My epic fantasy novel Witchy Eye contains a number of songs. In September 2017 I released recorded versions of those songs in an album. This page constitutes the liner notes of that album … or, if you will, the onliner notes.
These are each sung by one of my children. The hand claps are meant to make it feel like the context of the songs is a children’s game, where a group of kids is clapping out known rhythms while one child sings.
Old King Andy Jackson
[D] Old king Andy Jackson, he [G] was the best of [D] men / He visited New Orleans in [G] eighteen hundred [A] ten / The [D] Frenchies drove old Jackson out, he [G] marched back in [D] again / [G] Doff your hat to [A] old king Andy [D] Jackson
Old king Andy Jackson was thirsty for a drink / The Mississippi water’s wet, but it’s got a mighty stink / Jean met him on the Pontchartrain and there he let him sink / Raise your glass to old king Andy Jackson
Old king Andy Jackson come marching up our trails / We rounded up our pirates, we emptied out our gaols / We lined up every rifle behind stacked cotton bales / Take your shot at old king Andy Jackson
It’s [G] true old Andy Jackson is a [D] hell of a fighting [D] man, but [G] that don’t mean I want him for my [A] king
Old king Andy Jackson is a fellow no one grieves / Some nameless soldier shot him, with stripes upon his sleeves / They hung him in that iron cage, between two Geechee thieves / Say a prayer for old king Andy Jackson
Instruments: Yamaha LS-500, mandolin, Alesis SR-16, tambourine
[Em] Peter Plowshare’s a neighbor [D] good / Love paid out, peace its [Em] reward / Who rages through the neighborhood? [B7] / Unruly Simon [Em] Sword! / [C] Unruly [B7] Simon [Em] Sword!
Peter Plowshare’s a farming man / King of maize and bean and gourd / Who takes your crop whene’er he can? / The rascal, Simon Sword!
Peter Plowshare’s a builder fair / Log and chink and stone and board / Who tears down buildings everywhere? / The villain, Simon Sword!
Peter Plowshare’s a prudent eye / Autumn’s crop for winter stored / Who never lays a morsel by? / The wastrel, Simon Sword!
Peter Plowshare’s an even judge / Fair to farmer, and mighty lord / Who hates us all with an even grudge? / The waster, Simon Sword!
Peter Plowshare’s a ruler just / His chain upon the raging horde / Who casts all chains into the dust? / The bastard, Simon Sword!
Peter Plowshare’s of royal blood / Father outcast, son restored / Who drags all kingdoms to the mud / The rebel Simon Sword!
Peter Plowshare’s a man of wealth / Silk his bed and gold his hoard / But raise his goblet, drink the health / Of the coming Simon Sword!
Instruments: Deering Sierra, Fender Toronado played through a Line 6 POD, harmonica, Alesis SR-16
The room you’re seeing in these photos, by the way, is a guest bedroom in my basement. Many of my writer friends have crashed here as a station on the road, or during the epic Retreat to the House on the Hill spring writing retreats. The room has lots of morning sunshine, and good mojo. The acoustics are okay. I guess it needs a name to be a proper studio. The House Franklin Built? Walter Fitzroy Studios? Hmm.
This song is a bit of an anachronism, having been composed in the real world a few decades after Sarah hears the German keelboatmen singing it on the Mississippi in Witchy Eye. Still, it’s way too good to pass up, as well as somewhat a propos for the story; it’s a song about hiking, trying new wines, and sleeping under the stars. O wandern, o wandern, du freie Burschenlust!
Instruments: autoharp, mandolin, Yamaha LS-500, washboard, Alesis SR-16
The Lion of Missouri
[G] The wild beasts of the Great Green Wood, the [C] bison, the sloth, and the [G] wolf / Learned to hear his footstep and light out in a [D] hurry [D7] / His [C] blade was sharp, his arm was strong / His [G] eye was keen, and his [D] shot was long / The [G] Lion [D] of Missouri [G] [C] [G] [D]
St. John’s knights and the Viceroy’s men, the Hessian, the Greek, and the Turk / Felt the white-hot fire of the young Cahokian’s fury / His word, his heart, and his aim were true / His will was iron, and his soldiers too / The Lion of Missouri
Against highwaymen, sorcerers, lawyers, land agents, and banks / He rode as hangman, circuit judge, and jury / His horse was fear, his cloak was awe / His look was death, and his word was law / The Lion of Missouri
The Lion rode into the Great Green Wood, in the green wood now he lies / And from the rocks, his enemies all scurry / He left poor Mad Hannah all alone / An unmarked grave and an empty throne / For the Lion of Missouri
Instruments: Gibson Hummingbird, harmonica, vibra-slap, Alesis SR-16
Every Sunday, millions of people around the world sing hymns written by early eighteenth century writer Isaac Watts. Cal sings this one at the first of two funerals in Witchy Eye. The chorus and this melody were added to the song later, but I still like them. If you listen, you can hear all three of my kids singing.
They tell me it’s their favorite track, by the way, which is also cool because it got us talking about Isaac Watts.
Instruments: lap dulcimer, Fender Toronado played through a Fender 212R Frontman and BOSS compression and chorus pedals, tambourine
Sir Isaac Newton’s Shadow
Old John Hooke was a parish priest, at the Church of All the Saints / His youngest son had eyes of ice and he spoke with the graveyard haints
Sir Isaac Newton’s shadow had a shadow of his own / He darkened doors in Cambridge town as a man of flesh and bone
Old John Hooke was a preacher called on the famous Isle of Wight / His youngest son had ice-blue eyes and the gift of Second Sight
Forty pounds a prenticeship, forty pounds a book of spells / What’s a bright young lad to do, with his father gone to hell?
“Come with me, my servant fair, onto the holy floor / The Death Wind soon shall catch me up, if you but go before”
Some say he walks the highlands now, or Severn in the west / The only trail he treads for sure is the dusty path of death
Instruments: Yamaha LS-500, Fender Toronado played through a Line 6 POD, Alesis SR-16
We are riven through with a strain of joyless Puritanism that raises its head again and again in our religion and, worse, in our politics. And also, our national anthem takes its melody from a lewd drinking song. I love America.
Instruments: Yamaha LS-500, vibra-slap, djembe, Jew’s harp, cowbell (more! more!), slide whistle
La Lamentation des Mystères
Late in Witchy Eye, Kinta Jane Embry witnesses a funeral procession whose marchers play a modal and cacophonous dirge, with the hint of supernatural presences listening from the shadows.
Instruments: Deering Sierra, Alesis SR-16, Fender Toronado played through a POD 2.0, Yamaha Clavinova, didgeridoo
O Listen, Ye Fathers
[A] The first time I saw him was [G] in eighty-[A] one / We rode the Ohio, with [D] sword and with [E7] gun / The [D] Serpents would see him, they’d [G] turn and they’d [E] run / One [A] flash of his saber, the [E] battle was [A] won
Then the frauleins would stand all along the highway / ’Til the dark of the night from the crack of the day / For a glimpse of Lord Thomas on his handsome bay / I’d ride on ahead, to the burghers I’d say
[A] O listen, ye fathers, from [G] far and from [A] near / Ye’d best hide your daughters, Lord [E] Thomas is [A] here
He’s easy with silver, he’s free with his gold / With his tongue he is gracious, with his life he is bold / With his cloak he gives shelter to the wet and the cold / The stories are true, every one you’ve been told
There never was fairer a lord among men / He’s stout with his saber and quick with his pen / And the ladies all follow, o’er moor and through fen / For one look at the locks of fair Thomas Penn
O listen, ye fathers, from far and from near / Best lock up your daughters, Lord Thomas is here
O listen, ye fathers, and if ye are wise / You’ll bait hooks with your daughters to reel in this prize / A son-in-law greater, no man could surmise / His star is in Venus, with Mars on the rise
So listen, ye fathers, from far and from near / Send out your daughters, Lord Thomas is here
Instruments: Gibson Hummingbird, Alesis SR-16, Fender Toronado played through a Line 6 POD, Fender Toronado played through BOSS pitch shifter and blues driver pedals, mandolin
So that’s basically it. Thanks to Dan for the art (www.dandossantos.com), Stone for the last-minute IT guidance, Quincy for the layout, Craig for the bonus track, my kids for singing, my son for composing and playing the Lamentation with me, Emily for making time, and readers for receiving me surprisingly well when I’d stand up in front of bookstore audiences to sing.
All the excellences belong to those people. All the faults are mine.