Milltowns

by Mark Erelli

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credits

released September 9, 2014

Mark Erelli – vocals, acoustic, baritone & tenor guitars, dobro, mandolin, harmonica, shruti box, bass, drums & percussion

with
Sam Kassirer (piano, organ), Charlie Rose (pedal steel, banjo), Zack Hickman (upright bass) and special guest vocalists Rose Cousins (13), Kris Delmhorst (6), Jeffrey Foucault (10), Anais Mitchell (3,12), Peter Mulvey (8) & Rose Polenzani (11)

Recorded at home by Mark Erelli (with assistance by Owen Erelli)
Additional recording at Great North Sound Society (Parsonsfield ME), The Echo Chamber (Halifax NS), New Haven VT & Buckland MA
Mixed by Dan Cardinal at Dimension Sound Studios
Mastered by Erick Jaskowiak

Design by Meghan Dewar, Sketchie Design
Cover image from “Robertson Paper,” a painting by Charlie Hunter

All songs written by Bill Morrissey (Dry Fly Music/BMI, administered by Bug Music), except “Milltowns,” written by Mark Erelli (Hillbilly Pilgrim Music/ASCAP)

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about

Mark Erelli Boston, Massachusetts

Mark Erelli completed a masters in evolutionary biology just after his self-titled debut was released in 1999. He has won several prestigious awards, and has 7 records to his name, including collections of western swing, lullabies and songs of stirring social conscience. In recent years, he has gained notoriety as a mulit-instrumentalist sideman with artists such as Lori McKenna and Josh Ritter. ... more

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Track Name: Birches
They sat at each end of the couch
and watched as the fire burned down
So quiet on this winter's night
not a house-light on for miles around

Then he said, "I think I'll fill the stove
It's getting time for bed"
She looked up, "I think I'll have some wine
How 'bout you?" she asked, and he declined.

"Warren," she said,
"maybe just for tonight
let's fill the stove with birches
and watch as the fire burns bright.

How long has it been?
I know it's quite a while
Pour yourself half a glass
and stay with me a little while."

And Warren, he shook his head
as if she'd made some kind of joke
"Birches on a winter night?
No, we'll fill the stove with oak.

Oak will burn as long and hot
as a July afternoon.
Birch will burn itself out
by the rising of the moon.

And you hate a cold house same as me.
Am I right or not?"
"All right, all right that's true," she said
"It was just a thought."

Then she said, "Warren, you do look tired.
Maybe you should go up to bed.
I'll take care of the wood tonight."
"Oak," he told her. "Oak," she said.

She listened to his footsteps
as he climbed up the stairs
Then she pulled a sweater on her
and set her wine glass on a chair

She walked down cellar to the woodbox.
It was cold as an ice chest
Then climbed back up with four logs,
each as white as a wedding dress

And she filled the stove and poured the wine
Then she sat down on the floor
She curled her legs beneath her
as the fire sprang to life once more

And it filled the room with its hungry light
And it cracked as it drew air
And the shadows danced a jittery waltz
like no one else was there

She stood up in the heat
and she twirled around the room
And the shadows, they saw nothing
but a young girl on her honeymoon

And she knew the time, it would be short
Soon the fire would start to fade
She thought of heat, she thought of time
and she called it an even trade

-----------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic guitar
Sam Kassirer - piano
Track Name: Night Train
I've been hanging around this station
Long enough to know
where the brakeman disappears
when the whistle blows
And who's gonna make it out all right
when the final night train shows
Ah, babe, it's true,
I've seen a lot of women here waiting just like you

Hear the fireman start singing
the same time every day
The same song about his life
and his well planned getaway
And it's a shame to hear such a pretty voice
with not one thing to say
Ah, babe, it's true, you would have loved him back in time if he'd only sung for you

Moonlight on the water tower
always shines so cold
In the shadow of the pay phone
where the saints are getting bold
And it don't matter to them now
if it's real or just fool's gold
Ah, babe, it's true,
I heard all the saints tonight talking only of you

Listen deep into the night, girl
Can you hear the whistle blow?
Looks like you're gonna make it out all right
but there's one thing you must know:
The only ones who can help you now
are the ones who must stay here when you go
Ah babe, it's true,
I've seen a lot of women here smiling just like you

And there are some saints still in hiding
by the river in the reeds
And they're turning down every train
that don't feel the right speed
Sing them this song when you pass by;
it'll be your last good deed
Ah babe, it's true,
the saints are down every line waiting just for you

-----------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic & baritone guitars, bass, drums, percussion
Charlie Rose - pedal steel, banjo
Track Name: 23rd Street
This moonlight in New York
will not go away
I sit in this hotel
and tonight I'm just too drunk to pray
She said that she'd always love me
but that she might not always stay

Have a seat
Have a seat
And we can look at the world through this window on 23rd Street

I came a long way to see her one more time
There was a subway to take me uptown
There was an address she gave me last Christmas
where she said she could always be found
I listened as she said she loved me
I'll always remember that sound

Have a seat
Have a seat
And we can look at the world through this window on 23rd Street

If you look closely down to the sidewalk
you can see yourself as a ghost
We would walk 'round the block with no reason to talk
Back then we were younger than most
It's a love that you never will see
Hey, buddy, I don't mean to boast

Have a seat
Have a seat
And we can look at the world through this window on 23rd Street

Well, there's some folks bring love to a hotel
and some just bring their own quiet end
My story is not one hard to tell
and I just want to tell it again
She said that she'd always love me
All I need is to find her again

Have a seat
Have a seat
And we can look at the world through this window on 23rd Street

---------------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic, tenor & baritone guitars, mandolin, bass, drums, percussion
Sam Kassirer - organ, piano
Anais Mitchell - vocal
Charlie Rose - pedal steel
Track Name: Man From Out Of Town
The house burned down on a rainy night
and they never did find out why
I just stood alone beneath the silver maple
trying to keep my cigarettes dry
Waiting for the firemen
I couldn't save a thing
And deep inside my home,
above the roar of the flame
I swore I heard the telephone ring

The rain let up and we worked till dawn
just me and the firemen
And when they cut the power and the lines went dead
I never got called again
The house was gone by the break of dawn,
the air was cold and grey
I just set off down the road alone
but it's always gone that way

So young, so long ago
I thought I heard that train
Calling out my name
at least it sounded like my name
Just a boy with no direction
I left my home behind
And the sky changed color
once I crossed that town line

My good friends did the best they could
to hold me down with them
But I took one look and I packed my bags
and I slipped around the bend
The lessons came from left and right
the first night out I found
The laws were not meant to protect
the man from out of town

There was a cold street on the sea coast
I once tried to call home
Where the church steeples rose up
above the town like broken bones
Drinking whiskey with the Catholic priest
one night in the rectory hall
He just shook his head and said,
"You never know when Jesus call."
Then his eyes got wide and he looked
around but he just could not explain
It was like he heard the sound of Jesus' laugh
the way I heard that train

Now the years and the faces blur
Still I can remember some
There were women washing windows
There were salesgirls chewing gum
There were curses in the shapes of old men
kneeling in the pews
There are things in this life
a man just does not get to choose

So, finally I found a home
in a tiny mountain town
Just a simple place to keep me dry
when the rain came pouring down
A place to sleep, the rent was cheap
brick walls and a new slate roof
The landlord said, "You'll be safe here,
this house is fireproof."

-------------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic guitar, mandolin, shruti box, bass, percussion
Charlie Rose - banjo, pedal steel
Track Name: Letter From Heaven
Mama Cass has dropped some weight
and Charlie Parker’s clean
Django’s fingers have both gone straight
And they’ve got driving lessons for James Dean
Jimi’s playing faster
and sometimes we jam all day
And old Abe Lincoln is a happy boy
’cause he finally got to see the end of the play

It’s a great life here in heaven
It’s better than the Bible said
It’s a great life here in heaven
It’s a great life when you’re dead

There ain’t no egos anywhere
and no one talks show biz
And Gabriel, he’s got a great big smile
He’s taking lessons from Miles and Diz
Bing Crosby’s on the green in one
and he’s singing when he putts
And Elvis really likes to visit earth
just to drive you people nuts

It’s a great life here in heaven
It’s better than the Bible said
It’s a great life here in heaven
It’s a great life when you’re dead

And me, I couldn’t be happier
The service here is fine
They’ve got dinner ready at half-past nine
And I’m going steady with Patsy Cline
And just last night in a bar room
I bought Robert Johnson a beer
Yeah, I know, everybody’s always surprised to find him here

It’s a great life here in heaven
It’s better than the Bible said
It’s a great life here in heaven
It’s a great life when you’re dead

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Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic guitar, percussion
Track Name: Handsome Molly
I park my cab on Water Street
I'm waiting for a fare
Watching young girls in their first heels
Step like colts across the square

Fire on the ocean, thunder on the sea
I think of Handsome Molly
wherever she may be

Now I'm either in this cab or bar
And never in the choir
Sometimes howling and amazed
Like the wind hung up on barbed wire

Fire on the ocean, thunder on the sea
I think of Handsome Molly
and what she promised me

Iit's pretty, doe-eyed Molly
Could see so well at night
It was a hard trade she made
Just to see in black and white

Well the word's gone down this north coast
And it's boy you best take care
Cut yourself with a knife
Fiind all the salt that's in the air

Fire on the ocean, thunder on the sea
I think of Handsome Molly
who cried so easily

Now the soldiers down on Water Street
They eye the little girls
And the little girls of Water Street
Will take them 'round the world

Fire on the ocean, thunder on the sea
I think of Handsome Molly
wherever she may be

------------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic & tenor guitar, bass
Kris Delmhorst - vocal
Sam Kassirer - organ
Track Name: Ice Fishing
The snow lay up against the curb
Finally beaten by the sun
Across the street the noon whistle blows
Calling back everyone

They came out from the luncheonettes
Taverns and pharmacies
Crossed the wet street back to work
Coats unbuttoned, talking easily

Ice is cracked on the river
Rolling out to the bay
On one floe rides a bobhouse
There's always one who stays out too long they say

And there ain't much to millwork
The days just go on and on
And there ain't much to leavin' home
Till you finally cut the cord and know that you're gone

And there ain't much to ice fishing
Till you're gone a day or more
And the hole you've cut freezes over
And it's like you've never been there before

----------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, harmonica, acoustic guitar, bass, drums
Charlie Rose - banjo, pedal steel
Track Name: Time To Go Home
Well, she looked so small
She looked so frail
It was like the world forgot her
as she stood outside the jail

They sit and stare
They rarely speak
She comes to see him
the same time every week

And never wants to leave
but she knows she must
Then the yellow cab comes right on time
and scoops her up like a speck of dust

When it’s time to go home
It’s time to go home
where the night stay too long
in a world that’s just gone wrong
It’s time to go home

How did one summer
become nineteen years?
The Alaskan winters took their toll
and then they made it clear

The gillnets and seiners
The salmon and crab
The dull-eyed girls of Ketchikan
that took all that I had

I could sell the boat
Cash the whole thing down
Move back to the 48
just tell stories back in that small town

When it’s time to go home
It’s time to go home
where the night stay too long
in a world that’s just gone wrong
It’s time to go home

Well, your t-shirt’s clean
like your dungarees
And in two days you will be
on your way overseas

Sit on the bed
with a warm six-pack
Ah, it’s not like how they said
but it’s too late now to take it back

So you make some calls
but no one’s home
You nurse your beers
and spend the long night by the telephone

When it’s time to go home
It’s time to go home
where the night stay too long
in a world that’s just gone wrong
It’s time to go home

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Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic guitar, dobro, bass
Peter Mulvey - vocal
Track Name: Morrissey Falls In Love At First Sight
Well, my heart skipped a beat
when you walked into the room
and in five seconds I was thinking bride and groom
I was thinking bride and groom
thinking man and wife
Never fell in love so fast in all of my life

I know you’ll like my friends
and you’ve got to meet my parents
My dad is pretty funny
and my mom looks like Betty White
I’ve got to have another drink to figure out
a way to introduce myself to you tonight

I’m lousy on the first night, better by the third
I was raised Catholic, in case you hadn’t heard
But I ain’t the type of man who lives on dreams and wishes
or walks around the house breaking bread and blessing fishes

If I sent a dozen roses just out of habit
would you press those flowers in a copy of Babbitt?
I need another drink, I need a cigarette
I ain’t giving up
I’m gonna get you yet

I’ll give you the rights to my ten best songs
If you want to talk, I can talk till dawn
Right there I need a word that rhymes with urn
I guess your name is the first thing I ought to learn

I hope you’re a Democrat, I hope you like the Red Sox
Hope you like bourbon with a splash of water
on the rocks
Bourbon with a splash is the only drink I make
but baby I can learn
There’s a course I can take

You might as well give up
I’m gonna make my move
We can honeymoon in Paris
hang out at the Louvre
We can winter in the city, summer up in Maine
And all of this will happen
just as soon as I learn your name

-------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic guitar, drums
Track Name: These Cold Fingers
Gina left town
with the first snow of the year
He drove her to the airport in his Ford
And he tried to propose
as he ordered one more beer
But the P.A. drowned his words
and it was time for her to board
So he walked her to the gate
he took his hat off as he kissed her
He needed one more drink
To take the chill out of his soul
He said a quick good-bye
Then spent two hours in the bar
Finally paid his tab
And kept a dollar for the toll

Everything slips through these cold fingers
Like trying to hold water
Trying to hold sand
Close your eyes and make a wish
And listen to the singer
One more round bartender
Pour a double if you can

It's four o’clock
And the sun's gone down the drain
It's still late winter
But they say it's early spring
Louis reads the gas-pumps
Rossi counts the oils
But me I'm done, so punch the clock
And see you in the morning
There's nothing back at home
That ain’t gone greasy from the stove
I never laughed so hard
As when that old typewriter broke
Think I'll stop along the river road
For a half-pint and some beer
Well, everything would be okay
If those old dreams would disappear

Everything slips through these cold fingers
Like trying to hold water
Trying to hold sand
Close your eyes and make a wish
And listen to the singer
One more round bartender
Pour a double if you can

The dog can't move no more
Surprised he made it till the spring
His pain won't go away
And the pills don't do a thing
You've known that old hound longer
Than you've known any of your friends
And no matter how you let him down
He'll always take you back again
So it's one tall glass of whiskey
One last drink for old times' sake
The dog just lays in bed
And watches every move you make
Wrap him in his blanket
Hold him once more close to you
Lead him out behind the barn
With a borrowed .22

Everything slips through these cold fingers
Like trying to hold water
Trying to hold sand
Close your eyes and make a wish
And listen to the singer
One more round bartender
Pour a double if you can

------------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic guitar
Jeffrey Foucault - vocal
Zack Hickman - upright bass
Sam Kassirer - piano
Track Name: She's That Kind Of Mystery
You can look into her eyes and live forever
She's as restless as the sea
She's as calm as a summer dawn
She's that kind of mystery

And you can write the song to win her heart
A song will take you half the way
For you've known from the start
You'll never write the song to make her stay

Love comes in the sound of a dream
In the whisper of a prayer
And the promise in a sigh
And love calls from the corner of a smile
But it isn't meant for you
She'll only stay awhile

She will fall asleep within your arms
And you will know the fear all love endures
For in the night she'll pledge her heart
But she cannot give what is not hers

Love comes in the sound of a dream
In the whisper of a prayer
And the promise in a sigh
And love calls from the corner of a smile
But it isn't meant for you
She'll only stay awhile

You can look into her eyes and live forever
She's as restless as the sea
She's as calm as a summer dawn
She's that kind of mystery

--------------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic & baritone guitars, lap steel, bass, drums, percussion
Sam Kassirer - organ, piano
Rose Polenzani - vocal
Track Name: Long Gone
I’ve been long gone
From the stage to the highway to the night grille
and everywhere I went time just stood still
and in every town it all went down the same

I’ve been long gone
And in every dream was the dream that you’d still want me
In every motel room your brown eyes would just haunt me
And in every town I called out your name

I’ve been long gone
Set loose again to chase another payday
Knowing if I could just hold you I’d be okay
Tell me once again that you’re still mine

There was nothing on the highway
there was nothing but the wind
And I couldn’t look ahead
I could just see where I’ve been
From Hartford down to Tampa
Duluth to Malibu
I ran every trick, I told any lie
just to get on home to you

I’ve been long gone
Now I’m standing in the doorway of your front hall
Ain’t this better than a letter or a phone call
Tell me once again that you’re still mine

I’ve been long gone
Unpack my bags and throw away the suitcase
Let me know it’s true, let me just touch your face
Tell me you still love me one more time

I’ve been long gone
And true love always comes as a surprise
Can you see your reflection in my eyes
Tell me you still love me one more time

There was nothing on the highway
there was nothing but the wind
And I couldn’t look ahead
I could just see where I’ve been
From Hartford down to Tampa
Duluth to Malibu
I ran every trick, I told any lie
just to get on home to you

I’ve been long gone
And those nights alone were almost too much to bear
Throw your arms around me and just keep them there
Tell me you still love me one more time

------------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, guitar, mandolin, bass, drums, percussion
Anais Mitchell - vocal
Charlie Rose - banjo, pedal steel
Track Name: Milltowns
You were a legend when I met you
Introduced by a mutual friend
I laughed when you called me “Grasshopper”
Though I didn’t know what it meant

We stayed up all night drinking
Most of it is still a blur
But I remember picking along
while you sang every song
By Mississippi John Hurt

And the way you got so serious
When you told me you invented the blues
Then you smiled in that way I could never tell
If you didn’t really think it was true

Now I’m driving through these milltowns
Down empty moonlit streets
Where the vacant storefront windows look like missing teeth
They disappear into my rearview
All along the rural route
I pray for all that can’t be rescued
After everything goes south

On a split bill up in Portland
I was getting ready to go on
You said “Grasshopper, you sing ‘Birches’
I’ve been singing it for too long”

So I sang it like I’d written it
Though I wished you hadn’t asked
I couldn’t shake that feeling
Like something had been passed

You watched from behind the curtain
And I never will forget
How your pulling on that bourbon
Looked like Russian Roulette

Now I’m driving through these milltowns
Down empty moonlit streets
Where the vacant storefront windows look like missing teeth
They disappear into my rearview
All along the rural route
I pray for all that can’t be rescued
After everything goes south

------------------------

Mark Erelli - vocal, acoustic, baritone & tenor guitars, mandolin, bass, drums, percussion
Rose Cousins - vocal
Sam Kassirer - accordion