Smoke from the Well

by Them Damn Hamiltons

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    Printed on recycled kraft paper with a screen-printed cover by our very own Dan Hamilton! Artwork and design by Parker Hu and Dan Hamilton, photography by Mike Marques.

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04:22
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released March 1, 2016

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Track Name: As Long as the Ocean Rolls
this dirty town’s my home and it’s built on foam and loam
but I’d rather be out on the sea a-sailin’
I won’t stay another day and it’s time to earn my pay
so I found the crimp and soon I was a-whalin’

we set out from County Cork
for the old port of of New York
lost our way at sea in a mighty gale
the ocean whipped and sprayed that cold November day
the wind, she beat our ship and tore our sails

ships do come and go and as long as the ocean rolls
we’ll fill our bellies up and stack our bowls
ships do come and go and as long as the ocean rolls
we’ll do just as we please and damn their souls

I barely made it back with my old black gunny sack
and Miss Judy Lee, she come right out to kiss me
once the money’s flying, she’s in my ear a-sighin’
we toasted to the run with smoke and whiskey

with my crusty old-time friends
good Lord, how the money spends
it goes as quick as anyone’s a-winking
when the pay is all but gone and everything’s left in pawn
there’s nothing left but water for a-drinking

Miss Judy Lee a-leavin’ and my poor heart is a-grievin’
all I got here left are drinkin’ songs
when the crimp comes back around
I’ll sign up and take his pound
I’ll be on the first boat sailing out at dawn
Track Name: Black Mariah
listen to the bell of the black mariah
hell’s broke loose and the fat’s in the fire
black wind blowing from the palace to the parlor
brothers to the mothers and the
fathers and the daughters, we run

listen to the bell of the black mariah
hell’s broke loose and the fat’s in the fire
Puente’s boys running down from the chapel
little black books with their own kind of gospel, we run

who pays for the price of the air in the sky
the same ones broke from being buried alive
praying for our time, reclaim our home and sons
but until then, we run

listen to the bell of the black mariah
devil’s out dancing on the old high wire
General Franco marching through the valley
black bandanas and cocktails in the alleys, we run

listen the bell of the black mariah
devil’s out dancing on the old high wire
swords and rifles bringin’ all kind of evil
Shrdlu’s fiddlin’ on top of the steeple, we run

listen to the bell of the black mariah
hell’s broke loose and the fat’s in the fire
came to a head at the back of the station
just in time for the king’s coronation, we run
Track Name: Tom and the Raven
Tom looks up and sees a raven
raven on the wings of night
making shadow out of light

Tom climbs up to kiss the raven
pays no mind to thorn and bramble
feathers more than he can handle

Tom takes raven by the claw
says show me how to fly around
tell me that you never fall
what’s it like to dive to the ground
how can men like me look so small

some birds only prey at night
and think nothing at all of flight
some men only live to die
and never ask their killers why

Tom finds words to sing to raven
sees her with her feathers black
reaches out to touch her back
raven spreads her wings at the sound
Tom goes tumbling back to the ground

raven watches from the trees
head cocked at his broken knees
waiting for his final breath
to feast on ordinary death
Track Name: Sticks and Stones
sticks and stones and the old dry bones
and your picture in my locket
saints and sinners and the pickers and the grinners
and a jack knife in his pocket
she’s waiting for her man at the side of the road
he’s waiting for the old blue van to explode
holding up the freight with an old .38
but she can’t figure out how to cock it

there’s smoke from the well and it’s coming from hell
and the station bell’s a-ringing
when the sun went down, they slept on the ground
while the nooses did their swinging
they ran from the cops through the back of the store
both of their bodies mighty sore
doing their best just to make it out west
where the black flies do their stinging

on the dusty floor of an old blue Ford
there’s a blanket and a pillow
they counted their haul, smoking menthol
in all, about a half a kilo
with the dogs out hunting for the couple of thieves
they loaded up the van with bags of morphine
hiding in the river with a mighty great shiver
underneath the old grey willow

when the dogs closed in, they were both pretty thin
with a shot of midnight oil
they smoked their hash and the rest of the stash,
with nothing left to boil
he held her close as tight as he could
spectres waiting at the edge of the wood
they found them cold in their old bed roll
with blood as thick as soil
Track Name: Spin the Bottle
I know it’s strange, but it’s true
I’m a lot like you
I look good with a glass when I’m feeling blue
you, like me, don’t have a lot of friends
but you’re there to be used, so they use you again

you get me through the night
you’re the right thing, the bright thing
you make me feel awhirl
and out of this world with delight
when we’re out and we’re down at the bottom
here’s to all my spirits
spin the bottle

you know my ma, so don’t tell her
where I hid you in the cellar
that you snuck into my room
you know what she’ll do
but when you look at me with those sweet amber eyes
I melt and I drown under your disguise

you’re right, I should quit while I’m behind
all the quips, they say you’re not to blame
it’s just that I’m the fool
you little snitch, you little dog
trying to make me look like I’m always wrong
but you’re never sorry
I guess we’ll be parting forever
...until noon
Track Name: Eastern Sea
I take my leave to the eastern sea
because she won’t have me
I saw her lips on another lover
with his boat docked in her harbor
he takes her and spins her round
always to the beat of my heart
as it pounds near the sliver of the door
my hell is now bent on the whore

her ghost crawls in my bed at night
when moon is high and sleep is maddening
her locket shines with glee
looking back from the dresser at me
‘round her neck it should be hanging
instead her treasure chest is a’swinging
so I think of all the ways I can touch my Lydia with my hands

Lydia, Lydia, you’re the most marvelous woman I’ve ever seen
your golden locks will bury you at the bottom of the eastern sea

I hope the hands fall off of her lover
land on rocks and fields
and farmers’ hounds will track down his scent
bring him back and feed him to the pigs
I am not a jealous man, but I am just all the same
one day my darling Lydia shall be beneath me under the eastern sea
Track Name: Mary Speed
Mary lived in an old boxcar by the tracks
pretty good hustler
made her bread on the blackjack
spent her nights out shootin dice in the parlor
‘til a black wind
blew her old man in from Gilmer
poor Mary

he rolled into town
looked around for his woman
spent the last seven years in a West Virginia prison
killed three men in a knife fight
out behind the car shop
now he’s huntin’ down the lady
who turned him over to the cops
poor Mary

he found her in the trainyard
drinking with some fellas from the depot
a cold wind blew through the trees
and an old dog moaned
a piece of her red dress and a shoe
was all that they found
now her spirit’s gone
haunting those lonely grounds
poor Mary
Track Name: Caleb Meyer
Caleb Meyer lived alone in them hollering pines
made a little whiskey for himself to help him pass the time
one evening, in the back of my house, Caleb come around
he called my name ‘til I went out
with no one else around

Caleb Meyer’s ghost is gonna wear them rattlin’ chains
but when I go to sleep at night, don’t you call my name

where’s your husband, Nelly Cane, where’s your darlin’ gone
has he gone on down the mountainside and leave you all alone
Yes, my husband’s gone to Bowling Green to do some business there
then Caleb threw that bottle down and grabbed me by the hair

he threw me in the needle bed, across my dress he lay
he pinned my hands above my head and I commenced to pray
I cried, my God, I am your child, send your angels down
then feeling with my fingertips, the bottleneck I found
I drew that glass across his neck, fine as any blade
I felt his blood pour fast and hot around me where I laid
Track Name: Wolves at the Door
well, the rounds have all been poured
and there’s moonshine on the floor
and the gypsies are out burning down the town
the rats can have our bread
‘cause tomorrow we’ll be dead
and the scarecrow
he can have your wedding gown

lay down, the hangman’s back in town
the heart is underneath the floor
stay down, can’t you hear the sound
the wolves are howling at our door

we’ll raise our broken bottles
we’ll wet our wicked whistles and sing...
we sin ‘cause it’s our choice
and with one united voice we sing...

well, the crows are on the wall
and you can hear those axes fall
and they’re tuning up their fiddles for tonight
we sing because we must
and we’ll dance until we’re dust
we’ll rage against the dying of the light

lay down, Old Scratch has come around
there’s no use fighting any more
stay down, the fields have all gone brown
the sky’s gone dark forever more

well our hearts are all tattooed
and we’ll shout it from the roof and we sing...
the rooster’s come to roost and
all hell will soon break loose and we sing...
like the winding of the sheet
the wolves, they prowl the streets and we sing...
we sin ‘cause it’s our choice
and with one united voice, we sing...
Track Name: Going to Hell
if I’ve got the world and the devil’s gonna sink it
why stop with the girls or keep the choir singing
I’m going to hell and there ain’t nothing you can do about it

I once kissed a girl and told her that I loved her
then I jumped a train to Mason while she waited at the altar
I’m going to hell and there ain’t nothing you can do about it

my sister says there’s hope for me
but I can’t prove what she can’t see
my pa says don’t you try and shed your godless ways on me

I used to sing and pray and preach
an angel child, I was
‘til I discovered misbehavin’s a hundred times more fun
I’m going to hell and there ain’t nothing you can do about it

so give me your best sell
and tell me where you think you’re going
‘cause I see every man and woman
living like they’re already gone
I’m going to hell and there ain’t nothing you can do about it

I never wondered why my prayers didn’t change the weather
can’t blame me for not knowing
‘cause every chaplain lined their pockets on lesser fools like me
but I caught a glimpse of heaven
when I put my hands on my first gloria
God didn’t strike me down
right then, I figured if I’m gonna die
I’m gonna die a freer man than he