips and a prayer down in my lungs/ feels like a million miles from Illinois and home/ are my wife and daughter waiting by their telephones/ as we walk up to the meeting house the time has come I know/ I squint into the winter sun, step lightly through the door

The Cherry Mine
Another autumn day/ up here in Cherry town/ you don't feel November wind/ when you're 500 feet underground/ I thank the Lord each night/ he brought him back home safe/ the fire just burned his hands/ singed his hair and grazed his face/ another autumn day/ in the mine the men went down/ 40 mules to haul the coal/ with a heavy, rolling rusty sound/ they lowered the feed hay down/ some must have caught the lamps/ like water slipping over stones/ the spreading smoke, it moved too fast/ Ooh, swing that pickaxe boys/ sink that shovel in the rock of northern Illinois/ Ooh, hear it echo soft/ in the earth below and the hopeful sky above/ 12 men from the rescue squad/ reached deep for friend and kin/ six times they sank below/ six times they saved more men/ my husband rose in smoke/ I gripped his living hand/ the squad sank for a seventh hell/ and ended up in the promised land/ Chorus/ I got my news for free/ but I'm a lucky one/ 481 went down/ 222 came home/ this little country town/ on Illinois 89/ won't forget that spreading smoke/ and the day we sealed the Cherry Mine/ Chorus

The Fox
When the fox is on the riverbank/ no footfall will you hear/ the cotton brush, the rusty flank/ will melt and disappear/ he steals upon his midnight rounds/ in his boots as black as mud/ past the iron spires that belch their fires/ into the river's blood/ I have a way to ease the river's pain/ and I don't want to wait anymore/ hid 'low the moon in the deepest of blue/ and I don't want to wait anymore/ the fox he finds the iron rim/ and he works with silent speed/ he looses but a little time/ and his paw prints in the leaves/ Chorus/ when the fox is on the riverbank/ no footfall will you hear/ the cotton brush, the rusty flank/ will melt and disappear

The Only Story
I don't know where it is we're going/ I don't really think that I care/ as long as you're the one that I'll be keeping/ until the time that we get there/ from the forests of North Carolina/ to the Rocky Mountains out there in the west/ there's one sure fire place that you can find us/ it's in the arms that we love best/ for you I'd go down swinging/ my blood's a mighty river keeping time/ and the love's my innocent companion/ with a lot of things to show and not a single thing to hide/ I loved you when I kissed you down in Texas/ Dallas, Austin, Junction, San Anton/ and there's a million different stories one could tell you/ but love's the only story that I know/ and I held you on the sands of Catalina/ where lizards and saguaros never melt/ but the warmth that melts a bitter feeling/ I assure you those critters never felt/ Chorus

The Pilot and the Flying Machine: Part 1
They told me that I couldn't catch the sun/ they told me that I couldn't catch the moon/ a story for the future has begun/ they will see me rise into the blue/ my sounding line and compass are in hand/ the constellations circle into view/ I'll point the prow as far away from land/ they will see me rise into the blue/ out beyond the darkness of the night/ looking down on all as if it's new/ I see it in another light/ they will see me rise into the blue/ they told me that I couldn't catch the sun/ they told me that I couldn't catch the moon/ a story for the future has begun/ they will see me rise into the blue/ they will see me rise into the blue

The Pilot and the Flying Machine: Part 2
Darlin', I've nothing more to give/ I've nothing more to give to thee/ darlin', the future's all that lives/ the future's all that lives for me/ down where tears are bound to fall/ we'll be flying o'er it all/ darlin', the shimmer and the feel/ the bronze upon your wheel I hold/ darlin', the glimmer of your wings/ oh how the stars do swing and pulse/ stand and see us from the ground/ a dash of light and then the sound/ darlin', though many age has passed/ no use in looking back through fog/ darlin', your engines hum and growl/ we'll let the wind devour it all/ damn the hours down below/ 'cause we've got light years left to go/  darlin' I've nothing more to give/ I've nothing more to give to thee

The Sangamon
Down to the river I'm throwing it all away/ your dresses, your letters, your ribbons and golden rings/the wildflowers you pressed tween the leaves of the pages/ down the Sangamon they're floating away/ the stones 'cross the river are cut with familiar names/ and I wake in the darkness to starlight and troubled dreams/ to that old fallen oak where I cradled your darling head/ just the Sangamon heard all we said/ this town no longer calls me/ it holds no breath for me/ one day I'll fly/ One day I'll run/ one day I'll cross the Sangamon/ sundown at harvest I listened and heard your call/ I can still see you laughing/ how you leaned against the cabin wall/ guided my hand o'er the swelling of life inside/ on the Sangamon with love in your eyes/ Chorus/ the doctor was nervous with sweat running down his nose/ and he rattled off orders but my hands were numb and cold/ three hours in there was nothing that he could do/ on the Sangamon with nothing to lose/ Chorus

The Voyage of John and Emma
The waves rock and reel, the ship banks and rolls/ beneath a cauldron of clouds and of black headed gulls/ the Humber is calling but I'm much too far/ I'll be up the great river on the prairie by Fall/ the wind in the rigging, the slap and the groan/ so far from the island my mother calls home/ bound for a new land haunted and free/ with a wild unbroken as far as you see/ the children are sleeping as we sail up the coast/ our letters and passage are in an old writing slope/ like so many before us our fortunes we cast/ on the new world approaching for the old one has passed/ John keep your head up/ there's no need to pray/ we'll be landing in New Orleans/ by the blue light of day/ we said goodbye to our parents, goodbye to our friends/ goodbye River Hull and the green Yorkshire winds/ to the Illinois prairie we'll face the unknown/ so far from the island my mother calls home/ Chorus/ the waves rock and reel, the ship banks and rolls/ beneath a cauldron of clouds and of black headed gulls/ the Humber is calling but I'm much too far/ I'll be up the great river on the prairie by Fall

Twenty One
Red winged blackbird on a split rail fence/ I ain't seen since god knows when/ months ago up in Illinois/ along the Sangamon with my wife and boy/ and god I'm only twenty one/ got a muzzle loading '58 Springfield gun/ but I'd rather push my wooden plough/ feel the strain of the ox and a sweat stained brow/ I'd go back home but I don't know how/ My face is black from the cook fire soot/ I got worn out legs and ten blisters on each foot/ my letters might find her but hers don't find me/ they say the post got lost up in Tennessee/ and I'm proud to serve, I just feel alone/ at least the greycoats ain't so far from home/ at night I hear those swampland sounds/ the mosquitoes here must weigh fifteen pounds/ I'd go back home but I don't know how/ Last night we climbed up to the levee top/ we could see the holes in the houses where the balls had dropped/ twelve pound, ten pound, eight pound shells/ there was a symphony of crashes with the town hall bell/ and it makes my heart stop every time the iron hits a white frame house like mine/ John Pemberton, please surrender now/ 'cause there's a stale smell over Vicksburg town/ I'd go back home but I don't know how/ Red winged blackbird on a split rail fence/ I ain't seen since god knows when

Vachel
The hand of an artist is the open mind of god/ pulling paint from the mud, the prairie wind to song/ he wore his heart out for everyone to see/ the blood on the blackened soil, weren't no mystery/ now he's hunched by the window and looks at New Mexico/ and the steel rails ring, there's so many miles left to go/ drink in that honeyed milk of all you've got to see/ promise full of life, just a little out of reach/ troubadour when you find what you are looking for/ pull that silver pen and show the score/ but don't you think you should go home to Illinois/ get a little rest, atta boy/ there's so much still to say for the bold and strong/ trading break and cigarettes for a simple song/ but don't you think that no one cares or understands/ when no one seems to hear it's hard to give a damn/ chorus/ breath of blue December, you can go to hell/ the prairie earth is iron and it's just as well/ daddy says that I should take my medicine/
there's lots of time for songs when you're a gentleman/ chorus

Virginia Girls
Southern wind and tobacco is burning in the field, smoke and sky/ dead milk cow and I'm a farmer's daughter in my way, in my prime/ summer came, saw the soldiers squatting in our home, under Union pay/ my husband's gone with the cavalry and Stuart in the spring, now I wait/ roll away roll away/ these hills are bound to see a better day, in my time/ every night a losing fight/ Virginia girls don't ever let them see you cry/ my wedding band was the finest gold my Malcolm could afford, could attain/ that night he knelt I recall the pines upon that rocky knoll, now in flame/ Chorus/ One fine day when this scorched land is healed and grows again, free from scars/ my mind will soar to a land replete that knows not what I know, far from harm/ Chorus

What We Lost
I'm going back to find, something that I left behind/ in this fading photograph folded one too many times/ we didn't know that we were poor, running laughing out the door/ I hear the corn was 8 feet high, in the fall of '44/ If I see you in the summer/ if this whole damn thing is done/ maybe we will not remember/ what we lost and what we won/ we were smiling like we felt, and no tongue could ever tell/ and you smoked that cigarette, like the world could go to hell/ in our army issue green, in the damp Midwestern heat/ in the midday light of June, bustin' at the seams/ chorus/ I wish that I could say, what I can never say/ my brother and my friend, too young to fade away/ chorus/ I'm going back to find, something that I left behind/ in this fading photograph folded one too many times

You're the Weather
I always miss you/ when I'm gone/ no matter where/ it's always too long/ you can hear me rumbling/ down old route 10/ across the flatlands/ I'll be back again/ 'cause you're my lover/ and I'm your friend/ you're the weather/ and I'm the wind/ no matter where I'm going/ or where I've been/ one thing's for certain/ I'll be back again/ You're my prayer/ with hands clasped tight/ below the clouds by candlelight/ I wish I might, I wish I may/ be back home in every way/ Too far to touch you/ and you can't reach me/ but we're still us/ and we'll always be/ I'll keep a vision/ of you in sight/ whisper your name/ both day and night/ Chorus

 

 

 

All photos by Kari Bedford Photography. All content copyright Ben and Kari Bedford 2014.