Lyrics

Based out of Raleigh, North Carolina, Alice Osborn’s Americana music is truly homegrown. An accomplished poet, she incorporates history, as well as the call of home and identity, to influence her folk and Celtic vibe on acoustic guitar.

Produced by Matt Brechbiel
Recorded and mixed by Matt Brechbiel at Bella Music, Wake Forest, NC
Produced by Matt Brechbiel
©Alice Osborn 2019/All Songs BMI

Design by Katie Severa
All artist photography by Patrick O’Hannigan
All songs written by Alice Osborn
Backing vocals, bass, and additional guitar by Matt Brechbiel  

Table of Contents

 

Old Derelicts

An old car mechanic’s truck is rusting and abandoned next to a tobacco barn in Pittsboro, North Carolina, longing for the days when he helped his owner, Bob, do local repairs. I was inspired to write this song after viewing Forrest Greenslade’s painting, Old Derelicts, at the Joyful Jewel in downtown Pittsboro.

CHORUS

Why did you park me by the barn?
On that ole Chatham County farm,
I miss new paint, new shocks.
Remove my blocks.
We fixed the leaks, stopped the squeaks.
I can’t roll, nowhere to go,
except to feel the ghost, gripping my wheel.

Bob traces the rain along the window pane,
forgets about the cans in the chain-link frame.
I sleep to the crickets in twilight,
missing his voice, light like rust,
yet smoked with whiskey and dust.

CHORUS

Bob passes my flat tires, scuffed in the grass,
circles of time repeating so fast.
I sleep to the crickets in twilight.
A clean V8 engine under the hood,
we worked so well together—everything was good.

CHORUS

A One-Time Hero

Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) was a natural military leader who bravely led America’s fight against the British in the Revolution. Unfortunately, due to injuries and the pettiness of many Congressional members, Arnold was consistently passed over for a higher rank that he should have obtained. He lost his faith in the American cause believing he could better serve the British. As a result of his betrayal, he unintentionally rallied the Patriots and gave America our first and most famous traitor.

It’s so easy to hate me,
we weren’t supposed to win.
Cut the facts from fantasy,
weren’t we all kin?
You might know me as Judas,
or the devil in a tricorn hat.
I never stopped my fighting
and died in a foreign land.

CHORUS

I’m a one-time hero,
who can’t change the past.
I’ve done some bad, bad things
and I won’t take it back.

Books forget I led an army,
eating candles, bark and a dog.
We danced to black snowy death,
I prayed every day to God.
Then the rumors started.
They’ll be no statues in my name.
So I made West Point weak
and I wouldn’t play their stupid game.

Sold a country, sold my soul,
sold a lot for a little gold.

Had to pay my debts,
never felt free,
and I still can see my father
drowning in his whiskey

CHORUS

Boba Fett at the Chick-fil-A in Hickory, North Carolina

Boba Fett, the most notorious bounty hunter in the Star Wars galaxy, now resides in North Carolina thanks to a worm-hole in the sarlacc pit that launched him through time and space. He’s a not-quite recovered alcoholic who is trying to figure himself out as he travels east from Asheville to Raleigh to re-invent himself and work through his pain. While in Hickory to get lunch he sees a wall mural of Jeremiah 29:11 by the restrooms that makes him pause. Perhaps this is a sign that his past doesn’t define him.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Got clean shirts and guns in the trunk,
not much interested in getting drunk.
Got more baggage to throw away,
if my past has anything to say.
Keeping it steady in the right lane,
down I-40, boring and wide,
over that bridge, let me pass it on the inside.

CHORUS

Who’s free to change their story?
Who’s free to change their lives?
Who’s free to forget their past?
Or tell you a beautiful goodbye…

Pull up for lunch at the Chick-fil-A,
feeling quite lucky it’s not a Sunday.
Order a Coke and some waffle fries,
see a wall sermon in a picture-book sky.
Jeremiah, you’re a funny guy,
For I know the plans I have for you.
Plans to prosper me through and through.

CHORUS

I feel weak like double A coffee,
staring at those crazy clouds and bunnies.
Who knows what’s around the bend?
Don’t we all die in the end?
Staying in pain ain’t no way to be.
But if I let go, will I be free?
Praying to Jeremiah might be good for me.

CHORUS

I’m free to change my story.
I’m free to change my life.
I’m free to forget my past,
and tell you a beautiful goodbye.

King of Cool

Steve McQueen (1930-1980) was a one-of-kind movie star who did all his own race-car driving and stunts (except when the producers told him “no” due to insurance concerns). In the film, Bullitt (1968), McQueen makes a point to lean out of the driver’s side window during the famous Ford Mustang vs. Dodge Charger chase scene so that audiences would know he actually drove the car. He was a hard-headed individual who held a lot of insecurities due to his rough upbringing without a father. As a teen, he was remanded at the Boys Republic, a reform school in Chino Hills, California, where he later sent razors and jeans when he made it big as an actor. He died from mesothelioma and was holding Billy Graham’s Bible when he passed.

Today I idle my bike in this field,
dry as a Southern Baptist wedding.
In the movies, I worked my own stunts,
except when Bud jumped that fence.
Don’t smoke, don’t drink anymore…
my body’s given up before telling me the score.

CHORUS

You need to know I drove the Mustang,
You need to know I get the last word,
Maybe other people can fail,
but I, I can’t choose—
So when I die, it’ll be front-page news.

I never kissed my father’s cheek,
but he saw me on TV every week.
Nights Uncle Claude threw me against walls
after spending the day drinking whiskey.
Don’t smoke, don’t drink anymore…
my body’s given up before telling me the score.

CHORUS

I was dust that blew into Chino
where I was never tall or strong enough.
When I became a star of the screen,
I gave ‘em Chino boys soap and jeans.
You can run, but you can’t avoid,
This life, this body all destroyed.

CHORUS

The Siege of Derry

One night I decided to find out if I had any direct Irish ancestors. I discovered that I’m a descendant (through my dad’s mom’s side) of John “Tuscarora Jack” Barnwell, the founding father of Beaufort, South Carolina, and he’s the main reason why the white settlers won the Tuscarora War (1711-1715) in Eastern North Carolina. But looking back at his life before coming to South Carolina, his father Matthew, a high-ranking English official in Dublin, switched sides from English to Irish to fight (and die) at the Siege of Derry in 1690. The family seat, Archerstown in County Meath, was forfeited as a result of Matthew’s support of James II against William and Mary.  The Barnwells go all the way back to fighting side by side with William the Conqueror in 1066. They were established and wealthy English lords—why did Matthew fight for the Irish? We may never know, but I wanted to explore the father/son conflict in this song. “Death before dishonor” is the Barnwell family motto.

Seven years ago, I gave up my home,
wondering why my father flipped sides
to die at the Siege of Derry.
Been living now in Charles Town.
Got handy with maps, but I’m still a lonely chap.

[CHORUS for John Barnwell]

Father used to say death before dishonor
but there’s so much here to conquer—
since you fought on the wrong side of the crown,
we lost our home of Archerstown.
I left Dublin because nothing was left for me.
I left Dublin because nothing was left for me.

Seven years ago, I gave up my gold,
fighting for King James, supporting his claim
to die at the Siege of Derry.
Son, never give up your fight, what I did was right.
Are you a good man who’s making a difference in his new land?

[CHORUS for Matthew Barnwell]

I used to say death before dishonor
but there’s so much here to conquer—
since I fought on the wrong side of the crown,
we lost our home of Archerstown.
You left Dublin for a home across the sea.
I wish you had a few of my dreams.

Seven years ago, I gave up my home,
but I let people down, got kicked out of town;
I’m still learning from the Siege of Derry.
It’s time to start anew and live in truth.
And put away the carelessness of youth.

[CHORUS for John Barnwell]

Father used to say death before dishonor
but there’s so much here to conquer—
since you fought on the wrong side of the crown,
we lost our home of Archerstown.
I want to live up to your word,
and put honor and country first.

High Noon

One of my favorite heroes is Will Kane (Gary Cooper) from the film High Noon (1952). This is the story about one man’s decision to defend his town when everyone else wants him to turn away from the trouble—even his beautiful wife played by Grace Kelly. If Will doesn’t face Frank Miller and his evil band, he will die inside and won’t fulfill his duties as a lawman—it doesn’t matter that the townspeople don’t deserve him—he has to stand up according to his personal code.

After our wedding, I hung up my star,
now he’s coming for me from afar.
Lord, I put that man away,
now he’s ready for his vengeance day.

Chorus
Hear that whistle blow,
I’m not much of a hero.
Stay with me, don’t you leave.
Say, what do you believe? I said, what do you believe?

At high noon, he’s coming for me.
At high noon, we will be free.
At high noon, oh, come back to me.
We will leave this sorry town for some peace…at high noon.

After our vows, we made out for the plains,
I know turning us back, caused you such pain.
When the whole damn town runs,
I’ll stand up with my old gun.

Angel’s Share

Did you know there’s more lost whiskey in American rickhouses due to humidity than in Scottish ones? Even the tightest oak barrels can’t prevent this evaporation, which is coined the “angels’ share.” Once I learned about this phenomenon I knew I had a song.

Last night you told me,
“Baby, let’s be friends,”
and I thought, for God’s sakes, not again.
How can you evaporate,
leave me behind in such a state?
Lonely is such second class.
Every day I try not to call,
guess I didn’t see the cracks in the walls.
Can’t disengage from your glass.

Chorus
You’re my angels’ share,
drops of whiskey lost to the air.
White wings snatched you far away…
caught in a vortex of dismay,
but maybe on my dying day,
I’ll drink a toast to the Holy Ghost
and declare what you shared ain’t fair.

Last night as I drank
a strong Jack and Coke,
I thought we were thick like oaks.
How can you disappear,
propel into the atmosphere?
It’s not easy faking I’m fine.
Are you smiling down at me,
while the winds curl at your feet,
on cotton clouds bidding me adieu.

Amelia, Don’t Leave

The world lost Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) too soon. Besides being a fearless pilot she was also a clothing designer and a fierce feminist advocating for women’s rights. Amelia was the child of an alcoholic father who kept pushing herself without any breaks between ambitious projects. In this song I wonder what would have happened if she had taken some downtime and not have gone off around the world without a long-range radio.

Amelia, don’t leave,
you just need to breathe.
You want a new record more than anything,
so you’ve souped up your Electra’s wings.
You still got lots to prove,
I’d keep that radio if I were you.

Amelia, don’t leave,
you just need to be
a woman with a plan,
who only leans on a man,
sometimes…

I know you well—
it’s the Thirties and for women it’s hell.
You’re in plenty of debt,
but this crazy flight you might regret.

Amelia, don’t leave,
‘cause I don’t want to grieve.
Maybe you can’t land,
but your mark will stand.
Still got lots to prove,
don’t let your pride be your doom.

I know you well,
you hit your thirties and go what the hell?
You’ve found your purpose,
and that’s what makes folks nervous.

Amelia, I believe
there’s nothing you couldn’t achieve.
Now that you’re gone,
the world moves on.
Flying through the stars,
you’re never far.

The Ballad of Vince Foster

I’m from the D.C. area and when I read in the paper that the Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster had committed suicide in a Virginia park I was shocked that such a prominent individual could be dead six months after taking a job. The next day I searched for more information about the story, but it seemed it had already been buried. The Vince Foster tragedy has never sat well with me and when I started writing this song, the words just flowed out in a very The Kingston Trio-murder ballad sort of feel.

A man from the White House died today.
He shot himself, or so they say.
A lawyer like Atticus Finch
who taught kids how to swim.

Summers filled with humidity,
no different than back in ’93.
But during his friends’ first term
he opened a can of worms.

Chorus
The president said I’m looking for good men;
I still believe in a place called Hope.
We’re off to change the game;
DC will never be the same.

Gone, gone where did you go?
Gone, gone—case closed.
Will they remember your name?
You couldn’t take the blame.

I answered the call for the job in D.C.,
then things soured so quickly.
Firings, shame, and guilt.
Oh, the house of cards we built.

Stop the secrets and the lies,
I’m tired of this sad disguise.
I’m on the ole chopping block,
oh, send me back to Little Rock.

Fort Macy Park, there’s my body and gun,
forty-eight years is too young.
Crossed that bridge, and I’m too late,
we might’ve changed the country’s fate.

They sacked my office, hid my notes,
nothing’s sacred, life’s a joke.
Investigations all ran wild,
someday they’ll find that file.

They sure changed the game;
nothing will ever be the same.

Radio Man

I’ve always been a big fan of the Twilight Zone and love watching Rod Serling (1924-1974) puffing away on his requisite cigarette at the top of each episode. In World War II, Serling jumped out of airplanes, but he never flew them. He also got his big break in TV by first being a radio staff writer. I wanted to create a spacey feel that poetically pieced fragments of Twilight Zone episodes into a narrative while making the chorus a call to action for artists to keep believing in their talents, just like Rod Serling did.

I hear the stars fighting,
somewhere in the Milky Way.
Spaceship’s in the cornfield,
and a gremlin tears apart
seats stuffed with hay.

Escaping the living doll
I run up Maple Street.
See the Nazis on trial,
the Martians chat
how history will repeat.

I once knew a radio man
who wished he could fly.
His voice choked with grief,
never forgetting
his friends shot dead in the sky.

Chorus
So let’s run into the fire,
holding our swords up high.
Shouting above the voices
that tell us we can’t even try.

What are the monsters serving
tonight on the Twilight Zone?
A hearty meal of mankind,
pass the salt,
a trip into the unknown.

Don’t get too cold now
in the midnight sun
I believe you’re going my way?
Lend me some faith,
another war’s begun.

I once knew a radio man
who wished he could fly.

Supplication

I wanted to write a song that included Alexander Hamilton and North Carolina. Luckily, I found my connection because of Theodosia Burr Alston’s tragic ending. Theodosia (1783-1813) was the only daughter of Aaron Burr, who killed Hamilton in their famous duel. The legend states that the ghost of Hamilton guards the North Carolina coast, through his Cape Hatteras lighthouse (he founded the U.S. Coast Guard), and he enacted his revenge upon his former foe by forcing her ship to disappear into the waves. But this song is truly about a daughter wanting desperately to be near her father, who had just returned from exile and now lived in New York.

They say it’s not wise to leave
on this cold New Year winter’s eve.
But I have a letter to let me pass,
let this ship sail so fast.

Through the night, past from Hamilton’s Light.
Stand at the rail, draw in the sails.
I don’t care about the waters churning
or what the pirates have set burning.
As we descend, this won’t be how I end.

Chorus
Can you hold me, I’m all alone.
Find me, I’m coming home.
Hear the wind and you will see.
Feel the pale mist, believe.
Take my hand, till it shakes.
Shout my name into the waves.
Love me till my world falls apart!
Never forget I was your star.

They say to wait for a better time,
can’t get you out of my mind.
Long ago you used to call me queen—
the brightest light the world has ever seen.
Yet this year I lost so much,
a son, a husband I hardly touch.
I don’t care about the waters churning
or what the pirates have set burning.
As we descend, this won’t be how I end.

Father, will you wait for me?
a gold watch at your knee.
Expecting my ship, never escaping the night’s grip.
Pulling us under, watching us wonder
why we have to run home to love.

The Trail

The movement of the sun from east to west symbolizes death, while the opposite movement symbolizes life. This song was jointly inspired by William Carlos Williams’ poem “Graph” (see below) and a trip to Fort Smith, Arkansas, which was the jumping off point of the five civilized tribes moving west into Oklahoma across the Mississippi River. I wanted to combine the tragedy of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which led to the Trail of Tears, and the deaths of over 3,000 people, along with hope.

She’s trying to thumb a ride
out of Tulsa where
in June it hurts to smile.
She presses wildflowers
close to her belly.
Is she Choctaw or Cherokee?
I don’t know.

She headin’ East
back to a land
her people left in fear.
Shadows far behind,
hands wipe a million tears.

Chorus
Women pray, children cry.
The men say nothing, but wonder why,
stare off into the sky.
Many days pass and too many die,
seeing their frontier disappear.

He’s trying to thumb a ride
out of Tulsa where
the ground goes on all day.
He holds tight a sign
sayin’ “To Arkansas.”
Is he Chickasaw or Creek?
I don’t know.

He’s headin’ East
back to a land
his people left in fear.
Shadows left behind,
hands wipe a million tears.

Safe on the highway, it’s easy
to pass them by,
say I’ve got places to go,
can’t drive out of my way.
So we make up crazy stories,
push away our pain.
I ain’t ready to speak what I can’t say.

“Graph” by William Carlos Williams

There was another, too
a half-breed Cherokee
tried to thumb a ride
out of Tulsa, standing there
with a bunch of wildflowers
in her left hand
pressed close
just below the belly

Searching For Paradise

This was my first Donner Party-themed song I wrote which is about Tamsen Donner, wife of George Donner, co-leader of the ill-fated Donner Party of 1846-1847 and mother to five daughters. Her two stepdaughters were rescued first but she stayed behind to take care of her dying husband and her three youngest girls ages three to six: Frances, Georgia, and Eliza. Tamsen pleaded to fellow emigrant/rescuer William H. Eddy to “O, save! Save my children!” which I incorporated. Fun facts: “Donner” is the German word for “thunder”—I didn’t know this when I wrote this song, and there are strong North Carolina connections: Tamsen worked in Elizabeth City as a teacher and the Donner brothers, George and Jacob, were from Rowan County. Tamsen’s body was never found because Lewis Keseberg consumed her just after she died in his cabin. When she’s an adult, her daughter Eliza later confronts Keseberg to find out this truth and to also learn that he didn’t murder Tamsen.

Wagons filled with books and wonder,
dear husband navigates in thunder.
In the fall I’ll build a new school,
teaching girls math and the Golden Rule.
We sped west in the spring of ’46,
left too late, opportunities missed.
Broken axle, your infected hand,
Now you’re dying, in this strange land.

Paradise, guide us around the bend,
please, let this winter end.
Stop the sky from falling,
the cold from calling.
No, sir, I cannot leave.
Please save my children.
Some dreams weren’t meant to be.

The girls in cloaks step out dry and true,
Papa and Mama will be along someday too.
When I gave up you believed in me,
and now your soul is mine to keep.
We shiver in this garden of thorns,
under a blanket, thin and worn.
Dreaming our daughters are safe,
let’s shed this skin, we’re not our pain.

Paradise, guide us around the bend,
please, let this winter end.
Stop the sky from falling,
oh, the hell from calling.
By your side for eternity.
Some dreams weren’t meant to be.

The silence so harsh and cold,
all my words eaten up by snow.
Eggs, apples, corn and milk,
will our daughters grow up strong without guilt?

Paradise, guide them around the bend,
please, let this winter end.
Stop the sky from falling,
death from calling.
Farewell, goodbye…
why did my dreams all turn into lies?

I hear hummingbirds, meadows warm in the sun,
almost like Carolina where we come from.
I float over the cabins and creek…
oh, girls—you made it to paradise without me.

Never Take No Shortcuts

“Daddy” in this song is James Frazier Reed, co-leader of the Donner Party who led his fellow emigrants over the untried Hastings Cutoff, the supposedly quicker route to California touted by Lansford W. Hastings which cost everyone time, resources, and cattle. This is the shortcut referred to by Virginia Reed, Reed’s 13-year-old stepdaughter. Reed was banished from the Donner Party after accidentally killing John Snyder in a road rage incident, and he later led the rescue efforts and then became San Jose’s most valuable citizen. Virginia has one of the most famous Donner Party lines, “Never take no cutoffs and hurry along as fast as you can,” which she wrote after surviving the ordeal. She also says, “Thank the good God we have all got through and the only family that did not eat human flesh.” Thanks to Virginia, this song wrote itself.

Chorus
Never take no shortcuts,
never drink up a tall lie.
Never be the last man,
so hurry as fast as you can.

Daddy says the land can’t wait,
‘cause other folks will stake their claim.
Daddy says we can’t be late or
we’ll end up with pie on our face.

We left everything behind us,
Granny and the good spoons.
Daddy’s makin’ no friends when he says
we must ration the food.

Get going, you oxen,
Get going, you cows!
Get them wagons over that hill.
Watch out, watch out, watch out!

Daddy has to leave us.
Daddy’s tears won’t dry.
Daddy just killed a man,
now they all want him to die.

Daddy, take this horse,

Daddy, take this bread.
Daddy, take no shortcuts,
oh, the good road is just ahead.

No, it wasn’t easy,
no, it wasn’t fair.
We nearly starved to death
in the Donner Party affair.

Yes, we took a short cut,
yes, we drank up a tall lie.
We were the last men
and paradise was over the bend.

But Daddy led an army,
Daddy got some friends.
Daddy walked up the mountain
and we hugged him all over again.

Thank God we all got through
the crazy winter we survived.
Ma’s smarter than Daddy ever knew.
Yes, sir, we’re still alive.

William Eddy

William H. Eddy (1816-1859) was a carriage maker from Belleville, Illinois, who became the hero of the Donner Party because he led the Forlorn Hope over the Sierra Nevadas and saved lives because of his extreme efforts. But being a hero cost him everything. After that desperate march, Eddy led another rescue party to hopefully save his infant son, but he was too late; another man, Lewis Keseberg had already consumed the boy. Yet, he’s not too late to rescue the three little Donner daughters. Eddy carried young Georgia on his back and she later stated, “I have been told that Mr. Eddy was not a truthful man, but he certainly was a kind-hearted man, and to his tender care I owe my life.” Through friends and family, Eddy became a prosperous business owner and freemason in San Jose. He married two more times and had three more children before he died in Petaluma on Christmas Eve 1859.

William Eddy,
do you remember me? I am Georgia,
and to your tender care I owe my life.

William Eddy,
what was your destiny?
Why did you come so far?
Staring at indifferent stars.

William Eddy,
in the hour of desperation,
you stole and killed.
And left behind all you knew…

Chorus
I was five when you saved my life.
But you couldn’t save your sons and wife.
Was it worth it to be so kind?
Was it worth the sacrifice?
Through the what-ifs and the cries,
my sisters and I survived.
You told our mother
you’d save us or die.

William Eddy,
you led us through the pass.
Always patient,
only could go so fast.

Was it worth it to be so kind?
What it worth the sacrifice?
It took everyone you loved away…

William Eddy,
do you remember me?

Alice also plays Celtic fiddle, bluegrass banjo, and mandolin. Check out her music at www.reverbnation.com/aliceosborn.

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