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Why I Made This EP
I have never gone hungry—but I have been afraid. Afraid that no matter how hard decent people with good intentions try, things just might not turn out OK. Because the fact is that we often find ourselves at the mercy of Fate in the Heavens or fools right here on Earth.
Few things speak more powerfully to me about the harm that can done by the latter than the preventable suffering of so many during the Great Depression of the 1930s and over the past few years in what’s become known as our “Great Recession.”
Bearing witness to this by bringing to life stories about people in hard times, then and now, was my goal for this EP. For inspiration I turned to brilliant and poignant photographs from the Great Depression collected in the U.S. Library of Congress. Musically I had in mind the moral urgency of Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen’s eloquence capturing the truths of being working class in America.
I hope through these songs that you experience a moment of beauty, take to heart a memento of decency, and feel moved to strike whatever blows you can a stand against the meanness in this world.
Because what we can’t set right, we can at least call wrong. [Bio if you want to read more]
Lyrics & Images
Down to Our Last Dollar In our rusty old truck alongside of the highway In the Devil’s own corner of the USA | It’s down to fuel or food with our last dollar | Darlin’ I don’t think we’re having supper today |No darlin’ I don’t think we’re having supper today |Now it’s three weeks gone since we left Muskogee County | Once the locusts finished eating what the sun didn’t fry | We up and hit the road when the banker came a’knockin’ | Sorry Mister Banker but the well’s run dry | I’m sorry Mister Banker but the well’s run dry | ‘Cause when there ain’t no work and there ain’t no rain | Can you tell me what the hell a simple man’s supposed to do? | When you’re just another wanderer in this ragged wagon train | Strung out along this highway like a hurricane’s torn through | Strung out along this highway like a hurricane’s torn through | Last night around the fire a preacher said the Bible says | “The Lord insists on kindness for the humble and the sick” | Well I appreciate the sentiment but when I meet my maker, I’ll say | “Give you A for effort but you didn’t make it stick” | “I’ll give you A for effort Lord but you didn’t make it stick” | ‘Cause where there ain’t no love and there ain’t no justice | Can you tell me where the hell a simple man’s supposed to go? | When every town is sending cops and Pinkertons to bust us| Tearing down our camp to send us packing down the road | Tearing down our camp to send us packing down the road | A crying child, a kerosene smell | Driving through these croplands baked into a dusty hell |Broke and sick and hungry, tired to the bone | Just a simple farming family searching for a home | We’re just another simple farming family searching for a home
What are Working Folks to Do? Without so much as “how d’you do sir?” or “appreciate it, thanks!” | They took money from our pockets and gave it to the banks | Who came collecting on the mortgage and put us on the street | Where we’ve been scratching for survival, sleeping on our feet | ‘Cause the cops would come to roust us when we found a place to lie | Unwelcome back in town we tried gave the countryside a try | But the farmers they don’t want us ‘cause the river’s running dry | What are working folks to do? | Well I guess we’re supposed to die | What are working folks to do? | Well I guess we’re supposed to die | The boss shut down the factory and put a big lock on the door | “Fellas clear on outta here, ‘cause we don’t want you anymore” | The government man he queued us up for charity instead | ‘Til so many hungry people showed they ran all outta bread | When we’re getting’ weaker by the minute like cattle being bled | Who’ll work the mines and mills and farms if there are better times ahead? | So I buttonholed the bankerman and this is what I said: | What are you fat cats gonna do | When us working folks are dead? | What are you fat cats gonna do sir | When us working folks are dead? | When no one cares to help you and you can’t care for your own | So your kids are going hungry it cuts you to the bone | When there ain’t no better answer to “daddy what else can we try?” | Than what are working folks to do son– | I guess we’re supposed to die | What are working folks to do son? | I guess we’re supposed to die
In These Hard Times, That We Might See Justice In these hard times, that we might see justice | A little girl kneels by her bed to pray | “We’re grateful Lord for how you love us— | But daddy didn’t find any work today | So as you’re looking down from up above us | Maybe there’s a bit of luck | That you can send his way | Maybe there’s a little luck |That you can send his way” | In these hard times, that we might see justice | A man holds a sign on a Bowery Street: | Can you spare a dime, for an idled worker? | So I can pay the mortgage snd my kids can eat | So I can pay the mortgage snd my kids can eat | In these hard times, does this look like justice? | A mother gives her hungry child a goodnight kiss | She sits alone in the dark holding a foreclosure notice | Asking how did honest people ever come to this? | How is it honest people could ever come to this? | In these hard times, that we might see justice | For families struggling to get by each day | For the fat cats and bosses, lining their own pockets | And all the politicians in the bankers’ pay | In these hard times, that we might see justice | I’ll raise my voice in one more song– | In these hard times, that we might see justice | What you can’t set right you can at least call wrong | What you can’ set right sir, you can at least call wrong
How’s a Man to Find Hope in These Hard Times? When things went bad back in twenty nine | I would start my days on the hiring line | ‘Till the man said stand for relief instead | I got a cup of cold coffee and a stale loaf of bread | Pride stuck in my gullet, eyes square on the floor | I said “with kids at home sir—could I have a little more?” | You’ll find me broke up, beat down, threadbare and poor | Shuffling along killing time | In the weeks months and years since they shut down that hiring line | Your almighty dollar says “in god we trust” | Tell where was he sir when the banks went bust? | And big backroom bailouts left us in the lurch | You know that way back when they threw the bankers out of church | But now the fix is in and nobody cares | About their big corner offices and big leather chairs | That they made out like bandits and they’re still sitting there | While we’re scratching for nickels and dimes | In the weeks months and years since they shut down those hiring lines | See fear will hollow you out from the inside my friend | you’re scared as hell they’ll never come round hiring again | We’re just heartbroken and desperate shadows of men | Doing what we can to survive | In the weeks months and years since they shut down the hiring line | ‘Cause I did fifteen years on the factory floor | And if I had my way sir I’d a done fifty more | Back when they turned us out I odd-jobbed for a spell | For a while had me Mr. Sickler’s apples to sell | But in nineteen hundred and thirty two | There are too many men chasing not enough to do | Now I end my nights in a Hooverville | And if he ain’t gonna help us tell me who the hell will? | How’s a man to find hope in this hard time | In the weeks months and years since they shut down the hiring line
Love in a Time of Want Is there a place for love in a time of want? | A way to show you care in an hour of need | A way to take a stand when you fear you can’t | Keep the faith in an age of greed? | Mothers tell your daughters, fathers teach your sons | Though we got hard times now, we ain’t the only ones | For our brothers and sisters across this hard land | Make a place in your heart, and lend a helping hand | And when bankers and bosses and inheritors of wealth | Sit on the backs of other saying “it’s each man for himself” | Stand up and raise your voices, tell ‘em their mistake | That the measure of a man is more than how much he can take | That there’s a place for love in this time of want | That you can show care in an hour of need | And you can take a stand, though some say you can’t | Keep the faith in this age of greed | You can keep the faith in an age of greed
A Little Love, a Little Mercy A little love and a little mercy | Would go far when times are tough | When we’ve lost hope for what we had once | And we’re just praying for just enough | Enough to do right by the children | To dress them well against the chill While they stare up at the lights on | In those big warm mansions on the hill | Enough to put a floor beneath us | And stop us sliding further down | Enough to put a roof above us | And stop this wandering town to town | Enough to set a simple table | And serve a humble evening meal
Name a fair day’s wage for a hard day’s work sir | Just say the word, and I’ll take that deal | ‘Cause a little love and a little mercy | Seem awful scarce in this hard land | I’ve seen a hundred stone cold shoulders | For each friendly helping hand | Big signs that say “Keep walking strangers | We can’t care for those we call our own” | Betray a poverty of spirit | As deep as that of flesh and bone | See we had a home, I had a home sir | Till trouble blew ‘em all away | I never dreamed we’d live in danger | Of empty bellies, no place to stay | So you might find some love and mercy | For us folks struggling to get by | In these hard times if you remember | “There but for the grace of god go I” | “There but for the grace of god go I”